Criticism of Mormonism/Video/Search for the Truth DVD/Prophecy and Revelation

Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith or Search for the Truth DVD

Prophecies and Revelations

Did Joseph Smith receive revelation that the moon was inhabited?

We have no evidence that he did. This claim is based on a single third-hand report made in 1881, almost four decades after Joseph died. Even though the belief was popular in the nineteenth century, we have no evidence from Joseph's writings or speeches that he believed any such thing, or that he made any prophecies or revelations related to such a belief.

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Is DC 84:3-5 an example of a failed prophecy?

A detailed examination of Joseph Smith's revelation in D&C 84 has led some to conclude that may not have been a prophecy, and if it is, its fulfillment is still in the future. Another revelation that Joseph Smith recorded in DC 124:49-51 rescinded the earlier command to build a temple at Independence. The Lord accepted the diligent efforts of the Saints and wisely instructed them to build temples at other places where they would not be hindered by enemies.

Critics are inconsistent if they condemn Joseph Smith for this statement, while not condemning Jesus, who said that "the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled" (Luke 21:31-32) (emphasis added).

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Claim: DC 1:37-38 "just says that you can’t make any excuses for a prophecy that doesn’t come true." (Chip Thompson)

In this passage, the Lord confirms his word (e.g., prophecies and promises) in the Doctrine and Covenants shall all be fulfilled. By "search[ing] these commandments" we find that:

  • promised blessings are predicated by obedience (DC 130:20-21)
  • commandments and their promised blessings can be revoked due to disobedience (DC 58:30-31 DC 56:4)
  • we need not "run faster or labor more than you have strength" (DC 10:4)
  • if circumstances render one unable to perfectly keep a commandment, it is sufficient to have good intent (DC 124:49-51 see also Mosiah 4:24-27)
  • if men use agency to be "anxiously engaged" in good acts, they won't "lose their reward" (DC 58:27-28)
  • the mere presence of a commandment does not guarantee success, prayer is also needed to "come off conqueror" of Satan's opposition. (DC 10:5)
  • if a person in an important calling can no longer fulfill important responsibilities due to apostasy or death, the Lord can appoint a replacement (DC 114:2 DC 118:6 DC 124:30)
  • a person can be released from a calling or responsibility to attend to more important matters (DC 126:1-3)

It is a misuse of the passage to recast complex texts—texts dealing with commandments in the presence of agency and conditional promises—into unconditional prophecies that must be fulfilled by the letter.

Is DC 114:1 an example of a failed prophecy?

This revelation is an admonition for David Patten to set all his affairs in order so that he may perform a mission, not a prophecy that he would serve a mission. When the instructions are viewed as a commandment, the wisdom found in Doctrine and Covenants as outlined above can help us gain an understanding how the Lord works around human weaknesses to accomplish his purposes.

As revelation is received line upon line, the initially private revelation to David Patten must be interpreted in light of a fuller, second one (DC 118:1-6) received two months later that added substantial information. The more widely disseminated second revelation clarified that the Quorum of Twelve were to be the "twelve" including Elder Patten who were to embark on a mission the next spring. In fact it further specified a date (April 26) and place (Far West) to commence and where the mission would be served. Both texts suggested that fallen members of this mission group would be replaced, but the latter added specific names.

The Twelve Apostles had to fight for the survival of their families and fellow Saints in the face of mob violence and a forced, winter exile. As noted in the video, Elder Patten himself did not survive until the spring. A council was held in Quincy, Illinois in March to decide what obligations the Twelve had towards fulfilling D&C 118 (and by extension D&C 114):

Many of the authorities considered, in our present persecuted and scattered condition, the Lord would not require the Twelve to fulfill his words to the letter, and, under our present circumstances, he would take the will for the deed; but I felt differently and so did those of the quorum who were with me. I asked them, individually, what their feelings were upon the subject. They all expressed their desires to fulfill the revelation. I told them the Lord God had spoken, and it was our duty to obey and leave the event in his hands and he would protect us. (Brigham Young Manuscript History)

On April 26th, a group of Saints together with the Twelve Apostles gathered in the main square at Far West to take their leave. They then departed in a great hurry (the whole event occurring well before dawn) before anyone would notice because Far West was now enemy territory. President Young had heard a report that "the mob came into Far West and tantalized the committee on the subject of the revelation, saying that was one of Joe Smith's revelations which could not be fulfilled, as the Twelve and the Saints were scattered to the four winds; and threatened them severely if they were found in Far West the next day." (BYMH)

Shortly after that the Twelve, led by Brigham Young, did depart for Great Britain, where they had great success and secured the foundations for the LDS Church as we know it today. It is unfortunate that David Patten was unable to serve in that capacity, but clearly the Lord's purposes underlying D&C 114 and 118 were fulfilled anyway. David Patten did not lose his reward, having served a higher cause. As Joseph Smith eulogized, "There lies a man that has done just as he said he would—he has laid down his life for his friends." (History of the Church, 3:172. Volume 3 link)

To read more:

  • "Did Joseph Smith Prophesy Falsely Regarding David Patten?" off-site

Claim: Elder Patten serving a mission in the Spirit World is not a satisfactory excuse because DC 114:1 doesn't state it.

The burden of proof for demonstrating that 1) a prophecy was made and 2) there is no possible way for it to come to pass falls on the critics. Proposition 1) has already been demonstrated to be false above as D&C 114 is better described as a commandment. Mr. Thompson attempts to establish proposition 2) with the claim above, but in doing so commits a logical fallacy, that of making an argument from silence. A possible way of fulfillment cannot be ruled out simply because it is not mentioned in the immediate passage. Another revealed text, gives one reason to believe that:

faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead. (DC 138:57)

Claim: Joseph Smith fits the model of a false prophet given in Deuteronomy 13:1-3

While attempting to apply this passage to Joseph Smith, a major concession must be implicitly made by these critics. They must admit that Joseph Smith has performed a sign or wonder that has come to pass. They are correct on this point, Joseph Smith uttered many wonderful prophecies that have been fulfilled. These critics, in the beginning of this segment establish Jesus' prophetic credentials by giving an example of one of his fulfilled revelations; but they failed to employ an even standard by being silent at Joseph Smith's successes. To make up this deficiency, readers are invited to learn more about Joseph Smith's true prophecies in the link below.

To demonstrate the second part of the test in Deuteronomy 13:1-3 the critics would have to show that Joseph Smith advocated following gods apart from the God testified of in the Old Testament. The Who is God? section of the FAIR response critiques the video's attempt to do so and found it wanting.

To read more:

  • Fulfilled Prophecies of Joseph Smith off-site

Claim: Joseph Smith does not measure up to the biblical standard for prophets in Deuteronomy 18:21-22

There is no reliable evidence that Joseph Smith fails any sound test based on Deuteronomy 18:21-22. These critics have attempted to condemn Joseph Smith using a standard that would, if applied to Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Nathan, an angel of God, and Jonah, also condemn the Old Testament as a fraud. The critics are inconsistent, given their desire to condemn Joseph.

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Did Joseph Smith prophesy the exact date of the Second Coming of Christ?

Joseph Smith was merely speculating in 1835 when he said "even 56 years should wind up the scene." It is clear the actual revelation recorded in DC 130:14-17 he had on the subject left the exact date much more uncertain.

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