Our daughter, who has left the church, sent us an anti-Mormon article with seven (supposedly) failed prophecies of Joseph Smith. I was able to easily refute six of them, but I am stuck as to how to respond to the remaining one. It quotes History of the Church, Vol. 1, p. 315-316, where Joseph prophecies of the destruction of the wicked, and says that some of those then living would live to see it fulfilled. Can you help me? Thanks,
You respond to the seventh issue the same way you respond to the other six: with your testimony. Joseph Smith was the prophet of the restoration. He spoke with God the Father and Jesus Christ. He translated for us another testament of Jesus Christ by the gift and power of God. He revealed many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God. You might say Joseph was a fruitful bough.
You should also reach out with an olive branch that includes some firm boundaries. Your daughter is no longer a member of the Church, but she is still a member of the family. You love her very much and want to continue an inclusive relationship with her. That relationship must be built on mutual respect. If she wants to discuss your beliefs, she is welcome to do so provided she maintains an attitude of respect toward what you hold sacred (this should be fairly simple since it is the faith she once held herself). Conversely, if she would like to discuss you will show her that same respect.
For your own edification, as well as for others concerned with this claim of “false prophet”, I’d like to share the context of this quote. In the first week of 1833 Joseph wrote a letter to N E Seaton (perhaps Sexton), the editor of a paper in Rochester, New York, testifying of the restoration of the gospel and warning of calamities to come. Just two weeks prior to this, Joseph Smith received a revelation predicting the upcoming Civil War and inviting the saints to gather to Zion by “stand[ing] … in holy places” (Doctrine and Covenants 87). With all this fresh on his mind, Joseph wrote:
“And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. The people of the Lord, those who have complied with the requirements of the new covenant, have already commenced gathering together to Zion, which is in the state of Missouri, therefore I declare unto you the warning which the Lord has commanded to declare unto this generation, remembering that the eyes of my Maker are upon me and that to him I am accountable for every word I say wishing nothing worse to my fellow-men than their eternal salvation; therefore, “Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.” Repent ye, repent ye, and embrace the everlasting covenant, and flee to Zion, before the overflowing scourge overtake you, for there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things, which I have spoken, fulfilled.”
This quote is largely a reiteration of the revelation given just weeks prior (even including a mention of the gathering to Zion), but with one addition. In terms of a prophecy,
1. Unparalleled bloodshed will be poured out.
2. This bloodshed removes a generation’s worth of wicked persons.
3. This also prepares for the return of the lost tribes of Israel (this is new, compared to D&C 87).
4. All this is to happen within a single lifetime.
How do these hold up in the light of historical hindsight? Those portions that can be proven have been. Within a single generation (30 years by most standards), America’s bloodiest war exploded across the nation. That fulfills the first point. The second is not historically provable, as the definition of “wicked” is a moral judgment left to God only. That leaves us with the third part of the prophecy. We can’t know if the Civil War prepared for gathering of the lost tribes until after they return from the lands of the north. Given the prophet’s track record, I fully believe that when Israel is safely gathered in we will clearly see how this terrible conflict directly led to their arrival.