Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Willard Richards non-existant "Prophecy"

The LDS Primary Church History is filled with unsubstantiated myths about Mormon History.  

Lesson # 37 of the Church History Primary Manual has the following quote:

"Elder Richards had not been injured in the attack. This miracle fulfilled a prophecy made a year earlier by Joseph Smith, who had told Elder Richards that there would be a time when “the balls [bullets] would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left,” but he would not be hurt. (History of the Church, 6:619).

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The Primary Manual directly quotes the bold words from  The History of the Church. The other words from the Primary Manual
 seem to be just made up.  The most unfortunate part of this story is there probably was no such prophecy, but we'll get to that part later.

The manual has a pointless error.

Willard Richards was hurt.  The same History of the Church paragraph the manual quotes also says, "yet he stood unscathed, with the exception of a ball which grazed the tip end of the lower part of his left ear." 

The actual quote is:  "the time would come that the balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left, but that there should not be a hole in his garment."  

So why did the manual writers change the quote?  Most likely because they were trying to cover for Brigham Young's quotation of the prophecy that said, "and there never shall a ball injure you.", and to avoid talking about the fact that only Willard Richards was wearing his garments.  

Now the important point.

There is no evidence that Joseph Smith ever gave Willard Richards such a promise .  Richards didn't say it in any account of the assassination nor in any known talk, letter or writing.  Joseph Smith's journal doesn't mention the story nor any account while Smith was alive.  

The story was never told before Richards death in 1854.   There seems to be an attempt to create fulfilled PROPHECIES AFTER the FACT.   So where did the "prophecy" come from? The History of the Church had multiple editors and writers.  Willard Richards was one of the editors.  It is unknown who added the story of the prophecy into the work.  It may have been Richards or any other of the editors, including Brigham Young who got the final say on the history book.

So why is it a big deal?  

The first problem is fact checking. Don't make up quotes !!  

Second, don't call a manual of "Church History" unless it is verifiable.  A third hand quote isn't good enough to put in a book for children.    

The lesson in the manual is about the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.   There are lots of verifiable accounts related the their death, there is no need to use fabricated stories.

Gifted historian Dean Jessee's wrote the following about the book “Church History”, "The sheer number of scribes, inadequate contemporary source material, many authors, breaks in actual writing all point to a document that must be seriously evaluated before basing conclusions about the past."  Source

Other quotes about the myth:
"A year before his assassination, the Prophet Joseph Smith told his close friend and personal secretary, Dr. Willard Richards, that the time would come when balls would fly around Willard like hail, and he would see his friends fall on the right and on the left, but there would not be a hole in Willard’s garments."  Source

“Willard, you will stand where the balls will fly around you like hail and men will fall dead by your side, and there never shall a ball injure you”. (Recollection of Brigham Young, unpublished discourse of July 14, 1861, Church Archives; quoted in Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet, p.123)

“With no thought for his own safety, Brother Richards rushed to the window, determined to see the end of the Prophet he loved. Miraculously, in fulfillment of Joseph’s prophecy, Elder Richards was preserved without even a hole in his garments.” Source

Summary:  Willard Richards was very lucky to survive the shootout at the Carthage Jail, but Brigham Young used the story to create a false miracle about Joseph Smith predicting it in advance....and the Primary Manual took it one step further by lying about him not getting hurt.  

Some other fun facts about the Carthage Story:

Joseph and Hyrum weren't wearing their garments!!
“Elder John Taylor confirmed the saying that Joseph and Hyrum and himself were without their robes in the jail at Carthage, while Doctor Richards had his on, but corrected the idea that some had, that they had taken them off through fear. W. W. Phelps said Joseph told him one day about that time, that he had laid aside his garment on account of the hot weather” (An IntimateChronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, 222)

Read More lies told in the "Church History" Primary Manual:


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