Thus Saith the Lord: Go Get a Tan

National Geographic Magazine recently published an excellent feature article titled The Polygamists. Journalist Scott Anderson’s insightful piece about the FLDS church, its people, and its history is well worth reading.

In the midst of this article Mr. Anderson writes this about the FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs (who is currently in prison):

“Jeffs’s diary, also seized during the Texas raid, reveals a man who micromanaged the community’s every decision, from chore assignments and housing arrangements to who married whom and which men were ousted—all directed by revelations Jeffs received as he slept. He claimed that God guided his every action, no matter how small. One diary entry reads: ‘The Lord directed that I go to the sun tanning salon and get sun tanned more evenly on their suntanning beds.'”

In addition to revelations about people’s marriages and housing arrangements (and tanning salons), the National Geographic article mentions expulsions of men (from the church) that Jeffs deemed unworthy, and the “reassignment” of their families to more worthy men:

“In his diary Jeffs recounts reassigning the wives of three men, including his brother David, because God had shown him that they ‘couldn’t exalt their ladies, had lost the confidence of God.'”

The article notes that some people say this practice of reassignment “became one more weapon to hold over the heads of those who dared step out of line.

When I read this I was struck by the dictatorial and egocentric nature of Jeffs’ revelations and how they reminded me in some ways of many of Joseph Smith’s revelations. It seems to me that if you read Smith’s revelations outside of a presupposition that he was a true prophet, some of them come across as pretty self-serving.

According to an eyewitness (who later left the LDS Church), Joseph received a revelation forbidding him to continue his travel on the Missouri River (D&C 61) following the near-upset of his canoe, an event that deeply frightened him.

“…Joseph in the afternoon of the third day, assumed the direction of affairs on board of that canoe, which, with other matters of difference, together with Oliver’s curse, increased the irritation of the crew, who, in time of danger, refused to exert their physical powers, in consequence of which, they ran foul of a sawyer, and were in danger of upsetting …when threatened with the horrors of a watery grave, they unanimously desired, to set their feet once more upon something more firm than a liquid surface: therefore, by the persuasion of Joseph, we landed before sunset, intending to pass the night upon the bank of the river…

“The next morning, Joseph manifested an aversion to risk his person any more, upon the rough and rapid current of the Missouri, and in fact, upon any other river; and he again had recourse to his usual method, of freeing himself from the embarrassment[s of a former commandment, by] obtaining another in opposition to it. He succeeded according to his desires. A new commandment was issued, in which a great curse was pronounced against the waters; navigating them, was to be attended with extreme danger; and all the saints in general, were prohibited journeying upon them to the promised land. From this circumstance, the Missouri river was named the river of Destruction. It was decreed, that we should proceed on our journey by land, and preach by the way as we passed along.” (Letter from Ezra Booth, published in the Ohio Star 2:3, 24 November 1831)

Then there’s the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89). Brigham Young said,

“I think I am as well acquainted with the circumstances which led to the giving of the Word of Wisdom as any man in the Church, although I was not present at the time to witness them. The first school of the prophets was held in a small room situated over the Prophet Joseph’s kitchen, …in which the Prophet received revelations and in which he instructed his brethren. The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry.” (Journal of Discourses, 12:158)

Add to these convenient revelations the frequent revelations Joseph Smith proclaimed which chastised individuals for behavior that “displeased” the Lord (e.g., disposal of their property contrary to counsel or speaking ill of Joseph), those that told people to stop arguing with the Prophet and start obeying him, and those that instructed individuals, by name, to “buy stock” in the Nauvoo House in order to provide for its construction, a building wherein “Joseph [Smith] and his seed after him have a place in that house, from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord.”

Consider the many revelations through which Joseph Smith directed the specific comings and goings of his followers, the frequent direction for named individuals to give their money and property to the Prophet’s endeavors, the revelations calling for various specific women to submit to plural marriages, and, of course, the “inspired” additions to Genesis 50 that “prophesy” about the Prophet himself.

True believing Mormons might say that God was just getting the foundation of His new church in order, attending to details. But if we look at them from a different perspective–not as a skeptic or a critic, but just as a not-yet-convinced investigator–don’t Joseph Smith’s convenient and apparently self-serving revelations raise some red flags? The apostle Peter warned that false prophets, in their greed, “will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:3).

Be careful.

(For the text of most of the Joseph Smith revelations I referred to above, I used The Joseph Smith Revelations Text and Commentary by H. Michael Marquardt, 263-329)

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Early Mormonism, Joseph Smith. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Thus Saith the Lord: Go Get a Tan

  1. falcon says:

    I read the article. Very good! When we read Jeff’s diary and also read the revelations of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young what we get is a tutorial on how to run a cult. When the “prophet” says, “God told me” that’s pretty much the end of the discussion. These guys are indeed megalomaniacs in full-dress parade. But it’s the hook of “revelation” that gets people into and maintains them in cults.
    Then we get the super spiritual high that the members themselves get from thinking that they are getting a “word from the Lord”. There are lots of voices out there in the spirit world that whisper into the ears/imaginations of people. Mormons love these little voices and the “truth” that is revealed to them via their spirit guests.
    There was a Chinese Christian mystic by the name of Watchman Nee who wrote a book titled “The Latent Power of the Soul.” He had an interesting take on the body, soul, spirit topic. I think there is some truth in what he offered.
    “The spirit and the soul are two totally different organs: one belongs to God, while the other belongs to man. By whatever names one may call them, they are completely distinct in substance. The peril of the believer is to confuse the spirit for the soul and the soul for the spirit, and so be deceived into accepting the counterfeit of evil spirits to the unsettling of God’s work…….The greatest advantage in knowing the difference between spirit and soul is in perceiving the latent power of the soul and in understanding its falsification of the power of the Holy
    Spirit. Such knowledge is not theoretical but practical in helping people to walk in God’s way…..”
    He quotes F.B. Meyer: “This is an amazing fact that never has there been so much spiritualism outside the church of Christ as is found today…Is it not factual that in the lower part of our human nature the stimulation of the soul is quite prevailing? Nowadays the atmosphere is so charged with the commotion of all kinds of counterfeit that the Lord seems to be calling the church to come to a higher ground.”
    Thessalonians 5:21 “…prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

  2. grindael says:

    A good question to ask is where Jeff’s got these ideas from. He obviously read his Church History very carefully. This was exactly how Brigham Young behaved when he took dictatorial control of the Saints after Smith died.

    For example, this is how Young viewed one man’s wife, Zina Jacobs:

    Zina left Jacobs in 1846 to marry Brigham Young. William Hall asserted that he had heard Young say publicly to Jacobs: “The woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is the spiritual wife of brother Joseph, sealed to him. I am his proxy, and she, in this behalf, with her children, are my property. You can go where you please, and get another, but be sure to get one of your own kindred spirits.” Jacobs apparently accepted Young’s decision as the word of the Lord, for he stood as witness in the Nauvoo temple in January 1846 when Zina was sealed to Brigham Young “for time” and to Joseph Smith “for eternity” (No Man Knows My History, p.443).

    Wilford Woodruff’s diaries are a gold mine of information on how ‘the brethern’ operated under the iron hand of Young. Here Young calls himself a god, but stops short of accepting worship as such:

    “You might say I am your counselor, dictator or your god. Either would be correct and they should obey your just and righteous command, yet they should not worship you, for this would be sin.” (Jan. 27, 1860)

    In the same entry, Young tells how he got on so well with Smith:

    “President Young said I will tell you how I got along with Joseph. I found out that God called Joseph to be a Prophet. I did not do it. I then said I will leave the Prophet in the hands of that God who called and ordained him to be a Prophet. He is not responsible to me and it is none of my business whathe does. It is for me to follow and obey him.

    Young demanded the same from all under him. These men who lead these splinter groups are only following the lead of those who went before: Young & Smith.

  3. falcon says:

    There are definite characteristics of abusive religious systems and Mormonism, especially in the days of BY, had it all-in spades. It’s all about control and all one of these cult leaders needs to exercise that control is duped and powerless followers. Powerless individuals and abusive religious systems fit with each other.
    Once someone buys into the Mormon religious myth, they are trapped. That’s because the church, they believe, holds the key to their spiritual destiny. If the follower did not believe this, the abusive leader wouldn’t have any leverage to hold them in the system.
    In a case like Jeffs, he not only had control of his followers spiritual future, he also controlled their temporal life including jobs and property. It was the same with BY. Mormons have to find some way of justifying and rationalizing the type of abusive behavior BY exhibited. What we hear is that “it happened a long time ago”, “we don’t do that any more”, “times were different then”, or “so-and-so did such-and-such in the Bible”.
    The last thing a modern day Mormon can or would do, is condemn the abuse. For in doing so would be to deny one of the foundational truths of Mormonism which is the prophet is “true”. It’s all about the personal testimony. Mountains of evidence won’t convince some Mormons that their religion is full of darkness.

  4. bfwjr says:

    Warren Jeffs loses his tan, his freedom, and explains where his power came from “I am not the prophet. I never was the prophet, and I have been deceived by the powers of evil.”

  5. setfree says:

    why do you suppose that the LDS are not joining in on this post?

  6. Rick B says:

    Setfree, Even if LDS do reply, they will simply say something like, RLDS,FLDS, and others are not LDS. So that makes all this ok in their mind. Rick b

  7. setfree says:

    it’s like there are two modes for LDS here on MC. if it’s a seemingly arguable post, then they argue. if it’s a seemingly inarguable post, the LDS look away (just don’t see the post/are too busy?) until another seemingly arguable post comes along.

    this is, perhaps, what makes it most obvious that “the church is true” at all costs. the Mormons who comment here the most are NOT looking for truth, but only to defend what they believe. that’s understandable, i guess, but how can it be a healthy thing? if you are running away from some of the issues, then do you see that you are hiding from reality?

    a Mormon friend of mine.. we found each other online after many many years… and we were getting along fine until my friend asked me whatever happened with me and “the church”.

    me: “I found out the church is not true” (long story shortened)
    my friend: “I can’t be your friend” (lss again)

    Even on topics where the LDS-frequenters comment, when there is no answer that would fit within the LDS agenda (of the church being true), then the questions are ignored.

    It’s annoying. But that’s not the biggest problem.

    The biggest problem is, LDS, don’t you guys care? Do you really NOT CARE that there are big holes in your theology? Do you really NOT CARE about all the stuff you can’t answer?


  8. Enki says:

    It could be that the particular dynamics of church leadership have changed. Maybe current LDS church culture doesn’t need or require such specific ‘revelations’. More general directions are probably tolerated, under the idea that its god that is leading them.

    There could be a hidden agenda in those general instructions which perhaps nobody really knows. Perhaps they benefit an individual directly, or some businesses owned by the LDS church organization.

    This however does not address those specific revelations given by Jeffs or Joseph Smith. Most cult leaders probably have had some sort of influence like that.

  9. grindael says:


    Hinckley said as much in a 1997 interview. He said the Church does not need many revelations, it had plenty now.

    This seems to be the current trend. What they are careful of now, is that everything they say is so scrutinized. They can’t make statements like the one smith made that the City of Enoch used to be in the Gulf of Mexico and that when it rose to heaven it left the large Gulf Area of water, or that the ten tribes are on a piece of the earth that has flown off and circles it.

    These are obviously false, and can be distorted or discounted through supposed historical inaccuracy, but they know better now.

    Also Smith & the Church thought the world would end in 1891, so they just did not care what they said. Like Jeff’s, their actions and statements caught up with them. But the LDS Church is a PR Masterpiece, and still continues to deceive.

    I read all your posts with interest. Thank you, and I’m praying for you in your current situation. I was injured badly at work last year and am still out of work also, having had major surgery on my left knee last Oct.

    God bless you.

  10. Enki says:

    Sorry to hear about your troubles. Thank you for wishing me good will. Its nice to know that someone takes interest in these posts. It does make a difference to me, thank you.

    You have a lot of knowledge to share, and I am glad you are sharing. There is a lot about the LDS movement which I am so completely ignorant.

    What is the evidence that some LDS leaders thought the world would end in 1891? And about the city of Enoch?

    What about current ideas about science? What about modern culture? In what ways do you feel the current leadership may use these to pitch the LDS faith? You can’t have good PR without being in touch with general trends and thought. It could be that those statements made by Smith or others weren’t so outlandish for their time period. I am sure a lot of people were speculating about stuff and making statements based on their general sense of what could be possible or not.

  11. Enki asked

    It could be that those statements made by Smith or others weren’t so outlandish for their time period.

    Perhaps not.

    But, according to Joseph Smith, these weren’t products of the times, they were revelations from God.

    The thing is, the Biblical revelation is a message that is a product of its time, but it is also timeless. That’s because it’s not principally a revelation of religion (which changes), but it’s a revelation of God (who doesn’t). It’s also a revelation of humanity (which doesn’t change within the timeframe of the Biblical story).

    If Smith’s revelations aligned with Biblical norms, the one thing that should not change is the person of God. However, it seems that Smith’s God(s) changed to suit whatever circumstances favored Smith.

    Furthermore, the BoM and the other creations of Smith et al are predominated by 19th Century concerns and issues. If they were revelations from God, then we should expect to have seen some of the errors in these concerns corrected. Particular examples I have in mind are;

    1 The 19th century perception that “mark of Cain” = “black skin” = social stigma, instead of “mark of Cain” = mark of protection.

    2 The Newtonian idea of aether, which is equated to an impersonal Holy Ghost. Aether has since been jettisoned by modern science, but the idea of an impersonal Holy Ghost persists.

    There’s also the whole pioneer/migration thing and the deistic moralistic perspective that underpins Freemasonry.

    Joseph Smith might have speculated about stuff from his sense of his own environment, but he failed to lift his vision beyond his own time and place. If this is the case, then we’ve got to wonder what degree of divine revelation there actually is in his communications.

  12. falcon says:

    There are a couple of points here. One is the “thus saith the Lord” imprinter affixed to the proclamations of these false prophets and the other is the need for using such a tag line. It’s fairly obvious, if God reveals it, then it’s true. God said it now you have to do it. You have to listen to me because I’m the mouth piece of God.
    I’ve talked several times here about people I’ve known in the Christian community who are getting continuous revelation from God. Most of these people are harmless because all they are seeking is a little attention, to feel important. Nobody is following them. They’re sort of religious loose cannons in some cases but they don’t have a cannon ball. They just make a little noise when they go off. Others may develop some street cred and get a little following but it’s mainly harmless. What’s known as the modern prophetic movement within part of the Christian family, attracts a certain niche but when I listen to these folks proclaim I find myself more often than not asking “What?”.
    As most who read here know, I’m a firm believer in the manifestation of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as outlined in First Corinthians 12-14. The Bible is clear in articulating guidelines relative to there use in the Body. The opportunity for abuse by leaders or dynamic individuals is pretty big. That’s why there is a need for folks to be held accountable for their proclamations, revelations and words.
    Sometimes it gets dangerous. In the mid70s there was a movement within some Pentecostal type churches called “shepherdship”. The idea behind it was that the pastor was the shepherd and it was his job to take care of the sheep/flock. Now for the megalomaniac type pastors, this was right up their alley. They could control everyone in their congregation. Some insecure people went along with the program but thankfully this was a fad that ran out of steam and didn’t last long. It did demonstrate however, how willing people were to submit themselves to dynamic leadership and to control.

  13. falcon says:

    “Churches that Abuse” gives a good overview of the characteristics of abusive religious groups, the leaders and the techniques they use to seduce and control their members. On page 72, “….today’s movements express the conviction they alone are the repository of ‘truth,’ or that they have been chosen by God to restore a lost or dormant spiritual vitality. Both groupings share a strong consciousness of persecution; both illustrate attitudes of negativity toward established churches; both view their ‘spiritual family’ as superior to the biological family; and both have exhibited concern about the role and the of ex-members.”
    When talking about the authoritarian leadership the author writes, “Control-oriented leadership is at the core of all such churches. These spiritual power holders become strong role models, and their dogmatic teaching, bold confidence, and arrogant assertiveness become powerful forces of influence. They use their spiritual authority to intimidate the weak and those who consider leaving their flock.”
    In one case the pastor/leader “….threatened that demons would harass them and that they would lack power with God.”
    The pastor wrote a letter in which he said, “As your pastor, I warn you that you are headed for the bottom of the sea….God has called you to this assembly to furnish you with that which you need. Do you have His permission to leave this assembly? When you take yourself out of this move of God…you are going to go downhill spiritually…When you run from God, you go to the bottom of the sea…..You could lose your souls through this. The Devil can take you down, down, down. I ask you to repent before God…follow your pastor, stick with him, stay in the boat and God will forgive you. You are following emotions and reasoning that has been infiltrated by the Devil…you are going to lose eternal rewards. You will not be the same…you cannot just walk into any church and think you you are safe. God won’t honor that. He called you here and I am your pastor, no one else. You must follow me or you will answer to God.” (pp80-81)
    Different day same routine when it comes to controlling abusive religious groups. One of the characteristics of course goes all the way back to the first century where the Gnostics claimed special secret knowledge. This “special revelation” that people buy into acts as one of the main factors in exerting control.

  14. falcon says:

    According to author of “Churches That Abuse” Ronald M. Enroth, there are ten characteristics of abusive religious organizations:
    1. Control-oriented leadership.
    2. Spiritual elitism.
    3. Manipulation of members.
    4. Perceived persecution.
    5. Lifestyle rigidity.
    6. Emphasis on experience.
    7. Suppression of dissent.
    8. Harsh discipline of members.
    9. Denunciation of other churches.
    10. Painful exit process.

    These groups use guilt, fear, and intimidation as a means of controlling people. They also attempt to systematically sever members from their past support systems. Eventually the member gives up his/her own powers of independent and rational thinking. Characteristic of these members is their inability to test, define, and evaluate. These groups are famous for their “no talk rule” where organizational problems are not freely discussed. People wear their masks and project an “all is right with our little world” persona.
    Leadership promotes and the members submit themselves to cookie-cutter lifestyles. Fear is a factor with members; fear of not measuring up, fear of losing out with God if one leaves the group and fear of spiritual failure.
    There are certain themes within these groups. The members get a regular dose of “covenant, authority, obedience, submission, serving and honoring.”

  15. liv4jc says:

    When you get right down to it the local bishops exercise immense power over members of a ward and the stake presidents have even more power. If you have read a lot of Mormon exit stories you find that these men generally have no theological training, nor do they have any training in counseling, nor have they been called to serve by God who has gifted them with a pastor’s heart. They are generally political appointments for those who are great at the “fake it ’till you make it” game. I know a few bishops outside of the wards and I know they don’t meet the qualifications. Two of them don’t have a theological bone in their bodies and they certainly don’t behave like they expect their congregants to. To be fair there are pastors who misuse their power/position over their congregation but Christians are free to disagree with or challenge a pastor’s behavior, which I have done. Specific incidents that I am aware of are giving people callings to which they are not qualified to perform (like making closet drinkers/drug abusers visiting home teachers and boy scout troop den mothers), and making a man who has a stressful full-time job and 4 children plus a newborn a boy scout leader. The man did not want the position and did not have the few hours two days a week necessary to fulfill this calling. When asked why he didn’t just say no, the answer was, “When the bishop gives you a calling you don’t say no.” These are just a few instances that I have personal knowledge of that shows that LDS believe that even their bishops are directed by God. The inconsistencies or inappropriate callings are often passed off as “testings” instead of false-callings or mistakes made by men who are no more influenced by God than the kid bagging your groceries at the supermarket.

  16. setfree says:

    Enki, I’m glad to see you around. I enjoy your comments as well.

    Martin, what a terrific and well-stated point!

    Falcon, my pastor says “If you don’t like this church, go find another one! Free up the seats!” (always with good humor)

    You know, it’s not as though the problem is that Joseph Smith (or others, like Jeffs) lie to/with people.

    The problem is that they lie to/with people IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.

    Given the number of people that are in pain and cannot find Jesus because of these guys, I would imagine that judgment day will be a little worse on them than on your average Joe. How could someone come up against total reality (God), see exactly who and what they were in life (evil), and realize how many people they had deceived, and not be in total agony?!

  17. grindael says:


    Your questions took me awhile to answer. Sorry for the delay and the length of it, but I wanted to be thorough. I will post what I can, the remainder perhaps tomorrow (it is that long). This part is about the Second Coming Predictions of Smith & how they were interpreted by the Church, the other questions I will answer when this is posted. I could not include everything, there is much more, but this gives you a good idea of the whole history of it.

    There is sufficient evidence that Smith believed Jesus would return in 1891 (& not before that time) and a majority of the Saints believed him. It is because of the quotes below that these conclusions are drawn. The Mormons were a Millennial Society, with Smith predicting the Redemption of Zion would take place in his lifetime. In 1831 Smith wrote this revelation on the gathering of Zion and to flee the coming apocalypse he was preaching that would happen:

    “Wherefore I the Lord have said gather ye out from the eastern lands, assemble ye yourselves together ye elders of my church; go ye forth in the western countries, call upon the inhabitants to repent, and inasmuch as they do repent, build up churches unto me; and with one heart and with one mind, gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed unto you, and it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the most high God; and the glory of the Lord shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it: and it shall be called Zion…” (Book of Commandments, March 1831)

    Later, Smith would reveal the location of Zion, which would be in Missouri. In an article from the Rochester Liberal Advocate, from April 14, 1832 we get a good example of what was believed and the timetable of events to come :

    Mormonism is said to have taken deep root in the Baptist church, in the town of Mendon, in this county.

  18. grindael says:

    A number were re-dipped on Sunday last. The preacher said that he should never die, but be translated, after the manner of Enoch, and that in eighteen months Mormonism would be the prevailing religion; and, that in five years the wicked were to be swept from the face of the earth. When we see the degradation to which weak human nature has been reduced of late, we cannot wonder at such fanatical extravagance.

    By 1833 Smith had defined his doctrine on the Redemption of Zion enough to make this prophecy:

    ” 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. Remember these things; call upon the Lord while He is near, and seek Him while He may be found,

  19. grindael says:

    is the exhortation of your unworthy servant.” ( History of the Church, 1:315-316; 1833)

    Smith believed that when Zion was built, the ten tribes would return along with the city of Enoch. Here are some quotes about that, by those who claimed to hear it from Smith himself. Take this quote by Wilford Woodruff years later:

    “President Young said he had heard Joseph Smith say that the Ten Tribes of Israel were on a portion of land separated from this earth.” (Diary, Sept. 8, 1867)

    Woodruff also offered another insight Young recalled Smith relating about the City of Enoch:

    “Joseph also said that when the City of Enoch fled and was translated, it was where the gulf of Mexico now is; it left that gulf a body of water.” (Diary, March 30, 1873)

    Smith was not shy about claiming revelation on a large number of topics, believing that Missouri would be the last stop for the Saints before the coming of the Lord. In 1835 we get the first inkling of Smith’s timetable for the return of Jesus:

    “President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit***and it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, 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.” (D.H.C. 2:182)

    Although the Mormons were forced out of Missouri, their dreams of Zion did not die. Smith and the Saints believed God would provide a way for them to return, and it was a wide belief in the Church that it would happen before 1891. At the April conference, 1840, Smith reiterated this in the light of the William Miller predictions. According to Luman Shurtliff who was there, he said they were mistaken;

  20. grindael says:

    the Lord would not come in ten years; no, nor in twenty years; no, nor in thirty years; no, nor in forty years, and it will be almost fifty years before the Lord will come [1890]. (Luman Shurtliff Autobiography, 1807-1847, typescript, Brigham Young University – special Collections Library, page 44)

    Smith also prophesied at the LDS Conference on April 6, 1843 that “Were I going to prophesy, I would say the end (of the world) would not come in 1844, 5, or 6, or in forty years. There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes.” (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 336; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 286). He then elaborated in his diary, saying:

    “I was once praying earnestly upon the subject, and a voice said unto me, My son, if thou lives t till thou art 85 years of age, thou shalt see the Face of the Son of Man–I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this & took the liberty to conclude that if I did live till that time He would make His appearance or I shall go where He is–I prophesy in the name of the Lord God–& let it be written, that the Son of Man will not come in the heavens till I am 85 years old, 48 years hence or about 1890.” (Diary of Joseph Smith, April 6, 1843)

    The above quote does not say that Jesus would NOT return if Joseph died… and that fueled the Saints anticipation for the 1891 date. That this belief of Jesus returning within the lifetime of the early Saints was a common one, is evidenced in these blessings, given during Smith’s lifetime:

    “President Z. Coltrin ordained me as a member of the first Seventy & pronounced great blessings upon my head by the spirit of Prophecy & Revelation Some of them I will mention which are as follows: THAT my enemies may confine me in Prisions & chains & that I would rend the prisions & chains in twain in the name of JESUS CHRIST …to be continued…

  21. setfree says:

    I think that is part of human nature to just figure things out as we go along, and write truth as we wish it could be, to suit our desires and needs.

    And we all do it or have done it, to some degree. That is, we have all invented reality to suit ourselves and to try to make things easier/better for ourselves.

    But above all this cloudlike, blurry dreaminess is, in fact, THE reality. God exists, and He has the ultimate TRUTH about us, about everything.

    I used to prefer the dream-world. I was absolutely scared of finding out more about God.

    But He’s more beautiful than can be imagined from the dream-world. His truth is more awesome, His wonder more real. Biblical truth is the fresh air above the fog of humanness.

    These “prophets”, they only did in the extreme what everyone else does. They tried to recreate reality, gain power they shouldn’t have had, have followers though they had nothing good to say. And their followers… they simply had someone leading them around in the fog.

    Mormonism is nothing worse than plain old human nature… and nothing better. It offers no way out of the fog, nor does it desire to make people free. On the contrary… it feeds off of people who are still inventing their own reality.

  22. setfree says:

    this is off-topic, but i just wanted to share this terrific artwork:

    thanks to grindael for the link

  23. falcon says:

    What’s kind of a curious things about abusive religious systems is that it appears that some people thrive within the confines of the cult. So I suppose we’d have to define what thrive means in this context. The TBMs that show up here and post seem happy and contented within Mormonism to the point that they are quite militant about defending Mormonism, it’s teachings, doctrines, history, prophets and heros.
    And yet we see where two-thirds of those on the rolls of the Mormon church aren’t active. So my guess is that the TBMs would consider themselves spiritually more enlightened than the average Mormon bear. But than there’s that nagging sense that all is not well within the “active” Mormon kingdom. That comes from reading exit stories that paint a completely different experience among the leavers than the TBMs. Both groups, I would guess, see themselves as the enlightened ones.
    So why do some Mormons really get into the program while others see it as a total repressive drag?

  24. bfwjr says:

    Falcon, as you have addressed so well in past posts, Mormonism flourishes where critical thinking is absent. Peer pressure, combined with the fact that life is easier when virtually all of your decisions are made for you. No nasty ambiguity to deal with either, Hoseph Smith offers (heretical) answers for most of life’s important questions and makes some mighty big promises. No thinking required. Pay-up, show up and do what your told. Life on autopilot.

    “So why do others see it as a total repressive drag?” Because that’s what is.

  25. falcon says:

    Some people fit better in abusive groups with autocratic leaders than others. Some people don’t see the actions of the leaders and system as abusive. This would be especially so of people that grow up in the group. They don’t have a comparison. If the followers can be convinced that they are in some way defective, they will allow their insecurities to override their judgment.
    I guess we could say that the followers of Jim Jones were thriving in the organization right up to the time they drank the poison. Interestingly enough, some people ran away and hid themselves in the jungle. I guess they weren’t as spiritual as the kool-aid drinkers!

  26. Enki says:

    “why do you suppose that the LDS are not joining in on this post?”

    Maybe they all converted to something else!

  27. Enki says:

    About “Spiritual elitism” how would you further characterize that, in general. I know this is a Mormon and NON-Mormon Christian forum, but that element seems to exist in other religions. I am having a discussion elsewhere. Ironically the person objected to a certain idea under the basis of elitism. However, I got the sense that this person was very elitist, but I am having difficultly fully recognizing it when I see it.

  28. mobaby says:

    I think the Mormons are are not joining in on this thread because of grindael – his posts are an excellent – a non-stop revelation of the facts of Mormonism – and the facts don’t fit with the story. Likewise, the facts of this post don’t fit with the Mormon story today. I think Mormons today whitewash the image in their minds of Joseph Smith. I wonder how many modern day Mormons would stick with the program if LDS President Monson starting taking wives currently married to other men. Or what if he started a bank – and started issuing LDS currency – would the Mormons say – GREAT! Or what if he ran for governor, won in Utah, and then started a State militia and declared himself King and President – would Mormons today say “alright, this is what I’m talking about.” I think the backdoor out of Mormonism would be torn off the hinges if the current-day non-prophetic prophet started dishing out the kind of ‘stuff’ that went on in the early days. Sure, those who defend the indefensible, a few might stick it through and hold on to that BOM testimony, but if Monson suddenly started acting like Smith and Young – well, it would be a stampede to get out of Dodge.

  29. Enki says:

    The LDS faith has evolved and quite rapidly to keep up with much of our current times. Its true that so much is overlooked in history or teaching. Perhaps the LDS folks aren’t participating because there isn’t a catch that interests them. Maybe they are tired of looking at old criticisms, and trying to explain them away. Perhaps they really are satisfied with their religion, and don’t want to defend it. They would have to do so at some point if they ever expect to do missionary work.

  30. grindael says:


    & that the sick caus the Blind to see the lame to leap as an heart the Deaf to hear stop the mouths of Lions & rase the dead to life & waft myself (as did Philip) from River to river from Sea to sea & from Continant to Continant for the Purpose of Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ & that I should stand before Kings & Princes & that they would send for me to receive wisdom knowledge & instruction at my mouth because they considered me wiser than themselves in like manner as the Egyptians sought wisdom at the hand of JOSEPH. And that God would give me a multiplicity of Blessings that I should Preach to the nations of the earth & to the inhabitants upon the Islands of the sea & that I should then return & stand upon Mount Zion IN THE FLESH even in Jackson County Missouri at the cumming of Christ & that I should be cought up to meet him in the Clouds of heaven for he said this was the word of God unto me & Also that I should visit COLUB [Kolob] & Preach to the spirits in Prision & that I should bring all of my friends or relatives forth from the Terrestrial Kingdom (who had died) by the Power of the gospel These & many other Blessings were Pronounced upon my head. & further said that I should be annointed & my life sealed unto me & that teir would be still greater blessing Pronounced upon my head” (Wilford Woodruff Diary, Jan. 3, 1837.) ”.

    The blessing of Lyman E. Johnson was given in the name of Jesus Christ,…that no power of the enemy shall prevent him from going forth and doing the work of the Lord; and that he shall live until the gathering is accomplished, according to the holy prophets; and he shall be like unto Enoch; and his faith shall be like unto his; and he shall be called great among all the living; and Satan shall tremble before him; and he shall see the Savior come and stand upon the earth with power and great glory. (History of the Church 2:188)

  31. grindael says:

    William Smith’s Blessing said…He shall be mighty in the hands of God, in bringing about the restoration of Israel. The nations shall rejoice at the greatness of the gifts which God has bestowed upon him: that his tongue shall be loosed; he shall have power to do great things in the name of Jesus. He shall be preserved and remain on the earth, until Christ shall come to take vengeance on the wicked. (History of the Church 2:191)

    Although driven out of Nauvoo, the Saints did not forget about Zion and it’s redemption as evidenced by these entries by Wilford Woodruff:

    Sept. 25, 1859: The evening was spent in conversing upon the subject of the Ten Tribes in the North Country; the higher law of God in opposition to the law of gravitation in the ascension of Christ; Elijah and Enoch and the City of Zion to heaven upon the same principle. A portion of theNorth Country containing the ten tribes may be separated from the earth. O. Hyde and others believed they would soon return.

    December 31, 1863: Thus ends the year 1863. Joseph the Prophet said who ever lived to see 1860 would live to see the commencement of the downfall of the United States. The Union was dissolved in 1860 and civil war commenced which has raged ever since and the land is beginning to be bathed in blood and will continue until the words of the Prophet will be fulfilled. (Diary entries)

    Though the North was winning the war, some could not accept it, because that would lead to freedom for all the slaves, which was against the racist doctrines of the Church. Brigham Young actually prophesied that the war would never end in their freedom. Woodruff’s diary again gives us a glimpse of the mindset of the early Saints:

    March 6, 1865: Spent most of the day in the office. Brother Kimball said that President Lincoln would be in the presidential chair until he had destroyed the nation.

  32. grindael says:

    The North will never have power to crush the South. No never. The Lord will give the South power to fight the North until they will destroy each other.”(Diary entry)

    Wilford Woodruff was so sure Zion would be redeemed by 1890 that he made this prophecy on June 27, 1875: “I believe there are many children now living in the mountains of Israel (Utah) who will never taste death, that is, they will dwell on the earth at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” (J. of D., Vol. 18, p. 37). On June 6, 1880, Woodruff again said, “We live in the generation itself when Jesus Christ will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (J. of D., Vol. 21, p. 124).

    The 1890 date was fast approaching, & many still had faith that Smith’s 1890 prediction would come true as evidenced by this statement by apostle Moses Thatcher at a Conference:

    “Our deliverance will be within 5 years; the time indicated by Joseph’s [Feb. 14, 1832] prophecy will be February 14, 1891.” (Salt Lake Tribune, 10 April 1886) – see note at end

    With the arrival of the year 1890, many Mormons were anxiously awaiting these things to be fulfilled. That they were not was a disappointment, but men like Roberts had already begun preparing for the big letdown. In this speech, you see him hinting that ‘it may be something that would scarcely create a ripple.’

    “Before another General Conference shall be reached we shall have entered upon the year 1891. In the Book of Doctrines and Covenants, section 130, Joseph Smith was promised that if he lived until 1891, he would see the face of the Son of Man. On February 14th, 1835, at a meeting where certain Elders, they were told by Jospeh that they were called to go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, before the coming of Christ, even 56 years should wind-up the scene. 1835 plus 56 years also brings us to the year 1891!

  33. grindael says:

    These circumstances have called the Saints to believe that some great epoch will open at that time–the year following the present [1891]. My faith in the matter is whatever the Lord has in mind to accomplish in that year will be performed. It may be something, however, that would scarcely create a ripple.

    That Smith’s prophecy was real and that the Saints were still of a belief that Christ would come is again evidenced by this entry:

    Jan 1, 1891. This is New Year’s Day, and the year that has been looked upon by many as one of the more important years in the world.” (Woodruff Diary, Jan. 1, 1891)

    But the 1891 date was a fizzle. Nothing happened. But did that stop prophets like Lorenzo Snow from making prophecies like this (after all some were still living from Smith’s generation):

    “There are many – hundreds and hundreds within the sound of my voice – that will live to go back to Jackson County (Missouri) and build a holy temple to the Lord our God” (Conference Reports, pp. 14, 64). He also said, “Many of you will be living in Jackson County and there you will be assisting in building the temple; – I am saying things to you now of WHICH I KNOW SOMETHING OF THE TRUTH OF THEM” (Deseret News, June 15, 1901).

    When all those from Joseph Smith’s generation had died, the backpedaling began. Take this quote by Joseph Fielding Smith:

    “It may be reasonable to assume that in giving this revelation to the Prophet the Lord did have in mind the generation of people who would still be living within the one hundred years from the time of the announcement of the revelation, and that they would enjoy the blessings of the temple, and a glorious cloud would rest upon it. It is also reasonable to believe that no soul living in 1832, is still living in mortality on the earth.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:112)

  34. grindael says:

    Smith was the ultimate con-artist, hedging his bets by saying well, if the Lord comes it will be in 1890 when I am 85 years old. That way, Smith could do what he wanted for his whole life, never worrying that his ‘prediction’ would catch up with him. I have no doubt that some of his followers (like I was once) were sincerely deceived by this Master Mahon of Con-Artistry. But there is really NO EXCUSE to lightly brush aside the many who made predictions, like Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball & others, that DID NOT COME TRUE. Notice Jos. Fielding Smith is lukewarm in his observation … well it’s reasonable to assume Smith meant this, and it’s reasonable to assume it didn’t happen. WOW! But then, he was in line to be a Prophet, a BIG MAN, and he wasn’t going to mess that up with a little false prophecy by his grand uncle.

    There is nothing more to be said from the Mormons but denials … see the link below … and they give their platitudes at every Conference, advising the Saints to ‘be prepared’, acting like set free says, like just any others with human nature. The FLDS are no better.

    Today the Mormon Church will only say that Zion will ‘someday’ be redeemed. This is not all the evidence about Smith’s belief in a Redeemed Zion in his generation, but it will give you an idea and verify that it was a common belief of the Saints. Until 1891 passed that is.

    The Moses Thatcher quote (correctly attributed here,) and others are strenuously objected to by Shields: (they also quote it as coming from Abraham Cannon’s journal) Here is a link for THEIR view on it. Be warned, it is not bourne out in the light of the other quotes, but I’ll let the reader decide.

  35. mobaby says:

    Enki – I think you are right about a number of Mormons being satisfied with where they are. I would say happy with where they are, as I don’t think anything other than the Lord truly satisfies. People are happy in all kinds of things – and Mormonism provides a moralistic structure that teaches right living and a do-it-yourself work ethic, different from the protestant work ethic, but there never-the-less. They have moral teachings to follow, and as long as they are doing good, they can feel good about themselves. The trouble comes when they realize that sin still infests their lives, that they can never really live that perfect life they strive for. Just like the rest of us, they too need the unconditional free grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus. When they realize that “after all that you can do” amounts to nothing – that’s when the true God can come in and save them by his mercy and grace alone.

  36. falcon says:

    My guess is that there’s just too much information here for the Mormons to deal with. Lately grindael has been dumping truck loads of documented material on the blog. Mormons can’t explain it away. So they ignore it. I don’t know what type of rationalization process people go through when it’s obvious that there’s huge holes in the Mormon narrative. The desire to believe the Smith myth trumps any and all evidence that he (Smith) made it up.

  37. Enki says:

    Is christian grace really unconditional? One thing for sure is that the LDS faith is very conditional on determining who has good standing or not.

  38. Enki says:

    Falcon, Yes, it seems that grindael could start his own blog with the amount of writing and sermons. Honestly, I over look a lot of it. Its great review, but the content itself…

  39. mobaby says:

    God’s grace through Christ is completely unconditional. For us it is – Jesus has fulfilled ALL, everything necessary for salvation. This is something I have really begun to grasp lately – Jesus really did completely fulfill everything necessary for salvation. And then God gives us faith to trust in Him, using His Word to draw our hearts, and by faith we are united with Him. We continue in grace in our Christian lives – beginning, middle, and end – it is about the grace of God given through Christ. The Word of forgiveness and mercy is something I need to hear over and over – as my heart, prone to sin, goes back to striving and thinking it’s about me and my righteousness – which leads to depression and self-condemnation. Jesus has fulfilled the law in my place. And strangely, comprehending this truth, frees me and makes me love God more and keeps me from the idolatry of my heart – my sins, though always there, lose their grasp the more I realize it’s not about me, it’s about Jesus for me. This does not mean we should abound in sin so that grace may abound as Paul said – but we must never think getting to heaven or getting right with God is about what we do or what good works we fulfill. If you look at those Jesus draws to himself, they are those who realize they are broken and can NEVER fulfill the law, while he points out the faults of those who puff themselves up and think they are righteous because of their law-keeping deeds – Jesus is trying to get them to recognize that they are broken too, they just hide it better. Jesus never once turned anyone away who said “have mercy on me a sinner.” Ask for Christ’s mercy – He will give it.
    Two forms of idolatry keep people from Jesus:
    1) I am righteous – no need for a savior
    2) I am a sinner and I don’t care – who needs a savior
    Both make an idol of ME.

    Listened to a radio program today on another controlling religion- interesting parallel to early Mormonism abuses?

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