Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “Concocted in Some Corner”: A Bogus “Vision” Surfaces Again … and Again … and Again
 


“Concocted in Some Corner”: A Bogus “Vision” Surfaces Again … and Again … and Again

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 29, 2012

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.

Phony.

Bogus.

Junk.

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.

He writes:

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.

A Fraud

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?

If only.

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.”



42 Comments »

  1. GREAT POST Ardis, Thank you. My Ward is one of the ones is which this has made the rounds, just this last week. The Sunday School teacher printed it on a handout which was read in class by a wife of one of the Stake Presidency. They both got pretty weepy talking about how wonderful it is. Hopefully this thing dies a nice death soon, it should with all of the times that the General Authorities have tried to kill it.

    I discussed this with a friend of mine who pointed out that Mike Quinn also denounced this “Prophecy” and pinned authorship on an individual named John Steele

    Comment by andrew h — October 29, 2012 @ 6:58 am

  2. Good job!

    Comment by RobF — October 29, 2012 @ 7:18 am

  3. Ugh. What a pain that this has to keep being repudiated. But thanks for doing it.

    Comment by Bonnie — October 29, 2012 @ 7:34 am

  4. Thanks, Ardis “better than Snopes” Parshall, and thanks, Andrew, for bringing up the topic.

    Comment by Amy T — October 29, 2012 @ 8:10 am

  5. J Michael Hunter also discusses this in his book “Mormon Mythellaneous”

    Comment by andrew h — October 29, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  6. Great post, Ardis. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, non?

    Comment by Gary Bergera — October 29, 2012 @ 8:53 am

  7. I just looked up Michael Hunter’s Mormon Mythellaneous. He discusses the “vision” in the text and reproduces it in an appendix with a number of other bogus “prophecies” and “revelations” in order to alert readers that it is not legitimate, without adding to the debunking contained in Rick Turley’s Victims.

    If I knew where Mike Quinn discussed it and why he believes it originated with John Steele, I would add a summary of his argument in order to have everything together in a convenient place. Do you have even a partial citation to Quinn, andrew?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 29, 2012 @ 10:06 am

  8. I seem to remember that this account was included in a booklet collection made by Lundwall. I don’t have a copy to check.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — October 29, 2012 @ 10:08 am

  9. I don’t know what’s wrong with my stake. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of these stories in church–not this, no White Horse, no blood running in the streets up to the level of the hubs of the wagon wheels, no carburetors that will get you 100 mpg, on water, no less, that we’d all have had yesterday if not for a conspiracy of the Big Three and the oil companies.

    Not even any generals in the war in heaven.

    But we should be warned–wives of church leaders are about as likely to quote bogus statements as their husbands. I remember a mission president friend of mine telling about the pain on a visiting general authority’s face as his wife quoted that famous line from the Lord’s own lips: “I never told you it would be easy. But I assure you that it will be worth it.”

    Comment by Mark B. — October 29, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  10. I have dreams like that when I eat too much green jello salad (with carrots) before going to bed.

    Comment by Grant — October 29, 2012 @ 10:53 am

  11. “It was quoted in a Sunday School lesson just yesterday, presented as official Church doctrine ‘found on the internet.’”

    Oh, I’m so sorry. That must have been painful to sit there and endure it.

    Comment by David Y. — October 29, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  12. Sounds like the Zombie Apocalypse, actually, and we know that The Walking Dead just started its third season on AMC, so we should expect that like a zombie, these stories just get up and keep on walking, long after they are dead. Thanks for the update on this, it hasn’t sprung up in our ward yet that I know of. However, due to my known left of center tilt, I’m not always included in the conservative conspiracy theory conversations. Part of the problem, and all that.

    Comment by kevinf — October 29, 2012 @ 11:24 am

  13. Ardis,

    Sorry about the mistake with “Mormon Mythellaneous”, I cannot find my copy so I was going off of memory; I must have been confusing it with what Turley said.

    Mike Quinn mentions it in “Extensions of Power” page 774 under the date December 16, 1877. It is in the Chronology section of the book, and unfortunately there are no foot notes as to where he got that idea.

    Our SS teacher was one of those who saw this “on the internet” but a lady in my ward spoke up after this was read and was convince it was true because she read it in Cleon Skousen’s “Cleansing of America”. So unfortunately it is not just the internet you are contending with but also the Mormon Pseudo-Scholars who keep this alive.

    Comment by andrew h — October 29, 2012 @ 11:34 am

  14. @ Mark B/#9

    - I mentioned in Sunday School once that the whole “I never said it would be easy” quote was not doctrine and was NEVER said by the Savior. I almost needed an escort out of the building, several of the sisters were ready to skin me alive.

    Comment by andrew h — October 29, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  15. @14 My favorite response is ” Actually, the Savior DID say it would be easy (quote Matt 11:30)…)

    I’ve never come across this pseudo-prophecy in its entirety, but recognize some passages because they’re quoted in Crowther’s “Prophecy:Key to the Future”. Considering this book also quotes the White Horse prophesy (which the author admits has been disavowed by the authorities) I should have been more suspicious.

    Sometimes the bloggernacle makes a real contribution to bettering the world. This post is one of those.

    Comment by The Other Clark — October 29, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  16. @ “The O.C.”

    I’ve used that one too, it usually causes stunned looks and people trying to explain why the “It’s not easy” phrase is still true, or how much it has inspired them, or how it “makes them feel the spirit,” etc.

    Funny how we are so much more willing to accept trite phrases and prophesies of doom then we are the truth.

    Comment by andrew h — October 29, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

  17. I know the author of this vision. It’s the same guy who came up with the idea for “I Am Legend”

    Comment by The Other Clark — October 29, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

  18. I had vague memories from the seminary lessons on false prophecies. (Yes, I know my seminary experience was different than most. I am grateful for a seminary teacher fascinated by anti-Mormon teachings AND church history, so we got a lot more information and perspective than others.)

    My question is, why is it a popular myth? I probably am missing something, but it has always sounded to me like what Satan wants to have happen, but that just does not jive with the restored gospel, the promise that if we stand in holy places we will be protected, or that the gospel will continue to go forth among all the earth.

    Anyone able to give me a short version of the attraction to the prophecy?

    Comment by Julia — October 30, 2012 @ 2:37 am

  19. I followed up on andrew h’s citation of Quinn’s Extensions of Power. The full citation, for what its worth is this (page 774)

    1877

    16 Dec., vision of destructions in America before the Second Coming. Attributed to John Taylor because of reference to reading “the French language” or to Wilford Woodruff who records this “very strange vision” in his diary, neither man claims authorship, which is actually by Mormon astrologer John Steele who sends copy to Woodruff as church historian.”

    When I first read it, I thought it said “arguable by,” but no Quinn asserts it is “actually by.”

    You can read the accession notes for the Steele papers in the special collections of the Harold B. Library here: http://files.lib.byu.edu/ead/XML/VMSS528.xml

    The sixth section which “includes religious and social materials and correspondence, such as John’s mission calls, patriarchal blessings, various letters from church leaders, and other church documents, as well as poems, songs, talks, visions, and prophecies of various church members and leaders. This section also includes numerous horoscopes and papers relating to herbology, astrology and hypnotism” looks promising.

    In 1877 he and his son were serving a mission in England, but I’m not seeing any letters dated 1877 that look connected as the accession document lists where they were sent from and not where or who to.

    (If anyone feels like an archival jaunt to examine the John Steele papers, I just noticed a little something of interest to me in there, so I’d appreciate a shout out.)

    A reference to Steele turns up in this fascinating Juvenile Instructor post from last year: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/how-to-make-a-seer-stone/

    I’m not planning a trip to New Haven anytime soon, but a look in the Mike Quinn papers at Yale’s Beinecke library might also turn up a source. I’ve looked through the papers before and Quinn’s research notes are incredibly methodical. It’s likely the mystery could be solved there, too.

    But none of this answers Julia’s fascinating question: why are such things, and this ‘prophecy’ in particular, so popular? Where does their attraction lie? I think this is an interesting question to think about because to me at least it says something about contemporary formations of “Mormon” identity. The quotes are there because I mean something like, “a particular version of a Mormon identity.”

    Comment by Mina — October 30, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

  20. Wow, Mina. Thanks for the additional information and links. As I look at the register of the John Steele Papers, I see that I’ve come across him in the past couple of weeks. Now if I could remember where and why.

    I see that due to his Toquerville connections he is responsible for recording some vital Parkinson/Stapley family history that would otherwise have been lost to history, he has deep connections to St. George, and he’s related to the Northern Arizona Fish family, but he must have shown up in relation to the history of Cyrus Wheelock, since that’s what I’ve been doing recently.

    Hopefully there’s someone who can take a look at that collection; I’ll put it on a list of sources to look at next time I’m in Utah, but that could be awhile. (And I was in New Haven recently, but looking at the Quinn papers would have been the last thing on my mind that day.)

    Comment by Amy T — October 31, 2012 @ 7:13 am

  21. If Steele sent a copy of this to Woodruff, telling Woodruff in language plain enough for Quinn to “actually” know that Steele was its author rather than just someone merely sending a curious story that was circulating in his neighborhood, then why didn’t Woodruff know that Steele was its author? And of all the labels I could use to characterize John Steele, with whom I am very familiar, “astrologer” wouldn’t be one of the top 20.

    This is another one of an ever-growing list of cases where I have to remain unwilling to accept Quinn’s assertions as authoritative, pending further evidence.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 31, 2012 @ 8:23 am

  22. Thank you for sharing this. Apparently word has not gotten around because 20 years ago my seminary teacher taught this. I remember because he printed out copies of certain paragraphs for us to tape into the D&C. I’ll go rips those out now. It didn’t make sense to me, but it was one of those issues I had set aside to find resolution on later. Thanks for being a part of that resolution!

    Comment by Jendoop — November 2, 2012 @ 9:39 am

  23. I’m coming a bit late to this, and don’t have much to add, other than to confirm that I spent 4 or 5 months in 2008-09 trying to track down the author of this vision for a paper Richard Holzapfel and I were working on looking at John Taylor’s revelations (later published in John Taylor: Champion of Liberty) to no avail. It appears that Fred Collier can be thanked for popularizing the notion that this was Taylor’s (based on nothing more than the fact that he spoke French); he included it in one of his compilations.

    Comment by Christopher — November 2, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  24. Coming late to this as well. I love John Steele. Going through his papers at BYU is on my short list of things to do. One of his journals at the CHL is, I think, one of the best American grimoires. Really fascinating. As I remember, though, those papers at BYU were donated by Bates in the mid-1990s so Quinn would not have got his info from them.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 2, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  25. I just checked Kerry William Bate’s UHQ article on John Steele, and it didn’t mention the vision. Bate had more access to the Steele material than anyone, I think (having collected it from the family). It would surprise me if he were aware of the vision and didn’t say anything. I guess the only lead is Quinn’s reference to Woodruff’s incoming correspondence (but then why not include the author in the diary transcript – odd).

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 2, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

  26. It has been a bit. But I thought I would comment with an update. I haven’t personally examined the holograph, but I just read a detailed transcript of a copy of this vision in the hand of John Steele. The transcript was created by a reliable historian. The document is titled “A vision Received by an [sic] Seventy in Salt Lake” and is dated December 1877. Steele was, however, in Britain on a mission during this period. Steele kept copies of several visions (e.g., Newman Bulkley’s vision) that weren’t his own. So that was a dead end.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 17, 2012 @ 10:06 pm

  27. That’s impressive, J. Even a dead end can be meaningful.

    I ran across some of Bate’s work recently, the book The Joseph Sylvester Family Letters, 1882-1989. It’s a well-done collection, and it’s about the family we met in the story The Fire and Light Was Always Free. Bate has done some very good family history work.

    Comment by Amy T — December 18, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  28. Just saw this. Excellent work, Ardis (and others).

    Comment by Ben S — January 4, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  29. Thanks for this Ardis and thanks to the various commenters as well.

    This vision surfaces all the time. I think it’s in the book of “Unpublished Revelations” and is of course circulated as a photocopy and on the internet constantly. I don’t think that it will ever go away, despite such admirable debunking as this post. After all, even direct renunciations by Joseph F. Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith were to no avail, and it’s largely to the latter that we can thank the anti-evolutionary strain in the Church. So even Church members who zealously defend anti-evolutionary apologetics by reference to the authority of Joseph Fielding Smith as if his opinion on that topic were written in stone are somehow able and willing to disregard his forceful denunciation of this “prophecy”. This means that there is little hope of it ever going away. We just love it too much.

    Comment by john f. — January 4, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

  30. I just saw this item cataloged in the BYU library collections as a vision of Wilford Woodruff (MSS 1342) and contacted the librarian, referencing this post. She promised to send a note to collections and said it may take a while to change the catalog. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Comment by Amy T — June 21, 2013 @ 10:37 am

  31. Sheesh. Thanks, Amy.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 21, 2013 @ 11:48 am

  32. Ten points to whoever knows why it was so important to repudiate this ‘vision’ in the October 1918 General Conference . . .

    Comment by Jacob — September 16, 2013 @ 7:57 am

  33. If we are reviving this topic, I will share my recent attempt to ask someone who was sharing it, why they liked it. (Since you are all wonderful at many things, but I didn’t ever get any reasons why it was so lovable.) This was shared on someone’s FB wall, although not with quite the same details, and one that was new to me; that the plague originated in the Middle East, and attributed to Ezra Taft Benson quoting an “early apostle” and shared by ETB’s son.

    I left a comment that included this link, (I had to leave it 5 times because “FB sometimes deletes things for no reason.” (Of course it does.) Anyway, those who did respond said that it wasn’t that they liked the prophecy, but that those prophecies which are unlikable are sometimes the most important.

    I’m still not really understanding why this “prophecy” is so beloved.

    Comment by Juliathepoet — September 17, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

  34. Thanks to Julia for reminding me of this discussion and the comments, even though it took a few days to get around to providing a link to the corrected entry in the BYU Special Collections catalog:

    http://findingaid.lib.byu.edu/viewItem/MSS%201342

    The new description says:

    Photocopy of a handwritten diary excerpt that includes a copy of an unattributed vision or a dream which Woodruff had obtained. The vision claimed to foresee of the last days in which a great loss of life and a great destruction would befall the the cities of the eastern United States. Photocopy includes entries from June 14 to 22, 1878.

    I didn’t note back in June that mentioning Keepa to the librarian gave the concern instant credibility.

    Comment by Amy T — September 22, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

  35. Of course Keepa carries weight. I would rather have Ardis helping to sort through what is doctrine and what is culture, than anyone I can think of.
    Btw, I saw another ETB quoting an earlier prophet, as the basis for a very similar prophecy, (including mother’s drinking the blood of their babies) on FB.

    My broken record, but I still don’t see the attraction? Was it a “we made the right choice to leave the East?” Kind if thing? Sigh. Maybe I am destined to confusion.

    Comment by Juliathepoet — September 22, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

  36. Was it Reed Benson who was citing it? . . . He’s a bit interesting, himself.

    Comment by Jacob — September 22, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

  37. Jacob, the first quote I saw definitely referenced him. The second one had a couple paragraphs and the sentence that included that it was a son of ETB who talked about it, (as a quite from his father) instead of saying that it was something ETB said himself.

    The second time I saw it, it also had a quote I have seen attributed to Reed Benson that one year’s supply is a start, but 10 years is what it will take to keep our families safe. 10 years of ammunition for at least 4 guns per *expected* family member. (They may not be born yet, but the baby you have two year’s after the Apocolypse will some day become an 8 year-old who needs 4 guns? Maybe to keep their mothers from drinking their blood?) Sorry Ardis, you can delete if my speculation got too silly.)

    Comment by Juliathepoet — September 22, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

  38. Yeah .. um, yeah, I’d rather keep conversation to this specific bogus “vision” — when we start to branch out, there’s no end to the potential weirdness.

    I don’t understand the attraction of bogus “visions” and “prophecies” like this one, that don’t fit in with the revealed gospel. Perhaps the attraction is the “knowing” something that other people don’t know, and knowing something dreadful is more fun than knowing something beautiful. That does seem to appeal to a lot of folks — think of how many more people invest their time and emotion in “decoding” the book of Revelation, deciding which apocalyptic events match up with which current events, versus how few people spend any thought on forecasting how Daniel’s stone cut out of the mountain will fill the earth, or how to achieve the preaching of the gospel to every nation, kindred,tongue and people. Gnostics always seem to be more interested in the horror than the glory.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 22, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

  39. I think part of the attraction lies in thinking they’re finding “hidden treasures of knowledge” I believe the temple ceremony conditions people to believe the greatest truths are secret–ahem, sacred. So this type of person goes to great lengths to dig up other “secret” knowledge, because if it’s hidden, that makes it intrinsicly more valuable.

    Comment by The Other Clark — September 23, 2013 @ 11:10 am

  40. One thing to consider that Turley did not seem to be aware of, Woodruff did study French, as early as 1846. Who knows what his level of understanding was by 1877?

    6th I recieved 3 Letters & wrote 5. I began to study the French language this day as I find leasure moments. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.615, December 6, 1846)

    You might also want to consider this prophecy given by Woodruff and affirmed by Brigham Young as “Revelation” on August 22, 1868,(it is eerily similar, just not as detailed)

    22d A Plesant Morning. We met at 10 oclok for a 2 days Meeting. Prayer By W Woodruff. Presidet Young spoke 7 m. G A Smith spoke 50, A M Musser 30 Minuts & W Woodruff spoke 15 Minuts. The Following is a synopsis of my sayings:

    When I was a youth I Felt that I would have gone hundreds of Miles to have seen a Prophet of God or An Apostle or an Elder or any man who was Called of God and inspired of God to Preach the gospel of Christ & Could tell me the true way to be saved. Now as we travel through the Country we meet thousands of Children as well as men & women who can see Prophets, Apostles & Elders by merly walking a few rods into the Streets to greet Presidet Young, the Twelve & others as we travel through the Country. It is a good thing for these Children to Come out in procession to Greet the Presidet as he comes along through the Country for it will make a good impression upon there minds one that they will never forget.

    When these Boys & girls meet to gether thirty years hence in 1898 & Convers to gether upon the scenes of this visit, what will be their Conversation? It will be sumthing like the following: O what a great Change has taken place since the Prophet Brigham Young & the Apostles visited us in Logan in 1868. Then it was a New Country with but few inhabitants not more than ten thousand People in all Cash valley. Then we had No Tabernacle or Temple in this valley. Now we have a great Tabernacle & a great Temple built on the high Bench of Logan & we Can be drawn on the top of its Towers by machinery whare we Can view the glory of this valley filled with Cities & magnificet Palaces & Towers occupied by one Million of the Saints [p.422] of God who Can Come up to the Temple on Logan Bench & get their Endowments & Blessings in their turn. Then our fields of grain & gardens were half Sunflowers & weed. Since then by the Commandment of God no man occupies more land then he can keep Clean of weeds & beautify. Then we had no shade trees in our streets. Now our streets are adorned with the mulbury tree from which we make our silk which now adorns our Bodies & the Bodies of our Children.

    Then the Apostle E T Benson & Bishop Maughn Presided over us. Since then they have gone with Presidet Young others to Jackson Co Mo to Build the great Temple & the New Jerrusalem.

    This visit was in 1868. Then we were Children. Now it is 1898 & great Changes have taken place since that day throughout Great Babylon as well as in Mount Zion. That year was the great Election for the Presidency of the United States. Grant & Colfax were the Candidates for the Black Repu[blicans?] & Seymour & Blair for the Dimocratts. Then the Nation felt Strong & Powerful. Since then it has been broken to peaces. That visit was before the destruction of the City of New York By the Sea Heaving itself beyong its bounds & washing the inhabitants into the Sea & they were drowned. It was Before Albany was utterly Destroyed by fire. It was before Boston was sunk with an Earthquake. It was before Chicago was struck with lightning & burned with fire & Brimstone for their Abominations. It was before the many Millions of the People of the United States & other Nations of the Earth were destroyed with their Cities By the Great Judgments of God Because of their great sins & wickedness in the sight of Heaven & Earth.

    This was Before the United States became so weakened & Broaken to peaces that they Called upon Brigham Young to take the Presidency of the United States to save the Constitution & the remnant of the Nation from utter destruction. If this will not be the Conversation of those little Children who were in the procession with their Banners to welcome the prophet & Apostles on their Enterance into this City, thirty years from this it will be sumthing like it.

    [p.423] At the Close of the meeting Presidet Young said my remarks were given By Revelation. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.423)

    Comment by grindael — August 4, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

  41. Sorry, grindael, you have done nothing to rehabilitate this bogus prophecy. If anything, you have demonstrated the sloppiness of those who promote drivel like this.

    “Who knows what his level of understanding was by 1877?” This question is not evidence of anything, in any sense. Unless you can show that Wilford Woodruff in fact continued his studies of French and reached the level of proficiency that would allow him to “read the revelations” in French – and you present no such evidence – then you offer nothing to increase the possibility that Woodruff authored this bogus revelation.

    Likewise, your extended cut-and-paste quotation does more harm than good to any desire to support the bogus revelation. It does suggest that Wilford Woodruff and Brigham Young did expect the United States to be destroyed in a violent and dreadful way. That’s no secret – scriptural prophecies of the last days speak of this kind of general destruction, and the United States isn’t spared. That is irrelevant to this post, though. The question isn’t whether Latter-day Saints believe in future destruction, but whether this document is authentic and its sensational details reliable.

    You bring no addition evidence to support its authenticity, nor do you attempt to explain away the explicit refutations given by Church leaders time after time.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 4, 2014 @ 6:22 pm

  42. Perhaps it would be helpful for occasional readers if the post included a copy of the page where WW transcribed the vision, since that makes the attribution to an unknown author quite a bit clearer. Likewise with the Steele copy. Anyone have access to either of those?

    Comment by Amy T — August 4, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

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