The Mormon Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has its origins in the visions of Joseph Smith... "a religious teacher sensitive to the spiritual currents flowing in the early 19th century." Beginning in 1820, Joseph Smith claimed to have experienced a series of heavenly visions in which he was informed that all existing churches were in error, that the true Gospel had been lost and that he had been given the task of preparing people to recognize the immanent coming of the "Son of Man"... the return of Christ.
Joseph Smith's visions and prophecies are recorded in a book titled "The Doctrine and Covenants." This book contains prophecies which foretell the coming of two Messianic figures who were to appear in rapid succession--- one right after the other. The first of these two Messianic figures is called the "one mighty and strong" and is considered to be a forerunner like John the Baptist. The second of the two Messianic figures is called the "Son of Man".
For the sake of brevity in this presentation I would like to focus on only two of Joseph Smith's prophecies from "The Doctrine and Covenants". The first is found in Section 85, the second is from Section 130.
"And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God...
While that man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning."-D&C, section 85:7-8
The second prophecy is from Section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Here Joseph Smith prophesied:
"When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves... And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, thereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word. 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. 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. 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... The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit..."-D&C 130
Let's take a look at these prophecies point by point:
SUMMARY OF PROMISES:
1- THE DEATH OF JOSEPH SMITH
Joseph Smith was shot and killed on June 27, 1844.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."-Revelation 2:17
And in the next chapter Jesus again promises:
"Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name." -Revelation 3:12
Towards the end of his book Isaiah repeats this promise:
"thou shalt be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall name."-Isaiah 62
And then Isaiah warned:
"ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord God shall slay thee and call his servants by another name."-Isaiah 65
Those who choose to come into the "celestial kingdom" shall be given a "new name."
2- Joseph Smith wrote that he: "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..."
Joseph Smith was born in Sharon, Vermont, on December 23, 1805. He would have been 85 years old in 1890. If he had not been killed, Joseph Smith would have met the Son of Man in the year 1890. Could it be that the "Son of Man" was actually already alive on the planet at the very time that Joseph Smith was giving these prophecies? Consider these statements from Joseph Smith:
"behold, verily, verily, I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me; But the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent... Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared..." -D&C 38
"I am in your midst... And the day cometh that you shall hear my voice and see me, and know that I am. Watch, therefore, that ye may be ready." -D&C 50:44
"For verily I say unto you that I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the light and the life of the world--a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not. I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not... And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, as light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fullness of my gospel; But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men." -D&C 45
According to Joseph Smith's prophecies, the forerunner... "the one mighty and strong" should have appeared in 1844. The "Son of Man"... "the Savior" should have appeared shortly after the beginning of the civil war (1860).
Joseph Smith advises his followers to be awake and searching. He warns that the coming of the "Son of Man" would be like "a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not". He hints that the Savior is: "in your midst and ye cannot see me"... "they receive [Him] not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men."
And then, even more explicitly, Joseph Smith is promised that if lives until the year 1890 he will meet the "Son of Man".
1- Joseph Smith's "one mighty and strong" prophecy was remarkably accurate. The Elijah figure DID arise in the east in the same year that Joseph Smith was shot. In 1844 the "ONE MIGHTY AND STRONG" arose in the east. He assumed the title of the Bab... a name which when translated into English means the "GATE". The Bab stated that he was the forerunner of the great "Son of Man"... whom, he said, was soon to appear.
"I am one of the sustaining Pillars of the Primal Word of God. Whosoever hath recognized Me... hath attained all that is good and seemly..."
"Well is it with him who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Baha'u'llah (the Son of Man), and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For he will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it..."- the Bab- Tablet to the Shah, GPB p.25
In my opinion, Joseph Smith foretold the coming of the Bab... the Forerunner of the Baha'i Faith with amazing accuracy. He also foretold the time of the coming of Baha'u'llah, the Baha'i Founder, with equal precision.
It was on April 21, 1863 that Baha'u'llah, the Prophet founder of the Baha'i Faith, first publicly announced to the world that he was the Promised One whose coming had been foretold in the prophecies of the world's great religions. Thus Baha'u'llah announced His mission to the world at the exact time foretold by Joseph Smith.
"The time fore-ordained unto the people and kindreds of the earth is now come. The promises of God as recorded in the holy Scriptures, have all been fulfilled..."
"The Revelation which, from time immemorial hath been acclaimed as the Purpose and Promise of all the prophets of God, and the most cherished Desire of His Messengers, hath now, by virtue of the pervasive Will of the Almighty and at His irresistible bidding, been revealed unto men. The advent of such a Revelation hath been heralded in all the sacred Scriptures. Behold how, notwithstanding such an announcement, mankind hath strayed from its path and shut out itself from its glory..." -Baha'u'llah, Baha'i World Faith, p.9
Baha'u'llah's forerunner appeared at the exact time foretold by Joseph Smith. Baha'u'llah himself also appeared at the exact time foretold by Joseph Smith. Baha'u'llah did come bearing a "new name". The name Baha'u'llah when translated into English is the Glory of God. Baha'u'llah did appear wearing a red robe. Baha'u'llah did bring the "celestial kingdom" as foretold by Joseph Smith. Yet, most of the world remained heedless of his appearance.
Joseph Smith warned that recognition of the coming of the Son of Man might not be as easy as many people thought. He said that the Savior is: "in your midst and ye cannot see [him]". Baha'u'llah, the Promised One... the Savior, the Son of Man appeared at the exact time foretold by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith advised his followers to be awake and searching. He said that the coming of the "Son of Man" would be like "a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not". Baha'u'llah commented upon the people's tragic lack of comprehension. He wrote: "notwithstanding such an announcement, mankind hath strayed from its path and shut out itself from its glory..." Tragically, today, more than 130 years later, Joseph Smith's followers still "perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from [Him] because of the precepts of men."
The other half of the prophecy from Section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants promised that Joseph Smith would "see the face of the Son of Man" if he lived to be 85 years old. In a remarkable passage, Baha'u'llah seems to answer this promise. He wrote:
"Verily I say, this is the day in which mankind can behold the Face and hear the Voice of the Promised One. The call of God hath been raised, and the light of His countenance hath been lifted up upon men. It behooveth every man to blot out the trace of every idle word from the tablet of his heart, and to gaze, with an open and unbiased mind, on the signs of His Revelation, the proofs of His Mission, and the tokens of His Glory." --- Baha'u'llah
Joseph Smith was promised that he would "see the face of the Son of Man" if he lived to be 85 years old. Joseph Smith would have been 85 years old in the year 1890. It was in the year 1890 that the first people from from Europe and America journeyed all the way to Israel to meet Baha'u'llah. Of these western pilgrims only the distinguished orientalist Professor Edward G. Browne of the University of Cambridge, England actually met him. Dr Browne "visited Baha'u'llah at Bahji in the year 1890, and recorded his impressions as follows: --
"The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one's very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie.
No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!
A mild dignified voice bade me be seated, and then continued: -- "Praise be to God that thou has attained!... Thou has come to see a prisoner and an exile. ... We desire but the good of the world and happiness of the nations; yet they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment. ... That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection should cease, and differences of race be annulled -- what harm is there in this? ... Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the `Most Great Peace' shall come. ... Do not you in Europe need this also? Is not this that which Christ foretold? ... Yet do we see your kings and rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of mankind. ... These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family. ... Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind. ..."-Baha'u'llah and the New Era, J. Esselmont, p.39-40
If Joseph Smith had lived to be 85 years old, would he have been on that steamship that travelled to Israel in 1890? Would he have been alongside Professor Browne as he met Baha'u'llah? Would Joseph Smith have seen "the face of the Son of Man" when he was 85 years old? Unfortunately, we will never know for certain.
The question that has been raised in this presentation is... "are the Bab and Baha'u'llah truly the ones whose coming were foretold in the Mormon prophecies?" As illustrated many places elsewhere in this homepage, the Bab and Baha'u'llah literally do fulfill dozens of prophecies from the scriptures of each of the world's great religions. Baha'u'llah's teachings have already inspired the birth and development of a unified global community of believers.
What do you suppose are the chances that so many explicit prophecies from the diverse religions of the world could foretell the exact same things, in almost the exact same words as the Mormon prophecies and yet still be just a coincidence? How probable do you think it is that the Bab and Baha'u'llah could literally fulfill each and every one of these prophecies... and yet still be false? It is not very likely.
The prophecies of Joseph Smith foretold the coming of both the "Son of Man" and of His "celestial kingdom." Is Baha'u'llah truly the "Son of Man" whose appearance was foretold by Joseph Smith? Is the name Baha'u'llah... the "new name" foretold by Joseph Smith? Is Baha'u'llah's kingdom truly the "celestial kingdom" foretold by Joseph Smith? These are questions of extreme importance.
Those who seek the truth in this matter may want to consider the following statements from Baha'u'llah:
"We, of a certainty, have had no purpose in this earthly realm save to make God manifest and to reveal His sovereignty; sufficient unto Me is God for a witness. We, of a certainty, have had no intent in the celestial Kingdom but to exalt His Cause and glorify His praise; sufficient unto Me is God for a protector. We, of a certainty, have had no desire in the Dominion on high except to extol God and what hath been sent down by Him..."
-Baha'u'llah: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, page 82
Great is the Cause, and great the Announcement! Patiently and calmly
ponder thou upon the resplendent signs and the sublime words, and all that
hath been revealed in these days, that haply thou mayest fathom the mysteries
that are hid in the Books, and mayest strive to guide His servants. Hearken
with thine inner ear unto the Voice of Jeremiah, Who saith: "Oh, for
great is that Day, and it hath no equal." Wert thou to observe with
the eye of fairness, thou wouldst perceive the greatness of the Day. Incline
thine ear unto the Voice of this All-Knowing Counselor, and suffer not
thyself to be deprived of the mercy that hath surpassed all created things,
visible and invisible..."
NOTE: For Latter Day Saints who would like to hear more of this story you may want to read the book "So Great A Cause!" by Kenneth Stephens, a former Mormon and Institute Director. This book is currently out of print but your local librarian should be able to find you a copy through interlibrary loan.
Joel Smith is a member of the Baha'i Faith living in the United States. The opinions expressed in this article constitute his own personal understanding and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Baha'i Faith or its teachings.