Thursday, February 26, 2015

True or False - Rocky Mountain Prophecy

       Mormon folklore is rife with prophecies. We love to hear about prophets who made predictions that ended up coming true. Those stories strengthen our faith and give us some much-needed affirmation in a world of doubt. But not all prophecies are true, and it's important to sort out the myths from the facts. For instance, did Joseph Smith prophesy the Saints would go to the Rocky Mountains and be visited by Jesus once they got there, or is this just another yarn spun in Sunday School? Looks like it's time to play...

       Today's Question: While in Kirtland, Ohio, did Joseph Smith prophesy that the Church would relocate to the Rocky Mountains, going on to experience tremendous growth in numbers and be visited by the Savior while they were living out West?

       This is a very faith-affirming prophecy. A statement like this would have seemed impossibly ambitious and far-fetched when it was given to such a small group of Church members. Yet it came true. Since the Church did relocate and seeing how much our numbers have grown, then it seems Joseph Smith sure had a knack for prophecy. But was he saying this stuff back in the Kirtland days? Did he say it at all? It would be very easy for a legend like this to grow once the Saints already settled in Salt Lake. And what about the part about Jesus coming to the Rocky Mountains? That's not in any scripture I've read.

What do you think? 





       Critics have tried to cast doubt on the authenticity of this prophecy, but it's been handily confirmed.1 Many different sources show us that Joseph Smith anticipated the Church's relocation to the West and that he spoke of it on numerous occasions. The most popular account comes from a general conference address by Wilford Woodruff. President Woodruff told the story of a small priesthood conference held in Kirtland at which Joseph Smith spoke. The prophet Joseph said: 

"Brethren... I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother's lap. You don't comprehend it... It is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South Americait will fill the world...There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains... They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains." 2

       That's the prophecy according to President Woodruff. While he may not have remembered the prophecy word-for-word as Joseph gave it, he was an eyewitness to the event (not to mention a great Church historian and a prophet), so there is little reason to doubt his version of the prophecy. But what about the prophecy itself? Has it been fulfilled? Let's find out. 

       First there's the part about the saints going to the Rocky Mountains. Since the Mormons relocated to Utah in 1847, we can check that one off the list. Next comes the part about the growth of the Church, not only in the Rocky Mountains, but throughout the world. Has that been fulfilled?

       Let's start with the Rocky Mountains. According to research done by the Pew Research Center in 2009, 76% of the Mormon population in the US lives in the West, with 35% of that population living in Utah, 7% in Idaho, and 5% in Nevada (all Rocky Mountain states).3
 Utah was 62.1% LDS in 2009 and the Mormon population has held pretty steady since then.That makes almost 5 million members in Utah alone! Talk about your tens of thousands!

       That checks off the Rocky Mountain portion. How about North and South America? According to Mormon Newsroom, the Church had a total population of 8,822,912 in North America as of December 2013. There were 3,750,440 members in South America at that time.Even if you don't count that as "filling" North and South America, you have to admit we are well on our way to doing so.

       So, how about the world? Africa totals 421,892. Europe totals 498,668. Australia and Oceania have 507,792 members and Asia has 1,058,757. While the Church's presence in China (the most populous country on earth) is minimal, India (the second most populous country on earth) already has 11,690 members.These statistics are not shared so as to boast about the growth of Church membership, but it does prove Joseph Smith knew what he was talking about.

       All right. The Church relocates to the Rocky Mountains: check. Tens of thousands of saints there: check. Fill North and South America: check. Fill the world: check. What about the part about the saints standing in the Rocky Mountains until the coming of the Son of Man? That doesn't make sense, right? Isn't the Church supposed to relocate to Missouri? That's a topic for another day, but the short answer is no, there will likely be no mass exodus of LDS members from Salt Lake.Rather, the Church will still be alive and well in all parts of the world, including the Rocky Mountains. So that part of the prophecy is set to be fulfilled as well.

       "But what about that last part of the prophecy? The one about the Son of Man visiting the Saints in the Rocky Mountains? I hope you're not saying the Second Coming is all going to happen in Utah!" Thanks for the question, rhetorical heckler! No, I'm not making any such claim, and neither is the prophecy. If you read it carefully, you see the Savior's visitation to the Rocky Mountains is actually separate from the part about the Second Coming. It says only that Jesus will appear to the Saints at some point while they dwell in the West. And yes, that seems to have been fulfilled, as well. Has the Son of Man come to us? I think in many ways, the answer is yes. He comes to us through the words of the prophets and the many unique blessings we Rocky Mountain saints enjoy. But what about literal visits from the Savior? 

       While not all modern spiritual manifestations of this kind have been documented (nor should they be, considering their sacred nature) there is one we know of which fits this prophecy. Following the death of President Wilford Woodruff in 1898, Lorenzo Snow was very troubled about the great responsibilities that had fallen on his shoulders. He was senior apostle and was seeking guidance in the Salt Lake temple when the Savior appeared to him. His granddaughter relates the story as he told it to her while the two were in the temple. 

"Grand-pa ...said: ‘He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.’ “Grand-pa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him."8 
        Rocky Mountain setting. Visit from the Savior. It seems that part of the prophecy has been fulfilled, as well. 

       While some may doubt this prophecy's authenticity, it has been proven not only to be a statement actually given by Joseph Smith, but also to be a remarkable prediction that is being fulfilled before our eyes. It has been fulfilled in ways not even President Woodruff could have foreseen when he related it in conference. I have a feeling it will come to be fulfilled in numerous other ways as time goes on. So if you're looking for a faith-boosting prophecy with legitimate documentation to back it up, then look no further. This one's as prophetic as they come.

1. "Criticism of Mormonism...Forged Rocky Mountain Prophecy." FairMormon. Accessed February 27, 2015.

2. Woodruff, Wilford. "Conference Reports of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." April 1898. Accessed February 27, 2015.

3. "A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S." Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. July 23, 2009. Accessed February 27, 2015.

4. Canham, Matt. "Census: Share of Utah's Mormon Residents Holds Steady." Salt Lake Tribune. April 17, 2012. Accessed February 27, 2015.

5. "LDS Statistics and Church Facts | Total Church Membership." December 2013. Accessed February 27, 2015.

6. see LDS Statistics
7. "Revelation after Joseph Smith/Missouri Myths." FairMormon. Accessed February 27, 2015.

8. Bassett, Arthur R. "Lorenzo Snow: Decisions of a Young Man." Liahona, May 1993.

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