A Remarkable Prophecy About Joseph Smith?

PoGPIn Joseph Smith’s official History (found canonized in the Mormon book of scripture Pearl of Great Price), the Prophet relates a prophecy delivered to him by the angel Moroni:

“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33)

During last April’s General Conference, Seventy Lawrence Corbridge referred to this as an “amazing prophecy” (Ensign, May 2014, 104). Indeed, Latter-day Saints attach great significance to this passage from their scriptures, believing the declaration to be a remarkable, unassailable prophecy that is evidence of Joseph Smith’s calling from God. Consider the words of another Mormon Seventy, Cecil O. Samuelson (then president of BYU), presented in a 2005 devotional address:

“Even before the Church was organized, it became clear that Joseph Smith was no ordinary young man. Although born into modest means and circumstances, he was quickly identified as someone special. The First Vision was an unexpected occurrence that not only changed his life forever but also changed the history of the world. His initial interview with the angel Moroni, occurring while he was just 17 years old, taught him that his life and work would not be usual by any measure.

‘He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people’ (Joseph Smith—History 1:33).

“That is an amazing prophecy for any 17-year-old. Think of the statistical improbability of the assertion that his ‘name should be had for good and evil’ around the world. Yet the name Joseph Smith is becoming widely known among virtually all of the nations of the earth.” (“Stand by My Servant Joseph,” Ensign, February 2013)

In 1823, when Joseph was 17 years old, this declaration about the young man’s future widespread notoriety would indeed sound rather dubious. But Joseph Smith’s historical account wasn’t written when he was 17 years old; it was written in 1838 – when he was 32 years old. And by that time he was not an unknown teenager living in his parents’ home. By the time this account was written, Joseph Smith’s name was quite well-known—among his friends and among his many foes.

6-moroni_bedroomAccording to Joseph, this prophecy was given to him during a trinity of nighttime angelic visitations that transpired in his bedroom on September 21, 1823. Other pre-1838 historic accounts of Moroni’s visits do not mention the prophecy at all, save one – a lengthy account written by Oliver Cowdery, fact-checked by Joseph Smith, and published in the Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate in serial form from October 1834 to October 1835.

In Cowdery’s account of the angelic visits to Joseph Smith, the angel told Joseph that God was about to do “a marvelous work and a wonder” through him. The angel said,

“Wherever the sound shall go it shall cause the ears of men to tingle, and wherever it shall be proclaimed, the pure in heart shall rejoice, while those who draw near to God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him, will seek its overthrow, and the destruction of those by whose hands it is carried. Therefore, marvel not if your name is made a derision, and had as a by-word among such, if you are the instrument in bringing it, by the gift of God, to the knowledge of the people.” (Letter IV, Messenger and Advocate, February 1835, 79-80)

This account of the heavenly communication differs from Joseph’s 1838 account. There is no prophecy involving Joseph; there is no mention of Joseph’s name being had for good and evil; there is no suggestion of a world-wide scope of antagonists. Instead, Moroni tells Joseph not to be surprised (“marvel not”) if he is mocked and cited as a notorious person (“derision and by-word”) among those who seek the destruction of God’s [Mormon] messengers. This, of course, was not a new idea. Nearly two thousand years before this Jesus warned His people that they would be “hated by all nations” because of their commitment to Christ (Matthew 24:9).

Later in Cowdery’s account he comes closer to the prophecy as related in 1838, but still doesn’t quite get there. This divine message is delivered on a different date, in a different location, and in a different context, while the message itself differs in wording and scope. Cowdery writes of Joseph Smith actually finding the plates the day after the thrice-repeated nighttime angelic visits (September 22, 1823). As Joseph knelt beside “the repository” of the plates, a heavenly messenger told him,

“All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness, that you may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one… Your name shall be known among the nations, for the work which the Lord will perform by your hands shall cause the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to rage: with the one it shall be had in honor, and with the other in reproach; yet, with these it shall be a terror because of the great and marvelous work which shall follow the coming forth of this fulness of the gospel.” (Letter VIII, Messenger and Advocate, October 1835, 198-199)

Joseph Smith, Kirtland Oh, 1836 by grindael

Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple
by grindael

This is the earliest account I’ve seen that mentions a prediction that Joseph Smith would have fame among both followers and detractors. But even in 1835 (when this narrative was published), all of this was already a done deal.

Some pre-1835 historical context:

  • Mormon missionaries were actively proselytizing in the United States and Canadaas early as 1830.
  • Newspapers all over the country began reporting on Joseph Smith and the Mormons beginning in 1830 (see Uncle Dale’s Readings in Early Mormon History).
  • Ezra Booth’s nine letters written to denounce and expose Mormonism were published in the Ohio Star beginning in November 1831.
  • Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered by a group of angry men in Ohio in 1832.
  • Violent conflict between the Mormon and non-Mormon citizens of Jackson County, Missouri in 1833 led Joseph Smith to raise an army of 200 men in the spring of 1834, who then marched to Missouri to attempt to aid the Mormons there.
  • In August 1834 Joseph Smith complained that people believed him to be a “Tyrant,! Pope!! King!!! Usurper!!!!” (Joseph Smith quoted in Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 269)
  • E.D. Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed had been in circulation since October 1834. The book contained an unflattering history of the Mormon “delusion” and dozens of people’s sworn testimonies against Joseph Smith and Mormonism.
  • Joseph Smith had 4,372 faithful followers by the end of 1834.

Joseph Smith’s name was well-known in “the nations” of at least the United States and Canada. Some people in each nation believed him to be a good prophet who spoke for God; some believed him to be an evil imposter. His followers honored his name; his critics held his name in derision.

It is no great feat to state the beginning from the vantage point of the end, nor to write a “prophecy” after it has been fulfilled. The “amazing prophecy” that Joseph Smith’s name would be had for good and evil among the nations was not so remarkable after all.

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 D&C and Pearl of Great Price, Early Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Mormon History and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Remarkable Prophecy About Joseph Smith?

  1. falcon says:

    With Joseph Smith what we get are a lot of do overs and back filling. It’s been pointed out that his first vision account expanded until there was something like eight different versions. Mormons like to say that he was just providing more “details”. Sorry that dog won’t hunt. Initially he had gone out to the woods to get assurance of the forgiveness of his sins. This was pretty standard fare in those days of revival in which he lived. In fact, Christian evangelist Charles Finney’s account is pretty spectacular in this regard.
    It makes me wonder why people believe in Smith’s story based on the feeling they get from it. The evidence is certainly not there to support his claims. I’ve often listed all of the angelic and other appearances of “beings” people have reported over the centuries. Any one of these is better than what Smith reported.
    Here’s the clincher. Smith was a practitioner of folk magic as was his family and close associates. He was known to use seer stones for everything from finding buried treasure to “translating” his golden plates. Did he make up the Moroni story or did a spirit being really appear to him? If a spirit being did in fact appear to him, what exactly was it?
    None-the-less, my bet is he fabricated the story given his track record of cunning and deceit.

  2. Rick B says:

    The Bible tells us that Satan will come in the form of an angel of light to decive. All evidence proves Joseph was decived by the devil and has gone on to decive the people.

  3. Mike R says:

    Followers of latter days prophets we encounter today are all busy trying to show how unique
    their prophet , or movement he started , is the only true one . Angels appearing to them , or
    predictions being fulfilled , or spectacular feats they are said to have accomplished . Some of
    their arguments utilized to prove that their prophet/ messenger is the one God has picked to
    teach His truths to mankind today can get quite creative . Mormons are no different with their
    advertisement of Joseph Smith .

    The good news is that people need not struggle with wondering which of the prophets these
    days vying for their attention is the true one , the sole messenger supposedly picked by God
    and required for them to follow . The True God has spoken , the Savior of man has come and
    the way to salvation has been revealed by Him , resulting in sinners being forgiven , reconciled
    to Him , and given the gift of eternal life to live in God’s home above . It’s all about Jesus —
    Jn 14:6 ; Rom 3:23 ; 5:8, 10 ; 6:23 , 10:9-13 . That is the good news and it has changed lives
    ever since it was preached by missionaries 2000 years ago . It still does today .

    No latter days prophets with their ” unique stories ” used to claim that God has picked them
    to be His sole spokesman and channel of communication He uses today , are necessary to
    believe . They all have one thing in common , namely, we must submit to them in order to
    be ” in the truth ” and thus gain God’s favor .
    Mormonism ‘s great apostasy story is a clever way Mormons will use to detour people into
    following Joseph Smith and his successors .

  4. falcon says:

    I think it should be pointed out that Joseph Smith, as well as many early converts to his religion, saw all manner of spirit beings. Moroni wasn’t Smith’s only angel visitor. He also had an angel with a sword appear to him and threaten him with death if he didn’t practice polygamy. I’m trying to remember who it was that supposedly appeared in regards to the restoration of the priesthood. Was it Peter, James and John?
    “Although Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery claimed to have been physically ordained to the Priesthood by John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John in 1829, no such claim was made publicly until 5 years later in 1834.”
    “While Joseph Smith made an obscure reference to the Priesthood and angels in 1832, that reference was still 3 years after the restoration was claimed to have taken place, and that reference makes no mention of John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthoods, the laying on of hands, or other very important details.”
    Interesting video from the author of the above site.

  5. Mike R says:

    Makes you wonder what kind of angel this Moroni was , given the doctrines that Joseph Smith
    later introduced after meeting with him . I think the answer is that he was the same type angel
    that other ” Mormons ” claimed visited them , men like James Strang in the 1840’s and recently
    Matthew Gill in England . Christopher Nemelka even claimed that Joseph Smith visited him
    in 1987 ! Visitation from spirit beings / angels is a popular activity it seems in Mormondom .
    Based on what these men teach it is quite easy to pin point what kind of Beings these were.
    They were not messengers sent by the true and living God , and that’s what counts .
    2 Cor 11: 4, 14

  6. falcon says:

    I suppose I should go down to the basement and get out my copy of “Temple Manifestations” written by a Mormon. It’s meant to be a “faith building” tome. I find it pretty creepy. From memory, I believe it was Wilford Woodruff, who reported that the signers of the Declaration of Independence appeared to him demanding/pleading that temple work be done from them. As I remember it, they were called “choice spirits”. There’s also stories of Mormons “seeing through the veil” in the temple while doing the work for the dead. They also saw “spirits”.
    Kind of makes you wonder who’s hanging around the LDS temples doesn’t it?

  7. Mike R says:

    Sometimes it’s easy to get side tracked from the central issue which Mormonism claimed
    validated it as unique , namely , it’s claim to be the very same church Jesus established
    through His apostles 1700 earlier but which died off , became extinct on earth as a result
    of a complete apostasy soon after those apostles were gone but Joseph Smith restored
    Jesus’ church / gospel . That’s the claim Mormon authorities have made . However , upon
    comparing how the church was set up by Jesus with what Joseph Smith introduced to his
    flock we find that Mormonism was a good imitation only , not an actual restoration of Jesus’
    church .

    Mormons like Seventy Lawrence and BYU Pres. Cecil Samuelson want to use what they call
    a prophecy about Joseph Smith delivered by a angel named Moroni as proof that young
    Smith was picked by God to restore His Son’s Church . Mormons also like to use the seagulls
    eating the locusts thus preventing disaster to early Mormons crops as a sign that they are
    God’s chosen people . There are a numerous other ” proofs” that Mormons have used to
    validate themselves as Jesus’ true followers , His one true church . But are events like these
    unique enough to validate Mormonism as the truth ? Not really . Non Mormons have had
    what they believe are experiences which prove to them that God is on their side and has given
    them the truths about Him, His Son , and how salvation is received . God’s mercy has not been
    confined to only those who are His true worshipers , those who have bowed before His Son and
    asked for pardon —Matt 11: 28 . Others have experienced God’s unseen hand of mercy in their
    lives , perhaps in the healing of their child , or rescuing them from a potentially fatal accident .
    They may not know it was God , or give Him thanks for His help , but nevertheless He has
    extended His mercy to those who are not believers and even those who find themselves in
    man made religious organizations like the Mormon church who members will assume that
    this validates their leaders authoritative claims . It does’nt .

    It gets down to the authoritative claims Mormon leaders have made ever since their
    appearance on the American landscape . Is Mormonism Christianity restored ?
    Was the church that Mormon leaders claimed to have restored actually the one true church
    of Jesus Christ ? Have Mormon leaders been the sole channel God used to teach the saving
    truths of gospel of His Son ? These men have taught that salvation is only found in joining
    their church , that all other churches are part of what constitutes the church of the Devil in
    our day , is that true ?

    Those are the claims that take center stage in evaluating Mormonism . Mormons may clutch
    experiences they have had or believe what their leaders like the two mentioned above tell them
    is proof that Mormonism is the truth , but those do not directly address the claims stated above .
    Jesus pre warned everyone to be safe from false prophets is to be aware of them . They may
    dress well , act polite , live morally , but they will introduce aberrant teachings that render
    their gospel ” another gospel ” Gal 1:8 . A examination of the gospel preaching track record
    of Mormon leaders since 1830 reveals this very thing . Therefore : 2Tim 4: 3, 4

    Mormons don’t need Mormonism because it’s not about secret temple rituals , nor one man
    at the top as prophet . It’s all about Jesus for everyone . Jn 14: 6 ; Heb 7: 25 .
    Mormonism is not the answer .

  8. Mike R says:

    Mormons have called this angelic messenger named Moroni who visited young Joseph Smith
    an ” angel of light ” [ 1974 Doctrine and Covenants / Pearl of Great Price Missionary Edition ,
    Introduction ] .

    This angel supposedly told young Smith that God had a work for him to do , he was picked
    to be God’s mouthpiece through whom God would restore His Son’s church which had been overcome and died off 1700 earlier , but now salvation would again be available to mankind .

    But God would never have said that type of thing about what His Son had accomplished —
    Matt 16:18; Rom 1:16 ; 2Cor 5:18 ,19 ; Eph 3:21.
    This type of claim ( to restore ) has been well used by various latter days prophets in order
    to add weight to their authority and gain a following . They claim to have been appointed by
    God to restore important truths , and/ or to do a special work which mankind needs to embrace
    in order to gain God’s approval ( salvation ) .
    Many sincere people have been fooled by these prophets , and Mormonism has fooled more
    than most .

    We know that this angel Moroni was not a true messenger from God based on the fact that he
    proceeded to introduced to those who followed him teachings that were not sound doctrine .
    Therefore the religious organization he set up was’nt a restoration of Jesus’ church . While it
    had some similarities these were laced with man made innovations , thus what Mormonism
    offered was really only a substitution for Jesus’ church .

    The work that Joseph Smith did was of his own doing , like many false prophets he may have
    had good intentions , he felt he was hearing from God , but in reality he built a church that
    was not what it claimed to be — the very same one which Paul was a officer in some 1700
    years earlier .

    The Mormon church and the gospel it’s leaders have preached is not the answer .

  9. MJP says:

    It hit me this morning how Smith is much like Satan. Both wanted to be like God, and had very high thoughts about themselves. The ‘prophecy’ in this post is hardly newsworthy given the ego involved.

  10. falcon says:

    OK consider this:

    Just then I heard someone walking across the floor, which startled me again, as I knew of no one who would be coming there besides myself Now, coming through the light, I saw the feet of a man coming toward me, as naturally as you would walk to me. He appeared to be a man who, in human weight, would weigh about two hundred pounds, clothed in a white robe. He had a smooth face, no beard, dark hair down to his shoulders, rather dark-complexioned, with a very pleasant countenance, and coming closer, his eyes caught with mine. Seeing how fearful I was, he began to speak, ‘Fear not, I am sent from the presence of Almighty God to tell you that your peculiar life and your misunderstood ways have been to indicate that God has sent you to take a gift of divine healing to the peoples of the world. IF YOU WILL BE SINCERE, AND CAN GET THE PEOPLE TO BELIEVE YOU NOTHING SHALL STAND BEFORE YOUR PRAYER, NOT EVEN CANCER . He told me many things which I do not have space to record here, He told me how I would be able to detect diseases by vibrations on my hand. He went away, but I have seen him several times since then, He has appeared to me perhaps once or twice within the space of six months and has spoken with me. A few times he has appeared visibly in the presence of others. I do not know who he is. I only know that he is the messenger of God to me. (William Branham “A Man Sent By God”)

    I would suggest that maybe a follower of Joseph Smith might want to pray about this and see if it might be true. Then if they feel good about it, it is true. If they feel bad, it’s not true. But the clincher is to keep praying about it until you feel good, thus “knowing” that it is indeed true.
    An evaluation of Branham can be read here:

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