The explanations for the apparent failure of the Missouri Temple prophecy in D&C 84:1-5 that I have examined so far all agree that the prophecy does speak about the building of a temple in Independence, Missouri, within the lifetime of at least some of the people alive in 1832. Some Mormons, however, offer an alternative explanation of at least part of the prophecy.

According to Stephen Gibson, “the prophecy in (D & C 84:5-6) came to pass less than four years after Joseph Smith received it.” He points out that verse 5 speaks of “an house” rather than “the temple” and argues, “The use of words ‘an house’ indicate that the Lord is not necessarily referring to ‘the temple’ mentioned in verse 4…. The ‘house’ mentioned in verse 5 was dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836.” Thus, the “temple” of D&C 84:4 should be distinguished from the “house” of D&C 84:5, which refers to the Kirtland, Ohio temple dedicated in 1836, not to the Independence temple that has yet to be built.

Unfortunately, as even Gibson seems to recognize, this still leaves verse 4 unexplained. About verse 4, he merely comments, “We simply do not know the length of that generation, and we have good reason to assume that this temple will yet be built.” And verse 4 clearly says that the temple would be built within the lifetime of that generation alive in 1832: “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.” Gibson’s explanation of verse 5, then, really does nothing to eliminate or lessen the problem.

That having been said, it is dubious that verse 5 should be understood to refer to a different structure than the temple in verse 4. As even Gibson’s interpretation recognizes, the “house” of verse 5 is a temple (albeit, according to Gibson, the one built in Kirtland, not the one that didn’t get built in Independence). The parallelism of the two lines really demands that the “house” of verse 5 be understood as identical to the “temple” of verse 4:

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.

In both verses 4 and 5, Joseph Smith avers “verily” that a temple (called a “temple” in verse 4, a “house unto the Lord” in verse 5) will be built (“shall be reared,” v. 4; “shall be built,” v. 5) while the generation alive at that time still remained (“in this generation,” v. 4; “this generation shall not all pass away,” v. 5). Since a “house unto the Lord” is by definition a temple, as Gibson himself admits, it strains all credulity to claim that the temple in verse 4 is a different structure than the temple in verse 5.

Furthermore, later in the same chapter Smith refers again to this temple which would be built in that generation:

Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses—for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed… (v. 31).

Smith here refers to the temple lot in Independence, Missouri, which at the beginning of the chapter he had described as “the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord” (v. 3). Thus, the “house” that was to “be built unto the Lord” was to be built on the “appointed” location which had already been identified as the temple lot in Independence, Missouri. Since the “house…unto the Lord” in verse 31 can only be the “house unto the Lord” in verse 5, and since the “house” in verse 31 is specified as the one to be built on the temple lot in Independence, we can only conclude that the “house” and “temple” in all these verses in D&C 84 refers to the same structure.

I conclude, then, that Gibson’s interpretation of D&C 84:5 is not only of no help in eliminating the apparent failed prophecy, but is of no help at all in understanding the passage, since it introduces a distinction that is explicitly contradicted in the chapter. This means that Gibson’s claim that Joseph Smith’s prophecy in verse 5 came to pass four years after he gave it is mistaken. To the contrary, it did not come to pass at all.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 at 10:49 am and is filed under Mormonism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment


I was looking through the 1828 Webster dictionary and found this.

GENERA’TION, n. The act of begetting; procreation, as of animals.

1. Production; formation; as the generation of sounds or of curves or equations.

2. A single succession in natural descent, as the children of the same parents; hence, an age. Thus we say, the third, the fourth, or the tenth generation. Gen.15.16.

3. The people of the same period, or living at the same time.

O faithless and perverse generation. Luke 9.

4. Genealogy; a series of children or descendants from the same stock.

This is the book of the generations of Adam. Gen.5.

5. A family; a race.

6. Progeny; offspring.

I can see now that if I use definition 1. 4. or 5. in Matt 24:34 then it wouldn’t be a false prophecy.

But the same goes for DC 84:5-6.

February 26th, 2009 at 6:27 pm

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