The New York Times Admires Joseph Smith’s Civil War Prophecy

In a blog post last week about Mormons and the Civil War–focusing on the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Brigham Young–the New York Times mentioned this:

Fascinatingly, Joseph Smith had prophesied in 1832 that an immense civil war would someday transform America, and that it would start in South Carolina.

It is fascinating, isn’t it?  A couple of commenters noted that there were good reasons in 1832 for predicting such a thing, but that hardly does the prophecy justice.  I submitted the following as a comment, but it hasn’t been published yet:

Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy is impressive.  As Jeff Lindsay notes, in 1832, Smith predicted that:

  • The war would begin with the rebellion of South Carolina.
  • It would cause the death and misery of many souls.
  • The Southern States would be divided against the Northern States.
  • The Southern States would call upon other nations for assistance, even upon the nation of Great Britain.

And that, later, Great Britain would enlist help from other nations in wars which would “be poured out upon all nations.” 

For those who think this was a lucky guess based on 1832 politics, one would be hard pressed to explain why the opinion wasn’t common, and why Smith repeated the claim eleven years later, in 1843.  The original prophecy is in a Mormon scripture called Doctrine and Covenants 87; the reiteration is found in D&C 130:12-13

Not only did Smith predict the war, but he even foresaw details like the South calling on Great Britain, which it did (this fact is even mentioned in the second National Treasure movie). 

There are plenty of other instances of recorded prophecies by Joseph Smith which came true:

10 comments on “The New York Times Admires Joseph Smith’s Civil War Prophecy

  1. Yes, and ol’ prophet Joe also said that the moon was inhabited by Quaker looking folk:

    “Nearly all the great discoveries of men in the last half century have, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly, contributed to prove Joseph Smith to be a Prophet.

    “As far back as 1837, I know that he said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do — that they live generally to near the age of 1000 years.

    “He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style.

    “In my Patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes.”

    (The Young Woman’s Journal, published by the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Associations of Zion, 1892, vol. 3, pp. 263-64)

    And Brigham Young agreed with Joseph and took it a step further; that the Sun was inhabited as well:

    “Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?…when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.”

    (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 271)

    Yep, ya gotta hand it to them false profits, they sure know how to thrill a crowd!

  2. Thanks for the input. There are two very obvious points to make here:

    1. The quotes you provide were never intended to be nor have they ever been understood as doctrinal. In context, they were both personal opinions, and fairly common ones at the time. Yes, they were wrong, but so what? They weren’t prophecies.

    2. More importantly, your comment does nothing to explain the actual prophecy that IS described in detail in my post. Feel free to address it, please.

  3. 1. What is your support for the Civil War comment as prophecy? Apparently, if you agree with the comment, it is prophecy, and if not, just another silly idea commonly believed.

    2. The Civil War comment was hardly a revolutionary idea at the time of Joe. Many have argued it was a common idea at the time.

  4. 1. Read the linked text of the statement. It is clearly phrased in the language of prophecy, unlike the spurious quotes in the comments. The Civil War prophecy starts with “thus saith the Lord” and repeatedly says that these things “will” happen.

    2. A common trope, but few have provided actual sources showing how this was a widespread belief–the fact is, few saw the North/South tensions leading to all out war, much less with a specific rebellion beginning in South Carolina, and the South calling on Great Britain for help. Also, don’t forget that Smith repeated his claim in 1843, more than a decade after the original statement–and long after any such idea would have still been in fashion.

  5. I’ve also heard that it was a common idea at the time, but I’ve seen little evidence to show that…

    I mean, I’d like to know who else thought like that?

  6. That comment was so unhelpful it was almost a non-sequitur. Clearly you think this event involved in leading up to the Civil War refutes my thesis, though it’s hard to see how it even relates at all. Please feel free to make a coherent argument, if you’d like.

  7. All this thread is showing for sure is that you either cannot or will not engage in a productive discussion. Once again, please feel free to make a coherent argument, if you’d like.

  8. South Carolina’s Nullification Ordinance in Nov 1832 makes clear that there could be a military aspect to its standoff with the US gov, and President Jackson had already warned forts in SC in October that it could lead to war – he even made national provision for it in Nov and early Dec. This concern about a possible war was widely raised in the press at the time, even Smith’s local Painesville Telegraph was all over it (“The Crisis” main article Dec 21, 1832). Smith quickly latched onto this national mood and used it as a sort of doomsday-style prophecy, made that week, saying it would lead the whole World into a devastating war. Didn’t happen.

    Even the asking Britain bit is rather obvious, of course being the former power from which the US had split from (1776), but also because the US had unsuccessfully invaded British Canada in 1812 (so the Brits still saw the US as unfriendly) and by the 1830s Britain was an Empire and the World’s leading force. Thus, any talk of cessation from the Union invariably brought up the notion of seeking British help – so hardly a prophetic notion. Yet, even when such help WAS sought by the Confederates in the US Civil War, the British held back – the Brits had by the 1860s already long abolished slavery, the British Navy were (almost completely alone) stopping international slave trade on the high seas and fighting against slavers in African coastal towns, and British India was becoming the World’s leading cotton exporter, competing against the South’s main export. So the “prophecy” was wrong there too.

    There are some intriguing mysteries in the World, but Smith’s Civil War prophecy sadly isn’t one of them.

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