What The White Horse Prophecy Was and Wasn’t

Artistic depiction of the White Horse Policy

John J. Roberts recorded what came to be known as the White Horse Prophecy in his diary March 2, 1902, after returning from a mission to Samoa in February 1902. He said he heard the information from Robert Pierce (sometimes incorrectly notated as Page) on February 28, 1902. The connection between Pierce and Roberts and the original source of the prophecy, Edwin Rushton, is undocumented. Edwin Rushton is presumed to have recorded his recollections of his 1843 conversation with Joseph Smith around 1900.

According to Robert’s record (see full text below), Joseph Smith prophesied the calamities to befall America using Revelation’s four horses (white, red, black, and pale) to represent groups  of people. The white horse referred to people in the Rocky Mountains seeking to establish Zion. The pale horse referred to others in the United States. The groups represented by the red and black horses were not specifically identified. The White Horse prophecy warned against rampant wickedness throughout the United States–and ultimately the world–political upheaval, and financial crisis. Amidst the calamities, people would seek the White Horse for safety. Also during this time of crisis, the United States’ Constitution would be in jeopardy, and the White Horse and the Red Horse would combine forces to save it. Unfortunately, historical anachronisms also riddle and undermine the text’s validity–i.e. the text said England and France were bitter rivals, but in 1843, they were allies.

For a statement to be binding to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, it must be presented to the Church by the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Church of Jesus Christ has neither canonized the White Horse Prophecy nor accepted the validity of this account.

What the White Horse Prophecy Was

  1. Recollections of a conversation decades after it occurred.
  2. Recorded by men who were staunch supporters of Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  3. Refuted by church leaders in the October 1918 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….is simply false; that is all there is to it” President Joseph F. Smith (Conference Report, October 1918).

“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 … 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.” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith (Conference Report, October 1918).

What the White Horse Prophecy Wasn’t

  1. Corroborated by Joseph Smith as to what he actually said or meant, or confirmed by the other man, Theodore Turley, who supposedly participated in the conversation, but died August 12, 1871, before the recollections were recorded. Theodore Turley is my 4th great grandfather and meticulously recorded his life. I have not found a reference to the White Horse Prophecy in his diaries.
  2. A reliable prophecy based on the Lord’s pattern of revealing doctrine to His church. (See Joseph Fielding Smith’s quote above.)
  3. Accepted doctrinally by the Church. The Church maintains political neutrality in the United States and in nations around the world.  The 12th Article of Faith (written by Joseph Smith and accepted as scripture by the Church in 1880) states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying honoring and sustaining the law.”

 The Church of Jesus Christ made a formal policy announcement specifically about the White Horse Prophecy during the 2010 campaign season.

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.

  1. A call to take over the United States government.

 The Constitution Hanging by a Thread

United States Constitution

Latter-day Saints revere the Constitution of the United States as divinely inspired. In Doctrine and Covenants 101:80, the Lord declared “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose….”

The White Horse Prophecy warned that corruption will jeopardize the Constitution. This document, however, was not the single source of warning or call to action for Elders of Israel to uphold the Constitution. The Gospel of Jesus Christ promotes the freedoms and inalienable rights of mankind. As such, Latter-day Saints should honor and promote these Constitutional rights as good citizens. The call to action is not to take over the government, but to honor and sustain its righteous leadership.

“According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-78).

Joseph Smith’s prophecies concerning the Constitution’s peril were widely recorded and discussed. While speaking in Nauvoo of the redemption of Zion on July 19, 1840, Joseph said,

“Even this nation will be on the verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the Constitution is on the brink of ruin this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” (Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Historical Archives, Box 1, March 10, 1844.)

Joseph F. Smith:

“Joseph Smith, the prophet, was inspired to affirm and ratify this truth, and he further predicted that the time would come, when the Constitution of our country would hang as it were by a thread, and that the Latter-day Saints above all other people in the world would come to the rescue of that great and glorious palladium of our liberty” (Conference Report, October 1912, p 11).

Charles W. Nibley:

“My brethren and sisters, I hope that we will go home from this conference determined as a great body of people, to stand for law, order, righteousness, justice and peace on earth and good will among all men. I believe as the Prophet Joseph has written, that the day would come when there would be so much of disorder, of secret combinations taking the law into their own hands, tramping upon Constitutional rights and the liberties of the people, that the Constitution would hang as by a thread. Yes, but it will still hang, and there will be enough of good people, many who may not belong to our Church at all, people who have respect for law and for order, and for Constitutional rights, who will rally around with us and save the Constitution. I have never read that that thread would be cut. It will hang; the Constitution will abide and this civilization, that the Lord has caused to be built up, will stand fortified through the power of God, by putting from our hearts all that is evil, or that is wrong in the sight of God, by our living as we should live, acceptable to him” (Conference Report, October 1922, p 40).

Melvin J. Ballard:

“I believe that it is the destiny of the Latter-day Saints to support the Constitution of the United States. The Prophet Joseph Smith is alleged to have said—and I believe he did say it—that the day would come when the Constitution would hang as by a thread. But he saw that the thread did not break, thank the Lord, and that the Latter-day Saints would become a balance of power, with others, to preserve that Constitution. … Where do Latter-day Saints belong? Their place is to rally to the support of that Constitution, and maintain it and defend it and support it by their lives and by their vote” (Conference Report, April 1933, p 127).

L. Tom Perry:

“Corruption, crime, dishonesty, immorality, pollution, laziness, devotion only to special interests—these are signs that precede the fall of great civilizations. … I realize the promise that has been given to us in this great land of America. I also remember the prophecies concerning our great responsibilities to preserve that which we have been blessed with by God. … This is the time for you to be bold enough to stand up for what you believe, to let the world know that God still blesses this great land of America—if we will live righteously, according to that which he has commanded. … Will you have the courage to stand up with me and be counted with those who would preserve this land of the free through the righteousness of its people?” (“God’s Hand in the Founding of America,” New Era, July 1976).

In an April 2014 meeting with Seventh-day Adventist Leaders, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy said, “In a world that needs more faith, more focus on family and now a defense of religious freedom, we are trying to join with people of good faith like you to help fight these very basic battles that are going on in the world.”

White Horse Prophecy Text 

Along with arguing the falsity of Edwin Rushton’s White Horse Prophecy, Don L. Penrod detailed the copying, dating, and embellishment flaws between Edwin Rushton’s original composition and the next known revision, written in another hand, but signed by Rushton. He also provided the full transcription and image shots of both the original and revised manuscripts in his 2010 BYU Studies article.

This version of the text, allegedly recorded by John J. Roberts, is the most pervasive on the internet. Other internet versions of this text are are heavily revised and embellished, too.

On about the 6th of May, 1843, a Grand Review of the Nauvoo Legion was held in Nauvoo [Illinois]. The Prophet Joseph Smith complimented them for their good discipline and evolutions performed. The weather being hot, he called for a glass of water. With the glass of water in his hand he said, “I drink to you a toast to the overthrow of the Mobocrats,” which he did in the following language:

“Here’s wishing they were in the middle of the sea in a stone canoe with iron paddles and that a shark swallowed the canoe and the Devil swallowed the shark and himself locked up in the northwest corner of Hell, the key lost and a blind man hunting it.”

The next morning a man who had heard the Prophet give the toast returned to visit the mansion of the Prophet and so abused him with bad language that he was ordered out by the Prophet. It was while the two were out that my attention was attracted to them and hearing the man speaking in a loud tone of voice, I went toward them, the man finally leaving. There were then present the Prophet, Theodore Turley and myself [Edwin Rushton]. The Prophet began talking to us of the mobbings and deriding and persecutions we as a people had endured, “but we will have worse things to see. Our persecutors will have all the mobbings they want. Don’t wish them any harm, for when you see their sufferings you will shed bitter tears for them.”

While this conversation was going on we stood by his south wicket gate in a triangle. Turning to me he said: “I want to tell you something. I will speak a parable like unto John the Revelator. You will go to the Rocky Mountains. And you will be a great and mighty people, established there, which I will call the White Horse of Peace and Safety. When the Prophet said, “You will see it,” I asked him, “Where will you be at that time?” He said, “I shall never go there. Your enemies will continue to follow you with persecutions and will make obnoxious laws against you in Congress to destroy the White Horse, but you will have a friend or two to defend you to throw out the worst part of the law so they will not hurt you so much. You must continue to petition Congress all the time, but they will treat you like strangers and aliens, and they will not give you your rights but will govern you with strangers and commissioners. You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber.” At that time the Prophet’s countenance became sad, because as he said, “I love the Constitution; it was made by the inspiration of God; and it will be preserved and saved by the efforts of the White Horse, and by the Red Horse who will combine in its defense. The White Horse will find the mountains full of minerals and they will become very rich (at this time, it must be remembered, the precious metals were not known to exist in either the Rocky Mountains or California). You will see silver piled up in the streets. You will see gold shoveled up like sand. Gold will be of little value then even in a mercantile capacity; for the people of the world will have something else to do in seeking for salvation. The time will come when the banks of every nation will fail and only two places will be safe where people can deposit their gold and treasure. These places will be the White Horse and England’s vaults. A terrible revolution will take place in the land of America, such as has never been seen before; for the land will be left without a Supreme Government, and every specie of wickedness be practiced rampantly in the land. Father will be against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother. The most terrible scenes of bloodshed, murder and rape that have ever been imagined or looked upon will take place. People will be taken from the earth and there will be no peace and love only in the Rocky Mountains. This will cause many hundreds of thousands of the honest in heart of the world to gather there, not because they would be Saints, but for safety and because they will be so numerous that you will be in danger of famine, but not for the want of seed, time and harvest, but because of so many to be fed. Many will come with bundles under their arms to escape the calamities for there will be no escape except only by escaping and fleeing to Zion. Those that come to you will try to keep the laws and be one with you for they will see your unity and the greatness of your organization. The Turkish Empire or the Crescent will be the first power to be disputed, for freedom must be given for the Gospel to be preached in the Holy Land. The Lord took of the best blood of the nations and planted them on the small islands now called England and Great Britain and gave them great power in the nations for a thousand years and their power will continue with them, that they may keep the balance of power; and they will keep Russia from usurping her power over the world. England and France are now bitter enemies but they will be allied together and be united to keep Russia from conquering the world. The two Popes, Greek and Catholic, will eventually come together in their decline and be united. The Protestant Religions do not know how much they are indebted to Henry the VIII for throwing off the Pope’s bill and establishing the Protestant faith. He was the only monarch who could do so at the time and he did it because the nation was at his back to sustain him. One of the peculiar features in England is the established Red-coat; a uniform making so remarkable a mark to shoot at, and yet they have conquered wherever they have gone. The reason for this will be known by them some day as red is seen in a different color threading through under all history. The lion and the unicorn of England comes from there being so much of the blood of Israel in the nation. While the terrible things of which I have mentioned are going on, England will be neutral until it becomes so inhuman that she will interfere to stop the shedding of blood and history will be more properly understood. England and France will unite together to make peace, not to subdue the nations.  She will find this nation so broken up and so many claiming government, till there will be no reasonable government. Then it will appear to the other nations, or powers, as though England had taken possession of the country. The Black Horse will flee to the invaders and will join them for they have fear of becoming slaves again; knowing England did not believe in slavery, they will flee to them that they believe will make them safe. Armed with British bayonets, the doings of the Black Horse will be terrible.” Here the Prophet said that he could not bear to look longer upon the scenes as shown to him in vision and asked the Lord to close the scenes.

Continuing, he said. “During this time the great White Horse will have gathered strength, sending out elders to gather the honest in heart among the Pale Horse, or people of the United States, to stand by the Constitution of the United States, as it was given by inspiration of God. In these days which are yet to come God will set up a Kingdom never to be thrown down, but other Kingdoms to come into it, and those Kingdoms that will not let the Gospel be preached will be humbled until they will.”

“England then Germany, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium, have a considerable amount of the blood of Israel among the people which must be gathered out. These nations will submit to the nations of God. England will be the last of the nations to surrender, but when she does she will do it as a whole in comparison as she threw off the Catholic power. The nobility knows that the gospel is true, but it has not pomp enough, and grandeur and influence for them to yet embrace it. They are proud and will not acknowledge the Kingdom of God or come into it until they see the power it will have. Peace and safety in the Rocky Mountains will be protected by the Guardians, the White Horse and the Red Horses. The coming of the Messiah among his people will be so natural that only those who see him will know that he has come, but he will come and give his laws unto Zion and minister unto His people. This will not be his coming in the clouds of heaven to take vengeance on the wicked of the world.”

“The temple in Jackson county, Missouri, will be built in that generation. The saints will think that there will not be time to build it, but with all the help you can receive, you can put up a great temple quickly. You will have all the gold, silver, and precious stones you need, for these things will only be for the beautifying of the temple. Also, all the skilled mechanics you want and the Ten Tribes of Israel will help build it. When you see this land bound with iron, you may look forward to Jackson county.”

At this point, he made a pause, and looking up as though the vision were still in view, he said: “There is a land beyond the Rocky Mountains that will be invaded by the heathen Chinese unless great care and protection be given.” Speaking of the heathen nations, he said: “Where there is no law there is no condemnation; this will apply to them. Power will be given the White Horse to rebuke nations afar off, and you obey it, for the laws go forth from Zion. The last great struggle that Zion will ever have to contend with will be when the whole of America will be made the Zion of God. Those opposing will be called Gog and Magog. The nations of the earth will be led by the Russian Czar and his power will be great, but all opposition will be overcome and this land will be the Zion of our God. Amen.” (Roberts, John J, Reminiscences and Diaries 1898-1902, Microfilm Manuscript. Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love exploring the world, experiencing nature, assimilating truth, and hanging out with my husband. One of my life goals is to visit every LDS temple in the world. I've been to 101.