Ep 140 – William Miller’s Bible Math
On this episode, Joseph Smith and William Miller tangle through public media. Miller’s prophecy of the beginning of the Second Coming of Jesus is hotly disputed by the one true prophet. Jo goes out preaching to his congregants, sees a comet in the sky, and gives his own prophecy of when Jesus will return. Doctrine & Covenants 130 is revealed among all this hubbub concerning end-of-world prophecies. Also our final installment of treasure digs for those who donated to help Brother Jake.
William Miller endtimes flyer
Latter-day Reactions to the Millerite Movement, 1843-1844
Joseph Smith, William Miller, and Prophetic Speculation
Apocalyptic Adversaries: Mormonism Meets Millerism
Textual Development of D&C 130:22
Joseph Smith 1890 Second Coming Prophecy
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Zarahemla Temple Excavation; Wayne May using dousing rods!!!
Our world is going to end. Did you know that? It’s very simple. Millions of people throughout history have claimed that the world will end, and they’ve given nearly just as many reasons why they believe they’re right this time and all other predictions have been false before theirs.
I guess the question would be, what does that mean? What does a person mean when they say the world is going to end? It’s usually said within the context of the Christian rapture, at least that’s the most pervasive claims in my culture and probably in the cultures of many of you listeners. The mountains will roll forth their lava, the oceans with be filled with blood, fire raining from the sky, all the most righteous resurrected while the unworthy toil in the hell that is left on this terrestrial sphere. Those are fun to talk about, as is the scriptural genesis for how such myths came to be. However, we also have entire consortia of scientists telling us that the world as we know it will change irreparably if we don’t alter our current course drastically.
Uh oh, did I just conflate science and religion? That’s sure to upset some of you. I want to be very clear on something, an apocalyptic preacher pounding a pulpit or shouting at a street corner telling people that the rapture is nigh at hand, and a scientist making careful predictions of global events based on centuries of data collection and model making, testing hypotheses, projecting likely scenarios based on previous data and coming to reasonable conclusions of how to change course in order to preserve society and the world as we know it; those are not the same thing. Science gives us airplanes and buildings, religions crash them in to each other. Religions claim answers to unknowable questions about our shared reality, science provides us methods to test that reality and make probabilistic inferences. Those are fundamentally different things and that hard distinction will be an undertone for this entire episode.
However, even one of the most respected scholars of Joseph Smith, D. Michael Quinn, advocates for drawing similarities between religion and science. A few passages particularly stood out to me in my most recent read-through of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View.
Flexibility in accounting for life’s variables and disappointments is what allows a world view to endure for centuries or millennia. Jews have proposed various explanations for the Messiah’s non-appearance in 132 B.C.E., 70 C.E., 117, 645, the eighth century, the year 1060, 1099, 1100, 1121, 1172, 1295, 1350, 1391, 1453, 1481, 1500-1502, the 1660s, and in the eighteenth century. After confidently finding “keys” or “codes” in prophetic texts of the Bible (Such as Revelation) for dating Christ’s second coming and\or the end of the world, various Christians have also managed “to explain any outcome in retrospect” for those non-events in first century A.D., the year 500, about 799-806, and the years 1000, 1260, 1533-34, 1655, 1666, 1688, 1708, 1734, 1763, 1796, 1806, 1814, 1820, 1843, 1844, 1846, 1847, 1890, 1914, 1975. Mormons were equally adept at reconciling the absence of the Second Coming in 1891 that the Latter-day Saints had expected since their founding prophet’s remarks about that dating. [we’ll be discussing that point near the end of the show today]
On a far more frequent basis, Mormon parents and LDS leaders have provided faith-supportive explanations for the faithful person’s failure to recover from physical problems after priesthood promises for full recovery. This includes children who do not live to fulfill a patriarchal blessing’s unconditional promise of long life or (at least) of serving a full-time mission in mortality. Almost as often, scientists throughout the world propose various explanations for why experiments or phenomena violate the “laws” of physics or “rational” logic. Like the magic world view, both religion and science require a certain amount of faith and flexibility when faced with apparent contradictions… [except for the fact that science has a self-correcting mechanism built in where faith doesn’t]
P. 80 where Quinn is talking about astrology.
Likewise, when the course of a person’s life seems to fulfill astrological expectations, this encourages the oral tradition that has perpetuated astrological belief and instructions. Even unfulfilled predictions do not destroy the faith of astrology’s advocates. Like persons with the scientific world view, persons with the astrological view are able to tolerate contradictions and unfulfilled expectations within a system they believe to be valid. The same is true of those who believe that God loves humans and answers their prayers—despite deformed births, unhappy lives, tragic deaths, or prolonged disasters like the Jewish holocaust, Cambodia’s killing fields, and central Africa’s famines.
I’m not one to take shots at Mormon historians unless they’re deserving because, unequivocally, they always know more than me. Quinn is just wrong here. Science and religion are fundamentally different human constructs. One results in assertions of testable theories based on data, the other is assertions of untestable claims based on writings of people who thought magic and dragons exist and that animals can talk and people can rise from the dead. It’s simply asinine to equate science and religion the way Quinn and many Mormon historians and apologists do.
What I find particularly interesting is when the two happen to share the same space. When people try to apply science to religion, we get theologians. One of these theologians contemporary of early Mormonism was a man named William Miller. William Miller has been operating in the back of our historical timeline the entire time this podcast has been running, but I’ve only ever just mentioned him and his religious movement in passing. For the Millerites, a great day was nigh at hand, but first, a little background.
William Miller was born in Massachusetts in 1782, but his family moved to Low Hampton, New York, which is just west across the border from Rutland, Vermont, about 60 miles from the birthplace of Joseph Smith near Sharon Vermont when William was very young. This was the burned-over district near the end of the first great awakening when Miller was maturing into young adulthood. By the time Miller was in his late twenties he was living in Poultney, Vermont, which is a location that should raise a flag in our minds. Poultney was where Oliver Cowdery spent most of his early years and where pastor Ethan Smith, author of View of the Hebrews, preached to his congregation. This is important because View of the Hebrews has long been an agreed-upon source for material in the Book of Mormon. Miller eventually became part of an infantry division in the War of 1812. After that he became what we might call a seeker, espousing deism and seeking for the one true religion. He had an experience of theophany, which he recorded in 1845, 4 years before his death and nearly 25 years after the supposed occurrence.
Suddenly the character of a Savior was vividly impressed upon my mind. It seemed that there might be a Being so good and compassionate as to Himself atone for our transgressions, and thereby save us from suffering the penalty of sin. I immediately felt how lovely such a being must be; and imagined that I could cast myself into the arms of, and trust in the mercy of, such a One.
After this, William Miller began fervently reading the Bible, searching for patterns contained within the prophecies of the Book of Daniel and other self-proclaimed prophets in the text. This is where somebody made a good-faith effort to conduct science on a book of scripture. It’s a fundamentally flawed endeavor, as definitionally no scripture can be a book of science, but he still did so earnestly and was able to conjure an interesting timeline to explain some prophecies.
Bear with me for a minute as I do my best to describe Miller’s Bible math. Trust me, this is all relevant. Miller used a prophecy from Daniel 8:14. Here it is with a few surrounding verses for context. Many view this as a prophecy of the end-times, the second coming of the messiah.
In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
2 And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.
3 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last…
10 And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.
12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.
13 Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?
14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.
15 And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.
16 And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.
Verse 14 is the important one there, the two thousand three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. This is the verse that has been used by theologians for centuries in trying to plot out the second coming of the Messiah. Now, 2300 days is about 6 years and 4 months, so why would this be relevant? Well, because in the Bible, days and years are interchangeable and Miller decided to use the reckoning of years instead of days as it explicitly states in Daniel. What this lead to was placing a dot down on a seemingly arbitrary world event in Judaism to start that 2300 year clock. Here’s a sort of timeline by William Miller’s reckoning.
Israel was captured and carried captive in 2 Chronicles 33:11 in the year 677 B.C.E., marking the commencement of the seven times prophesied in Leviticus 25:28-34. The overthrow of Ancient Babylon in 538 B.C.E. recorded in Daniel 5:30-31 precipitated what was recorded in Ezra 7:8, which was the decree to restore and build Jerusalem, given in 457. That 2300 days prophesied by Daniel, or years by Millerite Bible math, began after that decree in 457. So, what’s 457 B.C.E. plus 2300 years? Some of you may be surprised to learn this, but it was conveniently 1843, right at the height of William Miller’s reign as religious leader of the Millerite sect. Isn’t that amazing? A bible prophecy just happens to detail that the rapture will happen in Bill Miller’s own time when he had hundreds of followers! How convenient for him!
William Miller finalized his new math theories and published on the impending second coming in his periodical beginning in 1832. He slowly garnered an apocalyptic religious following throughout the remainder of the 1830s. Then, in 1840, Himes was commissioned to be his printer in chief. Now, William Miller deserves his own Naked Millerism style podcast that falls way outside my expertise. What he started, and how his beliefs and health codes influenced American history, are vast and interesting. Arguably, it was partially due to him that most American males are circumcised today. So… thanks for that, Bill.
In 1840, a guy named Joshua Himes. This guy didn’t seem to really believe in Miller’s theology or claims of mathing Bible prophecies, but he was a printer and Miller commissioned him to publish the Millerite bimonthly paper, Signs of the Times. This was incredibly common in the time. Religions who didn’t have a printing press and a regular periodical didn’t survive, but the Methodists, Quakers, Campbellites, Adventists, and Mormons all had their own papers, which is arguably why they all exist in some form to this day. Other fringe groups who didn’t have periodicals couldn’t keep up with the inflation of other charismatic sects like this that had their own paper. This serves to explain some of the impetus behind why the Mormons always had periodicals since Joseph’s earliest years in ministry beginning with the Evening and the Morning Star in Missouri in 1832. Joseph Smith didn’t do anything new, he just did stuff that was unique.
But, in early 1843, Miller published in his periodical this:
“My principles in brief, are, that Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844.”
This prophecy came after urging from his followers to state an actual date of the Second Coming. Apparently, Miller was a bit apprehensive to put specific dates on his Bible math prophecies, but finally did in early 1843.
Because these 19th-century protestant sects were very incestuous and constantly fighting over converts, it was scarcely possible for something like this to go unnoticed by Joseph Smith and other Mormon leadership. These religions were Jo’s competition in charismatic grass-roots religious sects. Jo had a constant finger on the pulse of the religious sphere, which led him to pen this and publish it in the Times and Seasons in early March 1843. The subject of this letter to the Times and Season editor to be published was a man named Hiram Redding, who’d published his own article in the Chicago Express paper, which makes it sound like he was a Millerite who’d had his own spiritual theophany. I can’t find the original article anywhere in all my internet crawling, but I’m sure it exists out there. I’m sure it would provide a bit more context, but we can infer its themes from Jo’s letter.
Sir—Among the many signs of the times, and other strange things, which are continually agitating the minds of men, I notice a small speculation in the Chicago Express, upon the certificate of one Hiram Redding, of Ogle county, Ill., stating that he has seen the sign of the Son of Man as foretold in the 24th of Matthew.
The slanderous allusion of a “seraglio,” like the Grand Turk, which the editor applies to me, he may take to himself, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Every honest man who has visited the city of Nauvoo, since it existed, can bear record of better things, and place me in the front ranks of those who are known to do good for the sake of goodness, and show all liars, hypocrites, and abominable creatures, that while vice sinks them down to darkness and woe, virtue exalts me and the saints to light and immortality.
The editor, as well as some others, “Thinks that Jo Smith has his match at last,” because Mr. Redding certifies that he has seen the sign of the Son of Man. But I shall use my right, and declare, that notwithstanding Mr. Redding may have seen a wonderful appearance in the clouds, one morning about sunrise, (which is nothing very uncommon in the winter season) he has not seen the sign of the Son of Man, as foretold by Jesus; neither has any man, nor will any man, till after the sun shall have been darkened, and the moon bathed in blood; for the Lord hath not shown me any such sign and as the prophet saith, so it must be: “surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Therefore, hear this, O earth, the Lord will not come to reign over the righteous, in this world, in 1843, nor until everything for the bridegroom is ready.
Miller’s 1843-1844 prophecy for the second coming of Jesus caught fire in the media nationwide. This was Jo firing shots across Miller’s bow. The first rule of prophecy is you do not put definite dates on prophecy. The second rule of prophecy is make it ambiguous enough for any world event to be shoehorned in to fit fulfilling said prophecy. Those two rules guided most of Jo’s prophecies, at least the ones we know of. He had the failed prophecy a few weeks ago in our timeline when he told Orson Hyde that he’d drink wine in Palestine with Hyde because Jo never set foot outside the United States his entire life. If there is a third rule to prophecies, that would be to never use world events to claim that it is the beginning of the fulfillment of a prophecy, because that sets into motion a definite timeframe that can come to an end. The point I’m driving at is that William Miller wasn’t a good prophet, even though he used Bible math to make his prophecies because when March 1844 came along without Jesus returning, his followers looked at him like, hey…. I thought you said Jesus would be here. Then Miller revised it to April 1844, and Jesus didn’t come again. Then he revised it to September 1844 and Jesus didn’t come again. Then it was revised to October 22, 1844, and Jesus STILL didn’t show up, which came to be known as The Great Disappointment, which spawned some 11 other religions, including the Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of God General Conference, Church of the Blessed Hope, Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement, Davidian Seventh Day Adventist, Branch Davidians, Primitive Advent Christian Church, and a few others.
In the article that Jo penned in response to Hiram Redding of Ogle county, he spoke of the sign of the Son of Man 3 times, which is probably what drew his ire in the first place. And what, pray thee, was this sign of the Son of Man that caused this Redding person to glom on to Miller’s predictions that the second coming would happen within a year of his article being published? A comet. Hiram Redding, and many other believers in apocalyptic religions saw this as a sign that Jesus was returning. This was no fly by night kind of comet. Arguably this was the largest comet ever recorded in human history up to this point. It came to be known as the great comet of 1843. It inspired multiple pieces of artwork that can be found if you google comet of 1843. It also inspired the Mexican composer Luis Baca to compose El Gran Cometa de 1843 as a waltz for piano. This comet was first discovered by astronomers on February 5, 1843, and passed closest to earth on March 6, finally exiting visibility of earth on April 19. This comet was bright enough to be seen in daylight because it orbits so closely to the surface of the sun. It’ll be making its way back around in like 3-400 years, so stick around folks and we can see the comet that lead the Millerites to think that the new millennium was just beginning in early 1843.
What’s an absolute joy is that the media picked up on this exchange between Jo and this Millerite. The Carlisle Weekly Herald out of Carlisle Pennsylvania published Jo’s response in full with this forward on April 12th. It’s written in a rather snarky tone that I find utterly delightful, even alluding to Jo using a peep stone in a hat to relieve many dreadful apprehensions of the end of the world and set Miller’s calculations right.
Joe Smith vs. Father Miller
That singular hebdomadal, the “Times and Seasons,” in which the great Mormon prophet, Joe Smith, publishes his decrees, contains in its last issue, says the Philadelphia Ledger, an important letter from that dignitary, which knocks all the speculations of the Millerites respecting the end of the world, drawn from the appearance of the Comet, into a cocked hat, and will relieve many dreadful apprehensions which people began to entertain. Joe says that he has received no revelation that the second coming will be in 1843, and therefore it will not take place! This is an issue between him and Mr. Miller, which had better be left to be settled between them, each individual taking care to act honestly, deal uprightly, and then we need not fear the consequences. Here is the letter, it is a singular production, and, besides setting Miller’s calculations right, is a sort of defense of the prophet’s moral character: [article reprinted]
That final line is the snarkiest of all and quite important, [the article] is a sort of defense of the prophet’s moral character. That’s what this was. Jo claimed that the comet coming was not a Sign of the Son of Man because he was the prophet and the Lord hadn’t given him a sign, and the Lord only speaks through his prophets. That was Jo’s way of saying that Miller isn’t a prophet, that he is, that the end of the world won’t be coming yet, but that he doesn’t know when it will be coming.
This was not the first time Jo had tangled with William Miller’s disciples. Just two weeks prior to this article being published in the Times and Seasons Jo had a meeting with some Millerites. The details of the meeting are lost to history, but it is noted in the History of the Church under the date of February 12, 1843.
Seven or eight young men came to see me, part of them from the city of New York. They treated me with the greatest respect. I showed them the fallacy of Mr. Miller’s data concerning the coming of Christ and the end of the world, or as it is commonly called, Millerism, and preached them quite a sermon. That error was in the Bible, or the translation of the Bible; that Miller was in want of correct information upon the subject, and that the was not so much to blame as the translators. I told them the prophecies must all be fulfilled: the sun must be darkened, and the moon turned to blood, and many more things before Christ would come.
Of particular note in this regard is that Jo didn’t view the comet that this Hiram Redding saw as a sign of the Son of God, but if we go to his diary entry for March 10th, 1843, there is a description of what seems to be the comet, which Jo calls a sign of the Lord.
I with Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff and many others, about 7 p.m., discovered a stream of light in the southwest quarter of the heavens, its pencil rays were in the form of a broad sword, with the hilt downward, the blade raised, pointing from the west, southwest, raised to an angle of 45 degrees from the horizon, and extending nearly, or within 2 or 3 degrees to the zenith of the degree where the sign appeared; this sign gradually disappeared from 7 ½ o’clock, and at 9 had entirely disappeared.
As sure as there is a God who sits enthroned in the heavens, and as sure as he ever spoke by me, so sure will there be a speedy and bloody war, and the broad sword seen this evening is the sure sign thereof.
So, when a believer in Millerism sees a comet, that’s not a sign from God. But, when Joseph Smith sees the comet, sure as there is a god who sits enthroned in the heavens, it was a sign of the war and bloodshed to come with the second coming of Jesus. To this passage was added a dream that Jo had. Just like all his dreams we’ve discussed, I only include this because it was important enough to the people who recorded it at the time to record it. Luckily for us, this dream comes with an interpretation, which we’ll get to very soon.
Last night I dreamed that a silver-headed old man came to me, and said there was a mob force coming upon him, and he was likely to lose his life; he had heard that I was a Lieutenant-general, had the command of a large force, and that I always sought to defend the oppressed, and I was also a patriot and disposed to protect the innocent and unoffending, and wanted I should protect him, and had come to hear with his own ears what I would say to him. I told him I wanted some written documents to show the facts that they are the aggressors, and I would raise a force sufficient to protect him, that I would collect the legion. The old man then turned to go from me; when he got a little distance, he suddenly turned again and said to me, “You must call out the legion,” and he would have the papers ready when I arrived; and, says he, “I have any amount of men, which you can have under your command.”
This dream on face could be seen as a battle cry for Jo. In his mind, he was being oppressed by the government and he always intended to defend himself from said oppression. If defending meant actually defending with a military, he was ready. Maybe the world was coming to an end and only those who would be safe would be those who had their own military to guard them? Maybe the silver-headed old man was himself in his old age? Maybe it was a representation of God or an angel of some sort, which would make this a vision instead of a dream by Joseph Smith standards, right? Well, very soon we’ll get to the interpretation of this dream which I find even more concerning than those possibilities.
This public exchange between disciples of William Miller and Joseph Smith himself spurned some questions and the need for sermons among Mormons outside of Nauvoo. This entire period through the History of the Church is rife with documenting natural disasters and seemingly inexplicable phenomena happening in the night sky, it’s really quite fascinating. Eventually the people living in Ramus, Illinois asked Jo to give them a sermon on the end of the world. Jo, and a couple of his friends, travelled to Ramus, where they were received into the home of Benjamin F. Johnson, one of the youngest participants in the Army of Israel during the 1838 conflict in Missouri.
Once in Ramus, Orson Hyde gave a sermon comparing the other religious preachers with “crows living on carrion, as they were more fond of lies about the Saints than the truth.” After Orson L’Chydem preached this sermon, he and Jo retired to the home of Jo’s eldest sister, Sophronia McCleary for dinner, during which Jo took the opportunity to correct what Hyde had preached about. This correction eventually became D&C 130. This section is revered as remarkable in that it directly claims that Jesus and God are corporeal beings, which is absolutely necessary to understanding deeper Mormon doctrine.
But, why else is D&C 130 so important? What does it contain that makes it such a crucial piece of Mormon theology? Here are a few operational passages from it that Mormon theologians have been expanding upon since Jo initially offered the correction to Orson Hyde during their visit to Ramus. I’ll just say as a preface to this, the deeper one gets into the theology behind this section, the less it can be reconciled with modern Mormon theology. I’ll try to describe what I mean as we go through it.
When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.
And the same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.
John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.
God and the son don’t dwell in man’s heart. That departs from most Christianity, but it serves to explain why Mormon theology today doesn’t usually use the terminology of reborn Christianity. Like, you never hear Mormons talking about Jesus living inside their hearts, or their soul being bathed in the cleansing blood of the lamb, that phrasing doesn’t happen in mainstream Mormonism. What Mormons today use is belief or knowledge. Do you know that Jesus is the son of God? Do you know that Jesus is our savior? Do you know that Joseph Smith was a prophet? Do you know that we follow a prophet today? That’s how Mormonism navigates these Christian concepts.
Then it goes on to discuss how various celestial beings experience time as a product of the planet on which they reside, to which Jo answered yes, but that there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it. There Jo departed from most flavors of Protestantism in the claim that angels can only be resurrected beings and can only administer to the planet from which they came. This concept simply cannot be reconciled with the modern temple endowment ceremony. In the Mormon creation myth, Jehovah operates as son of Elohim. Jehovah’s counsellors are Peter, James, and John, who operate in the Garden of Eden in corporeal form just like Satan. This is the creation myth, long before Peter James and John were born to be Jesus’ apostles in the new testament. How could they be angels administering to Earth if they have yet to be born on earth and receive their bodies? I’m sure an apologetic dodge for this contradiction exists, but I’ve never come across it, maybe some of you have…
The next point is quite interesting as well. Remember, is was the Book of Abraham that deemed the star nearest the planet on which Elohim lives is called Kolob. Well, Jo provides a brief description of Kolob here beginning in verse 7.
But they [the angels] reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.
The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.
This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s.
Kolob is apparently a planet of glass and fire, but also a seer stone like unto crystal. In a roundabout way, this is consistent with deep Mormon theology. It’s understood that when the millennium comes, like Bill Miller prophesied would happen sometime in 1843 or early 1844, the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. At that point, the less righteous will remain on earth to be taught the fullness of the gospel by the most righteous, while the apostates will spend 1000 years weeping, wailing, and gnashing their teeth in spirit prison. After that the great and terrible final battle between good and evil will happen on Earth, the good will triumph, and Satan will be bound forever… or killed or something, it’s not really clear after that. Once the great battle has been won by the righteous with Jesus at the head of the army, then the earth will be changed to this crystal sea of glass and fire, just like a seer stone, and all those who dwell on it will have the fullness of all knowledge and intelligence. I mean, we’re like 6th circle of deep Mormon theology here, I know it sounds pretty far out there for anybody listening who’s never heard this before, but that’s what modern Mormonism holds to.
The point after this begins in verse 10, which discusses each person’s individual seer stone they’ll be given which will have their celestial name written on it. This is the Joseph Smith expansion on the book of Revelation 2:17 where it talks about the white stone.
11 And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.
Each and every one of the most righteous Mormons out there, who go through the great and spacious building to make their oaths and covenants to the secret… I mean sacred combinations, they each get a magic seer stone with their name on it, which is the password they need to get into the celestial kingdom. This is something I’d never heard in church when I attended, and I’d be willing to bet that most Mormons today have never heard this before. It’s super deep Mormon doctrine… We’re descending to like level 7 or 8 of deep Mormon doctrine. This is like a “this is sparta” bottomless pit-level of deep Mormon doctrine. But he didn’t conclude expounding there, because now he had some real prophecies to get to. Ask any Mormon to tell you about a prophecy that Joseph Smith gave that actually came true and this is probably one they’ll point to, while conveniently ignoring the parts that didn’t come true. You’ll see what I mean.
12 I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God, that the commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will be in South Carolina.
13 It may probably arise through the slave question. This a voice declared to me, while I was praying earnestly on the subject, December 25th, 1832.
Yes, Joseph Smith prophesied the Civil War would happen. He was probably the only person in America who thought a war was coming over “the slave question”. He didn’t even say slavery itself, just the question of whether or not we should own human beings as property. Always the progressive, I suppose. I’d be comfortable in saying that nobody in America at the time thought that conflict would never arise surrounding slavery. It was always a contentious issue since America became a sovereign European immigrant country, because a lot was happening in America before we got here, that’s why I say it that way. But seriously, a person had to be completely deaf to current events and the general landscape of politics at the time to think that no major conflict would arise due to the Northern and Southern division about slavery. The underground railroad was alive at this time, it had probably moved something like 50,000 slaves from southern states to Northern free states by the mid 1840s. Harriet Tubman was 21 years old in our timeline right now. There was a lot happening that sowed division among politicians and everyday Americans when it came to slavery. Besides that, Jo gave this prophecy at a time when he was actively courting and frequently meeting with congressmen and senators. He’d exchanged letters with Governors of states. He’d personally met the president when he supposedly gave his white-horse prophecy in 1839. Jo was a mayor of a city when he gave this prophecy. He was barely a year away from announcing his own bid for the United States presidency. Jo was many things, a moron was not one of them. He knew as well as any other politician of his caliber that trouble was coming and that South Carolina was the most contentious state of the bunch that would eventually become the confederacy. I mean, James Chesnut, the first Senator who resigned his Senatorial seat after Lincoln’s election had been elected to South Carolina’s Congress 3 years prior to this “prophecy”.
I guess that’s a long way of saying that, yeah, this could have been divine revelation from God to his servant Joseph Smith, but Jo also could have read a newspaper and concluded the same thing thousands of people knew long before he ever gave this prophecy. And, yes, South Carolina was where the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, thus kicking off the Civil War. Jo nailed the right state, he must be a prophet, right?
Why don’t we read the next passage to see how accurate his next prophecy was? The way this is worded makes Jo sound like he was just berating God over and over about when Jesus will come back, almost as if his followers were hearing about those crazy Millerites and were asking their prophet to give them a prophecy and he didn’t want to give a definite answer because that violates the first and second rules of prophet club by being too specific and having a strictly definite time frame.
14 I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:
Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.
I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.
I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time.
Alright, so this was an interesting prophecy, if it can be called such. It doesn’t say that Jo prophesied it, but merely that he was praying about when Jesus would return and a voice in his head told him that if he lived to 85 then he would see the face of the Son of Man. Does Jo have to be alive for the second coming to happen? This put the year for Jesus’ return in 1890 or 91, if Jo died before then, would the rapture not happen because he died? Also, 85 was a pretty safe age to guess. The average life expectancy in America was 38 years when infant mortality was factored in. After age 10, life expectancy for males in America in the 1850s was 58 years old. Jo had barely made it past 10 because his childhood infection that required the surgery on his leg nearly killed him. But his life expectancy at the time was 58, so throwing out a prophecy nearly 30 years after that was a pretty safe bet. If you’re going to prophesy that the rapture will happen, make sure that it’s after your own death so people can’t call you out on it. Besides, Jo had the stoploss on the prophecy that said he didn’t know exactly what 1890 or 91 meant, whether it was the millennium or if that’s when he would die and see Jesus’ face, but he knows that the millennium will not happen any sooner than that time. This is a prophecy you expect from somebody who knows they’re lying. At least throughout everything William Miller did, he actually believed what he was saying because he thought he’d decoded the Bible using bible math and that it revealed a definite time for the second coming. Jo was always a charlatan, even when some of his contemporary competitors were honest.
Besides, how does somebody reconcile with this prophecy the fact that Jo claimed to have seen the face of the Son of Man multiple times? It says if he lives to 85 he would see the face of the Son of Man. When this was recorded he’d long since fabricated the sacred grove story where he supposedly saw god and the son of man face to face. He’d also seen Jesus during the Kirtland Temple dedication ceremony and various times in the School of the Prophets. Did Jo having already seen Jesus multiple times just kind of slip his mind when he was dictating this?
Like I said before, the deeper you dig into this revelation, the harder it is to reconcile with Mormon theology and history.
The next verses simply claim that whatever knowledge and intelligence is gained on earth will ascend with a person into the afterlife…. When we all become gods and are omniscient so the knowledge we gain here actually won’t matter because we’ll all know everything there is to know in the universe. So, that can’t be reconciled either.
Section 130 concludes with saying that god and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s, but that the Holy Ghost doesn’t, he’s just a spooky ghost. Those last 2 verses are what a lot of theologians have been dwelling on for quite some time. Not only did D&C 130 contain all these prophecies, but it also included this fact that god and Jesus are corporeal, thus settling once and for all the 19th-century debate about whether or not god has a body. Sure, it’s interesting but it’s nowhere near the most interesting point to focus on in the whole section.
However, what’s REALLY interesting in all of this is that there’s a day break between the dictations. Verses 21-23 were given the day after the rest of 130. Remember the setting in which this was dictated. Jo and Orson L’Chydem are hanging out at Jo’s sister, Sophronia’s, house in Ramus, Illinois. Orson had just given a sermon and this section was Jo’s correction to what Orson had said. Do you want to hear what else Jo said at this time that just didn’t happen to make it into the canonized revelation? I think you’ll all really like these few points.
First Jo repeated his dream of the old silver-haired man that told Jo to gather his armies. Orson interpreted the dream as such:
“The Old man represents the Government of the United States, who will be invaded by a foreign foe, probably England. The United States government will call on the Saints to defend probably all this Western Territory, and will offer their leader any amount of men he shall desire, and put them under his command for that purpose.”
Because if Jo wasn’t dreaming about being the theocratic king to save the world, he wasn’t in his right mind. But here is a passage I really loved.
You’ve all heard that Joseph Smith said that quakers live on the moon, or people that look like quakers, but what about all the animals, how did they get here?
I read the fifth chapter of Revelations, referring particularly to the sixth verse, showing from that, the actual existence of beasts in heaven; probably those were beasts which had lived on another planet, and not ours. God never made use of the figure of a beast to represent the kingdom of heaven: when it is made use of, it is to represent an apostate church. Beast [with] 7 eyes [is the] priesthood. This is the first time I have ever taken a text in Revelations, and if the young elders would let such things alone, it would be far better.
So, yes, Joseph Smith believed that quakers lived on the moon and that animals are just aliens from different planets. That’s something I’ve never seen in exmormon circles before. Jo thought that animals are aliens, at least the beasts in the book of Revelation, and also claimed the 7-eyed beast is the priesthood, whatever that means. He also claimed that God is an alien and he lives on a planet that looks like a seer stone made of crystallized glass and fire.
What I find so fascinating with this entire Millerite and Josephite comparison is what it reveals about these two competing religious leaders. I cut it from the show notes, but Orson Hyde preached in his sermon that other sectarians out there are like crows feeding on carrion. He applied the carrion to the Mormons who had left the church but then says if he offers crows fresh meat they won’t take it as they don’t have an appetite, the fresh meat, of course, representing the most stalwart of members in the church. He uses it to claim that Miller and other sectarians can only pick off the weakest of Mormons to get them to convert to their religion, and the Mormons don’t want those people anyway because they’re rotting old meat, not fresh like the more faithful of the bunch.
Say what you want about William Miller, he was an interesting guy, he made a lot of predictions and spawned nearly a dozen religions. His health codes pervaded later 19th-century American religious movements and likely had some influence on the Mormon health code. But through all of his ministry, Miller sincerely believed what he claimed. Nobody was more disappointed in the great disappointment of October 1844 than Miller himself.
Joseph Smith, on the other hand, was a charlatan from beginning to end. He knew he was lying and that God didn’t speak to him the way most people thought when Jo would claim that such was the case. He knew he’d have to answer to false prophecies so he gave very few genuine prophecies and most of them had a way he could get out from under them if they turned out not to be true. He prophesied there would be a temple built in Independence, Missouri before his generation passed away. He prophesied that in 1891 Jesus would come back or the millennium would start, or something like that, but it didn’t happen and he’d been dead for 40 years so nobody could fact check him anymore.
Once again, Jo was many things, a moron is not one of them. He knew what he was doing all along, and this comparison reveals that to be the case. There are two articles you’ll find linked in the show notes. The first is written by Robert Bowman Jr. in 2011 titled Joseph Smith, William Miller, and Prophetic Speculation, published on Mormons in Transition. The other is from the 1987 edition of the John Whitmer Journal by Grant Underwood titled Apocalyptic Adversaries: Mormonism Meets Millerism. Both articles are incredibly fascinating to put the two contemporaries in proper context and compare them. The Underwood article, “Apocalyptic Adversaries,” I find to be really important in understanding this context, it even reveals some inner conflict among the Millerites concerning the second coming, much like there was constant conflict in Joseph’s Mormonism. I would encourage anybody seeking better understanding of this issue to chase these two links down in the show notes. There’s also a BYU studies article I’ll link in the show notes, but it’s theology, not history, so do with it what you will.
From Underwood’s “Apocalyptic Adversaries”:
Who was William Miller and wherein, from the Latter-day Saint perspective, was the fallacy of his “data” concerning the Second Coming? To raise such questions introduces us to a little known but illumninating chapter of Mormon history. While many may have a vague awareness of Miller as the man who predicted Christ’s coming in 1843, the actual nature of his teaching as well as the extent and impact on LDS thought of the Mormon-Millerite interaction is a story that remains to be told. Drawing from a larger study in process, this paper first seeks to correct oversimplified portrayals of Miller and Millerism, and then explores in depth the Mormon reaction to Millerism and what it reveals about LDS thought…
Miller had reluctantly accepted this type of Adventism for over a decade, but leading Millerites soon pressed for acceptance of 1843 as a test of fellowship. As a result, some former Millerites left the movement. With time drawing to a close, Miller refined his prediction. In a synopsis of his views published in the Midnight Cry, he wrote, “I believe the time can be known by all who desire to understand and to be ready for his coming. And I am fully convinced that some time between March 21st, 1843 and March 21st, 1844, according to the Jewish mode of computation of time, Christ will come.”…
As 1843 wore on, the tempo of the “midnight cry” was stepped up. Tent meetings, camp meetings, and the famous Millerite “chart,” a visual aid filled with horned beasts and prophetic numbers, were seen in major population centers throughout the Northeast. There was also a radicalizing tendency within the movement. By fall, a new cry was being raised—“Come out of Babylon.” To the chagrin of former pew-mates, all non-adventists came to be regarded as corrupt apostates and the entire Christian world, not just Roman Catholicism, was labeled Babylon, “the great whore.”
Like I said, the entire article is fascinating and it draws many parallels to Nauvoo Mormonism which I find even more fascinating because they were contemporaries with some interaction. All in all, this is a fascinating subject in comparative religious studies.
And that’s kind of the entire point of studying Mormon history, isn’t it? What do I mean by that?... Joseph Smith is remarkable, when he’s examined in isolation of the world around him. When you look at contemporary events, other religious leaders around the same time, some of them even coming out of the burned-over district like Jo did, his remarkable teachings and revolutionary ideas fade into the mass of crazy religious zealots that were his competitors. When did the Mormon church become a business? It was always a business from day one. That alone can explain some of Jo’s charisma. He always needed to ratchet up the crazy to lift himself into prominence above his competitors. That’s not somebody who’s lead by god, those are markers of a person led by selfish motivations seeking ever increasing power and prominence in society. Jo wanted notoriety and because he had thousands of sycophants fawning over his every word; he gained the infamy he endlessly sought through deception and criminality. At least examples like William Miller can be used to prove that Jo was smart and deceptive. He lied to everyone every day of his life. He also never gave a prophecy concerning events out of his control that ever came true. What is a prophet who gives false prophecies? A liar. What is any prophet even if they do give prophecies that happen to come true? Still a liar. As a final point, don’t fall victim to the same pitfalls as apologists or historians the way D. Michael Quinn did. Science and religion are fundamentally different things. Scientific predictions and prophecies are categorically different things. What is a scientist who makes an inaccurate prediction? A scientist. Because failed predictions fall by the wayside until true predictions can be used to construct models. Prophecy doesn’t have a self-correcting mechanism. Show me one prophecy you claim Joseph Smith got right and I’ll show you just how wrong you are. Now you can say that to your believing loved ones when they can’t stop talking about how great a prophet this guy supposedly was.
It's our last installment of Ground Gnomes Give for Brother Jake. To catch everybody up, Brother Jake suffered a cardiac event in December of last year and he’s on the road to recovery and apparently doing really well. The post Mormon community raised over $30,000 for the Frost family to help with medical expenses which is just remarkable. So, to all the podcasters, bloggers, and facebook sharers that made that possible, thank you. We have one final treasure dig to do in order to thank listeners of this show who donated, even if it does take this episode from the category of long to ridiculously long. I’m sorry we’re so over time, the research for this episode just kept giving. Chris and Kristy McRoberts and Andrew Lindeman will be the focus of today’s treasure dig and you’ll be receiving your likeness drawn into the treasure dig by Mark Elwood of theglasslooker.com within the next couple of days. Thank you for donating to help Brother Jake. And with this, I hope you’ll all join me in wishing Jake Frost a speedy and healthy recovery. Get better, man. Please enjoy:
Three weeks. Three weeks he’s been tracking this chest. The guardian spirits are strong with this one, Andrew thinks to himself. It was finally time he had to resort to extreme measures, but is this the answer he seeks?
Andrew had heard far and wide that this conjurer is unrivaled, nearly mythical, but he’d never had the leverage to bring it in for his own dig… until now. Conjurers like this come at a premium. This conjurer couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger unless there was incentive and the real possibility that this dig would be a success. (nighttime forest faint bg)
Andrew had received word that they would meet at his dig site. It was a cool autumn night and the skies revealed a cosmos only made less stunning by the prominence of a full moon between small breaks in the tree line. It will be a fortuitous night if all pieces fall in their place. After three weeks of digging, the hole had to be 27 feet deep by now. If the treasure wasn’t revealed within the next 7 feet of digging, the earth would never give up what it conceals. After walking through the woods for what seemed like ages, Andrew finally arrived at the clearing with his dig site. Each point of the circle staked by hazel rods, he’d done everything perfectly to satisfy the guardian spirits. He’d been led to this point by his guide and his guide had never failed him yet.
Andrew stands at the edge of the hole, sure to not enter the sacred space before invoking a protection spell. All is quiet. An uneasy feeling begins to invade Andrew’s mind. He doesn’t know from whence the feeling comes, but he’s never felt this before. A presence is nearby.
A slow fog begins to creep from out of the forest toward him. (some windy foggy noise) This feeling of uneasiness only grows in power. Andrew feels nearly unable to speak, what is happening? The fog continues to thicken and grow. He can barely see the sacred ground before him, let alone the tree line in the distance.
“You must be Andrew.” Whispers a voice from the darkness and fog-shrouded forest. Andrew can’t divine from whence the voice came.
“Who’s there?” Andrew says, unable to hold his tongue before he can compose himself. He’s afraid and apprehensive, but he knows this is the right path.
“We are Christus. Have you an offering?” The voice is neither male nor female, but somehow both. Andrew, not sure what to expect, digs into his pocket. He feels around briefly, pushes his talisman aside, and finds the small bag. He pulls it out, slightly opening the top to reveal the white powder contents, then holds it in his hand outstretched into the fog. Will Christus emerge? Will it finally reveal itself? Will he finally see this mythical conjurer and understand why it strikes fear into the hearts of men?
“That will do.” Christus says. The fog begins to lift. (end windy foggy noise) Andrew’s eyes are peering deeply into the cloud and darkness, but he can’t make anything out just yet. Still with an outstretched hand holding his offering, Andrew begins to see two separate and distinct personages saunter from the woods towards him. They adorn heavy cloaks with hoods that cast a shadow over their faces, shielding them from the moonlight. Andrew doesn’t know what to expect, but this must be the conjurer he’s heard rumors of. But… two personages? This was certainly striking, he’d never known two conjurers to be referred to as one before. All conjurers he’s worked with have been lone wolves. Andrew wonders to himself, does having two make their conjurations more powerful?
The two figures approach him. “I am Chris” says one hooded figure. “I am Kristy” says the other in the same nonchalant tone of voice. “Together we are Christus. What is this?”
“This is a sign and token of fellowship.” Andrew replies.
“Has it a name?” Chris asks.
“It has.” Andrew says, knowing the proper form of such procedures.
“Will you give it to me?” Kristy asks.
“I will on the other side of the veil.” Andrews says, concluding the opening pleasantries.
“Have you your amethyst to prevent inebriation?” Chris asks, knowing the spirits shall infect the group’s mental faculties upon suffumigation.
Andrew nods in affirmation.
Kristy turned her head to the east, Chris to the west. Kristy took a small crystal and vial of oil from her pocket and drew a cross on the crystal with the oil. “I beseech thee, my Lady St. Helen, mother of King Constantine, which didst find the cross whereupon Christ died; by that holy devotion and invention of the cross, and by the same cross, and by the joy which thou conceivedst at the finding thereof, and by the love which thou bearest to thy son Constantine, and by the great goodness which thou dost always use; that thou shew me in this crystal whatsoever I ask, or desire to know, Amen.”
“Sorry, we must always be certain.” Kristy says as she turns the crystal to show Andrew. The cross is glowing white, emitting the faintest of sounds that are pleasing to the ear. (glowing crystally sound)
“Had it revealed an impure countenance, what would you have done?” Andrew asks with some reservation.
Christus both look at Andrew just enough for the moonlight to reveal smiling eyes beneath their hoods. Chris removes from his cloak a thin wooden wand, stark white in color. With the other hand he grasps a small metal talisman with a concave indent on top. He uses this talisman to remove some of the mysterious white powder from the bag in Andrew’s hand. “Omnis Spiritus Laudet Dominum” and the very tip of the wand ignited in a blue flame. (burning torch sfx) “Mosen habent yi prophetas” Chris quietly chants as he runs the flame over the white powder in the talisman. The powder ignites (gunpowder or magnesium ignition sfx) and is instantly consumed into a cloud of white smoke that envelopes all three treasure diggers. As quickly as the smoke formed, the slight autumn breeze whisks it away. “We are ready, only silence will rule the night until the conjuration is complete.” Kristy took the small bag of powder from Andrew as payment.
The smoke had smudged away all impurities and now it was time to begin. Andrew stepped to the far end of his treasure dig hole and picked up his shovel. He thought to himself, “It better work this time. It was hard to come by that offering.” He slipped down the edge of the hole to the bottom while Christus stood on east and west of the hole, shrouded in darkness. Andrew can feel that this time is different. The soil under his feet seems to be transferring energy through his sandals up through his body and out the crown of his skull. The spirits are close.
Andrew pierces the soil with the blade of his shovel, (shovel into soil sfx) not sure what to expect. But…. Nothing. Nothing is happening. He can feel the energy roundabout; the treasure must be close. He lifts out the first shovel full and pitches the earth to the north. He takes another stab with his shovel and tosses the earth to the south. (a few more shovel sfx) Each successive shovelful is thrown in the cardinal direction, digging deeper with every toss. (bg humming noise that slowly grows louder) Andrew keeps striking the soil, but every shovel just brings forth more earth. However, he feels the power growing. He’s been fighting this guardian spirit for 3 weeks now, he knows its presence and it does not like that these conjurers are present to assist Andrew in acquiring their treasure. He keeps shoveling. More and more dirt. Nothing but dirt. He’s done everything right! How can the treasure not be bound? (humming even louder) (shovel hits metal) Wait. Could this be it?
Christus stare down at Andrew from the rim of the hole and he returns their gaze in excitement. All he can see of their hooded faces is two bright grins illuminated by the moonlight. Have they succeeded? Andrew can see the moon glinting off some metal from where his shovel just hit. The treasure is so close. But the spirit is very unpleased. Andrew looks up to Christus and tries to tell them he has the treasure, but his tongue is bound in his mouth. He can’t speak. He tries to mutter words, but his throat feels like it’s bound by chords.
“No. Why? Why now? We can’t let the spirit win!” Andrew shouts in his mind. He’s worked so hard, it can’t end like this. He lifts his shovel high into the air to plunge it deep into the earth beside the chest. He brings the edge down with crushing force. Just as the tip of his shovel collides with the earth it shatters into a thousand pieces. (metallic explosion sound… that’s a thing, right?)
“FLEE! The spirit will reduce you to atoms if you don’t flee now!” Andrew looks up to Christus but where they used to stand at the edge of the hole only remains pillars of white smoke. The treasure chest begins to glow an eerie orange color. Andrew kneels down to grab it with his hands but he’s instantly burned (sizzle) by the edges he can touch. Andrew knows, the spirit is furious and if he remains, he shall surely die. The treasure begins to glow brighter and brighter. (Different but really loud humming noise as treasure heats up) Christus knows best. Andrew turns to flee from the bottom of the pit and scrambles up the side. (scrambling through dirt as humming gets louder) (climax of all bg sfx with glowy ringy noise) (some kind of otherworldly explosion noise) Andrew gets out just in time as the entire pit turns into white light. He lays on his back outside the pit, winded, having just escaped being vaporized by the guardian spirit. Andrew slowly rises to see what damage had been wreaked upon his treasure dig spot. Each of the twelve hazel sticks outside the pit are on fire. He stands up and looks down into the hole. What used to be a pit of dirt remains a thin pane of opaque glass with the treasure chest locked securely beneath.
Andrew looks around to see what happened to Christus, but they’re nowhere to be found. Conjurers like them haven’t lasted this long without fleeing every dig at the first sign of trouble. Andrew barely escaped with his life intact, and maybe that’s the only treasure the diggers can hope for.
(wind and forest slowly fade out for 5 seconds before C segment cuts in)
And that wraps up our treasure digging fundraiser for Brother Jake. Once again, huge thanks to everybody from this awesome community of Post Mormons who donated to help the Frost family in their time of need. Huge thanks to Brian and Annie for their help with the vocal and another huge thanks to Mark Elwood of theglasslooker.com for illustrating our participants’ likeness into these treasure digs. Be sure to check out his website in the show notes and get amped for his graphic novel of Joseph Smith’s treasure digs that’s currently in progress.
Just a little house cleaning before wrapping up the show tonight, I know this episode has gone really long, I’m sorry about that.
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