Joseph Smith's teachings on Daniel and Revelation

Most Latter-day Saints are aware that Joseph Smith explained the important parts of Revelation, though most are unaware that he only addressed the subject in 1843 - the year before he died.

See also:
Joseph (and others) on the 1260 years
Joseph (and others) on the little horn
Joseph (and others) on Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 13:5


Reading this, you may gain the impression that Joseph spoke a lot about Daniel and Revelation. He did not. Joseph was not a man-made prophet, someone who tries to impress people by talking of mysteries. In fact, he hardly mentioned them - he only began to teach from Revelation in the last year of his life, to silence those who were always asking him or teaching false ideas. His first comment was in 1843, and included the following: "This is the first time I have ever taken a text in Revelation; and if the young Elders would let such things alone it would be far better." (History of the Church, Vol.5, p.324). He said similar things several times:

Unless stated, these quotations are from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843-44, starting page 287. The headings are my own, the other text (other than that in brackets and italics) is from the prophet.

These things are not important right now, except to prevent suspense

"I have seldom spoken from the revelations; but as my subject is a constant source of speculation amongst the elders, causing a division of sentiment and opinion in relation to it, I now do it in order that division and difference of opinion may be done away with, and not that correct knowledge on the subject is so much needed at the present time."

"It is not essential for the elders to have knowledge in relation to the meaning of beasts, and heads and horns, and other figures made use of in the revelations; still, it may be necessary, to prevent contention and division and do away with suspense. ... There is no pain so awful as that of suspense. This is the punishment of the wicked; their doubt, anxiety and suspense cause weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth."

What is a beast, such as in Daniel 7?

"When God made use of the figure of a beast in visions to the prophets He did it to represent those kingdoms which had degenerated and become corrupt, savage and beast-like in their dispositions, even the degenerate kingdoms of the wicked world; but He never made use of the figure of a beast nor any of the brute kind to represent His kingdom."

John was mainly or only concerned with the future

"There is a grand difference and distinction between the visions and figures spoken of by the ancient prophets, and those spoken of in the revelations of John. The things which John saw had no allusion to the scenes of the days of Adam, Enoch, Abraham or Jesus, only so far as is plainly represented by John, and clearly set forth by him. John saw that only which was lying in futurity and which was shortly subject (refers to 1:1 and 4:1). The book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written."

Another difference between Daniel and Revelation

"What John saw and speaks of were things which he saw in heaven; those which Daniel saw were on and pertaining to the earth."

Daniel's beasts are not literal beasts

"The prophets do not declare that they saw a beast or beasts, but that they saw the image or figure of a beast. Daniel did not see an actual bear or a lion, but the images or figures of those beasts. The translation should have been rendered "image" instead of "beast," in every instance where beasts are mentioned by the prophets."

Two types of beast

(note: the difference between the animals in heaven, Strong's number 2226, - and the symbolic venomous Beast on earth, Strong's number 2342, - is clear from the Greek. Here the prophet is talking of the beasts who worshipped God)

"John saw the actual beast in heaven, showing to John that beasts did actually exist there, and not to represent figures of things on the earth."

Don't worry if you don't understand

"I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don't be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject."

Animals in heaven

"John learned that God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them. (refers to 5:13) "The four beasts (in heaven) "were four of the most noble animals that had filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect: they were like angels in their sphere. We are not told where they came from, and I do not know; but they were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God."

"The Beast is an actual animal, and angel of the devil (Refers to Rev. 13:1-8) The beast John saw was an actual beast, and an actual intelligent being gives him his power, and his seat, and great authority. It was not to represent a beast in heaven: it was an angel in heaven who has power in the last days to do a work."

Preach repentance

"Oh, ye elders of Israel, hearken to my voice; and when you are sent into the world to preach ... Never meddle with the visions of beasts and subjects you do not understand. Elder Brown, when you go to Palmyra, say nothing about the four beasts, but preach those things the Lord has told you to preach about -- repentance and baptism for the remission of sins."

The Beast existed (in some way) in all times

"'All the world wondered after the beast', Nebuchadnezzar and Constantine the Great not excepted. And if the beast was all the world, how could the world wonder after the beast? It must have been a wonderful beast to cause all human beings to wonder after it; and I will venture to say that when God allows the old devil to give power to the beast to destroy the inhabitants of the earth, all will wonder. Verse 4 reads, 'And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying. Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?'"

The Beast is not literally the kingdoms of the world

"Some say it means the kingdom of the world. One thing is sure, it does not mean the kingdom of the Saints. Suppose we admit that it means the kingdoms of the world, what propriety would there be in saying, Who is able to make war with my great big self? If these spiritualized interpretations are true, the book contradicts itself in almost every verse. But they are not true."

The key to understanding

"Everything that we have not a keyword to, we will take it as it reads. The beasts which John saw and speaks of being in heaven, were actually living in heaven, and were actually to have power given to them over the inhabitants of the earth, precisely according to the plain reading of the revelations. I give this as a key to the elders of Israel. The independent beast is a beast that dwells in heaven, abstract [apart] from the human family. The beast that rose up out of the sea should be translated the image of a beast, a I have referred to it in Daniel's vision."

(The following are from History of the Church, Vol.3, p.396)

Regarding Daniel and Revelation, stick to what can be proved from the scriptures

"Study the word of God, and preach it and not your opinions, for no man's opinion is worth a straw. Advance no principle but what you can prove, for one scriptural proof is worth ten thousand opinions."

What matters for your mission in life

"The horns of the beast, the toes of the image, the frogs, and the beast mentioned by John, are not going to save this generation; for if a man does not become acquainted with the first principles of the Gospel, how shall he understand those greater mysteries, which the most wise cannot understand without revelation? These things, therefore, have nothing to do with your mission."

Selections from Doctrine and Covenants 77

"Q. What are we to understand by the four beasts, spoken of in the same verse?"

"A. They are figurative expressions, used by the Revelator, John, in describing heaven, the paradise of God..."

"Q. Are the four beasts limited to individual beasts, or do they represent classes or orders?"

"A. They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity."

"Q. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?"

"A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence."

"Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed?"

"A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh."

"Q. What are we to understand by the sounding of the trumpets, mentioned in the 8th chapter of Revelation?"

"A. ... the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels are the preparing and finishing of his work, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years--the preparing of the way before the time of his coming."

"Q. When are the things to be accomplished, which are written in the 9th chapter of Revelation?"

"A. They are to be accomplished after the opening of the seventh seal, before the coming of Christ."

"Q. What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?"

"A. We are to understand that it was a mission, and an ordinance, for him to gather the tribes of Israel"

A note about the seven seals

The Doctrine and Covenants, quoted above, seems to indicate that the first seal covers 4000 BC to 3000 BC, the second covers 3000 BC to 2000 BC, and so on. But does it really say that? This earth's "continuance" means how long it would "continue" - and the simplest meaning of "continue" is "continue from the present" (in this case, John's present was about AD 96). "Temporal" has a similar meaning - something is temporary. I say this because of something else Joseph taught:

"Now, I make this declaration, that those things which John saw in heaven had no allusion to anything that had been on the earth previous to that time, because they were the representation of "things which must shortly come to pass," and not of what has already transpired. John saw beasts that had to do with things on the earth, but not in past ages. The beasts which John saw had to devour the inhabitants of the earth in days to come.

'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 beheld 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.' (Rev. 6:1, 2, 3, 4.)

The book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written.

The revelations do not give us to understand anything of the past in relation to the kingdom of God."

This could mean that the seventh seal begins in the year 6001. Or possibly Joseph considered that the verses were so plain that he did not need to explain that they just provided an introduction to the prophecies of the future. Personally, I do not know which, so I shall play safe and act as if Jesus is returning tomorrow.


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