Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"The White Horse Prophecy"

Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have heard about something called "The White Horse Prophecy," but few understand its origins and implications.

In this recent political campaign cycle an unwise Idaho gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Rex Rammell, the Tea Party's darling, was forming groups encouraging others to study "the White Horse prophecy" in depth.  Only priesthood brethren were invited and were instructed to go home and tell their wives. 

In advance of the primary election, on January 6, 2010, the Church was compelled to clarify the matter with this statement:

Two weeks ago The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement regarding the so-called "White Horse prophecy" in response to news inquiries regarding comments made by an Idaho politician. The matter has received additional coverage in the news media of late and so we reiterate that statement here:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is politically neutral and does not endorse or promote any candidate, party or platform. Accordingly, we hope that the campaign practices of political candidates would not suggest that their candidacy is supported by or connected to the church.
 "The so-called 'White Horse Prophecy' is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine."
Rammell's candidacy did elicit some support, if not entirely because of the controversy.  In the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, he lost, but the veterinarian was successful in beating incumbent, C.L. "Butch" Otter in two counties and tying him in another. Rammell's number one county was Benewah where he polled nearly 58% of the vote to Otter's 33%. Rammell's number two county was Idaho County where he polled 46% to Otter's 40%. Both candidates polled 43% in Boundary County, with Otter receiving two votes more than Rammell. Many of the issues Rammell campaigned on were successfully passed as resolutions during the 2010 Idaho Republican Party Convention in Idaho Falls.
In the topsy-turvy world of national politics, however, rumors persist that Joseph Smith purportedly said something to the effect in a private conversation with two Church members that the day would come when the Constitution of the United States would "hang by a thread," and the "elders of the Church would be called upon to rescue it." 
The veracity and accuracy of the report of that conversation has always been in question because the recollections of the two men, Edwin Rushton and Theodore Turley, were not recorded in a diary by their friend, John J. Roberts, until ten years later when they were old men.  Roberts first heard about it in the 1850s.  As far as we know, the Prophet Joseph never taught anything like that publicly.
I believe the best in-depth treatment of this topic, if you're interested, is available here
It is clear there are numerous historical statements in support of the ideas expressed, but for the most part they are no better than the foundation upon which they rest -- the journal entry of a man who heard what two other men heard Joseph Smith say ten years earlier.  Not exactly reliable and sound investigative journalism.
Prior to Rammell's unsuccessful run for governor, the idea came up in both doomed presidential campaigns of Senator Orrin Hatch, then Governor Mitt Romney, both Mormons.  However, both disavowed the so-called "prophecy" then and so did the Church.  Politically, it's a negatively charged idea that the Church and/or its elders and/or an elder riding on a white horse (there are many possibilities) is somehow going to swoop in and take over the government that needs rescuing in a time of trouble.  Like most faith-promoting rumors, this one is lacking in substance when the facts are examined in depth. 
That we believe as a Church the Savior will return and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords is indisputable (see Revelation 17:14; 19:16 for example), but to say the Church is going to set up a replacement government before that time is irresponsible and unfounded on all fronts.

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