Bloggernaclers sometimes complain that speculative thoughts from the uncorrelated past have slipped from active teaching into the realm of folk doctrine – but because the speculation isn’t officially repudiated, the old mistaken ideas keep resurfacing as newly discovered “suppressed” doctrines.
Well, what about something that has been repudiated, in General Conference and official publications, time and time again, but is still dragged out as if it were truth newly rediscovered?
The following bogus “prophecy” is making the internet rounds again, as it tends to do in election years, this time wrongly attributed to John Taylor. While I dislike giving it space on Keepa, I hope that by doing so this article, instead of less responsible ones, will appear higher in Google searches and spare some credulous Latter-day Saints from being deceived.
The bogus “prophecy”:
I went to bed at my usual hour half past nine o’clock. I had been reading the revelations in the French Language. My mind was calm, more so than usual if possible to be so. I composed myself for sleep but could not sleep. I felt a strange stupor come over me and apparently became partially unconscious, still I was not asleep, nor awake with a strange far away dreamy feeling.
The first thing I recognized was that I was in the Tabernacle at Ogden sitting on the back seat in the comer for fear they would call upon me to preach, which, after singing the second time, they did by calling me to the stand. I arose to speak and said I did not know that I had anything special to say except to bear my testimony to the truth of the latter-day work. When all at once it seemed as though I was lifted out of myself, and I said “Yes I have something to say, it is this: some of my brethren present have been asking me what is coming to pass, what is the wind blowing up. I will answer you right here what is coming to pass shortly.”
I was immediately in Salt Lake City wandering about the streets in all parts of the city, and on the door of every house I found a badge of mourning, and I could not find a house but what was in mourning. I passed by my own house and saw the same signs there and asked, “Is that me that is dead?” Something gave me an answer “No you’ll live through it all.”
It seemed strange to me that I saw no person on the street in my wandering about through the city. They seemed to be in their houses with their sick and dead. I saw no funeral procession, or anything of that kind, but the city looked very still and quiet as though the people were praying, and had control of the disease whatever it was. I then looked in all directions over the territory, east, west, north and south and I found the same mourning in every place throughout the land.
The next I knew I was just this side of Omaha. It seemed as though I was above the earth, looking down on it as I passed along on my way east. I saw the roads full of people, principally women, with just what they could carry in bundles on their backs, traveling to the mountains on foot, and I wondered how they could get there with nothing but a small pack upon their backs. It was remarkable to me that there were so few men among them. It did not seem as though the cars were running. The rails looked rusty and the road abandoned and I have no conception how I traveled myself.
As I looked down upon the people I continued eastward through Omaha and Council Bluffs which were full of disease and women everywhere. The states of Missouri and Illinois were in turmoil and strife, men killing each other, and women joining in the fight, family against family, cutting each other to pieces in the most horrid manner.
The next I saw was Washington and I found the city a desolation. The White House empty, the halls of Congress the same, everything in ruins, the people seemed to have fled from the city and left it to take care of itself.
I was next in the city of Baltimore and in the square where the monument of 1812 stands in front of St. Charles. And at the hotels I saw the dead piled up so as to fill the square. I saw mothers cut the throats of their own children for the sake of their blood, which they drank from their veins to quench their thirst and then lie down and die. The waters of the Chesapeake River and of the city were so stagnant and such a stench arose from them on account of the putrification of dead bodies that the very smell caused death. And that was singular again; I saw no men except they were dead, lying in the streets, and very few women, and they were crazy mad, and in a dying condition. Everywhere I went I beheld the same all over the city, and it was horrible beyond description to look at.
I thought this must be the end. But no, I was seemingly in Philadelphia and there as in Baltimore everything was still. No living soul was to be seen to greet me, and it seemed as though the whole city was without an inhabitant. In Arch and Chestnut Street and in fact everywhere I went the putrification of the dead bodies caused such a stench that it was impossible for any creature to exist alive, nor did I see any living thing in the city.
I next found myself in Broadway, New York, and there it seemed the people had done their best to overcome the disease. But in wandering down Broadway I saw the bodies of beautiful women lying stone dead, and others in a dying condition on the sidewalk. I saw men crawl out of the cellars and rob the dead bodies of the valuables they had on them, and before they could return to their coverts in the cellars, they themselves would roll over a time or two and die in agony. On some of the back streets I saw mothers kill their own children and eat raw flesh and then in a few minutes die themselves. Wherever I went I saw the same scenes of horror and desolation, rapine and death. No horses or carriages. No buses or streetcars, but death and destruction everywhere.
I then went to the Grand Central Park and, looking back, I saw a fire start and just at that moment a mighty east wind sprang up and carried the flames west over the city, and it burned until there was not a single building left standing whole, even down to the wharves. And the shipping all seemed to be burned, and swallowed up in the common destruction and left nothing but a desolation where the great city was a short time before. The stench from the bodies that were burning was so great that it was carried a great distance across the Hudson River and Bay, and thus spread disease and death wherever the flames penetrated. I cannot paint in words the horror that seemed to encompass me around about. It was beyond description or thought of man to conceive. I supposed this was the end, but I was here given to understand that the same horror was being enacted all over the country, north, south, east and west, that few were left alive, still there were some.
Immediately after, I seemed to be standing on the west bank of the Missouri River opposite the City of Independence,but I saw no city. I saw the whole states of Missouri and Illinois and part of Iowa were a complete wilderness with no living human being in them. I then saw a short distance from the river twelve men dressed in the robes of the temple standing in a square or nearly so. I understood it represented the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem and they were with hands uplifted consecrating the ground and laying the cornerstones. I saw myriads of angels hovering over them and around about them and also an immense pillar of a cloud hover over them. And I heard the angels singing the most beautiful music. The words were “Now is established the Kingdom of our God and His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever, and the Kingdom shall never be thrown down, for the Saints have overcome.”
And I saw people coming from the river and from different places a long way off to help build the Temple, and it seemed that the hosts of the angels all helped to get the material to build the Temple. And I saw some come who wore their temple robes to help build the Temple and the city and all the time I saw the great pillar of cloud hovering over the place.
Instantly I found I was in the Tabernacle at Ogden and yet I could see the building going on and I got quite animated in calling to the people in the Tabernacle to listen to the beautiful music that the angels were singing. I called to them to look at the angels as the house seemed to be full of them and they were singing the same words that I heard before “Now is the Kingdom of our God and His Christ established forever and ever.” And then a voice said, “Now shall come to pass that which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet, That seven women shall take hold of one man saying, &c.”
At this time I seemed to stagger back from the pulpit and F.D. Richards and someone else caught me and prevented me from falling when I requested Brother Richards to apologize to the audience for me because I stopped so abruptly, and tell them I had not fainted but was exhausted. I rolled over in my bed and heard the City Hall clock strike twelve o’clock.
I can’t take credit for having researched the debunking that follows. All of my sources are taken from Richard E. Turley, Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (University of Illinois Press, 1992), 16-17, 19-20. I’m only taking his work, and laying out the fuller text of documents that he summarizes.
On June 15, 1878, assistant church historian Wilford Woodruff (who later became the church’s fourth president) spent most of the day in the church Historian’s Office. Later, he recorded in his journal that while he was in the office, he “had a vary strange vision Copied.” In the same journal entry, Woodruff transcribed a copy of the peculiar vision. It described a desolating sickness afflicting communities from Salt Lake City to the eastern coast of North America and graphically detailed crimes, carnage, death, and destruction, together with the establishment of a temple in the New Jerusalem. Because the copy Woodruff made in his journal was written in the first person, some later readers attributed the vision to Woodruff.
Several factors, however, suggested Woodruff had not authored the vision but had simply made a copy of a curious but anonymous document that had been circulating. His journal entry introducing the vision explained that he had the vision copied but did not say he had experienced the vision himself. Although he made the journal copy in mid-1878 [15 June], the vision itself was dated December 16,1877, and nowhere in his journal for December 1877 did Woodruff, a meticulous journal keeper, record receiving such a vision. Moreover, even though Woodruff’s journal copy of the vision began in the first person with the words “I went to bed at the usual hour,” Woodruff left a large blank between the words “I” and “went,” showing an intention to fill in the name of the vision’s author when he learned it. Similarly, the church Historian’s Office clerk whom Woodruff had copy the vision added a filing notation to the document that included a large blank after the words “Vision had by.” Finally, the text of the purported vision claimed its recipient was “reading the Revelations in the French language” when the vision occurred, and Woodruff did not know French.
[Turley, Victims, 16-17]
Copies of this anonymous “prophecy” – not directly from Wilford Woodruff’s journal, but from the same anonymous/folk/gossip sources from which it came to Wilford Woodruff’s attention – were in wide circulation among Church members and, for no known reason, were being attributed to Joseph F. Smith, then second counselor in the First Presidency. This false attribution was so widely known that Joseph F. Smith published a notice in the Deseret News denying any connection to the purported revelation.
Salt Lake City, November 17, 1880.
Editor Deseret News:
For some time I have heard rumors of a document going the rounds, particularly in the Southern part of the Territory, purporting to be a “Vision by Joseph F. Smith.” A copy of this document was to-day handed to me by a friend. Having read it, I deem it my duty to announce through the NEWS, that so far as this pretended vision has been connected with my name it is a fraud. I never had such a vision and am wholly ignorant of its author, and my name has been used in connection with it entirely without my knowledge. By inserting the above in the NEWS you will correct any false impressions which may have arisen in the minds of the people concerning this matter, and oblige your brother in the Gospel.
JOS. F. SMITH.
[Deseret Evening News, 17 November 1880]
Almost 40 years later, the bogus vision was still circulating. In a General Conference address in October 1918, reprinted in the Improvement Era, Joseph F. Smith again denied that this “vision” had been recorded by him:
Again I feel that it is an opportunity for me to say a few words. This wonderful, mysterious revelation that I have been said to have received a great many years ago, was given in French, and I never knew but two or three words in French in my life; consequently, I could not have been the originator of that revelation. I want you to understand that. I have denied it, I suppose, a hundred times, when I have been inquired of about it. It was gotten up by some mysterious person who undertook to create a sensation and lay the responsibility upon me. I am not guilty. When the Lord reveals something to me, I will consider the matter with my brethren, and when it becomes proper, I will let it be known to the people, and not otherwise. …
Now, these stories of revelations that are being circulated around are of no consequence except for rumor and silly talk by persons that have no authority. The fact of the matter is simply here and this. No man can enter into God’s rest unless he will absorb the truth insofar that all error, all falsehood, all misunderstandings and mis-statements he will be able to sift thoroughly and dissolve, and know that it is error and not truth. When you know God’s truth, when you enter into God’s rest, you will not be hunting after revelations from Tom, Dick and Harry all over the world. You will not be following the will-of-the-wisps of the vagaries of men and women who advance nonsense and their own ideas. When you know the truth you will abide in the truth, and the truth will make you free, and it is only the truth that will free you from the errors of men, and from the falsehood and misrepresentations of the evil one who lies in wait to deceive and to mislead the people of God from the paths of righteousness and truth.
[Improvement Era, November 1918, 105-106]
In the same Conference talk and follow-up Improvement Era report, Joseph Fielding Smith also found himself under necessity of repudiating the vision so long attributed to his father:
Spurious Revelations and Visions
Elder Joseph F.Smith, Jr.
There is a lying spirit abroad in the land. In my travels in the stakes of Zion, my attention has been called, on a number of occasions, to a purported revelation or vision or manifestation, whatever it may be called, supposed to have been received by President Smith sometime in the distant past, in regard to events of great importance dealing with the nations of the earth and the Latter-day Saints. Many things in that purported vision, or revelation, are absurd. My attention has been called to this thing, and good brethren and good sisters have inquired of me to know whether or not there was any truth in that which had come to their attention. It is in printed form; and I have been under the necessity of telling them that there was no truth in it. …
I want to say to you, my brethren and sisters, that if you understand the Church articles and covenants, if you will read the Scriptures and become familiar with those things which are recorded in the revelations from the Lord, it will not be necessary for you to ask any questions in regard to the authenticity or otherwise of any purported revelation, vision, or manifestation that proceeds out of darkness, concocted in some corner, surreptitiously presented, and not coming through the proper channels of the Church. Let me add that when a revelation comes for the guidance of this people, you may be sure that it will not be presented in some mysterious manner contrary to the order of the Church. It will go forth in such form that the people will understand that it comes from those who are in authority, for it will be sent either to the presidents of stakes and the bishops of the wards over the signatures of the presiding authorities, or it will be published in some of the regular papers or magazines under the control and direction of the Church, or it will be presented before such a gathering as this, at a general conference. It will not spring up in some distant part of the Church and be in the hands of some obscure individual without authority, and thus be circulated among the Latter-day Saints. Now, you may remember this. …
Now I maintain that there is no occasion for any member of this Church to have a doubt in his mind regarding matters of revelation as coming for the guidance of the Church, because when such things come they will come in the proper channels and be presented by those who are ordained to this calling, and who are known to the Church. Therefore, when you hear these rumors, you put it down that they are false, and it is absolutely unnecessary for you to ask the question of anyone, because you ought to know by the inspiration you have yourselves whether or not they are true. …
[Improvement Era, November 1918, 104-105; Conference Report, October 1918, 55.]
After that 1918 repudiation,
… yet another copy of the document was sent to the church president’s office to be added to those already in the church’s collection. On a copy received earlier that year, the president had written along the margins, “not a word of truth in it. [Signed] Joseph F. Smith.”
[Turley, Victims, 19]
That should have been enough to finally dump this bogus vision into the historical trashbin, no?
In April 1931, Joseph Fielding Smith again found it necessary to identify this “vision” as a fraud:
Several times within the past three months I have been approached by individuals and have received communications through the mails, making inquiry concerning a certain purported revelation said to have been given many years ago to President Joseph F. Smith, in which he saw the destruction of many great cities and many countries of the world and other very unusual things. Inquiry has also been made regarding a purported vision given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in relation to the same things, and which has been in circulation for many years. It is evident that these things are again being circulated and many of the people are becoming agitated over them wondering if they are true or not, and some of the people have been deceived.
At the October Conference of the Church in the year 1918, which was the last General Conference attended by President Joseph F. Smith, I made some remarks in relation to these two so-called visions and pointed out the fact that they were not true. At the close of my remarks President Smith arose and also spoke of them. …
Now, I think we are fortunate in having President Smith’s own expression in regard to these purported revelations. It seems strange to me that now, some twelve years later, we still find them in circulation. But the thing that astonishes me more is the fact that members of the Church seem to be bewildered and in wonderment whether or not these purported revelations were indeed given to the Prophet Joseph and to President Joseph F. Smith. ….
Who is it that is deceived in this Church? Not the man who has been faithful in the discharge of duty; not the man who has made himself acquainted with the word of the Lord; not the man who has practiced the commandments given in these revelations; but the man who is not acquainted with the truth, the man who is in spiritual darkness, the man who does not comprehend and understand the principles of the Gospel. Such a man will be deceived, and when these false spirits come among us he may not understand or be able to distinguish between light and darkness.
But if we will walk in the light of the revelations of the Lord, if we will hearken to the counsels that are given by those who stand in the councils of the Church, empowered to give the instructions, we will not go astray.
[Conference Report, April 1931, 69]
In the past two or three generations, this “vision that will not die” has been again published and republished, most often by fundamentalist groups. Somehow the purported authorship has shifted from Joseph F. Smith to John Taylor. There is exactly no direct evidence supporting a link to John Taylor.
There is no record that John Taylor spoke up and claimed the vision as his, in 1878 or in 1880 or at any other time. When the “vision” was repudiated as being Joseph F. Smith’s in 1880 – with the Deseret News notice being given wide circulation by being reprinted in the Millennial Star – John Taylor did not claim it as his own. No church official associated it with John Taylor when it was discussed in 1880 … or in 1918 … or in 1931.
But in 2008, and again in 2012, the bogus “vision” has resurfaced, now attributed to John Taylor, perhaps because John Taylor did speak French (as did scores of others in the Church in 1878). If you care to search, you’ll find it on many LDS-themed websites, most often presented in context of the U.S. presidential election, as a conservative warning of the horrific consequences anticipated from liberal success. It was quoted in a Sunday School lesson just yesterday, presented as official Church doctrine “found on the internet.”
Know it for what it is: a “manifestation that proceeds out of darkness, concocted in some corner, surreptitiously presented, and not coming through the proper channels of the Church.”