Some predictions (or implied predictions) of Christ’s return seem genuinely open to alternative interpretation, while others less so. Regardless, they seem to collectively point to a shared understanding that Jesus’s return in their lifetime was imminent.
Emboldened text is my emphasis.
1830 Oliver Cowdery (destruction upon the world within a few years) [indirect, non-LDS source]
About two weeks since some persons came along here with the book, one of whom pretends to have seen Angels, and assisted in translating the plates. He [Cowdery] proclaims destruction upon the world within a few years, – holds forth that the ordinances of the gospel, have not been regularly administered since the days of the Apostles …
1831 Rigdon’s flock (world would come to an end in two or three years) [indirect, non-LDS source]
First of November last, Oliver Cowdery…and three others arrived at the village with the “New Bible,” on a mission to the notorious Sidney Rigdon, who resides in the adjoining town. Rigdon received them graciously - took the book under advisement, and in a few days declared it to be of ‘heavenly origin.’
Rigdon, with about twenty of his flock, were dipped immediately. They then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years, –that no one had been authorized to preach and for that period, –that Joe Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose, and that all such as did not submit to his authority would speedily be destroyed. The world (except the New Jerusalem) would come to an end in two or three years. The state of New York would (probably) be sunk:…They pretend to heal the sick and work miracles, and had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to do so. The indians were the ten lost tribes — some of them had already been dipped.
…Indians followed Cowdery daily, and finally saw him enter the promised land, where he placed a pole in the ground, with a light on its top, to designate the site of the New Jerusalem.
1831-03-15 Martin Harris (within 15 years)
The meeting was closed, by a request of the landlord that the prophet should remove his quarters, which he did, and declaring, that all who believed the new bible would see Christ within fifteen years, and all who did not would absolutely be destroyed and dam’d.
1831-06-03 Lyman Wight (some in the congregration live until…)
The spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual manner. And prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel who had been led away by Salmanasar King of Israel [should be Assyria], to prepare them for their return, from their long dispersion, to again possess the land of their fathers. He prophesied many more things that I have not written. After he had prophesied he laid his hands upon Lyman Wight [and ordained him] to the High Priesthood after the Holy Order of God. And the spirit fell upon Lyman, and he prophesied, concerning the coming of Christ, he said that there were some in the congregation that should live until the Savior should descend from heaven, with a shout, with all the holy angels with him. He said the coming of the Savior should be, like; the sun rising in the east, and will cover the whole earth, so with the coming of the Son of man be, yea, he will appear in his brightness and consume all before him. And the hills will be laid low, and the valleys be exalted; and the crooked be made straight; and the rough smooth. And some of my brethren shall suffer martyrdom, for the sake of the religion of Jesus Christ, and seal the testimony of Jesus with their blood.
Book of John Whitmer, Church Historian, pg 69-71.
1832-09-22 Joseph Smith (Missouri Temple built in this generation)
For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house [Missouri Temple] shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord [Second Coming], which shall fill the house. v.31 … which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed.”
1833-01-23 Joseph Smith, Sr. (continue in office until Christ comes)
Among the number, my father presented himself, but before I washed his feet, I asked of him a father’s blessing, which he granted by laying his hands upon my head, in the name of Jesus Christ, and declaring that I should continue in the Priest’s office until Christ comes.
FairMormon argues that Joseph would hold the office of Priest when Christ comes and since the blessing was published after his death this is how early Saints viewed it.
1834-12-09 Joseph Smith, Sr. (see thy Redeemer Come)
Many patriarchal blessings were given to couples as a pair.
To Joseph Smith, Jr.
…Therefore, my son, I know for a surety that these things will be fulfilled, and I confirm upon thee all these blessings. [unclear if that phrase is meant to refer to preceding promises, following promises, or both] … Thou shalt stand upon the earth when it shall reel to and fro as a drunken man, and be removed out of its place: thou shalt stand when the mighty judgments go forth to the destruction of the wicked: thou shalt stand on mount Zion when the tribes of Jacob come shouting from the north, and with thy brethren, the sons of Ephraim, crown them in the name of Jesus Christ: Thou shalt see thy Redeemer Come in the clouds of heaven, and with the just receive the hallowed throng with shouts of hallalujahs, praise the Lord.
To Emma Smith
… Thou shall see many days; yea, the Lord will spare thee till thou art satisfied, for thou shalt see thy Redeemer. …
1835-02-14 Joseph Smith (even fifty-six years should wind up the scene)
President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion-our trials, sufferings; and said God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; and it was the will of God that those who went to zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.
- Discourse, 14 February 1835
- Minutes, Discourse, and Blessings, 14–15 February 1835
- Minute Book 1
- History of the Church 2:13, pg. 182
Christopher Blythe, an LDS scholar at the Maxwell Institute, co-editor of the Journal of Mormon History and a co-editor of two volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers, interprets this statement literally in his latest book:
On February 14, 1835, he declared that “even fifty six years, should wind up the scene”—placing the apocalypse in 1891.
Blythe softens but does not dismiss the statement by continuing:
Smith made similar remarks on a few other occasions, but for the most part he focused on the chronology of events that would precede the Second Coming rather than the specific timing.
But Smith would later publicly reflect on the significance of the 85 year timeframe. According to Blythe:
Unlike earlier statements that seemed to suggest the apocalypse would occur between 1890 and 1891, in 1843, he did not posit a date for the Second Coming. He only discounted the possibility that it could occur before 1890.
Regardless, numerous statements from indvidiuals and leaders suggest the Saints anticipated the Second Coming would occur around 1890.
1835-02-15 Oliver Cowdery (shall stand on the earth … till Christ comes)
Several second coming promises were made to individuals receiving blessings that day. This is the most explicit:
Oliver Cowdery called upon the Lord to smile upon him; that his faith be made perfect, and that the blessings pronounced may be realized; that he be made mighty, and be endued with powers from on high, and go forth to the nations of the earth to proclaim the Gospel, that he may escape all the pollutions of the world; that the angels shall uphold him; and that he shall go forth according to the commandment, both to Jew and Gentile, and to all nations, kingdoms and tongues; that all who hear his voice shall acknowledge him to be a servant of God; that he shall be equal with his brethren in holding the keys of the kingdom; that he
shallmay stand on the earth and bring souls till Christ comes. We know that he loves Thee, O, Lord, and may this Thy servant be able to walk through pestilence and not be harmed; and the powers of darkness have no ascendency over him; may he have power to smite the earth with pestilence; to divide waters, and lead through the Saints; may he go from land to land and from sea to sea, and may he be like one of the three Nephites.
Note: The original blessing said shall, but this was changed to may for later publication in the History of the Church.
1835–1837 Joseph Smith, Sr. (not die before second coming)
Joseph Smith Sr. told many (~40) patriarchal blessing recipients they would not die before the second coming of Christ (sometimes conditioned on their faithfulness). Here are just a few taken from the compilation Patriarchal Blessings by Joseph Smith Sr..
To Isaac Morley, 1835-04-04 “Thou shalt live to see the heavens open and see thy God in the flesh.”
To Edward Partridge, 1835-04-04 “The Lord will preserve thy life till a good old age, and thou shalt also live to see the heavens opened, for thou hast desired this thing, and shalt see the Son of man in the flesh”
To Lorenzo Snow, 1836-12-15 “Thou shalt have power to stand in the flesh and see Jesus come in the clouds”
To Wilford Woodruff, 1837-04-13 “Thou shalt stand in the flesh and see the winding up scene of this generation.”
To Henry Harmon, 1837-04-23 “The destroyer shall not have power over thee to take away thy life. Thou shalt behold the Son of God while thou dost stand in the flesh and if thou dost seek it with all thy heart, thou shalt stand on the earth to behold the Savior come in the clouds of heaven, and be caught up to meet him, and thou shalt see the end of the wicked.”
1844-11-15 Joseph Smith (sweep the wicked of this generation)
And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. The people of the Lord, those who have complied with the requirements of the new covenant, have already commenced gathering together to Zion, which is in the state of Missouri, therefore I declare unto you the warning which the Lord has commanded to declare unto this generation, remembering that the eyes of my Maker are upon me and that to him I am accountable for every word I say wishing nothing worse to my fellow-men than their eternal salvation; therefore, “Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.” Repent ye, repent ye, and embrace the everlasting covenant, and flee to Zion, before the overflowing scourge overtake you, for there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things, which I have spoken, fulfilled. Remember these things; call upon the Lord while He is near, and seek Him while He may be found, is the exhortation of your unworthy servant. [Signed] JOSEPH SMITH, JUN.
1857 Brigham Young (not be 120 years until Saints separated from wicked)
…this people are a good people & they are advancing faster than any other
peoplethat ever lived it would not be 120 years instead of 365 before this peoplewould with a portion of the Earth which they occupy be separated from the wicked. The Lord will bless this people if you will do as well…
From the Journal of Wilford Woodruff [Transcription by /u/japanesepiano]
Also reported in Establishing Zion by Eugene Campbell (an LDS-faithful scholar) on pg 194:
On 8 March (1857), Woodruff attended a meeting during which Young alluded to the city of Enoch and its inhabitants, which Mormons believe was physically removed from the earth because of righteousness. Young suggested that within 125 years the Saints along with the portion of the earth they occupied would be separated from the wicked.
This 1857 statement originally h/t this post
Acknowledgments and Notes
Several references were taken from a compilation by George D. Speer Sr. recorded here. Some were brought to my attention by reddit user japanesepiano.
I have gone back to find links to original documents and LDS Church hosted content where possible.