Does It Pass God's 3-Question Test for Truth?

Question #2: Failed Revelations

The second of God's questions for evaluating persons or religions involves prophecies and revelations. If a prophet claims to speak for God but he gives one or more prophecies or revelations that fail, that prophet is a false prophet.

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, emphasis added)

If Joseph Smith or any other Mormon prophet made a false prophecy when speaking for God, then Mormonism is false. If any of the Mormon scriptures (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price) contain false revelations, then Mormonism is a false religion. It is not correct to pray about its truthfulness if God's evaluation shows that Mormonism is false.

The Mormon Church is built upon the foundation of Joseph Smith. If Smith was not a true prophet of God, there is no legitimate reason for the existence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon leaders understand this.

[The Mormon] Church Stands or Falls with Joseph Smith. Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever see. There is no middle ground. (Doctrines of Salvation, by Joseph Fielding Smith, 1954, vol. 1, page 188, emphasis in original, brackets added)

If his claims to a divine appointment be false, forming as they do the foundation of the Church in this the last dispensation, the superstructure cannot be stable.... (The Articles of Faith, James E. Talmage, 1982, page 8)

How many failed prophecies does it take to make a false prophet? Just one! Since God is perfect, all revelations He gives through true prophets will always prove true! A true prophet will not speak something in the name of God if it does not truly come from God. Therefore, if a person gives a revelation in the name of God which fails, that person is a false prophet. God explained this in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (quoted elsewhere).

Mormons often proclaim some fulfilled prophecies which they affirm were given by Joseph Smith. These are promoted as evidence that Smith was a true prophet. However, successful prophecies are not enough by themselves to prove that a person is a true prophet (see Deuteronomy 13:1-5, quoted elsewhere).

In an earlier chapter we learned that Joseph Smith and Mormonism teach a different god than the God of the Bible. That point alone classifies Smith as a false prophet, even if all his revelations were successful. However, Smith gave several prophecies which failed. Following are a few of them.

The Toronto prophecy

One of Smith's false prophecies involved an effort to sell the Book of Mormon copyright in Toronto, Canada. The failure of this revelation caused serious confusion among some of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Maybe this contributed to the cause for six of the eleven witnesses withdrawing from the Mormon Church in about 1838. (See the chapter on the Book of Mormon witnesses for more information.)

Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church acknowledged the failure of this prophecy. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (published by the Mormon Church) documents this failed prophecy as follows.

He persuaded Joseph to inquire of the Lord, with the result, as David states it, that he "received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and they would sell the copyright." Accordingly, Oliver Cowdery and Hirum Page, the latter being one of the eight witnesses, went to Canada to sell the copyright, but failed. David Whitmer represents that this failure threw the little group of believers into great trouble, and they went to the Prophet and asked him to account for the failure. The Prophet frankly acknowledged his inability to understand the cause of the failure, and inquired of the Lord. He received for answer - according to Whitmer - this: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil." (A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, B.H. Roberts, vol. 1, pages 162-163, emphasis added)

The revelation respecting the Toronto journey was not of God, surely; else it would not have failed; but the Prophet, overwrought in his deep anxiety for the progress of the work, saw reflected in the "Seer Stone" his own thought, or that suggested to him by his brother Hyrum, rather than the thought of God ... in this instance of the Toronto journey, Joseph was evidently not directed by the inspiration of the Lord. (A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, B.H. Roberts, vol. 1, pages 164-165, emphasis added)

This one failed prophecy is enough to disqualify Smith and Mormonism. Yet there are other revelations which also failed.

Bethlehem or Jerusalem?

Many people that are familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a city located approximately five miles from Jerusalem in the land of Judah (i.e., Judaea). The description of the birth of Jesus and the Bible prophecy of His birth are given in the following Bible quote.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (Matthew 2:1-6, emphasis added)

The Book of Mormon missed the birthplace of Jesus by approximately five miles when it said that He would be born at Jerusalem.

... the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin.... (Book of Mormon, 1981, Alma 7:9-10, emphasis added)

Apparently, Mormons have not noticed this error or they do not think a five mile mistake is significant (see the following quote). If the Book of Mormon prophecy was a true revelation from God, it would not have named the wrong city or called the land by the wrong name.

In a careful comparison of the prophecies of the Bible with corresponding predictions contained in the Book of Mormon, e.g. those relating to the birth .... of Christ Jesus .... each of the records is corroborative of the other. True there are many predictions in one that are not found in both, but in no instance has contradiction or inconsistency been pointed out. Between the doctrinal parts of the two volumes of scripture the same perfect harmony is found to prevail. (The Articles of Faith, James E. Talmage, 1982, pages 274-275, emphasis added)

Some Mormons have claimed that Jerusalem was the name of the land and that it contained Bethlehem. However, the name of the land was Judaea (i.e., Judah). Jerusalem and Bethlehem were both cities in the land of Judaea. Bethlehem is about five miles south of Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon missed the location by five miles while Micah (in the Bible) was exactly right (Micah 5:2-5; Matthew 2:1-8). God never misses, not even by five miles.

Zion prophecies

Smith proclaimed by revelation from God that Zion (the promised land) was in Jackson county, Missouri (USA). He told Mormons that they should settle in that location.

.... Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints. Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse. (Doctrine and Covenants, 1981, 57:1-3, emphasis added)

Additionally, Smith prophesied that a temple would be built in Independence, Missouri, at a specified location. He prophesied that this temple would be completed before all the people of that generation died (those living in 1832).

Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased. Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord.... (Doctrine and Covenants, 1981, 84:3-5, emphasis added)

Besides these, Smith also prophesied that the Mormons who moved to Missouri would rejoice there. They would find protection from the extreme troubles coming upon the rest of the people.

And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. The people of the Lord, those who have complied with the requirements of the new covenant, have already commenced gathering together to Zion, which is in the state of Missouri; therefore I declare unto you the warning which the Lord has commanded to declare unto this generation, remembering that the eyes of my Maker are upon me, and that to him I am accountable for every word I say ... flee to Zion, before the overflowing scourge overtake you, for there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things which I have spoken, fulfilled. (History of the Church, Joseph Smith, 2nd edition revised, 1978, vol. 1, pages 315-316, emphasis added)

Behold, I, the Lord, have brought you together that the promise might be fulfilled, that the faithful among you should be preserved and rejoice together in the land of Missouri. I the Lord, promise the faithful and cannot lie. (Doctrine and Covenants, 1981, 62:6, emphasis added)

At the time when Smith gave these prophecies about Zion, non-Mormons controlled the land. According to Smith, that circumstance would soon change with the redemption of Zion. Smith prophesied that Zion's redemption would take place on September 11, 1836, with its rescue from the control of gentiles (non-Mormons).

... use every effort to prevail on the churches to gather to those regions and locate themselves, to be in readiness to move into Jackson county [Missouri] in two years from the eleventh of September next, which is the appointed time for the redemption of Zion. (i.e., September 11, 1836, History of the Church, Joseph Smith, 2nd edition revised, 1978, vol. 2, page 145)

Zion's collapse

In obedience to Smith's prophecies in the name of God, many Mormons began to move to the state of Missouri beginning in July, 1831. Joseph Smith told them that Missouri was the promise land. Several revelations were given by Smith encouraging Mormons to take up residence there. Even though the prophecies about Zion were an encouragement to them, the Mormon settlers soon found that Smith's revelations were wrong.

With bright prospects before them, the Saints set to with a will to build their Zion. But they soon found themselves in serious difficulties. (Truth Restored, Gordon B. Hinckley, 1979, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, page 52)

As the non-Mormons in the state of Missouri began to react against the growing Mormon influence, conflicts began to develop. The Mormon dream of Zion soon collapsed.

The first real indication of trouble occurred one night in the spring of 1832 when a mob broke windows in a number of Mormon homes. In the autumn of that same year, haystacks were burned and houses were shot into. These acts were but the beginning of a storm of violence that was eventually to sweep the Mormons from the state of Missouri. (Truth Restored, page 52, emphasis added)

On October 31 [1833] a reign of terror commenced. Day and night armed men rode through the streets of Independence setting fire to houses, destroying furniture, trampling cornfields, whipping and assaulting men and women.

Not knowing where to turn, the inhabitants fled north to the desolate river bottoms. Their trail over the frozen sleet-covered ground was marked by blood from their lacerated feet. Some lost their lives as a result of exposure and hunger. Fortunately, their brethren in Ohio, on learning of their troubles, brought aid and comfort as rapidly as possible. By the time they arrived, more than two hundred homes had been destroyed. Even more tragic, their dream of Zion had been shattered. (Truth Restored, page 54, emphasis added, brackets added)

Finally, the Mormons were driven out of the state of Missouri. Their hopes for Zion were gone. Several promises made in the name of God were also gone. The god of Mormonism was not able to keep the promises as prophesied by Joseph Smith.

Greatly outnumbered and denied any semblance of legal protection, fifteen thousand members of the Church fled their Missouri homes and property then valued at a million and a half dollars. Through the winter of 1838-39 they painfully made their way eastward toward Illinois, not knowing where else to go. Many died from exposure or from illness aggravated by it. Joseph Smith was in prison, and Brigham Young, a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, directed this sorrowful migration, which was to prove to be the forerunner to a yet more tragic movement a scant eight years later, and of which he was to serve as leader. (Truth Restored, pages 58-59)

Upon leaving Missouri, the Mormons moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Eventually, they were driven from there and gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah (beginning in July, 1847). According to Smith's prophecy, Missouri was the divinely chosen gathering place. Therefore, the Mormons gathered in the wrong place when they went to Utah.

In 1831, Joseph Smith claimed that God said the Mormons would be preserved in Missouri. He also prophesied that the Mormons would rejoice together in the land of Missouri. History shows that neither happened. This was supposed to be a promise made by God, one which He could not lie about. What happened? Either the god of Mormonism lied or Joseph Smith was a false prophet. In either case, this alone is enough to prove that Mormonism cannot be what it claims to be.

More than 150 years have passed since Smith prophesied that the wicked would be swept off the face of the land. The "wicked" are still in the land and all people who were alive in 1832 have died. Rather than being protected from the "overflowing scourge," the Saints who fled to Missouri were wiped off the face of that land. This prophecy came to pass exactly opposite from the way Smith predicted. This prophecy proved false!

Temple was not built

More than 150 years have passed since Smith prophesied the temple would be built "... in this generation...." It still has not been built on the designated spot in Independence, Missouri. As late as 1874, Mormons still hoped to return to Missouri to fulfill this prophecy. Despite their hopes, they have been totally unable to bring to pass what Smith claims God promised.

God said, in the year 1832, before we were driven out of Jackson County, in a revelation which you will find here in this book, that before that generation should all pass away, a house of the Lord should be built in that county, (Jackson County).... This was given forty-two years ago. The generation then living was not only to commence a house of God in Jackson County, Missouri, but was actually to complete the same, and when it is completed the glory of God should rest upon it ... we Latter-day Saints expect to return to Jackson County and to build a Temple there before the generation that was living forty-two years ago has all passed away. (Journal of Discourses, volume 17, page 111, spoken by Orson Pratt in 1874, emphasis added)

All those living in 1832 are now dead and the prophesied temple is not built. According to Mormon apostle Orson Pratt, this prophecy about the temple is very important. Pratt said,

"The Latter-day Saints have as firm faith and rely upon this promise as much as they rely upon the promise of forgiveness of sins when they comply with the first principles of the Gospel." (Journal of Discourses, volume 14, page 275, by Orson Pratt)

According to Pratt, both of these promises (forgiveness of sins for Mormon and building the temple) depend upon the belief that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of the living God. Since Smith proved to be a false prophet concerning the building of this temple, his restored gospel must be false also.

Potsherd prophecy

The Mormons were driven out of Missouri to Nauvoo, Illinois. Since the United States did not help the Mormons against their persecutors in Missouri, Smith prophesied against the government. He said that if the U.S. government did not correct this wrong, that in just a few years, the government would be totally destroyed.

.... I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left, for their wickedness in permitting the murder of men, women and children, and the wholesale plunder and extermination of thousands of her citizens to go unpunished.... (History of the Church, Joseph Smith, 2nd edition revised, 1978, vol. 5, page 394, emphasis added)

The wrong was not corrected and the Mormons did not return to their "Zion" in Missouri. Instead, the Mormon were driven out of their new gathering place in Nauvoo, Illinois. They finally settled in Utah after much loss of life and property. More than 150 years later, the U.S. government is bigger than ever.

In the previous sections, there are details of the shameful way the Mormons were driven out of Missouri. The U.S. government did not help them. Later, the Mormons were driven out of Illinois. Again, the government did not help them in their difficulties. Even in Utah, the Mormons had trouble with the U.S. government in what was called the Mormon War (1857-1858).

In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed a law which prohibited the Mormon practice of their revelation about polygamy (i.e., being married to more than one wife at the same time). The conflicts between the Mormons and the U.S. government continued to increase until, finally, the Mormon prophet was forced to officially prohibit polygamy.

During the 1880's, federal courts began enforcing federal laws against polygamy. Hundreds of Mormons were fined and sent to prison. A law passed in 1887 permitted the U.S. government to seize church property of the Mormons for use by public schools. In 1890, Wilford Woodruff, the church president, advised the Mormons to give up polygamy. In October of that year, the church officially prohibited polygamy. (The World Book Encyclopedia, 1977 Edition, Volume 20, page 194f)

Rather than correcting the wrongs committed against the Mormons in Missouri, the government did even more "wrongs" by forcing the Mormons to give up their doctrine of polygamy. Joseph Smith's revelations failed again. Concerning the loss of their right to practice polygamy, the following quote of Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt is informative.

.... if plurality of marriage is not true or in other words, if a man has no divine right to marry two wives or more in this world, then marriage for eternity is not true, and your faith is all vain, and all the sealing ordinances, and powers, pertaining to marriage for eternity are vain, worthless, good for nothing; for as sure as one is true the other also must be true. (Journal Of Discourses, vol. 21, page 296, by Orson Pratt)

According to Pratt, if Mormons do not have a divine right to marry two or more wives (at the same time) in this world, then Mormon temple marriages are worthless.

The white prophecy

The Book of Mormon contains another prophecy that failed. This prophecy said that those who were cursed with dark skin would have their curse removed and receive white skin if they accepted the Mormon gospel.

And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers. And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them save they shall be a white and delightsome people. (Book of Mormon, 1920, 2 Nephi 30:5-6)

To understand the significance of this prophecy, some background information from the Book of Mormon story is required. According to the Book of Mormon, both Nephites and Lamanites originally had white skin and they were delightful. The Nephites were godly, but the Lamanites became ungodly. As a result of their ungodliness, God took away the white skin and delightful nature of the Lamanites and gave them a black skin, making them a "dark and loathsome" people.

And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations. (Book of Mormon, 1981, 1 Nephi 12:23)

And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. (Book of Mormon, 1981, 2 Nephi 5:21-22)

And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men. (Book of Mormon, 1981, Alma 3:6)

The stated purpose of this curse was to prevent the Lamanites from enticing the godly Nephites into ungodly ways. Theoretically, the white and delightful Nephites would be repulsed by the dark and loathsome appearance of the Lamanites. In the event a Lamanite should turn back to God, the Book of Mormon says that God would remove the curse from him (see 2 Nephi 5:22, 2 Nephi 30:6, and Alma 23:15-18).

The Book of Mormon contains at least one instance where this curse was removed from certain Lamanites. When the curse was lifted, their skin returned to a white color.

And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair.... (3 Nephi 2:14-16, emphasis added)

According to the teachings of Mormonism, the American Indians are descendants of the Lamanites mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Therefore, according to the Book of Mormon, American Indians who become Mormons should receive white skin before long.

This prophecy demanded a change. Since the skin of Indians (and others) who converted to Mormonism refused to turn white, the passage was changed to read pure in the 1981 version of the Book of Mormon.

Mormon explanation for the change

Mormons have claimed that the same word has been translated as pure and white in the Bible. By this, they attempt to justify changing the word in the Book of Mormon. If it is true that white and pure were translated from the same word in the Bible, it still does not excuse or explain the change in the Book of Mormon. Mormonism claims that God gave Joseph Smith the correct translation for the Book of Mormon. By Mormon claims, God is the one who said it should read white.

Mormons have also claimed that the word white in this quote did not mean that their skin would literally turn white. They say people have just taken this and twisted it to try to prove the Mormon Church wrong. They claim the 1981 change from white to pure was simply to make the words agree more with the original intent of the writings.

According to 3 Nephi 2:14-16 in the Book of Mormon, the skin of Lamanites who joined the Nephites turned white when the curse of God was removed from them (quoted above). This demonstrates that the original intent of the writings in 2 Nephi 30:6 was that their skin would lose its dark color and become a white color. (See also Alma 23:15-18.)


In the early Bible days, a person was killed by stoning if he made a false prophecy in the name of God. One failed prophecy was enough to expose him as a false prophet. God is always accurate. Therefore, anything God tells His prophets is always completely accurate. Anything less than perfect accuracy is not from God.

This does not mean that a true prophet has to be completely accurate in everything he says or does. Perfect accuracy is required only when the person claims to be speaking for God. As the Bible instructs us, we expect Joseph Smith and Mormonism to be perfectly accurate every time they claim to speak for God. Since Smith and Mormon scriptures are guilty of false prophesying and misrepresenting the truth, then the whole of Mormonism must be rejected since it cannot be from God.

Table of Contents


Mormonism, Does It Pass God's 3-Question Test for Truth?

Attention: The material in this book attempts to accurately describe official Mormon doctrine in certain important areas. Therefore, quotes are included from several authorized sources of Mormon doctrine. However, this book does not claim to be authorized by or endorsed by the Mormon Church.

Copyrights of quoted Mormon materials belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) or the copyrights are under their control.

Quotations from the Bible are from the King James Version.

This book by Sonny Bowman is used by permission. If you have questions or comments, please check the Frequently Asked Questions page or contact Sonny Bowman or check the links to Related Sites.

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