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The temple in Independence, Missouri
The temple in Independence, Missouri
Question: Was Joseph Smith's prophecy that the Independence, Missouri temple "shall be reared in this generation" a failed prophecy?
Introduction to Criticism
On 20 July 1831 Joseph Smith recorded a revelation identifying Independence, Missouri, as "the center place; and a spot for the temple[.]" (DC 57:3). Joseph and Sidney Rigdon dedicated a site for the temple on 3 August 1831. The following year, Joseph received another revelation concerning the gathering to Zion:
2 [T]he word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.
3 Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.
4 Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.5 For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house (DC 84:2-5, (emphasis added)).
The Saints were expelled from Jackson County in late 1833, before they could make any progress on the temple. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to return to reclaim their lands.
Critics of the Church charge that this is a false prophecy since the temple in Independence was never completed in Joseph Smith's generation.
The supposed "prophecy" was actually a commandment and it may have already been fulfilled.
Response to Criticism
Commandment, not Prophecy
After the Saints settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph recorded another revelation rescinding the earlier revelation given to build the Independence temple:
49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings....
51 Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God (DC 124:49,51).
Thus, when Smith declared the "temple shall be reared in this generation," he meant this as a directive (compare to the ten commandments: "thou shalt.." and D&C 59:5-13) and thus D&C 84 is not actually a prophecy. Webster's 1828 dictionary noted of "shall":
In the second and third persons [i.e., when applied to another person], shall implies a promise, command or determination. "You shall receive your wages," "he shall receive his wages," imply that you or he ought to receive them; but usage gives these phrases the force of a promise in the person uttering them. 
Thus, "shall" indicates a promise or command—and, Latter-day Saint theology (with its strong emphasis on moral agency) always holds that man is free to accept or reject the commandments or promises of God, and that God will often not overrule the free-agent acts of others which might prevent his people from obeying. In such cases, God rewards the faithful for their willingness and efforts to obey, and punishes the guilty accordingly.
Potential Fulfillment for the Commmandment?
Latter-day Saint scholars and apologists have speculated that the commandment may have already been met.
D. Charles Pyle wrote:
Indeed, this verse was fulfilled--in Kirtland. Here is what was recorded for that event in 1836:
- George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place. (History of the Church, 2:428)
See also Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Most people who read the above verse in the above section of the Doctrine and Covenants assume that verse 5 has to refer only to the temple that was to be built in the center place of that time. However, all that is required is that a temple be built and that certain events happen in order to meet the conditions of this portion of the prophecy.
Trouble with [anti-Mormon] argumentation is that the prophecy was fulfilled, even if the location of the fulfillment was moved due to the conditional nature of prophecy and of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Bible is filled with such contingent prophecies. However [many] critics of the Church . . . take the Doctrine and Covenants out of context. Building a temple there would require the Saints to remain there in the center place. However, remaining in the center place was contingent by nature. Reading a number of sections of the Doctrine and Covenants shows the conditional nature of their stay there. The Saints failed to live up to the expectations and requirements to stay there. Therefore, they were driven out. . . . The Saints were building the city. The temple site had already been dedicated and foundational cornerstones laid the year previous. Note also the past tense of the latter part of verse 3. However, verse 2, as already noted, was to be tempered by the contingent nature of sections of the Doctrine and Covenants surrounding Section 84, particularly Section 58 and the Sections numbering in the 100s. Note the following verses from Section 58:
- 6 Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you--that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come;
- 7 And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand; . . .
- 19 For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land. . . .
- 30 Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?
- 31 Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?
- 32 I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
- 33 Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above.
- 44 And now, verily, I say concerning the residue of the elders of my church, the time has not yet come, for many years, for them to receive their inheritance in this land, except they desire it through the prayer of faith, only as it shall be appointed unto them of the Lord.
- 45 For, behold, they shall push the people together from the bends of the earth. . . .
- 50 And I give unto my servant Sidney Rigdon a commandment, that he shall write a description of the land of Zion, and a statement of the will of God, as it shall be made known by the Spirit unto him;
- 51 And an epistle and subscription, to be presented unto all the churches to obtain moneys, to be put into the hands of the bishop, of himself or the agent, as seemeth him good or as he shall direct, to purchase lands for an inheritance for the children of God.
- 52 For, behold, verily I say unto you, the Lord willeth that the disciples and the children of men should open their hearts, even to purchase this whole region of country, as soon as time will permit.
- 53 Behold, here is wisdom. Let them do this lest they receive none inheritance, save it be by the shedding of blood.
- 54 And again, inasmuch as there is land obtained, let there be workmen sent forth of all kinds unto this land, to labor for the saints of God.
- 55 Let all these things be done in order; and let the privileges of the lands be made known from time to time, by the bishop or the agent of the church.
- 56 And let the work of the gathering be not in haste, nor by flight; but let it be done as it shall be counseled by the elders of the church at the conferences, according to the knowledge which they receive from time to time.
Note the words concerning "many years" in the afore-cited revelation? As can be seen, this above revelation shows some interesting things concerning this land and even was prescient concerning what would come in this region as well as what people would say when the Lord revokes and takes blessings away due to failure to keep the law of God. Did this not indeed happen? Had not it indeed been seen in those days by those who left the Church? And, is not it now being fulfilled by every single critic who has written concerning Section 84 and the land of Zion?
D&C 84:4 Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.The Saints did begin gathering to this location and building the city. They were driven out before the city could be completed because they had failed to live up to expectations for remaining there as a people. Again, see the context of the Doctrine and Covenants sections preceding and succeeding Section 84, particularly those numbering in the 100s. The Saints did not keep the conditions and were driven out. They were told to keep quiet of these things and not to boast, as well as keep the law of God concerning this land. They failed in all these things and were driven out as promised in a following revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants. See, for example, Section 97:26. This forced a move of locations for the building of a temple in that generation. . . . Suffice it to say, that it still was in the Lord's plan to build a temple within that generation.
Question: Why did the Saints leave Missouri before the temple was built?
As far as the building of the temple, we still look forward to that day when it shall be built
Despite the fact that the Saints were forced to leave Missouri around a year after the "prediction" was given to build a temple in Independence, Missouri, they still hoped to return and see the prophecy come to fruition.
Everything Joseph Smith said concerning Zion and Missouri has come true. As far as the building of the temple, we still look forward to that day when it shall be built. To condemn D&C 84 as false prophecy is the same as condemning the Bible and all of its prophets, including Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord. He spoke the same language, using the same words, with the same meaning, as the ancient prophets did. The Bible vindicates Joseph Smith as a true prophet of God.
God changed His mind because the Saints were not obedient
Why would God give instructions for the building a temple if He knew the Saints would be driven out of Missouri? God changed His mind because the Saints were not obedient. The Lord can change His mind depending on the obedience, or disobedience, of His children.
Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. (Jeremiah 26:13)
The Lord can change His mind while His command is in the process of being obeyed.
And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. (1 Chronicles 21:15)
God will also change His mind if a prophet can convince Him that the change is warranted
Not only does the Lord change things in His own wisdom, He will also change His mind if a prophet can convince Him that the change is warranted (at least within the prophet's understanding):
And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. (Exodus 32:9-14)
The Lord can even change His mind about the commands He has given
The Lord can even change His mind about the commands He has given. For example, what the Lord directed concerning circumcision changed.
He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. (Genesis 17:13)
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. (1 Corinthians 7:19)
The Law of what could and could not be eaten was changed.
Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. (Leviticus 11:4)
This chapter in Leviticus gives a list of what not to eat. It specifically mentions the camel, coney, hare, swine, eagle, ossifrage, ospray, vulture, raven, owl, hawk, cuckow, cormorant, swan, pelican, eagle, stork, heron, lapwing, bat, weasel, mouse, tortoise, ferret, chameleon, lizard, snail, and mole. Yet the Lord saw fit to change it.
Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (Acts 10:12-15)
As circumstances change, what the Lord has directed will change also. The temple in Jackson County Missouri, the center place of Zion, the chief temple, did not have the necessity of being the first temple built. It has a specific purpose, which event will occur yet in the future. In December of 1990, plans were announced by the First Presidency of the Church to build a temple in St. Louis, Missouri. President Gordon B. Hinckley presided in the groundbreaking for this temple on October 30, 1993. The temple was dedicated in June of 1997. This temple marked the 50th operating temple and the first temple in Missouri. Although this is not the temple that is being discussed here, it is significant that temple building is taking place in Missouri.
That the Lord spoke of the future glory of Zion. The Saints were only to lay the foundation of Zion, not build it in its entirety. The foundation is the preparing for the event to take place. This "redemption" of Zion takes place in separate phases.
Christ did not utter false prophecy, but some of His prophecies just have not been fulfilled yet
Christ did not utter false prophecy, but some of His prophecies just have not been fulfilled yet. When the scriptures mention "generation," it has several meanings. Critics recognize this when speaking about the words of Christ or the ancient apostles and prophets, yet they deny any possibility of Joseph Smith having the same meaning, and restrict his mention of "generation" to approximately a hundred years. This double standard only shows the hypocritical arguments and deceptive means used to attack The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So let's now examine the purposes of the Lord and the sayings of Joseph Smith concerning the Saints, Zion, and Missouri to see if these things will sustain Joseph as a prophet of God.
The first phase to take place has to be the foundation:
Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you-that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come; And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand; (D&C 58:6-7)
This revelation was given August 1, 1831, in Zion, Jackson County, Missouri, just over a year before D&C 84 was given to Joseph Smith (September 22 and 23, 1832). This shows the original intent of the Lord was to lay the foundation of Zion, not build it in its entirety. The question would then become, is there any indication of a time frame for these "things which are to come?" There most certainly is. A few verses later we read, "And now, verily, I say concerning the residue of the elders of my church, the time has not yet come, for many years, for them to receive their inheritance in this land." (D&C 58:44) So the time for the Saints to inherit Zion was not in their day, and wouldn't be for "many years."
There was also another term the Lord used to indicate that Zion would not be established during that time. "Therefore it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion." (D&C 105:13) By using terms such as "the time has not yet come," "many years," and "wait a little season" it is obvious that Zion would not be established during that time, only that the foundation would be laid.No matter how loudly or often McKeever and Johnson, or any other critic, say Zion was to be established fully by the Saints during the Missouri period, that was not the design of the Lord, nor was that the instruction given to Joseph.
So how was this foundation to be built? How could the land of Zion be built unless the Saints owned the land upon which to build? It couldn't! So the Lord told the Saints to purchase the land, so that the temple and other buildings could be legally built. That was the foundation. Zion cannot be Zion if someone other than the Lord's people owns the land. So the Lord gave instructions to buy the land, as a foundation, in preparation of the gathering.
Wherefore, I the Lord will that you should purchase the lands, that you may have advantage of the world, that you may have claim on the world, that they may not be stirred up unto anger. Wherefore, the land of Zion shall not be obtained but by purchase or by blood, otherwise there is none inheritance for you. (D&C 63:27, D&C 63:29)
How much land was bought? According to Lucien Carr in his history of Missouri, it was over 250,000 acres. The Lord was very clear that there were going to be hardships. "For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand." (D&C 58:4) And how severe would the tribulations be? "For Satan putteth it into their hearts to anger against you, and to the shedding of blood." (D&C 63:28) This is exactly what happened in Missouri. Businesses were destroyed. Over two hundred houses were burned down or otherwise destroyed. Twelve hundred people were driven out of Independence,:427 with about fifteen thousand total being driven out of the region. Hundreds were murdered, some very brutally,:494 and this included children. That the people would be driven out of "Zion" temporarily is without question. "Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered." (D&C 101:17) The foundation of Zion is in place, as prophesied; thus proving that Joseph Smith made a true prophecy in D&C 84.
Zion was to be an "inheritance." An inheritance is something that passes from one generation to the next. An inheritance is not something that you obtain immediately, but only at a future time:
And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts. And this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity, no more to pass away. (D&C 38:19-20)
They that remain, and are pure in heart, SHALL RETURN, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion. (D&C 101:18)
Again, let's look at the timing of these revelations, as it reveals a very important clue as to the intentions of the Lord. Section 38 was given on January 2, 1831, well over a year before section 84. Section 101 was given December 16, 1833, over a year after section 84 was given. The intention of the Lord never changed, only the expectations of man. The Saints will return to claim it. Their land was stolen from them. The members of the church still look forward to the day when they will return.
The Lord gave every indication that the Saints were to lay the foundation of Zion in Missouri
The Lord gave every indication that the Saints were to lay the foundation of Zion in Missouri; that they would be driven out, even "unto bloodshed;" and that the Saints would return and the land would be an inheritance. The words proclaimed by Joseph Smith correctly prophesied these events. Perhaps McKeever and Johnson should have researched some history in the matter as well as studied the Doctrine and Covenants to understand what happened, why it happened, what the Lord said, and what will happen.Just in case McKeever and Johnson would want to argue that the literal next generation of children of those Saints of the 1830's have not returned to receive an inheritance in Zion is evidence of false prophecy, let's examine that premise as well. There is a problem with this analogy. Children, just like the term "next generation," in scriptural terms, means any descendants, not necessarily the next literal generation. So, the "children" could be grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or any number of descendent generations. This is evidenced by the Bible.
Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee (Genesis 17:5)
And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran (Acts 7:2)
Even Christ referred to Abraham as a father to those who were descendents by several generations.
Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? (John 8:53-57)
Question: Where is Zion located since the Mormons were driven out of Missouri?
The Church still looks forward to the time when the prophecies will be fulfilled concerning Missouri as it pertains to Zion
For those who want to argue that Zion is now in Salt Lake City, they would be wrong. There has been no other place appointed. Salt Lake City has not ever been appointed as the "center place" of Zion, or as Zion itself, and the Church still looks forward to the time when the prophecies will be fulfilled concerning Missouri as it pertains to Zion.
Since the Saints were driven out of Missouri, does that mean that Zion fell? However, the answer to this important question can be found in the Doctrine and Covenants.
And the nations of the earth shall honor her, and shall say: surely zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there. (D&C 97:19)
Remember that the Lord said a year before section 84 was given that the land of Zion would be an inheritance, (D&C 38:18-19) and later said that only the foundation was to be laid at that time. (D&C 58:7) D&C 97 of the Doctrine and Covenants tells more about Zion and the conditions of its establishment.
VERILY I say unto you my friends, I speak unto you with my voice, even the voice of my Spirit, that I may show unto you my will concerning your brethren in the land of Zion, many of whom are truly humble and are seeking diligently to learn wisdom and to find truth. (D&C 97:1)
Critics often ignore the first rule of interpretation: the fact that prophecies can be conditional. The principle of obedience is stressed by the Lord in D&C 97:18, but the promise is definite: "if zion do these things, she shall prosper."
In not reading the entire account of Zion in the Doctrine and Covenants, proper context cannot be understood. Obedience is the basis upon which all blessings are received. The Saints in Missouri were promised that they would prosper, become great, and not be moved out of their place if they would be obedient unto that which the Lord required of them in this revelation. Unfortunately, the Saints did not act as they should have, and as a result, were driven from Missouri. This is also what the Bible teaches us about people as they obey the Lord. (Jeremiah 26:4-6) Parley P. Pratt, in his autobiography, writes:
This Revelation was not complied with by the leaders of the Church in Missouri as a whole, notwithstanding many were humble and faithful; therefore, the threatened judgment was poured out to the uttermost, as the history of the five following years shows.
The disobedience of the Saints at the time resulted in the chastisement from the Lord: "And now I give unto you a word concerning Zion. Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season." (D&C 100:13) This chastisement was the removal from Missouri until such time as the Saints deserve to inhabit Zion. The Lord did the same thing to peoples in the past as the Bible tells us.
Joseph Smith's thoughts were continually on Zion, and at this time he must have felt very anxious about the Saints. The Lord, therefore, gives him the assurance that Zion will be redeemed (v. 13), and that all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly; and to the sanctification of the Church (v. 15). The Church will come out of the fire of persecution, purified, for God will raise up unto Himself a pure people (v. 16). How long a time it will take to raise up a people willing to serve God in righteousness, He does not say. But it will be done. Israel was in Egypt 400 years, and the Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years, does that make the Bible false? It does not, for the purposes of God were accomplished.
Joseph Smith knew what was going to transpire concerning Missouri
One more item on this subject: Joseph Smith wrote a letter in which we can gain an understanding of just what the prophet actually thought about Zion and the Saints. This letter is a response from the prophet after learning that members of the Church had been killed and driven from their homes by mobs.
Kirtland Mills, Ohio
December 10, 1833.
Edward Partridge, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, A. S. Gilbert, John Corrill, Isaac Morley, and all the Saints whom it may concern:
This morning's mail brought letters from Bishop Partridge, and Elders Corrill and Phelps, all mailed at Liberty, November 19th, which gave us the melancholy intelligence of your flight from the land of your inheritance, having been driven before the face of your enemies in that place.
From previous letters we learned that a number of our brethren had been slain, but we could not learn from the letters referred to above, that there had been more than one killed, and that one Brother Barber; and that Brother Dibble was wounded in the bowels. We were thankful to learn that no more had been slain, and our daily prayers are that the Lord will not suffer his Saints, who have gone up to His land to keep His commandments, to stain His holy mountain with their blood.
I cannot learn from any communication by the Spirit to me, that Zion has forfeited her claim to a celestial crown, notwithstanding the Lord has caused her to be thus afflicted, except it may be some individuals, who have walked in disobedience, and forsaken the new covenant; all such will be made manifest by their works in due time. I have always expected that Zion would suffer some affliction, from what I could learn from the commandments which have been given. But I would remind you of a certain clause in one which says, that after much tribulation cometh the blessing. By this, and also others, and also one received of late, I know that Zion, in the due time of the lord, will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I inquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is: Be still, and know that I am God; all those who suffer for my name shall reign with me, and he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.
Now, there are two things of which I am ignorant; and the Lord will not show them unto me, perhaps for a wise purpose in Himself I mean in some respects and they are these: Why God has suffered so great a calamity to come upon Zion, and what the great moving cause of this great affliction is; and again, by what means he will return her back to her inheritance, with songs of everlasting joy upon her head. These two things, brethren, are in part kept back that they are not plainly shown unto me; but there are some things that are plainly manifest which have incurred the displeasure of the Almighty.
When I contemplate upon all things that have been manifested, I am aware that I ought not to murmur, and do not murmur, only in this, that those who are innocent are compelled to suffer for the iniquities of the guilty; and I cannot account for this, only on this wise, that the saying of the Savior has not been strictly observed: "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; or if thy right arm offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee." Now the fact is, if any of the members of our body is disordered, the rest of our body will be affected with it, and then all are brought into bondage together; and yet, notwithstanding all this, it is with difficulty that I can restrain my feelings when I know that you, my brethren, with whom I have had so many happy hours sitting, as it were, in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and also, having the witness which I feel, and ever have felt, of the purity of your motives are cast out, and are as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, exposed to hunger, cold, nakedness, peril, sword I say when I contemplate this, it is with difficulty that I can keep from complaining and murmuring against this dispensation; but I am sensible that this is not right, and may God grant that notwithstanding your great afflictions and sufferings, there may not anything separate us from the love of Christ.
Brethren, when we learn your sufferings, it awakens every sympathy of our hearts; it weighs us down; we cannot refrain from tears, yet, we are not able to realize, only in part, your sufferings: and I often hear the brethren saying, they wish they were with you, that they might bear a part of your sufferings; and I myself should have been with you, had not God prevented it in the order of His provident, that the yoke of affliction might be less grievous upon you, God having forewarned me, concerning these things, for your sake; and also, Elder Cowdery could not lighten your afflictions by tarrying longer with you, for his presence would have so much the more enraged your enemies; therefore God hath dealt mercifully with us. O brethren, let us be thankful that it is as well with us as it is, and we are yet alive and peradventure, God hath laid up in store great good for us in this generation, and may grant that we may yet glorify His name.
I feel thankful that there have no more denied the faith; I pray God in the name of Jesus that you all may be kept in the faith unto the end: let your sufferings be what they may, it is better in the eyes of God that you should die, than that you should give up the land of Zion, the inheritances which you have purchased with your moneys; for every man that giveth not up his inheritance, though he should die, yet, when the Lord shall come, he shall stand upon it, and with Job, in his flesh he shall see God. Therefore, this is my counsel, that you retain your lands, even unto the uttermost, and employ every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies; and pray to god, day and night, to return you in peace and in safety to the lands of your inheritance: and when the judge fail you, appeal unto the executive; and when the executive fail you, appeal unto the president; and when the president fail you, and all laws fail you, and the humanity of the people fail you, and all things else fail you but god alone, and you continue to weary him with your importunings, as the poor woman did the unjust judge, he will not fail to execute judgment upon your enemies, and to avenge his own elect that cry unto him day and night.
Behold, he will not fail you! he will come with ten thousand of his saints, and all his adversaries shall be destroyed with the breath of his lips! all those who keep their inheritances, notwithstanding they should be beaten and driven, shall be likened unto the wise virgins who took oil in their lamps. But all those who are unbelieving and fearful, will be likened unto the foolish virgins, who took no oil in their lamps: and when they shall return and say unto the Saints, Give us of your lands behold, there will be no room found for them. As respects giving deeds, I would advise you to give deeds as far as the brethren have legal and just claims for them, and then let every man answer to God for the disposal of them.
But, perhaps, the people in Liberty may feel willing, God having power to soften the hearts of all men, to have a press established there; and if not, in some other place; any place where it can be the most convenient, and it is possible to get to it; God will be willing to have it in any place where it can be established in safety. We must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Again, I desire that Elder Phelps should collect all the information, and give us a true history of the beginning and rise of Zion, and her calamities.
Now hear the prayer of your unworthy brother in the new and everlasting covenant: O my God! Thou who hast called and chosen a few, through Thy weak instrument by commandment, and sent them to Missouri, a place which Thou didst call Zion, and commanded Thy servants to consecrate it unto Thyself for a place of refuge and safety for the gathering of Thy Saints, to be built up a holy city unto Thyself; and as thou hast said that no other place should be appointed like unto this, therefore, I ask Thee in the name of Jesus Christ, to return Thy people unto their houses and their inheritances, to enjoy the fruit of their labors; that all the waste places may be built up; that all the enemies of Thy people, who will not repent and turn unto Thee, may be destroyed from off the face of the land; and let a house be built and established unto Thy name; and let all the losses that Thy people have sustained, be rewarded unto them, even more than four-fold, that the borders of Zion may be enlarged forever; and let her be established no more to be thrown down; and let all Thy Saints, when they are scattered as sheep, and are persecuted, flee unto Zion, and be established in the midst of her; and let her be organized according to Thy law; and let this prayer ever be recorded before Thy face. Give Thy Holy Spirit unto my brethren, unto whom I write; send Thine angels to guard them, and deliver them from all evil; and when they turn their faces toward Zion, and bow down before Thee and pray, may their sins never come up before Thy face; neither have place in the book of Thy remembrance; and may they depart from all their iniquities. Provide food for them as Thou doest for the ravens; provide clothing to cover their nakedness, and houses that they may dwell therein; give unto them friends in abundance, and let their names be recorded in the Lamb's book of life, eternally before Thy face. Amen.
Finally, brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all until His coming in His kingdom. Amen.
JOSEPH SMITH, JUN.
This letter clearly shows that Joseph Smith knew what was going to transpire concerning Missouri. He knew the people would suffer ("I have always expected that Zion would suffer some affliction," and "after much tribulation cometh the blessing."), he did not think Zion would be redeemed any time soon ("Zion, in the due time of the Lord, will be redeemed," and "how many will be the days of purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes."), he encouraged the Saints to remain within the law ("employ every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies."), he knew legal redress would not be successful ("when the judge fail you," "when the executive fail you," "when the president fail you," and "and all things else fail you."), and he understood that the enemies of the Lord might not be destroyed until the judgement ("he will come with ten thousand of his saints," and "all his adversaries shall be destroyed with the breath of his lips.")
History has proven that Joseph Smith was 100% correct in what he said in this letter. Legal means of redress were not successful. The Saints remained within the law. Final judgement has not yet happened for those who are enemies of the Lord. What Joseph Smith had to say concerning Zion, even the timing, came true, thus Joseph Smith must be a true prophet of God.
Critics usually start out with the assumption of false prophecy, and then attempt, by not presenting any evidence, to assert that the lack of evidence is evidence of a false prophecy. The actual evidence, often from the very same source they are using (in this case the Doctrine and Covenants), brings more light to the picture.
There is plenty of evidence that Joseph knew the Saints would not stay in Missouri; thus he knew that Zion would not be built up in his day. In fact, he knew the Saints would be moving to the Rocky Mountains. This particular movement was even prophesied of in the Bible.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3)
It is evident that Joseph knew this prophecy concerned the church he had restored. In March of 1831, which was before section 84 was given, the Lord revealed to Joseph an event that would take place before the Second Coming: "Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed." (D&C 49:25) Better yet, it has been demonstrated that Joseph Smith knew, and correctly prophesied, the events that would take place. Why don't we look at some of the statements of others who also knew, and which bear witness of the validity of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, Jr.
- In 1832, Joseph Smith gave a blessing to Paulina Eliza Phelps who recalled, "In blessing me Joseph said that I should live to go to the Rocky Mountains. I did not know at the time what the term 'Rocky Mountains' meant, but I supposed it to be something connected with the Indians. This frightened me for the reason that I dreaded the very sight of an Indian."
- "The Prophet [Joseph] came to our home (in Nauvoo) and stopped in our carpenter shop and stood by the turning lathe. I went and got my map for him 'Now' he said, 'I will show you the travels of this people.' He then showed our travels through Iowa, and said, 'Here you will make a place for the winter; and here you will travel west until you come to the valley of the Great Salt Lake! You will build cities to the North and to the South, and to the East and to the West; and you will become a great and wealthy people in that land.'"
- "I want to say to you before the Lord [said Joseph] that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and Kingdom than a babe upon its mother's lap. You don't comprehend it. It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America- it will fill the world. It will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains, and there they will open the door for the establishing of the Gospel among the Lamanites.... This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains."
- "In late August 1842 while at Montrose Iowa Joseph prophesied saying, "I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains. Many would apostatize; others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements, and build cities, and see the Saints become a mighty people, in the midst of the Rockv Mountains."":85-86
- "I had before seen him in a vision and now saw while he was talking his countenance change to white; not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living, brilliant white. He seemed absorbed in gazing at something at a great distance, and said: 'I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains.... Oh the beauty of those snow-capped mountains! The cool refreshing streams that are running down through those mountain gorges!' Then, `gazing in another direction, as if there was a change in locality Joseph said 'Oh the scenes that this people will pass through! The dead that will lie between here and there!' Then turning in another direction as if the scene had again changed Joseph said, 'Oh the apostasy that will take place before my brethren reach that land! But the priesthood shall prevail over all its enemies, triumph over the devil and be established upon the earth, never more to be thrown down!'… It is impossible to represent in words the grandeur of Joseph's appearance. his beautiful descriptions of this land, and his wonderful prophetic utterances as they emanated from that glorious inspirations that overshadowed him. There was a force and power in his exclamations."
- "After the death of Joseph Smith, when it seemed as if every trouble and calamity had come upon the Saints, Brigham Young . . . sought the Lord to know what they should do, and where they should lead the people for safety, and while they were fasting and praying daily on this subject. President Young had a vision of Joseph Smith, who showed him the mountain that we now call Ensign Peak, immediately north of Salt Lake City, and there . . . an ensign [flag] fell upon that peak, and Joseph said, 'Build under the point where the colors fall and you will prosper and have peace.' "
Remember that the Lord has declared that His word will be established in the mouth of two or more witnesses. (Matthew 18:16,2 Corinthians 13:1) Joseph Smith said, concerning being driven from Missouri:
- They would be driven even by bloodshed
- They would go to the Rocky Mountains
- They would first lay the foundation of Zion (buying land)
- They would return to accept Zion as an inheritance
- He did not know the time of their return
- Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "shall."
- D. Charles Pyle, email to author, 2009. Cited in Jeff Lindsay, "What About the Failed Prophecy of a Temple in Missouri," <https://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_prophets.shtml#temple> (14 July 2020).
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:XLIII, footnotes. Volume 3 link States as follows: "These estimates are by the late President George A. Smith, Church Historian, and hence are entirely reliable. They are quoted by Lucien Carr in his History of Missouri, "American Commonwealths," p. 181, and are also to be found in an Historical Address by George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. XIII. pp. 103. et seq."
- History of the Church. Volume 3 link
- History of the Church. Volume 5 link
- See also Luke 1:73, John 8:39, Romans 4:1, 4:16, and James 2:21 for scriptural understanding of this principle that children can be a descendant in any number of generations.
- Parley P. Pratt, The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Company, 1985), 77.
- Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Company, 1954), 634.
- Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 33. off-site
- McKeever and Johnson use only two verses of D&C 84 in their argument. However, to adequately understand the LDS view of Zion, one must also read D&C sections 38:, 49:, 58:, 63:, 84:, 87:, 88:, 94:, 95:, 97:, 100:, 101:, 105:, 124:, and 128:. To leave out all of this information misleads readers about what Joseph Smith really said.
- Photocopy of a signed affidavit by Paulina Elizabeth Phelps Lyman, witnessed on 31 July 1903 by James Jack, notary.
- Mosiah Hancock Autobiography, Typescript, BYU Library, Special Collections, 28-29.
- Wilford Woodruff, Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, compiled by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1946), 38-39.
- Autobiography of Anson Call, BYU Library, Special Collections, 6-7, 18-19.
- George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 13:85. (12 August 1866).