Hey guys, so whenever a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints runs for political office you might start to hear talk about something called the “White Horse” prophecy. People both inside and outside our faith understandably have lots of questions about what that prophecy is and whether or not it’s legit, so let’s talk about it!
OK, so the White Horse prophecy is purportedly a prophecy given by Joseph Smith in 1843 in the presence of two other people: Edwin Rushton and Theodore Turley. The earliest written record we have of the prophecy is from Edwin Rushton, written sometime after 1890. Rushton would have been around 70i-ish years old, recalling an event from when he was about 20 years old. And Turley wouldn’t have been much help, because he was super dead by the 1890s.
But according to the prophecy, at some point in the future…
“You will See the Constitution of the United States almost Destroyed so that it will only be saved as it were by a thread … and it would be Saved By the White Horse and red Horse Combined In its defence…”
OK, so in the Book of Revelation, we read about the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. They ride on a white horse, a red horse, a black horse, and a pale horse. In the White Horse prophecy, the White Horse represents members of the Church. An interpretation of what the Red Horse represents is not given. It is hinted that the Black Horse represents freed slaves of African descent. And the Pale Horse represents the people of the United States.
So according to the prophecy, the White Horse (or the Church), along with whatever the Red Horse is, are to somehow save the Constitution.
Now, while the White Horse prophecy gets talked about a lot, what most people don’t know is that the Church does not consider it legitimate. In 1918 after copies of a revision of the prophecy started gaining popularity, President Joseph F. Smith said in general conference:
“The ridiculous story about the “red horse,” and “the black horse,” and “the white horse,” and a lot of trash that has been circulated about and printed and sent around as a great revelation given by the Prophet Joseph Smith … was never spoken by the prophet in the manner in which they have put it forth. It is simply false; that is all there is to it.”
More recently, you’ve got this quote from Bruce R. McConkie:
“From time to time, accounts of various supposed visions, revelations, and prophecies are spread forth by and among the Latter-day Saints, who should know better than to believe or spread such false information. One of these false and deceptive documents that has cropped up again and again for over a century is the so-called White Horse Prophecy. This supposed prophecy purports to be a long and detailed account by the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the wars, turmoils, and difficulties which should exist in the last days.”
And even more recently, in 2010 the Church made the following statement: “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.”
There are lots of issues with Edwin Rushton’s recollection of the event, which you can read all about via the links in the description. But, you may be wondering, if the Church has disavowed this prophecy so many times, why do people still think it’s actually a thing? Well, probably because parts of it are based on more reliable statements, and parts are not. For example,
What you’re looking at right now, which you can pause and read if you’d like, are multiple statements made in 1840 and 1843 reporting that on multiple occasions Joseph talked about the Constitution of the United States being in danger in the future, and the Latter-day Saints having a role in preserving it.
Brigham Young and several other Church leaders have referenced this idea of the Constitution one day “hanging by a thread.” Thus, while not canonized in scripture, Latter-day Saints generally believe this specific detail to be prophetic. BUT you’ll notice that in none of these accounts is anything said whatsoever of these different colored horses—until the Rushton account, decades later. Hence the folklore status of this horse business.
But even if Joseph did say something about horses in a private conversation to Rushton and Turley that day, the fact that he never spoke about it publicly or presented it as a revelation to the Church clearly indicates that he never intended it to become what it has since become.
Moral of the story: Maybe I’m beating a dead horse at this point, but the White Horse Prophecy, for good reason, is not accepted by the Church as legitimate. Next time you hear someone talking about it, tell them to hold their horses, have a little horse sense, and take this thing with a huge grain of salt-lick. Really, it’s time we put the whole thing out to pasture. … OK, I’m done. I’m just horsing around at this point.
If you have questions you might find answers in the links and notes in the description, and we’ll see you next time.
- Fantastic summary on this topic by George Cobabe: https://bit.ly/2UoC1Nn
- Answering some common questions about the White Horse Prophecy: https://bit.ly/2QsxsjI
- Edwin Rushton as the Source of the White Horse Prophecy (BYU): https://bit.ly/3a4npJx
- Read Edwin Rushton’s original account (starting on pg. 31/101): https://bit.ly/2Ws1VSY
- John Roberts’ version of Rushton’s “White Horse Prophecy” account: https://bit.ly/2Uk07Zr
- Another copy of Roberts’ version: https://bit.ly/3ddybPD
- Yet another: https://bit.ly/3dgByoP
- Last one: https://bit.ly/3ddMdRd