Joseph Smith’s Missouri Temple Prophecy

Joseph Smith’s Missouri Temple Prophecy

Copyright © 2009 Institute for Religious Research

In 1832, Joseph Smith predicted that the Latter-day Saints would build a temple in Independence, Missouri, before all of the people living at that time had passed away:

"...Mormons understood this prophecy to be a promise predicting that the temple would definitely be built at that location before everyone alive in 1832 had died. Once it was clear that could not happen, Mormons began devising alternative explanations."

“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, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house” (D&C 84:1-5).

Throughout the nineteenth and even into the twentieth century, the Mormons understood this prophecy to be a promise predicting that the temple would definitely be built at that location before everyone alive in 1832 had died. Once it was clear that could not happen, Mormons began devising alternative explanations.

In this article, we examine eleven different explanations of the apparent failed Missouri temple prophecy. Is this just a minor mistake? Did God simply change his mind? Was it the Mormons’ own fault the temple was not built? Was it the fault of their enemies? Did the prophecy refer to a different temple, such as the one that was built in Kirtland, Ohio? Was the revelation merely telling the Saints what they were supposed to do, not a prediction of what would actually happen? Could the word generation mean something else, such as a race or dispensation? We will examine these and other explanations to determine if any of them can clear Joseph Smith of the charge of false prophecy.

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