The test of a prophet.

Deuteronomy 18 NKJV

21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Joseph Smith has brought new religious beliefs to the table. God has given us a simple test for all prophets. Has Joseph Smith given any prophecies that he said were from God but failed to come true?

  • 5
    So is this a contentious question looking to disprove Joseph Smith as a prophet, or are you looking to accept him as a prophet based on the results of this test? To me this test is just for specific things the prophet has said, not if they are a prophet or not. Aug 26, 2011 at 17:53
  • 13
    Gotta be careful with that test. By an overly literal interpretation, any prophet who has predicted things that have not happened yet could be deemed a false prophet, including Jesus and John. A better "test of a prophet" comes from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: by their fruits ye shall know them.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Aug 26, 2011 at 17:54
  • 7
    That's why I gave the Deuteronomy verse. God has given us a way to test a prophet. You can test any prophet in the Bible and they will pass this test with flying colors. I want to know if Joseph Smith can pass it. Aug 26, 2011 at 17:58
  • 4
    Jesus Christ prophesied that He will come again. He hasn't yet, does that mean He fails the test? I would say no, but by your literal interpretation it would seem contrary. I am not voting to close the question, but I wonder if your premise may be too literal, which may indicate a contentious intention. Aug 26, 2011 at 18:02
  • 9
    I think the question is valid. If Joseph Smith said something like "xxxx will happen within yyyy years" and it didn't happen, clearly the prophet failed the test and he's a false prophet. This is a great test. We do have to be careful, but I think that this is a valid and worthy question!
    – Richard
    Aug 26, 2011 at 18:25

1 Answer 1

  • Prophecy about Jesus' return within 56 years

    Per the History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 189, he said

    ...and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh--even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.

    That was in 1891.

  • Prophecy that the temple would be built in Missouri within Smith's Generation

    _Doctrines and Covenants 84:2-5,31.

    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.

  • All Nations would be involved in the American Civil War war

    _Doctrine and Covenants 87:1-3

    For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.

That short list came from here.

Some more include:

  • the prophecy that David Patten would go on a mission (he died before he could)
  • that the US government would be overthrown if it didn't apologize (it didn't apologize and was never overthrown)
  • that Congress would dissolve if it didn't hear Joseph Smiths petition (it never heard it and it's still around)

etc. That list is here.

A note to all would-be prophets... don't use exact dates.

  • 6
    First of all, for the Missouri temple prophecy, it was cancelled: lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/124.45-55?lang=eng#44. This may seem like a cop-out, but the Lord has previously cancelled promises (Isrealites in wilderness for 40 years). Sure, this was due to disobedience, but who's to say that they weren't disobedient? A temple is more a blessing to the people than to God. As to the 2nd coming prophecy, Joseph Smith was promised to see the 2nd coming if he lived to 80+ years. This statement is most likely based off that promise, which was cancelled at Joseph's death.
    – beatgammit
    Aug 26, 2011 at 19:18
  • 5
    As to the Civil War prophecy, Great Britain did have a limited involvement on the Confederate side (built 2 ships for them), which means the Confederates tried to goad them in to the war. See wikipedia.Note, involvement was limited, but nothing in the prophecy said they would be directly involved, only contacted by the Confederates. As to the last bit, this could be referring to WW1 & WW2, which happened 50 or so years later.
    – beatgammit
    Aug 26, 2011 at 19:22
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    Just a note, I only post these comments to show that there is an answer to each failed prophecy. They aren't always 100% bullet-proof, but they aren't 100% BS either. By these evidences, Joseph Smith cannot be completely disproved as a prophet until his major work, the Book of Mormon, is 100% disproved.
    – beatgammit
    Aug 26, 2011 at 19:24
  • 14
    ...and this is why I warned against applying this test. Those who don't want to believe (in anything, not just Mormonism) will always find something to cherry-pick to "prove" it's wrong, and those who do want to will provide their own interpretations and in the end no one convinces anyone.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Aug 26, 2011 at 19:57
  • 7
    @Mason: But.... uh, how do you go from the bible saying "if someone prophesies in my name and turns out to be wrong, he be trollin" (strong paraphrasing there :P) and a list of off-the-mark Joseph Smith prophecies to "those who don't want to believe will always find something to cherry-pick to prove it's wrong"? I also understood the the referenced verse to mean that any prophecy that fails is because he/she is a false prophet, and you can feel free to completely ignore his teachings. So all you'd need is to 100% disprove a single prophecy of his. Not that this is the place to do it though.
    – RCIX
    Sep 8, 2011 at 16:02

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