Winston Churchill once said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This is true of the church, which seems to repeat the same mistakes generation after generation, especially in area of the prophetic.

Much of the turmoil surrounding the failed Trump prophecies could have been avoided if the modern charismatic church had learned, not only from Scripture, but also from history. There have been numerous prophetic movements in history whose experiences offer invaluable lessons for the church today.

One of those movements is Mormonism, which emerged out of the Second Great Awakening. This is made clear by Peter Cartwright (1785-1872), a circuit-riding Methodist preacher and one of the most remarkable revivalists of that era. He tells of Mormons attending his campmeetings and speaking tongues and falling under the power.

He also tells of conversations he had with Joseph Smith and Smith’s claims of prophetic gifts and experiences.

The Mormons Speak in Tongues and Prophesy

Cartwright tells about a large interdenominational campmeeting he was conducting with hundreds in attendance, including Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and others. On Saturday morning, he said, “There came some twenty or thirty Mormons to the meeting.”

He tells how, at the end of the service, the Mormons remained behind, singing and praising God. They were excellent singers and many began coming back under the tabernacle to hear them. As people finished their noon meal they returned to the tabernacle and there was soon a large crowd gathered around them.

Eventually one of the Mormon women in this group began to shout and then swooned away and fell into the arms of her husband. Her husband then announced that she was in a trance and that when she came out of it she would speak in an unknown tongue and he would interpret. This was obviously not something new for them.

Cartwright, by this time, decided to break up their meeting, as he believed they were purposely seeking to draw attention to themselves. As he walked into the midst of the group, the woman in the trance began speaking in tongues. When Cartwright told her to “hush,” she opened her eyes, laid her hand on his arm, and said, “Dear friend, I have a message directly from God to you.”

Cartwright, who was a gruff sort of personality, said, “I stopped her short and said, ‘I will have none of your message.’” The woman’s husband, who was to interpret the message in tongues, angrily replied, “Sir this is my wife, and I will defend her at the risk of my life.” Cartwright retorted, “Sir, this is my campmeeting and I will maintain the good order of it at the risk of my life” (Hyatt, Prophets and Prophecy, 89-90).

After an exchange of emotionally charged words, the group finally left. Cartwright identified them as Mormons, followers of a “Joe Smith” with whom he had had several conversations.

Cartwright Meets “Joe” Smith

Cartwright had several meetings with the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, whom he called “Joe Smith.” Smith shared with him his vision for the restoration of the church of the New Testament.

According to Smith, during a time of revival in upper state New York he had prayed about which church was the right one. Smith said that during this time of prayer,

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air (Hyatt, Prophets and Prophecy, 90).

According to Smith, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit appeared in this vision and told him not to join any of the churches, for none was the true church. Those of the modern prophetic movement, if there, would probably have designated Smith to be a seer or prophet.

Cartwright says that Smith told him that, of all the churches then in existence, the Methodist church was the closest to the church of the New Testament. According to Smith, however, the Methodists had stopped short by not claiming the gift of tongues, of prophecy, and of miracles. He went on to tell Cartwright,

If you will go with me to Nauvoo (a Mormon community), I will show you many living witnesses that will testify that they were, by the saints, cured of blindness, lameness, deafness, dumbness, and all the diseases that human flesh is heir to. And I will show you that we have the gift of tongues, and can speak in unknown languages, and that the saints can drink any deadly poison and it will not hurt them (Hyatt, Prophets and Prophecy, 91).

Smith Proves to be Angry and Unteachable

Cartwright began questioning Smith about his doctrine and it soon became obvious that Smith had left behind Biblical truth and was following sensational teachings based on prophecies, visions, and supposed angelic visitations.

As Cartwright continued pointing out his error from Scripture, he said that Smith’s anger boiled over and “he cursed me in the name of his God.” Smith angrily retorted,

I will show you, sir, that I will raise up a government in these United States which will overturn the present government, and I will raise up a new religion that will overturn every other form of religion in this country (Hyatt, Prophets and Prophecy, 92).

Visions & Angelic Visitations

Joseph Smith and his early followers based their beliefs almost solely on their subjective experiences with prophecies, visions, and angels. On one occasion an angel named Moroni supposedly appeared to Smith and told him where to find the plates on which were inscribed the Book of Mormon, written in an ancient Egyptian text.

Smith claimed that while he and an associate, Oliver Cowdery, were translating the book, John the Baptist as well as Peter, James, and John appeared to them and ordained them to the priesthood of Melchizedek.

How impressive! Demons will always play on human credulity and pride, telling one how important they will be if they accept this revelation.

In 1831, based on a supposed revelation from God, Smith and many of his followers migrated to Kirkland, Ohio. There they built, and in 1836, dedicated the first Mormon temple. According to one Mormon historian, there was a spiritual outpouring almost unmatched in ecclesiastical history. Smith himself wrote a detailed description, saying,

A noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting on the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place. This continued until the meeting closed at eleven P.M. (Hyatt, Prophets and Prophecy, 92-93).

What We Can Learn from Mormonism

Out of this group that based its beliefs on prophecies, visions, and angelic visitations, has grown a movement that today claims millions of followers around the world. While many of their beliefs are obviously Christian in origin, they also hold to many beliefs that have no basis in Scripture and are at odds with Biblical Christianity.

For example, Mormons teach a form of polytheism, claiming that the planets of the universe are ruled by different gods and that Elohim—the God of the Old Testament—is the god of this planet. They also teach that Elohim had a wife who, as the Eternal Mother, bore his offspring. According to Mormon doctrine, Jesus is merely the oldest of the offspring produced by the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and we are all his spirit brothers and sisters (Hyatt, Prophets and Prophecy, 93).

Their strange doctrines, and practices such as baptizing for the dead and polygamous marriage, came forth because they exalted their spiritual experiences to equal status with, and even above, the Bible. This happened because they failed to “test the spirits” and “judge” the prophecies and visions in their midst as Scripture commands. Cartwright, regarded the Mormons as a living example of Satan’s ability to transform himself into an “angel of light.”

Here are some suggestions that can help us avoid repeating the same mistakes as this movement.

1.    Measure everything by the Word of God. Let the Bereans of Acts 17:11 be our guide. They were commended because, instead of naively accepting what Paul and Silas preached, they searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether those things were so. When strange prophecies and unusual manifestations began to appear in the early Methodist revival, John Wesley exhorted the people, “Try all things by the written word and let all bow down before it. You’re in danger of enthusiasm every hour, if you depart ever so little from the Scripture: yea; from that plain, literal meaning of any text, taken with the context” (Hyatt, Prophets and Prophecy, 45).

2.    Keep Christ Front and Center. Many prophetic movements have gone awry because of losing their focus on Jesus and becoming preoccupied with their own spirituality and exotic experiences. In the January 1907 issue of the Apostolic Faith, the leaders of the Azusa Street revival wrote, We do not have time to preach anything else but Christ. The Holy Spirit has not time to magnify anything but the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are simply a voice shouting, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ When we commence shouting something else, then Christ will die in us.”

3.    Avoid pride. Walk in humility. Peter Cartwright said that Smith told him that if he [Cartwright] would join him [Smith], “We could sweep, not only the Methodist church, but all the churches, and you would be looked up to as one of the Lord’s greatest prophets.” Do you hear the pride in that statement? Remember that, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5b).

4.      Avoid an elitist mindset. Smith claimed that he and his followers were the true restored church of the New Testament and that all other churches were false churches (the Mormons still believe this). This too was based in pride and an unhealthy lust for importance and power.

5.   Stop chasing the sensational. Let the supernatural happen; do not try to make it happen. We are not to follow signs; signs are to follow us as we follow the Lord and proclaim His word. We open ourselves to deception when we become enamored with the supernatural and began chasing everything sensational.

This  article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Prophets and Prophecy: Timely Insights from the Bible, History, and Personal Experience, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

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