Joseph Smith’s Prophecies regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its rise in the Rocky Mountains
Joseph predicts that the church would move to the Intermountain West and flourish, but he would not be with them. He also mapped out the path they would end up taking.
From Anson Call we read the following:
I had a conversation with a number of brethren in the shade of the building on the subject of our persecutions in Missouri and the constant annoyance which has followed us since we were driven from that state. I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains; many would apostatize, others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
[Among those present when this prediction was uttered was Elder Anson Call, who has left on record additional details respecting this remarkable prediction. He says that in the shade of the building mentioned was a barrel of ice water, and the men were drinking it to quench their thirst on the hot August day. Following is Anson’s account:]
“With the tumbler still in his hand he prophesied that the Saints would go to the Rocky Mountains: and, said he, ‘this water tastes much like that of the crystal streams that are running from the snowcapped mountains. . . .’ I had before seen him in a vision and now saw while he was talking his countenance changed to white, not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living brilliant white. He seemed absorbed in gazing at something at a great distance and said: ‘I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains.’ This was followed by a vivid description of the scenery of these mountains as I have since become acquainted with it.
“Pointing to Shadrach Roundy and others he said: ‘There are some men here who shall do a great work in that land.’
Pointing to me, he said: ‘There is Anson, he shall go and shall assist in building up cities from one end of the country to the other and you,’ rather extending the idea to all those he had spoken of, ‘shall perform as great a work as has been done by man; so that the nations of the earth shall be astonished; and many of them will be gathered in that land and assist in building cities and temples and Israel shall be made to rejoice.’
“It was impossible to represent in words this scene, which is still vivid in my mind, of the grandeur of Joseph’s appearance, his beautiful descriptions of this land and his wonderful prophetic utterances as they emanated from the glorious inspiration that overshadowed him. (Leon R. Hartsorn, Classic stories from the lives of the prophets. See also: Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:85-86).
Wilford Woodruff reports on Joseph’s vision for the Church:
On Sunday (April 26, 1834) night the Prophet called us all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland, and who had gathered together to go off in Zion’s Camp. That was the first time I ever saw Oliver Cowdery, or heard him speak; the first time I ever saw Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, and the two Pratts, and Orson Hyde and many others. There were no Apostles in the Church then except Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel with him to bear testimony of this work. Those that I have named spoke, and a good many that I have not named, bore their testimonies.
When they got through the Prophet said, “Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.” I was rather surprised. He said “It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.” Among other things he said, “it will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-days Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains, and there they will open the door for the establishing of the Gospel among the Lamanites, who will receive the Gospel and their endowments and the blessings of God. This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains.”
I name these things because I want to bear testimony before God, angels, and men that mine eyes behold the day, and have beheld for the last fifty years of my life, the fulfilment of that prophecy. I never expected to see the Rocky Mountains when I listened to that man’s voice, but I have, and do today. I will say here that I shall not live to see it, you may not live to see it; but these thousands of Latter-day Saint children that belong to the Sabbath schools, I believe many of them will stand in the flesh when the Lord Jesus Christ visits the Zion of God here in the mountains of Israel.
(Conference Report, 6 April 1898, 57; see also Collected Discourses, edited by Brian H. Stuy, 5 vols. (Burbank, California, and Woodland Hills, Utah: B. H. S. Publishing, 1987-92), 3:85).
JOSEPH UNDERSTOOD THE INTENTION TO MOVE WEST. In the pioneer journey, coming here, we had to come by faith; we knew nothing about this country, but we intended to come to the mountains. Joseph had organized a company to come here, before his death. He had these things before him, and understood them perfectly.—JD 13:160, December 12, 1869.
THE PROPHET’S KNOWLEDGE. The Prophet Joseph knew what he was doing; in fact, he knew much more than he dared to tell on account of the prejudice, traditions, and unbelief of the people.—JD 24:54, January 27, 1883.
Brigham Young continued the idea of westward immigration, but did not take credit for it. On one occasion he stated that “I did not devise the great scheme of the Lord’s opening the way to send this people to these mountains. Joseph Smith contemplated the move for years before it took place, but he could not get here.” (JD 4:41)
On another occasion he explained: “When the pioneers left the confines of civilization we were not seeking a country on the Pacific, neither a county to the north or south; we were seeking a country which had been pointed out by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the great North American Continent.” (JD 16:207)
Joseph Smith had even drawn out the route which the Saints would follow as they moved to the West. One of the pioneers George H. Goddard… left on record the statement that he was present in the Masonic Hall in Nauvoo when Joseph Smith mapped out on the floor with a piece of chalk the Great Basin of western America, indicating the course they would follow across the continent. (McGavin, E. Cecil, Nauvoo the Beautiful, Salt Lake City, Stevens and Wallis, 1946, p. 127)
Hopkins C. Pendar also reported that “Joseph Smith just before he was killed, made a sketch of the future home of the Saints in the Rocky Mountains and their route or road to that country as he had seen [it] in vision; a map or drawing of it.” A copy of this map was either made by the Prophet or by Levi W. Hancock, and other copies then made from it. Brigham Young kept one copy, and “one was carried by the Mormon Battalion by which they knew where to find the Church, or Salt Lake Valley.” (Diary of Oliver B. Huntington, Vol. 2, p. 425. A typewritten copy is available in the Special Collections Room of the BYU Library).
Mosiah Hancock, the son of Levi, added more background on this matter by reporting a visit by Joseph Smith to his father’s home, shortly before his departure for Carthage:
The Prophet came to our home and stopped in our carpenter shop and stood by the turning lathe. I went and got my map for him. “Now,” said he, “I will show you the travels of this people.” He then showed our travels through Iowa, and said, “Here you will make a place for the winter; and here you will travel west until you come to the valley of the Great Salt Lake! You will build cities to the North and to the South, and to the East and to the West; you will then become a great and wealthy people in that land.” (The Life Story of Mosiah Lyman Hancock, p. 28. A typewritten copy is available in the Special Collections Room of the BYU Library).