Constitution Hanging by a Thread
During these times of international stress, threats of revolution and internal threats to our country and the Constitution itself an increasing number of people are quoting from The White Horse Prophecy said to be given by Joseph Smith in May of 1843. Among other things he said:
“You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed; it will hang by a thread, and that thread as fine as the finest silk fiber.”
At this point 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 (LDS Elders – or gathered lights) and the Red Horse (American Indians) who will combine in its defense.
…”There is a land beyond the Rocky Mountains that will be invaded by the heathen Chinese, unless great care and protection are given.
This was recorded by Edwin Rushton in a notarized statement with the following testimony:
“The words of the Prophet made a strong impression upon me. I have never forgotten them. On an occasion about two weeks later, after I first heard him speak these words, I was at a meeting where he preached a sermon, which he said would be the greatest of his life. On that occasion he reiterated the matter which I have now written, so that the subject became firmly rooted in my memory, and I know them to be true. Now, therefore, I testify that these are the inspired words spoken by the Prophet, Joseph Smith, as he stood looking up into heaven. His countenance became white and transparent; he looked as if he had as much of the Heavenly influence as he could bear and stay with the saints. His voice was powerful and his words cut like a two-edged sword.”
THE WHITE HORSE PROPHECY by Ogden Kraut, Page 25
The strange thing about this prediction is that even though it seems to have an eerie probability of coming to pass that the authorities in the church have distanced themselves from the prediction many calling it spurious. Not only that but many who quote from it are blacklisted and find their membership is in danger.
It is strange indeed that the apparent heroes of the prophesy fight against quoting that very prophesy. Perhaps the White Horse was more of a symbol of the Gathering of Lights than the church itself.
Here is a quote from the famous church Apostle 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.”
It is interesting that there is so much resistance to the “hanging by a thread quote because there are many quote available attributed to early church leaders who actually knew Joseph Smith. It appears that Joseph may have given this statement out on numerous occasions. Here are a few examples:
CONSTITUTION TO HANG BY A THREAD. The statement has been made that the Prophet said the time would come when this Constitution would hang as by a thread, and this is true. There has been some confusion, however, as to just what he said following this. I think that Elder Orson Hyde has given us a correct interpretation wherein he says that the Prophet said the Constitution would be in danger. Said Orson Hyde: “I believe he said something like this—that the time would come when the Constitution and the country would be in danger of an overthrow; and said he: ‘If the Constitution be saved at all, it will be by the elders of this Church.’ I believe this is about the language, as nearly as I can recollect it.” Now I tell you it is time the people of the United States were waking up with the understanding that if they don’t save the Constitution from the dangers that threaten it, we will have a change of government.
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, p. 326
An occasional theme among Latter-day Saints during times of political crisis has been the prediction attributed to Joseph Smith that the U.S. Constitution would one day hang by a thread and that the elders of the Church would at some critical juncture be instrumental in saving it. The source of this statement is thought to be an unpublished address titled, “A Few Items from a Discourse Delivered by Joseph Smith, July 19, 1840,” filed in the Joseph Smith Papers in the LDS Church Archives. Written neatly on 8”x12” paper, the document is obviously a copy since it shows none of the usual characteristics of an original report. The paper appears to be of post-Nauvoo vintage, and the handwriting does not correspond to that of any of Joseph Smith’s known clerks. Nor is there reference in the Prophet’s History to his having delivered a discourse on 19 July 1840. Furthermore, at two points in the text, there appears to be a serious problem of continuity, suggesting copyist’s errors or some other flaw in the manuscript. Consequently, in the absence of an original text, and without information about its origin and authorship, the reliability of this document has remained somewhat tenuous.
The Historians Corner, BYU Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, p. 390
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
How long will it be before the words of the Prophet Joseph will be fulfilled? He said if the Constitution of the United States were saved at all it must be done by this people. It will not be many years before these words come to pass.
Brigham Young, JD 12:204, April 8, 1868, Latter Day Prophets Speaks. Pg. 230
When the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they will have to call for the “Mormon” elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it.
Brigham Young, JD 2:182, February 18, 1855, Latter Day Prophets Speaks. Pg. 230
When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States, the elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men and extending the hand of fellowship to the oppressed of all nations. This is part of the program and as long as we do what is right and fear God He will help us and stand by us under all circumstances.
John Taylor, JD 21:8, August 31, 1879
Will the Constitution be destroyed? No: it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.” It will be so.
Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p. 15, Brigham Young, July 4, 1854
The History of the Church account is an amalgamation of the reports in the Joseph Smith Diary and the Nauvoo Neighbor. The report by Levi Richards is here published for the first time. A reminiscent account of this discourse by James Burgess contains the essential details found in the other three accounts published here, and adds that the “Constitution and Government would hang by a brittle thread.” / In the month of May 1843. Several miles east of Nauvoo. The Nauvoo Legion was on parade and review. At the close of which Joseph Smith made some remarks upon our condition as a people and upon our future prospects contrasting our present condition with our past trials and persecutions by the hands of our enemies. Also upon the constitution and government of the United States stating that the time would come when the Constitution and Government would hang by a brittle thread and would be ready to fall into other hands but this people the Latter day Saints will step forth and save it. / General Scott and part of his staff on the American Army was present on the occasion. I James Burgess was present and testify to the above
(James Burgess Notebook, Church Archives). (Ehat & Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 6 May 1843 Note, p. 279)
If tradition can be relied upon, Joseph Smith prophesied that the Elders of Israel would save this Nation in the hour of its extremest peril. At a time when anarchy would threaten the life of the Government, and the Constitution be hanging as by a thread, the maligned and misunderstood “Mormons”—always patriotic, and necessarily so from the very genius of their religion—would stand firm upon Freedom’s rocky ramparts, and as champions of law and order, liberty and justice, call to their aid in the same grand cause kindred [p.61] spirits from every part of the nation and from every corner of the world.
Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Historical Archives, Box 1, March 10, 1844 Also: D. Michael Stewart, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, June 1976, 64-65
Eliza R. Snow said, “I heard the prophet say, The time will come when the government of these United States will be so nearly overthrown through its corruption, that the Constitution will hang as it were by a single hair, and the Latter-day Saints-the Elders of Israel-will step forward to its rescue and save it.
In a Pioneer Day celebration in Ogden in 1871 – Journal History, MSF 143 #28, July 24, 1871
Jedediah M. Grant, during the dark days of threatened invasion of Utah by a federal army, referred to the Prophet’s utterance as he addressed a Mormon Battalion gathering in Salt Lake City, February 6, 1855. “What did the Prophet Joseph say? When the Constitution shall be tottering we shall be the people to save it from the hand of the foe.”
Deseret News Weekly, January 19, 1870
After reading a chapter in Ezekiel, the parable of the 12 olive trees in D&C 101:44-62, and referring to the Redemption of Zion, he said: We shall build the Zion of the Lord in peace until the servants of that Lord shall begin to lay the foundation of a great and high watch Tower and then shall they begin to say within themselves what need hath my Lord of this tower seeing this is a time of peace &c—Then the Enemy shall come as a thief in the night and scatter the servants abroad when the seed of these 12 Olive trees are scattered abroad they will wake up the Nations of the whole Earth Even this Nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the constitution is upon the brink of ruin this people will be the Staff upon which the Nation shall lean and they shall bear away the constitution away from the very verge of destruction—Then shall the Lord say go tell all my servants who are the strength of mine house my young men and middle aged &c come to the Land of my vineyard and fight the battle of the Lord—Then the Kings & Queens shall come then the rulers of the Earth shall come then shall ail saints come yea the Foreign saints shall come to fight for the Land of my vineyard for in this thing shall be their safety and they will have no power to choose but will come as a man fleeth from a sudden destruction—But before this the time shall be these who are now my friends shall become my enemies and shall seek to take my life and are there are those now before me who will more furiously pursue me and the more diligently seek to my life and be more blood thirsty upon my track than ever were the Missouri Mobbers You say among yourselves as did them of old time it is I & is it I But I know these things by the visions of the Almighty.
Smith, Joseph. “Howard and Martha Coray Notebook, 19 July 1840″. The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph. Comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook. Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1991. 415-418
In the month of May 1843. Several miles east of Nauvoo. The Nauvoo Legion was on parade and review. At the close of which Joseph Smith made some remarks upon our condition as a people and upon our future prospects contrasting our present condition with our past trials and persecutions by the hands of our enemies. Also upon the constitution and government of the United States stating that the time would come when the Constitution and Government would hang by a brittle thread and would be ready to fall into other hands but this people the Latter day Saints will step forth and save it. / General Scott and part of his staff on the American Army was present on the occasion. / I James Burgess was present and testify to the above (James Burgess Notebook, Church Archives).
Smith, Joseph. “Howard and Martha Coray Notebook, 1 July 1840″. The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph. Comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook. Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1991.Page 279
And here is the entire White Horse Prophecy:
1. On or about the sixth day of May, 1843, a grand review of the Nauvoo Legion was held in Nauvoo. The Prophet Joseph complimented them for their good discipline and evolutions performed. The weather being hot, he called for a glass of water.
2. With the glass of water in his hand, he said, “I will drink you a toast to the overthrow of the mobocrats,” which he did in language as follows: “Here’s wishing they were in the middle of the sea, in a stone canoe with iron paddles, and a shark swallow the canoe, and the Devil swallow the shark, and him locked up in the northwest corner of Hell, the key lost and a blind man hunting for it.”
3. The next morning a man who had heard the Prophet give the toast here referred to, visited the mansion of the Prophet, and so abused him with bad language, that he was ordered out by the Prophet.
4. 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 Joseph Smith, Theodore Turley and myself. The Prophet began talking to us of the mobbings and drivings, the persecutions we as a people had endured. “But,” said he, “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 tears for them.”
5. While this conversation was going on, we stood by his south wicker gate in a triangle. Turning to me, he said, “I want to tell you something. In the future I will speak in parables like unto John, the Revelator.” (Little did I then think the prophet of the Lord would so soon be slain in cold blood.)
6. Continuing, he said, “You will go to the Rocky Mountains, and you will see a great and mighty people established, which I will call the White Horse of Peace and Safety.”
7. When the Prophet said, “You will see,” I asked him where he would be at that time.” He answered, “I shall never go there.”
8. “Your enemies will continue to follow you with persecutions, and they will make obnoxious laws against you in Congress to destroy the White Horse.
9. “But you will have a friend or two to defend you and throw out the worst part of the laws, so they will not hurt much.
10. “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;
11. “You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed; it will hang by a thread, and that thread as fine as the finest silk fiber.”
12. At this point the Prophet’s countenance became sad; because as he said, “I love the Constitution;
13. “It was made by the inspiration of God,
14. “And it will be preserved and saved by the efforts of the White Horse and the Red Horse who will combine in its defense.
15. “The White Horse will raise an ensign on the tops of the mountains of peace and safety where all nations may flee unto for safety.
16. “The White Horse will find the mountains full of minerals, and they will become very rich. You will find silver piled up in the streets. (At this time, it must be remembered that it was not known that the precious metals existed either in the Rocky Mountains or in California.) You will see gold shoveled up like sand.
17. “Gold will be but of little value even in a mercantile capacity, for the people of the world will have something else to do in seeking for salvation.
 18.”The time will come when the banks in every nation will fail, and only two places will be safe where the people can deposit their gold and treasure. These places will be with the White Horse and England’s vaults.
19. “A terrible revolution will take place in the land of America, such as has never been seen before, for the land will be literally left without a supreme government, and every species of wickedness will run rampant; it will be so terrible that father will be against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother. The most terrible scenes of murder and bloodshed and rapine that have ever been looked upon will take place.
20. “Peace will be taken from the earth, and there will be no peace only in the Rocky Mountains. This will cause hundreds and thousands of the honest in heart of the world to gather there, not because they would be saints, but for safety, and because they would not take up the sword against their neighbors.
21. “You will be so numerous that you will be in danger of famine, but not for the want of seed time and harvest, but that so many will have to be fed. Many will come with bundles under their arms to escape the calamities, and there will be no escape, only by fleeing to Zion.
22. “Those that come to you will try and keep the laws and be one with you, for they will see your unity and the greatness of your organizations.
23. “The Turkish Empire or the Crescent will be one of the first powers that will be disrupted as a power, for freedom must be given for the Gospel to be preached in the Holy Land.
24.”The Lord took of the best blood of the nations, and planted them on the small island now called England, or Great Britain, and gave them great powers in the nations for a thousand years, and this power will continue with them, that they may keep the balance of power, that they may keep Russia from usurping power over all the world.
25. “England and France are now bitter enemies, but they will be allied together in order to keep Russia from conquering the world.
26. “The two Popes, Greek and Catholic, will come together and be united. The Protestant religions do not know how much they are indebted to Henry VIII for throwing off the Pope’s bull and establishing the Protestant faith. He was the only monarch that could do so at the time, and he did it because the nation was at his back to sustain him.
27. 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. The Lion and the Unicorn of England is the ensign of Israel. The wisdom and statesmanship of England comes from there being so much of the blood of Israel in the nation.
28. “While the terrible revolution of which mention has been made is going on, England will be neutral until it becomes so inhuman that she will interfere to stop the shedding of blood. England and France will then unite together and come with intention to make peace, not to subdue the nation. They will find the nation so broken up and so many claiming government, still there will be no  responsible government. Then it will appear to the other nations or powers as though England had taken possession of the country.
29. “The Black Horse will flee to the invaders and will join with them, for they will have fear of becoming slaves again, knowing England does not believe in slavery, fleeing to them, they believed would make them safe. Armed with British bayonets, the doings of the Black Horse will be terrible.”
30. So the Prophet said he could not bear to look longer upon the scene as shown him in vision, that he asked the Lord to close the scene.
31. Continuing, he said: “During this time, the great White Horse will have gathered strength, sending out elders to get the honest in heart of the United States to stand by the Constitution of the United States, as it was given by inspiration of the Lord.
32. “In these days, God will set up a kingdom, never to be thrown down, for other kingdoms to come unto, and these kingdoms that will not let the Gospel be preached will be humbled until they will.
33. “England, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium have a considerable amount of the blood of Israel among their people, which must be gathered. These nations will submit to the Kingdom of God. England will do it as a whole, in comparison as she threw off the Catholic power. The nobility know the Gospel is true, but it has not enough pomp and grandeur and influence for them to embrace it. They are proud and will not acknowledge the Kingdom of God, or come unto it until they see the power which it will have.
34. “Peace and safety in the Rocky Mountains will be protected by a cord and band of the White Horse and the Red Horse.
35. “The coming of the Ten Tribes of Israel, the coming of the Messiah among His people, will be so natural that only those who see Him will know He has come, but He will come and give His law unto Zion and minister unto His people. This will not be His coming in the clouds of heaven to take vengeance on the world.
36. The Temple in Jackson County will be built in this generation. The saints will think there will not be time to build it, but with all the great help you will receive, you can put up a great temple quickly. You will have gold, silver, and precious stones, for these things only will be used for beautifying the temple, all the skilled mechanics you want, and the Ten Tribes of Israel to help you build it. When you see this land bounded with iron, you may look toward Jackson County.”
37. At this point he made a pause, and looking up as though the vision was 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 are given. Speaking of the heathen, where there is no law there is no condemnation; this will apply to them.
38. “Power will be given the White Horse to rebuke nations afar off and they will obey, not that they will be one with the White Horse, but when the law goes forth, they will obey, for the law will go forth from Zion.
39. “The last great struggle Zion will have to contend with will be when the whole of America will be made the Zion of God.
40. “Those opposing will be called Gog and Magog The nations of the world led by the Russian Czar and their power, will be great, but all opposition will be overcome, and this land will be then the Zion of our God.” * * * * *