What do Mormons believe about prophecies? - the fact and myth cheat sheet
This is part of the Mormon fact and myth cheat sheet on this website. The main list of Mormon facts and Myths can be found here. This section specifically discusses Mormon belief about prophecies.
This section does not contain a full list of prophecies, rather it contains some common prophecies that have been discussed recently.
This is a compilation of facts and myths about Mormon beliefs compiled from comments and other resources. I add things to this list as I run into them so this list has more information on it than I have had time to write about in detail. Some of these can be uncommonly random.
Some of these comments may have been collected from someone that is trying to imply that Mormons won't tell you about these things. This is partially accurate simply because we don't actually believe in many of these things. On a similar note, I have pulled some of this information from several "campaigns" which claim that they just want to help us Mormons realize the error of our ways. However, most of these campaigns are not actually targeted to Mormons. They are targeted to those who are not Mormon and may be curious about what we really believe. In war and politics it is known as a "disinformation" campaign and it's used to keep other people in the dark or doubtful of factual information. If these campaigns were intended to target Mormons, they would talk to us directly, instead of referring to Mormons in the third person as "they," and they would use our real teachings to try and convince us of our error.
You may notice that after the first sentence, these descriptions are written in a way so that anyone can quote them if they need to. The disadvantage to this is that there are some things that get repeated in the explanations more than once. It should be noted that this site is not an official source for Mormon doctrine, so if you're going to quote from this site I would recommend that you point out the sources or link back to this page so readers can verify accurate sources for themselves. I have also bolded some things in each statement to help identify the key points.
Speaking of repeating stuff, this introduction is fairly standard on the other fact and myth pages so you can probably skip it on the next one without missing much.
Editing and referencing is still an ongoing process for this page.
Mormon belief about prophecies
"Mormons believe that all prophecies are guaranteed to happen":
This is false.
Mormons believe that there are many prophecies that are contingent of the righteousness of those involved. For example the children of Israel were given the land of Canaan as long as they were righteous. Once they fell into unrighteousness it was destroyed by Babylon. Some prophecies are conditional, following the pattern of 'if [event] then [prophecy].' Patriarchal blessings work this way and are conditional on the persons own faith and righteousness. Some prophecies are guaranteed, but the timing is unknown. For example the Lord promised that he would come in great power and glory, but when he originally appeared in Jerusalem it was not in this manner. This has not invalidated that he will come in great power and glory.
"Joseph Smith taught that the world would end in 1890":
This is false.
Those who claim that Joseph Smith predicted Christ would return in 1890 are skipping half of his quote. The quote said "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; ..." So if you do the math, Joseph Smith was born in 1805, and adding 85 to that you come up with the return of Christ in 1890. However the remainder of the quote clarifies that Smith was not convinced this was the Second Coming. The rest of the quote says, "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." It also completely disregards that Joseph reiterated in 1844 that the Lord would not come in 1890.
"Joseph Smith said that 56 years should wind up the scene":
It certainly appears to be accurate
The quote that 56 years should wind up the scene comes from the minutes summarizing a meeting recorded in the History of the Church that occurred on February 14th, 1835. Whoever is recording the meeting indicates that Joseph Smith said that the coming of the Lord was nigh. Then near the end of the same paragraph the recorder adds this: " - even fifty-six years should wind up the scene." It is hard to believe that the meeting recorder would interject his own opinion here, so it is fairly safe to assume that this came from something stated at the time by Joseph Smith. However, Joseph Smith was very clear in other statements around the same time that no man, including himself, knew when the Savior would come. These include comments from both 1831, in what is now Doctrine and Covenants 49, and 1844 in a sermon that is also recorded in the history of the church. In both Joseph Smith explained that no man knows the hour, including himself. It's possible that this short statement found in the summarized minutes stems from related disccusion of his claimed revelation from 1831 that states that if he lived until he was 85 he would see the face of the Savior; in which he also indicated that he was not sure what the meaning of this was.
"Mormons believe they will save the government (aka: the White Horse prophecy)":
This is false.
The LDS church has officially stated that it does not believe in the idea that it would save the government or any other variation of what has been labeled as the White Horse prophecy.