The Prophet Joseph Smith and the 56 Years
I would like to start by examining the context in which Joseph Smith mentioned the 56 years.
History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.13, p.181
Kirtland, February 14, 1835--
This day, a meeting was called of those who journeyed last season to Zion for the purpose of laying the foundation of its
redemption, together with as many other of the brethren and sisters as were disposed to attend.
President Joseph Smith, Jun., presiding, read the 15th chapter of John, and said: Let us endeavor to solemnize our minds that
we may receive a blessing, by calling on the Lord. After an appropriate and affecting prayer, the brethren who went to Zion [in
Zion's camp] were requested to take their seats together in a part of the house by themselves.
President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to
him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to
Zion--our trials, sufferings; and said God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; and it was the
will of God that those who went to zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the
ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh--even fifty-six years
should wind up the scene.
The President also said many things; such as the weak things, even the smallest and weakest among us, shall be powerful and
mighty, and great things shall be accomplished by you from this hour; and you shall begin to feel the whisperings of the Spirit of
God; and the work of God shall begin to break forth from this time; and you shall be endowed with power from on high.
In this text we can see that Joseph Smith was the one leading this meeting and the quotes in this section are things he said.
We also learn that God has called the Meeting and the things mentioned in the meeting are not just an opinion or estimation.
Rather the things mentioned in the meeting were made known to him by revelation and by the Holy Spirit.
We learn that the people who went to Zion were in the meeting.
We learn that the people that went to Zion were the ones that were to go and prune the vineyard for the Last time.
We learn that the pruning of the vineyard or the coming of the Lord should come about within 56 years.
Collected Discourses, Vol.5, Francis M. Lyman,
April 5, 1896
On that day also the Prophet announced that they were to be called into the ministry and to go forth to prune the vineyard for the
last time, "for the coming of the Lord, which is nigh, even fifty-six years should wind up the scene." The harvest was ripe, and
the laborers were few, and they were to cast in their might and their labors for the accomplishment of the purposes of the Lord;
and he announced, at that time, that in fifty-six years the scene should be wound up, that some scene was to be wound up in
1891--fifty-six years added to 1835. And thus many of the older brethren were expecting to discover something in 1891 that
perhaps it has been felt has not been accomplished.
......... In the culmination of these events we recognize the fulfillment of the prediction of the Prophet Joseph Smith,
that about 1890 or 1891, the scene would change, and the conditions that had existed from those early days of
persecutions and troubles should be wound up and cease forever. The Prophets Brigham Young and John Taylor laid
down their lives while carrying forward the great work, though it was not their good fortune to witness the relief and the
independence and the measure of sovereignty of statehood that the people of this state enjoy today. But after that time when
the Lord had indicated that the scene should change, and the winding up of the conditions that had formerly existed, from that
time till now, everything has moved in harmony with the directions and counsels of the Lord through His servants. Think of the
change of feeling from hostility to friendliness in the people of the United States toward the people of this state. We not only
have the governor and judges of our own choice, and courts organized here in this state, but we have our senators in congress,
and our representative, and they are as honored and equally influential as are those of any other state in the Union; and the
Lord has magnified His people and verified the prophesy of His servant Joseph in regard to this great change. Is it
not clear that the inspiration in the Prophet Joseph at that time indicated and pointed to the conditions that we see
today? The scene is changed, and it has changed to remain, and will never return to the old conditions again.
After reading what Joseph Smith said in the meeting and a related passage by Lyman some logical questions that should
follow concerning this prophecy are.
1. The meeting was commanded by God and the contents of the meeting were made known to Joseph Smith by revelation and
by the Holy Spirit. Considering this and the fact that Francis M. Lyman called this a prophecy why shouldn't we view it as such?
Was there anything in the context of what Joseph Smith said in the meeting to justify Lyman's interpretation of the 56 years as
being a change in persecution and political parties?
2. How can the 56 years be taken as just an opinion when the text says these things were made known to Joseph Smith by
revelation and by the Holy Spirit?
3. Isn't the pruning of the vineyard for the last time a reference to the harvesting of souls similar to what Jesus said in
Matthew 9:37-38 & 13:36-39. If so why would it be the last time unless the Lord was expected to return? Is not this harvest still
taking place today?
Joseph Smith did make other statements on other occasions that seem contrary to his prophecy that Christ should return in
56 years. This does not change the fact that in the meeting held in February 14, 1835 Joseph Smith did tell them that the
pruning of the vineyard and the coming of the Lord should be wound up in 56 years. This was supposedly made known to him
by revelation and by the Holy Spirit.
1. Joseph Smith prophesied the return of Christ within 56 years. History of the Church Vol.2, Ch.13, p.181-182.
2. Joseph Smith said "I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written--the Son of Man will not come in the clouds
of heaven till I am eighty-five years old.
History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.17, p.336
3. Joseph Smith said after praying to know when Christ would return he heard a voice and after hearing it he said." 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." History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.17, p.324
4. Joseph Smith said "Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the
Scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers."
History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.10, p.254
How can these 4 statements be reconciled? They are contradictory and from a man who claims he is relaying Gods word to
us? Considering the facts it is not reasonable to accept him as a prophet of God.
When looking at statements by Joseph Smith as in historical documents it is helpful to know how those around him understood
what he meant. Following are some sources that show that those who listened to and believed Joseph Smith fully expected to
see Christ return in their lifetime.
History of the Church, Vol.1, p.176, Footnotes
In addition to the spiritual manifestations already mentioned as having occurred at this conference of June 3rd-6th it should be
said that according to John Whitmer's History of the Church (ch. v): "The Spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual
manner, and he prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the Ten Tribes of Israel who had been led away by
Shalmaneser king of Assyria to prepare them for their return from their long dispersion to again possess the land of their
fathers. He prophesied many more things that I have not written After he had prophesied he laid his hands upon Lyman Wight
and ordained him to the High Priesthood (i.e. ordained him a High Priest), after the holy order of God And the Spirit fell upon
Lyman and he prophesied concerning the coming of Christ He said that there were some in the congregation that
should live until the Savior should descend from heaven with a shout, with all the holy angels with Him. (end quote)
Right after Joseph Smith ordained Lyman Wight to the office of High Priest, Lyman prophesied that some people there would
be alive when Christ returned. Why is there no record here of Joseph Smith rebuking him since know man knows when Jesus
will return? It would seem that this was so because that is precisely what Joseph Smith taught. Lyman Wight himself made a
false prophecy here right after the Spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph and he ordained Lyman a High Priest.
History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.23, p.323
"I asked of him a father's blessing, which he granted by laying his hands upon my head, in the name of Jesus Christ, and
declaring that I should continue in the Priest's office until Christ comes." (end quote)
The blessing was that this man should continue in the Priest's office until Christ comes. If this continuation of the Priest's office
still holds after his death why does it end upon the return of Christ? Or could it be that it was believed that this man would live
until the return of Christ due to Joseph Smith's prophecy?
History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.13, p.186-189
President Joseph Smith, Jun., said that the first business of the meeting was, for the Three Witnesses of the Book of
Mormon, to pray, each one, and then proceed to choose twelve men from the Church, as Apostles, to go to all nations,
kindreds, tongues, and people. The Three Witnesses were then blessed by the laying on of the hands of the Presidency. The
Witnesses then, according to a former commandment, proceeded to make choice of the Twelve. Their names are as follows:
Lyman E. Johnson, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball came forward; and the Three Witnesses laid their hands upon each
one's head and prayed, separately.
The blessing of Lyman E. Johnson was, in the name of Jesus Christ, that he should bear the tidings of salvation to
nations, tongues, and people, until the utmost corners of the earth shall hear the tidings; and that he shall be a witness of the
things of God to nations and tongues, and that holy angels shall administer to him occasionally; and that no power of the enemy
shall prevent him from going forth and doing the work of the Lord; and that he shall live until the gathering is
accomplished, according to the holy prophets; and he shall be like unto Enoch; and his faith shall be like unto his; and he shall
be called great among all the living; and Satan shall tremble before him; and he shall see the Savior come and stand upon
the earth with power and great glory.
............Heber C. Kimball's blessing was, in substance, that he shall be made like unto those who have been blessed before
him; and be favored with the same blessing. That he might receive visions; the ministration of angels, and hear their voice; and
even come into the presence of God; that many millions may be converted by his instrumentality; that angels may waft him from
place to place, and that he may stand unto the coming of our Lord, and receive a crown in the Kingdom of our God; that
he be made acquainted with the day when Christ shall come; that he shall be made perfect in faith; and that the deaf shall hear,
the lame shall walk, the blind shall see, and greater things than these shall he do; that he shall have boldness of speech before
the nations, and great power. (end quote)
Here again Joseph Smith is present the Lord's work is taking place and Heber C. Kimball and Lyman E. Johnson are said they
would live to see the 2nd coming of Christ. How can we possibly say that Joseph Smith did not put a date to the return of
Christ? Certainly those who were close to him believed some of them would be alive when Christ returned. By Joseph Smith's
own words this makes him a false teacher.
History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.10, p.254
Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the Scriptures, and you
cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers. (end quote)
So far we can conclude Joseph Smith did indeed prophecy the return of Christ within 56 years. Some of those that were close
to him believed they would also live to see the return of Christ. These events were recorded supposedly while doing the Lord's
work. Joseph Smith also made contradicting statements that cannot be reconciled. Robert A. Morey has a book titled "How to
answer a Mormon" the majority of this book of 119 pages is false prophecies by Joseph Smith. I only mentioned 3 here.
Remember it only takes one false prophecy to be a false prophet.
Major Christian Doctrines
Explained & Defended
Click on any Link below
Or use the arrows to turn the page.
1. Lyman E. Johnson, 2. Brigham Young,
3. Heber C. Kimball, 4. Orson Hyde,
5. David W. Patten, 6. Luke S. Johnson,
7. William E. M'Lellin, 8. John f. Boynton,
9. Orson Pratt, 10. William Smith,
11. Thomas P. Marsh, 12. Parley P. Pratt,