An Answer Given To

Brian J. Andrus


D. Calvin Andrus
14 March 1998

In the book of Revelations, John describes 4 horses (white, red, black, and pale) in association with the first four seals marking the end of the world:

AND I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse [that was] red: and [power] was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and [see] thou hurt not the oil and the wine. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. (Revelation 6:1-8)

In the mid-1850's, a fellow named Edwin Rushton wrote what he claimed was a prophecy given by the Prophet Joseph Smith in May 1843 to him (Rushton) and another fellow named Theodore Turley. (Turley, by the way, was a fairly close associate with the Prophet Joseph.) Joseph is attributed as having said he would use John's four colored horses to as a metaphor in this prophecy. Because the white horse figures so prominently in this alleged prophecy, the work itself came to be known as the White Horse Prophecy. [Follow this link for the full text of the prophecy.] In this work--which is about events leading up to the second coming of the Savior--the White Horse represents the the Mormon people living in the Rocky Mountains; the Red Horse is not distinctly identified, but could refer to either the American Indians or to the British (Red Coats); The Black Horse refers to African Slaves, and the Pale Horse to the American People.

The work was circulated rather widely at the time and achieved somewhat of a following. It clearly picks up on various points of Mormon doctrine, which gives it a somewhat authentic feel. The prophecy, however, appeals to mid-19th century biases and prejudices that are offensive to the late 20th-century reader. It has a very Anglo-Saxon centric view of the world, evincing what Kipling later sarcastically called the "White Man's Burden." It makes a number of predictions--the outcomes of which were unknown in 1843, but had come to pass by the mid-1850's. It also makes a number of other predictions that have proven false with time. Some of the predictions would be still in our future.

Church leaders were in possession of the alleged prophecy as soon as it was published but did not recognize it as having any authenticity. It did not really fade away as most forgeries do, so the Church came out with an official denunciation. Joseph Fielding Smith gave a talk in the October 1918 General Conference about false prophecy. He refers to the the White Horse Prophecy.

I have discovered that people have copies of a purported vision by the Prophet Joseph Smith given in Nauvoo, and some people are circulating this supposed vision, or revelation, or conversation which the prophet is reported to have held with a number of individuals in the city of Nauvoo. I want to say to you, my brethren and sisters, that if you understand the Church articles and covenants, if you will read the scriptures and become familiar with those things which are recorded in the revelations from the Lord, it will not be necessary for you to ask any questions in regard to the authenticity or otherwise of any purported revelation, vision, or manifestation that proceeds out of darkness, concocted in some corner, surreptitiously presented, and not coming through the proper channels of the Church. Let me add that when a revelation comes for the guidance of this people, you may be sure that it will not be presented in some mysterious manner contrary to the order of the Church. It will go forth in such form that the people will understand that it comes from those who are in authority, for it will be sent either to the presidents of stakes and the bishops of the wards over the signatures of the presiding authorities, Or it will be published in some of the regular papers or magazines under the control and direction of the Church or it will be presented before such a gathering as this, at a general conference. It will not spring up in some distant part of the Church and be in the hands of some obscure individual without authority, and thus be circulated among the Latter-day Saints. Now, you may remember this. (Joseph F. Smith, Jr., Conference Report, October 1918, p.55.)

At the conclusion of Elder Smith's talk, his father and President of the Church--Joseph F. Smith--added a short four-paragraph addendum in which he makes reference to the falsity of the White Horse Prophesy.

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, is a matter that was gotten up, I understand, some ten years after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by two of our brethren who put together some broken sentences from the Prophet that they may have-heard him utter from time to time, and formulated this so called revelation out of it, and it was never spoken by the prophet in the manner in which they have out it forth. It is simply false: that is all there is to it. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October 1918, p.58.)

With this the White Horse Prophecy seems to have lost its appeal. In the early 1960's the Prophecy made somewhat of a revival with the publication of Duane S. Crowther's Prophecy - Key to the Future (Salt Lake City, Utah, Bookcraft: 1962). He does a thorough analysis of the text in Appendix II, showing correlations with other "accepted" writings and concludes that the Prophecy is authentic. Some 35 years later, however, the prophecy seems to have faded into obscurity.

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