Joseph Smith and the Prophecy of the American Civil War

An important part of being a “Prophet” is making “Prophecies”, so when discussing the Prophet Joseph Smith, it is logical for people to ask about his prophecies and their fulfillment.  And any discussion of Joseph Smith’s prophecies will certainly touch on his most famous one: The Prophecy of the Civil war.

Members of the church love to discuss this prophecy for two reasons:

1. It appears to be a clear, concise prophecy.  So often, prophecies are imprecisely worded, but this prophecy appears to be specific because it actually names a location.

2. It is canonized.  Most of Joseph Smith’s “prophecies” are reported in obscure books or the non-canonized 7 Volume “History of the Church“.  The Prophecy on the Civil War was canonized by the Church in 1877, so it is found in the Doctrine and Covenants, a “Standard Work” of the Church.

But is this prophecy really a “prophecy”, and was it fulfilled in the way that Joseph Smith prophesied it?  I say…no, and here is why.

First, you should familiarize yourself with the environment in which this prophecy was made.  Specifically, Joseph Smith made his prediction in 1832 right as the Nullification Crisis was occupying the national mind.  What’s that?  You aren’t familiar with the “Nullification Crisis” of 1832?  Here is some background.
Nullification Crisis

Nullification Crisis

Nullification Crisis

Then consider other subsequent parts of the prophecy:

QUOTE
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,…
QUOTE
…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.
Ummm…no.  That didn’t happen.

QUOTE
4 And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.
Ummm…no.  That didn’t happen”The recruitment of black men, including many freed slaves, into the Union Army after the Emancipation Proclamation was approved: towards the end of the war, the Confederacy relented, and began to allow Blacks to enter the Confederate Army, but this action was only a token effort. ”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War

More here…

History of Slave Rebellions

(Notice the Turner rebellion in 1831, with no notable rebellions during the Civil War)

More on Slave Rebellions…

QUOTE
5 And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.
Who are the “remnants”? Who are the “Gentiles”? When did these remnants “marshal themselves” and “vex” the “Gentiles”?

QUOTE
6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
Honestly, by any reasonable measure, things are drastically better all over the world since the Civil War.And “end of all nations”….? It probably sounded foreboding in 1832, with the second coming just around the corner and all that, but 172 years later, most nations seem to be doing just fine, with little worry of “ending” any time soon.

So if I have to spell it out for you, let’s go through verse by verse and see how many specific claims Section 87 (the Prophecy on the Civil War) contains, and how many are “hits”:

QUOTE
1.VERILY, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
The nullification crisis of 1832 (just months before this revelation was given) provides ample context for this prophecy. Also, the term “shortly” is certainly debatable. But we can call it a “hit”.1/1 (Hits/Claims)

QUOTE
2 And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
The American Civil War did not “pour out war upon all nations”. Not even Britain and France got really involved.

QUOTE
The open recognition, the active aid, the material and financial support which the South needed so greatly were never forthcoming. Europe refused to take a hand in America’s quarrel. North and South were left to fight it out between themselves.http://www.civilwarhome.com/europeandcivilwar.htm
That’s a miss.1/2

QUOTE

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.

Yup. Yup. Nope. Nope.3/5

QUOTE
4 And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.
Nope.3/6

QUOTE
5 And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves,-and shall become exceedingly angry,-and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.
Nope. Nope. Nope.3/9

QUOTE
6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn;-and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
This is pretty dramatic stuff, but “all nations” seem to be doing fine, by and large. We’ll just say he’s 0/2, and not break down each prophecy in the verse.3/11

QUOTE
7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.
I have no idea what he meant by this, so if you can explain it, it could be a “hit”.

QUOTE
8 Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.

The “day of the Lord” hasn’t come yet. I’m gonna say that “170+ years” does not equal “quickly”, and call this a miss. You can stretch “quickly” as long as you like and call it a hit, but that’s more of a stretch than I could make and still keep a straight face.

3/12

So of the 12+ distinct portions of the prophecy contained in Section 87, Joseph Smith only got 3 right, and even that involves a stretch of the word “shortly”, and ignoring the contemporary Nullification Crisis as a probable “inspiration”.

In short, the “Civil War” prophecy would be the prophetic equivalent of (current LDS Prophet) President Monson seeing a weather forecast for a hurricane in Florida, and prophesying that a hurricane was going to soon wipe all of Florida into the ocean. Then the hurricane dies out, and nothing happens. 30 years later, a small monsoon hits Florida, and causes a little damage. Church members point to President Monson’s prophecy as being fulfilled, conveniently ignoring the part about Florida being wiped into the ocean.

Personally, I’m only impressed with prophets that bat better than .500.

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