“Mission Garbage” — Part I

My wife and I are about to move to Washington state. As part of the moving process, my wife has requested that I go through all my "junk" (i.e., all the miscellaneous files I drag with me wherever we go, but which I never read, and which I probably will never even look at again), and discard whatever I don’t want to keep. Intended as a quick project, it has turned, predictably, into an inefficient, interminable nightmare. Yet it is also great fun, as I get to spend countless hours rediscovering papers and pamphlets from my past that I had forgotten even existed, and peruse them at length.

Yesterday, I happened upon a file entitled, appropriately enough, "Mission Garbage." Inside, I discovered a motley assortment of writings that had circulated among various, excited elders in my mission, and which I decided, for some unknown reason, to keep copies of. Only now do I realize the purpose of my having held on to this stuff … A higher power must have wanted me to post these in the Bloggernacle for your amusement!

To qualify for inclusion in my "Mission Garbage" file, the document in question needed to be, well … garbage (in my estimation). Of course, you may disagree with my characterizations, and you should feel free to vocalize your disagreements. In this thread, which will be Part I of three, I have transcribed the entire document du jour below, just as it appears on the page in my hand (retaining misspellings, but adding italics), and I think it speaks for itself:

               PROPHECY BY CURTIS GRATIS IN 1739

Curtis Gratis, a Catholic priest, uttered this prophecy in 1739 A.D. It was published with his work and may be found in the University Library in Basol, Switzerland. It was copied by the temple president in Bern, Switzerland while he was on his mission and called

               The Restoration

The old Gospel Gifts are Lost: false doctrines prevail in every church in the world. All we do is exhort people to be just and fear God, shun evil and pray.

Prayer and purity may cause an Angel to visit a deep and distressed Soul, but I tell you in 100 years God will have spoken. I see a little band of people led by a Prophet and Faithful Elders, persecuted, burned, and murdered.

But in the valley that lies on the shores of a great lake they will grow and make a beautiful land. Having a Temple of magnificent splendor and they will possess the Priesthood of old having Teachers, Deacons, etc. From each nation will the believers be gathered by speedy messengers and will God almight speak to the disobedient and thunder and lightning and destruction, such has never been heard of or known in history before.

               Copied from a copy owned by Eva Rasmussen, No. 9 North 8th West, SLC.

Question: Does reading this kind of stuff give you:

(a) Warm fuzzies, and a jolt of increased faith you haven’t experienced since you discovered those chiastic structures in the Brigham Young manual;

(b) A sickening feeling in your stomach, as you contemplate the gullibility of so many elders buying into the latest, dubious, faith-promoting anecdote;

(c) A feeling of sadness, as you ponder why there’s a market for this stuff among a people who ideally wouldn’t need external evidences to bolster their testimonies;

(d) An intense feeling of ire towards this blogger (yours truly), since I’ve just insulted one of the pillars of your faith;

(e) Disappointment at my cynicism, as you would have expected me to at least entertain the notion that this supposed prophetic document might really exist; or

(f) None of the above.

Just wondering.

Aaron B


  1. Aaron, we too had that document floating in my mission as well. I think it was accompanied by another one written by a former catholic monk who had been a major player in the Vatican. He exposed all the Vatican’s knowledge of the real truth of the Restoration, Joseph Smith, inscriptions in the Vatican of how they know that infant baptism is false and that they don’t have the real priesthood, and so forth. Those papers are what kept me strong and faithful throughout the mission… along with “Lock Your Heart”

    Just curious, where in Washington are you moving? (I’m from there)

  2. Aaron Brown says:

    Shhhhhh! Rusty, you’re spoiling my “Mission Garbage” — Part III post! I’m saving the best for last!

    We’ll be in Seattle within the next few months; for the next couple of months, we’ll be in Whidbey Island (long story).

    Aaron B

  3. Aaron,

    Don’t tell me you have a copy of that insider’s Vatican document. :) I had one of those until our mission president asked us to destroy them. Boy was it wacky stuff and I happened to be in the pre-eminently Catholic town of Esquipulas (Guatemala) at the time.

  4. … at the time that document was being circulated (I should say).

  5. john fowles says:

    I have heard this story before as well. Many ridicule it. It may well be untrue, but I was wondering if anyone has ever checked up on this? Have any of you gone to the University Library in Basel to check it out? Does Eva Rasmussen exist? Who was this temple president who supposedly copied it on his mission? It would be fun to find out if any of the anecdote, or all or none of it, is true.

    If it is true, it doesn’t have to constitute a “pillar of faith” to be interesting and useful.

    It is probably untrue, though, because it has always seemed to good to be true. Although, who am I to say that God cannot give insight to a Catholic priest in Switzerland in the 1700s? After all, Elder Holland quoted his own ancestor and founder of Rhode Island on a similar sentiment (although absent specific prophetic references to the Latter-day Saints) and Emerson conveyed the same feeling (with regards to the Apostasy but, of course, also absent specific LDS references) in a speech at Harvard in the nineteenth century.

  6. john fowles says:

    Also, did any of you see that little black book on your mission of ways to answer questions of Catholics? Did that book mention “666” on the Pope’s mitre? I seem to remember something like that. That is a pretty common Seventh-Day Adventist charge (they have extremely vituperative anti-Catholic leanings).

  7. A quick google search yields the following on the prophecy:

    This “prophecy” first appeared in LDS periodicals in both English and German in 1893, in a story by a returned missionary named Jacob Spori. One of the first to question the authenticity of the document was Rulon S. Wells of the First Council of Seventy, who unsuccessfully attempted to locate the book and its contents in Basel a few years after the story surfaced. Other leaders and missionaries also were unable to verify the statement. Elder Wells wrote an article called “A Fraudulent Prophecy Exposed” which was published in the January, 1908 “Improvement Era.” A detailed historical analysis of the false prophecy was written by Paul B. Pixton and published in “BYU Studies” Vol. 25, No. 3.

  8. Jonathan Green says:

    Short answer: The story is untrue, and the Church asked people to stop spreading it nigh unto a century ago. There’s an article on it in BYU Studies from a few years back where the author demolishes it. I’d look up the reference, but I teach class in 7 minutes.

    OK, here it is. I’m a sucker for bibliography. Class starts in 5 minutes.

    “Play It Again, Sam: The Remarkable Prophecy of Samuel Lutz, Alias Christophilus Gratianus, Reconsidered,” BYU Studies 25:3 (1985)

  9. Jonathan Green says:

    Four minutes late, and a dollar short. Greg must have had a head start.

  10. You apostates! How dare you question The Prophecy!! You’ll pay….

  11. I have a copy of this same anecdote in Portuguese. As I recall, some elders in my mission copied and distributed the story to investigators and church members. Like Aaron, I filed it as junk.

    John’s final paragraph raises an interesting point (one that may have been discussed recently on another blog, but I’m not sure). However, I think it’s fairly easy to find faith-promoting anecdotes in old material, especially for members of the Church who often infer proof of the Church’s status as the one true church from inapplicable or unrelated material. Getting caught up in “Mormon legends,” to borrow a term from Snopes.com, may be interesting and useful for a time, but I fear for anyone who bases their testimony on such trivial and largely unprovable stories.

  12. john fowles says:

    Thanks for the info. I was just curious.

  13. Aaron Brown says:

    Wow. Thanks for the fun facts, folks. I wasn’t aware that BYU Studies had published anything on this. For all I knew, this was invented by some missionary within the last 20 years.

    John Fowles said:
    “who am I to say that God cannot give insight to a Catholic priest in Switzerland in the 1700s?”

    True enough, but as I suspect you recognize, the more interesting point is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    As for 666, the Catholic Church, etc., all I can say is … STOP SPOILING MY NEXT POST! I was going to present excerpts of that collection of documents (which I think is hilariously ridiculous, yet distastefully disturbing at the same time) shortly.

    Aaron B

  14. “hilariously ridiculous, yet distastefully disturbing”

    That about sums up the ideal post! Looking forward to it.

  15. You can download the text of the article from the BYU Studies website. Or maybe this link will work: https://byustudies.byu.edu/shop/PDFfiles/25.3Pixton.pdf

  16. It also gets discussed on this page.

    Too bad Bowie isn’t updating anymore.

  17. I knew David Bowie was Mormon! Ziggy Stardust was just an allegory about the Church.

  18. I was once in charge selecting music for our stake youth dances- I was always disappointed that people wouldn’t dance to my Bowie selections, like Ziggy Stardust, rock-and-roll suicide, scary monsters…
    That’s what they get putting 2 kids in charge with no supervision!

  19. I knew David Bowie was Mormon! Ziggy Stardust was just an allegory about the Church.

    Actually, there’s fodder here for yet another mormon urban legend; after all, Bowie wasn’t mormon, but his guitarist, Mick Ronson…

  20. As for the the Curtis Gratis story, I wonder how the missionaries who used it set it up for investigators: “So during the apostasy, see, there wasn’t anymore revelation. Then, in 1739, this dude had this revelation that said that 100 years later people would start having revelations again…”

  21. Jeremy, that wasn’t an issue in my mission. Thinking back, I’m surprised that missionaries, members and investigators did not catch this issue.

  22. I got my copy from the pile sitting in the foyer of a chapel in Belgium.

    And if you’re interested, I’ll give you a sweet deal on a beautiful house in Bellevue (with a great commute to Seattle)…seriously.

  23. I had no idea that Mick Ronson was LDS. That really surprised me. I have gone looking for articles about it and here’s one from the SLC City Weekly. The actual article about Ronson is on the far right side in a single-column — so scroll down a bit and then you’ll see it:


  24. Davis Bell says:

    I saw both of these documents on my mission in Argentina. Interesting.

  25. Well, if we want to form an all-dead LDS band we now have a guitarist (Mick Ronson) and bassist (Arthur “Killer” Kane of the New York Dolls). We just need a lead singer and a drummer.

  26. Aaron Brown says:

    Davis — Which Argentine mission were you in, and when?

    J. Stapely — Where in Bellevue do you live? (My family lived in Redmond for many years).

    Aaron B

  27. I can’t think of a drummer, but I had a great-great uncle that was well known throughout, er, the outskirts of Cedar City, for the artistry with which he played the xylophone he had made from the spokes of wagon wheels.

    Also, when my old drum teacher was in his late teens he had already gained such a reputation that he had a chance to go on tour with Elvis. Passed it up to go on his mission instead. He’s still alive, thankfully, so he wouldn’t qualify for the dead mormon band.

  28. I grew up in the Bellevue 3rd ward then moved away as a teenager. I’m sure our parents know each other. I moved back (close to Newport Shores – corner of I-90 and 405) last summer with a start-up. I’m moving on to my next start up at the end of the month, which will probably take me to eastern Washington within the year. My partner has an extra house on Mercer, so I really could give a good deal on the house.

  29. Aaron,

    I thought it was pretty obviously not a recent forgery. Consider these sections:

    “they will possess the Priesthood of old having Teachers, Deacons, etc.”

    “will God almight speak to the disobedient and thunder and lightning and destruction, such has never been heard of or known in history before.”

    Unlike 19th century saints, we don’t predict imminent fire and brimstone, and we’re not really too impressed by Deacons and Teachers.

  30. “I am suggesting that missionaries have not been complete idiots over the years”

    Oh man, were you never a missionary? Have you ever met a missionary? They are, for the most part, pretty naive people. That this type of stuff is still making the rounds is hardly surprising.

  31. john fowles says:

    Steve, as I tried to express in my post, it is not entirely clear that the prophecy Spori paraphrased does not exist. Pixton does a good job but leaves some important stones unturned. Winters found something in 1922, a book by Theophile Gratianus, not Christophilus Gratianus (Samuel Lutz), entitled Hoffnung Israels rather than Hoffnung Zions. What did Winters find? Winters explicitly stated that the book he found contained prophecies that were quite similar to the ones that Spori had paraphrased. Yet Pixton points out that Saehelin and others who had searched Lutz’s Hoffnung Zions had found nothing even similar to the prophecy mentioned by Spori. If we are to give Spori the benefit of the doubt, then there must be a book with at least similar prophecies that he paraphrased in 1893, twenty years after he would have had access to the book in Basel. Winters appears to have found that book; Pixton does not address the implications of this, despite quoting the Winters letter. Saehelin’s memo deals strictly with Lutz’s works and doesn’t address the possibility that the prophecy or something similar to it might be found in another source altogether. This is a difficulty that is making me more uncomfortable with Pixton’s conclusions the longer I think about it. Any readers at or near Basel right now with 60+ hours to read “hundreds” books by the psuedonym Gratianus, published between, say, 1725 and 1800 (arbitrary cut-off dates)?

  32. Wow, man. You are more dedicated to historicity — any historicity, apparently — than anyone I know.

  33. Cool! A prophecy that we can’t be absolutely sure doesn’t exist! That’s a real faith promoter. And I’m sure the missionaries were all appropriately skeptical. And everyone who distributed it over the years, helpfully furnishing additional names and dates.

    John, you sound like someone trying to defend the fraudulent CBS memos…”Fake but Accurate!”

  34. john fowles says:

    Danithew, Jeremy, rumor had it that either the drummer (Dave) or the lead man (Jesse) of Operation Ivy was LDS. Of course, this might be a Mormon urban legend. Maybe you can see if he is still around. . . .

  35. john fowles says:

    Steve, I am just interested in what happened. If there is another book out there, the one Winters is referring to, then that is a cool little piece of information.

  36. john fowles says:

    Ed, actually, that is not what I am doing. I am arguing that Spori was not “fake” at all; that his paraphrase could have been a genuine paraphrase of whatever Winters found and Pixton seems to ignore.

  37. David King Landrith says:

    When I was a kid, my parents bought me a paperback Book of Remembrance. At the genealogy library (this would have been in the 70s), I purchased a kit that had a bunch of pages to be inserted at the front of one’s book of Remembrance. Among them is an illustration that shows exactly how the papal cone hat has the numbers 666 on it. I’m certain this was published by the church, but I’m out of town right now and unable to check for publication information.

    At any rate, does anybody remember these?

    And my answer to Aaron B’s question is: f. Basically, I feel a mild sympathy for an Elder’s enthusiasm for his calling and the church that it relates to.

  38. As to Steve’s assertion that missionaries are naive and how it relates to this discussion. There was significant traffic in my mission in scraps of xeroxed pages of unofficial information such as this. Some of it concerned the Catholic Church having proof that the LDS church is true and hiding it, other instances were copies of talks given by GAs with out-moded, racist or speculative ideas. My reaction as a missionary was to examine such things out of curiosity and then tell the missionary that was eagerly offering it to me to throw it away. They never did and I never kept anything. This occasionally led to arguements that weren’t going to be resolved without some serious research into the provenance of said tattered xeroxed documents.

  39. David King Landrith says:

    a random John, I’m glad you’ve always been smart enough to see through these things.

    There is a site, by the way, devoted to treasures such as these called Disputed Mormon Texts Archives. a random John will surely find it boring, since he’s seen it all before. But for some of the rest of you, you may enjoy it.

  40. Aaron, you are to be lauded for acceding to your wife’s request. We are still carting around 3 boxes of mission garbage–they’ve moved from Nashville to Philadelphia to California to Boston; I’m pretty sure they’ve never been opened (although, to be fair, if my husband did look at something from there, he’d be sure to do it when I was gone, out of a well-founded fear of being mercilessly ridiculed). Perhaps when you get finished with this little exercise you could drop my husband a note about how soul-satisfying it is to finally rid yourself of this burden.

  41. Yes, john, and there could have been real memos, too. Maybe the CBS ones were paraphrases of real memos as remembered by somebody?

  42. John,

    At some point, you have to go with what information you’re given. Right?

    Consider a brief example:

    Kaimi: In 2004, Steve Evans said on his blog, By Common Consent, ‘Times and Seasons is the bestest of blogs. This is because Kaimi Wenger is part of it.’

    Aaron Brown: No he didn’t. I’ve searched the full archives of BCC for the year 2004, and that quote is not in them.

    John Fowles: Yes, but perhaps he meant something different. Have you looked at comments by _Matt_ Evans? Perhaps comments in 2003? In 2005? Have you checked other blogs? Have you . . .

    The moral, of course, is that if you’re willing to allow sufficient variation in time, date, author, paraphrasing, etc, then it’s really never possible to bdebunk _anything_ without a prohibitive amount of work.

    Who does the burden lie upon? The person who is citing a story, which is by its own terms not verified? Must that person verify a story on its own terms? Or must any critic, to establish that a story is incorrect, track down every possible permutation and look at them?

  43. john fowles says:

    Kaimi, I think you are dismissing the concerns my quick analysis raises a little to easily. Winters found something that correlated to the prophecy Spori honestly paraphrased in 1893. That book had a similar title and similar author name as the one to which Spori attributed the prophecy and was published in the same year as the first edition of the source to which Spori attributed the prophecy. Yet, this line of inquiry is dropped by Pixton, presumably because no one else followed it and he himself was not in a position to research the archives of the library of the University of Basel for a mere BYU Studies article debunking a prophecy that was already debunked in 1908 by Wells. Pixton merely collects secondary sources and propounds them to us to reinforce the idea that the prophecy cannot really exist. My point was that since there is at least the Winters line of inquiry still open, Pixton’s cannot be the final word on this. I am willing to concede that it is not a real prophecy. However, the implications of this conclusion for Spori and Muhlestein’s integrity trouble me, as do the stones left unturned. If Pixton wanted his debunking to be the last word, he should have taken the steps to lay some of the weaknesses I point out to rest.

  44. john fowles says:

    I have found a latin entry by Lucius Gratianus in Oxford’s Bodleian Library’s holdings. This is the name given by Spori in 1893 that Pixton said doesn’t exist. This appears to be a pseudonym of an author writing in the mid 1600s, not in 1732-39. I am not saying that this is a solution, just pointing out the fact, which might indeed be wholly irrelevant (I don’t even know what these three works by this person are about because I haven’t yet parsed through the Latin to figure out if it is something ecclesiastical). I will check this out a little more.

    Kaimi, my point is that if Pixton is ascribing the problems here to Spori’s dimmed recollection twenty years after reading the source, then why can’t it be equally possible that Spori was mistaken not on the content of the prophecy he was paraphrasing but on the bibliographical information of the source of the prophecy. Perhaps he had read much Samuel Lutz and also some other book near the same time he had been studying Lutz and then conflated the two. That seems equally as likely.

  45. John, it’s clear now that dismissing your concerns is not an easy task. However, I never said it would be easy…

  46. john fowles says:

    The Bodleian also has a German title by a Christoph Gratianus (which Pixton notes is one of Lutz’s psuedonyms, though this book does seem to be by Lutz) dating to 1778: Geschichte von Pflanzung des Christenthums in den aus den Trümmern des römischen Kaiserthums entstandenen Staaten Europens.

  47. ha ha…I’m glad you went to all that trouble, john, just so I could read that delightfully German title.

  48. john fowles says:

    That should read, “this book does not seem to be by Lutz.”

  49. john fowles says:

    ed, it was no trouble. It took 5 seconds, literally.

  50. DKL,

    I actually think the disputed Mormon Texts Archive is fascinating. None of it is stuff that I saw on my mission. If somebody was pulling out the John Taylor polygamy thing though I would tell them to toss it.

    I also forgive for your sarcastic response. I didn’t explain myself well. The texts were speculative and collecting them had become an obsession for some. They were also using them for the basis of zone meeting lessons. Now I appreciate some novel material in a lesson as much as the next person, but when a ZL tells me he is going to present some pre-1978 talk about how the war in heaven had three sides, and that the fence sitters are black people in this life, I tell him to throw it away. Not that it matters, but I was in Brazil and many of the elders in the zone were of black.

    Nothing I saw on these scraps of paper was useful in missionary work, you are free to treasure your scraps as you wish.

  51. Jonathan Green says:

    John Fowles brings up some good points. Listen to them.

    Pixton’s argument is that the spurious prophecy was the result of poor memory of actual reading. And it is a spurious prophecy–the source citation doesn’t check out. But it’s reasonable to ask: So what had Spori read and then remembered?

    Lutz’s works were printed and survive in reasonable numbers, including in American libraries. Check WorldCat. If you read 18th-century German, and you have a couple days to kill, go scan through one. I’ve done it in a couple libraries, in fact. I have not found anything exciting.

    John, until someone can find something more or less like the “prophecy” and provide a source, it remains spurious. Fictional. There’s no escaping that. If you want to change that, go read 18th-century Swiss pietists, or another likely source.

    But there’s a more interesting question: what statements can we find in the 18th century or earlier that express recognition of apostasy and expectation of a restoration? How close can we come to a statement like the “prophecy”, from Lutz or anybody else, and how early?

  52. john fowles says:

    Jonathan, I understand that the source is likely not Lutz’s writings. That’s something I was hinting at in my emphasis on this other source that Winters mentions. That aspect of this is a complete mystery to me. What did Winters find? It certainly sounds a lot like what Spori was paraphrasing in relating his “prophecy.”

  53. Jonathan Green says:

    John, I only had a minute to look over Pixton’s article again. What Winters says, as quoted in Pixton, was not giving me warm fuzzies as to its plausibility–that he says he found something that sounded a lot like Spori described is not necessarily a mark in his favor. Per Pixton, Winters just gets the name and title wrong; other people looked at the same book and didn’t notice anything unusual. On the other hand, that Winters found a remarkable work by someone else is perhaps possible, but does his citation check out? I won’t have time for another week at least, but there are some obvious places to check (WorldCat, online catalogs of Basel UB and SB, BVB, in that order).

  54. David King Landrith says:

    a random John: I also forgive for your sarcastic response.

    Are you even allowed to forgive me for that?

    a random John: …you are free to treasure your scraps as you wish.

    Thanks, a random John. You’re warm-heartedness in this regard makes me regret that I haven’t so much as a single momento from my mission—I don’t even have my tags.

  55. David King Landrith says:

    Having just breezed through Times and Seasons for the first time in a few days, I want to clarify that I hadn’t seen the post at T&S (which appears to have been posted just a few minutes prior to my comment) at the time that I posted my link to the disputed Mormon Text Archive.

  56. Chabón says:


    Seguís siendo el mismo pelotudo de siempre. Flor de bocón sos. Vos te creiste esa cagada de los Catolicos en la Argentina y ahora te avergonzás. Está bien. Con vos la estupidez y el orgullo siempre pudieron más. Chau, pajero.

  57. DKL,

    You also missed a link to it earlier in this very discussion, which I would guess is the source of the T&S link. I will forgive you for that as well.

  58. I have some thoughts on the distribution method of tidbits (I’ll refrain from my previous designation) such as these and how it influences how much the people with these things believe in them.

    You see, the xerox copies don’t move by themselves. In pre-internet days getting something copied in some areas of the mission field might take some real effort and some non-trivial portion of your precious allowance. This due to the dearth of Kinko’s copy shops in various parts of the world. So unless you were in a position to abuse the xeroxer in the mission office, you had to think an item such as this was pretty important in order to be motivated enough to make copies to share.

    When you did share it you would be more likely to do so with enthusiasm than with doubt. You were also likely to be presenting it to someone (a companion or housemate) in a one-on-one setting. This makes it easy for the recipient to take it as true. I felt enourmous pressure on two occasions to accept things such as this as special, secret knowledge, intended only for the trusted. When I was merely curious rather than impressed the missionaries were visibly hurt.

    Also of note is that it is often hard to debunk these things. Usually it involves proving a negative, and missionaries simply aren’t equipped with the resources to research them. The missionaries presenting them felt that since they had something in their hand (typed up even!) the burden was on the doubter to prove that it was false.

    Another factor might be if it is presented by someone in a leadership position. This person might be more likely to have tidbits due to simply having been around a long time, which at least on my mission, was the number one qualification for a leadership position. With the emphasis on “obey your leaders” that is drilled into every missionary, it is hard to reject something that a leader presents to you.

    Finally, missionaries are always happy to recieve something that will “prove” to Catholics that even other Catholics know that the LDS Church is true. We are all capable of forgetting that proving things isn’t the point of being a missionary and that these tidbits have little or no salvific power even if they are true.

    In short, and I’m sure many will disagree, I think that the manner of distribution of tidbits such as these and the unique environment in which missionaries find themselves can lead to unwarranted belief in such items.

  59. JG: “it remains spurious”

    In this case, isn’t it “Sporious?”

  60. So Aaron, this Chabón seems to be calling you on your bluff. You believed this stuff on the mission and are now trying to say you always thought it was rubbish. I don’t know if I can trust you any longer…

  61. Floyd the Wonder Dog says:

    Occasionally in my ward someone will bring up one of these *faith promoting rumors* in Gospel Heterodoxy class. That is when the Disputed Mormon Texts Archives comes in handy. I don’t mind gospel speculation, but give it more than a moment’s passing thought before presenting it as doctrine.

    On my mission, Elder Hinkley held a mission wide conference. During the Q&A session, one Elder held up a notebook and said that this was his *faith shakers* book. He said it contained questions about the church that would shake anyone’s faith and would Elder Hinkley answer a few of these questions. Elder Hinkley told the Elder to burn the notebook and concentrate on the standard works.

    It will probably be the work of a lifetime to understand faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

  62. john fowles says:

    The University of Basel has a 1766 edition of the work by Christoph Gratianus that I found in the Bodleian’s holdings in a 1778 edition.

  63. john fowles says:

    Sorry, that link above went to one of the other of hundreds of Gratianus entries in the Basel index. I don’t know why that happened; if you want to see the 1766 source I referred to, you have to go forward about twenty entries in the card catalogue.

  64. John Fowles, I think you’re missing the real opportunity here: See if you can get some grant money from the BYU History department and get yourself to Switzerland to sort this all out. The real lure isn’t the actual answers, rather a trip to Europe on someone else’s dime…. :o)

  65. john fowles says:

    Karen, good point! I don’t know if my firm will be keen on the idea, though.

    I have found at least 39 entries by Samuel Lutz in the Basel library’s holdings. There is one from 1738 and one from 1729 (numbers 31 and 34 on this list, if the link works). I would have a blast reading these in search of the mysterious prophecy, and I would also want to look for a work by Theophile Gratianus that Winters was referring to. It would just be fun; but I am still on board with Jonathan Green that the source listed by Spori for the prophecy is spurious.

  66. john fowles says:

    Oops, let’s try this link. I mention this because Pixton doesn’t mention a 1738 work by Lutz or a 1729 work by him, both of which could conceivably be candidates for Spori’s misattribution to a supposed 1739 work.

  67. Aaron Brown says:


    No se quien es, pero si realmente me conoces, es seguro que tu memoria no te sirve muy bien. La verdad es que fueron pocos los elderes americanos en la mision que creia en esa basura, y yo siempre dudaba la veracidad de esos mitos estupidos. Pero conoci a muchos argentinos que creian en un monton de cosas tontas, incluso este documento. Asi que la verguenza debe ser suyo.

    Chau, Tragasables.


    I don’t know who Chabon is, but you can rest assured that I’ve always been as cynical as I am today, even as a young missionary. No way I ever took this stuff seriously. Chabon needs to cerrar his boca, andar a la [expletive delted] that lo pario, and volver a la cueva de donde salio. Comprendes?

    Aaron B

  68. David King Landrith says:

    a random John: You also missed a link to it earlier in this very discussion, which I would guess is the source of the T&S link. I will forgive you for that as well.

    I know. What could I have possibly been thinking?

  69. Jonathan Green says:

    Thanks, John. Now we’re getting somewhere. The Basel UB catalog gives a fuller version of the title: “Die Hoffnung Zions, Oder : Ein himmlisch-schönes Gemäld recht erfreulicher seliger Zeiten : Sowohl der nahe vor der Thür im Anbruch stehenden Philadelphischen Kirchen-Gemeind, als dess nach Laodiceischer Trangsals-Nacht unfehlbar darauf erfolgenden herrlichen Reichs Jesu Christi / … erklärt von Christophilo Gratiano.”

    Or in English: “A heavenly-beautiful painting of truly gladsome blessed times: both of the Philadelphian church which is at hand and now coming forth, and also of the glorious kingdom of Jesus Christ which will infallibly follow upon the Laodicean night of tribulation, explained by Christophilo Gratiano.”

    The Basel catalog identifies Chr. Gratiano as a pseudonym of Samuel Lucius, so we’re dealing with the same author as we’ve had all along. I don’t find other copies in WorldCat or the BVB, but I don’t know enough about the state of 18th-century bibliography. I’d be very surprised if there isn’t another copy of this somewhere else.

    The title tells us something about how Lutz/Lucius thought of history. The references to Philadelphia and Laodicea go back to the angels of the seven churches of Revelation ch. 1-4. They had been identified with various ages of the world or dispensations and with expectations for the future since Joachim a Fiore (to my limited knowledge, and I would guess probably a long time before that). Philadelphia, the sixth city named, is usually associated with a period of ecclesiastic and spiritual flowering or renewal, as Lucius/Lutz seems to do in his title. Following this he envisions a Laodicean age of apostasy, and then the advent of the Kingdom of God. So: Lutz sees himself at the dawn of an age of restoration, at the end of which a night of tribulation will come before the Second Coming. I expect he has a good amount of optimistic expectation for the future in his book, but his model of history is also different in important ways from the LDS version: we think the dark night is over, while he sees at least one more ahead.

    Other titles are equally suggestive: “Der geistliche Frühling, in einer Predigt über Cant. II, 10-13: zu Bern vorgestellt und hernach auff Begehren zum druck befördert und um Aufsetzen vermehret” (1729) = “The spiritual Spring, presented in a sermon on Song of Solomon 2: 10-13 at Bern and afterwards expanded and printed by request.” Harvard owns a copy of this one.

    “Wächter Jerusalems, von Gott erwecket zu Zeichen und Vorbotten besserer Zeiten :
    und zubereitet zu Werck-Zeugen und Beförderern der bald zu erwartenden zweyten Reformation und viel herrlicheren Jubel-Jahrs : in ihren heiligen und seligen Eigenschafften vorgestellet in einer Predigt uber Jesaiae LXII, v. 6, 7” (1724) = “Watchmen of Jerusalem, waked by God as signs and heralds of better times: and prepared as tools and promoters of the second Reformation and very glorious year of Jubilee to be expected soon: presented in their holy and blessed characterstics in a sermon on Isaiah 62: 6-7.” Webster University in St. Louis owns a copy of this one.

    From what I remember of browsing two other books by Lutz, I would guess that there are a number of things that are at least interesting if taken out of his context and put in an LDS context. I’d bet that a serious of study of Lutz and his writings would not find anything as specific as deacons, teachers, and salty lakes, however, and that his expectation of future restoration/reformation is not 100% compatible with ours. But I’d also bet that he would emerge as someone who expected a renovation or restoration in some way, which is still interesting from an LDS perspective.

  70. Chabón says:

    Bajá el tono, ¿querés petiso? Tus bravuconudas quizá le caigan bien a tus alcahuetes acá, pero acordáte que algunos te conocemos desde hace tiempo. También me encanta como dejás la fachada de progre para putear contra los argentinos apenas te dicen algo. Una pregunta, turrito ¿en que idioma estaban escritos esos folletos? Están escritos en inglés, así que por ahí algún tarado se los creyó pero fueron Uds. los que escribieron la estupidez en primer lugar.

    Y otra cosa, ¿pq no aprendés a putear como un hombre y no una mina cualquiera? Te venís acá para hacerte el guapo, pero para vos como para cualquier lechón se te llegará tu Nochebuena.

  71. David King Landrith says:

    I’m just an American with exceedingly poor language skills—I failed Spanish 1 three years in a row in high school, and I only managed to pass English once—yet I remain quite interested in understanding what Chabon has to say. I beg the pardon of those who would find this repetitive, but might someone be so kind as to provide a translation?

  72. Here is Babelfish’s translation of the most recent post:

    Bajá the tone, querés petiso? Perhaps your bravuconudas fall to him well to your procurers here, but acordáte that some we have been knowing you for a long time. Also it enchants as dejás to me the facade of progre to putear against the Argentineans as soon as they say something to you. A question, turrito in which language was written those pamphlets? They are written in English, so that way some defective was believed them but You were those that you wrote the stupidity in the first place. And another thing, pq aprendés not to putear like a man and not a mine any? You come here for hacerte the lady’s man to you, but for vos as for any pig your Christmas Eve is arrived to you

  73. apparently it didn’t catch all the spanish words. I think automatic translation software is usually quite hilarious.

  74. “as for any pig your Christmas Eve is arrived to you”

    Truer words were never spoken.

  75. Aaron Brown says:


    A full translation of Chabon’s screed would probably only disappoint you. Nothing substantive going on between us; just a chance for Chabon to run his mouth, and me to practice my Spanish insults (primitive as they admittedly are).

    Chabon claims to know me from the mission days, but I’m skeptical. He is welcome to reveal his identity, or reveal something that would prove our prior acquaintance, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Much of his rant is rich in Argentine slang, which would be hard to translate if you don’t know the idiom; he’s also using the Argentine “voseo” form of the second person familiar in his verb conjugations, which would be unfamiliar to an American student of Spanish.

    Incidently, I don’t know what “bravuconudas” means (I suspect it’s misspelled), but I’d love to know. I’m always looking to add new Spanish slang terms to my linguistic repertoire.

    I think I’ll insult his mother shortly …

    Aaron B

  76. Here is a Guatemalan-Spanish translation:

    FIrst comment:

    You continue to be the same [“pelotudo”: an insult that has to do with hair] as always. You’re a big-mouth flower. You believed this sh** from the Catholics in Argentina and now you’re embarrassed. That’s fine. With you, stupidity and pride always [“pudieron”: past tense of ?] more. Bye, Little Di**.

    Second comment:

    Keep your voice down. Do you want [“petiso”: ?]? Perhaps your [“bravuconudas”: something along the lines of brave, big stories] will sit well with your whores here, but remember that some of us know you from long ago. I also love how you [“dejas la fachada de progre”: something along the lines of maintain the facade of cynicism] so that you can insult the Argentineans as soon as tehy tell you something. One question, [turrito: ?] in what language were those fliers written? They are written in English, because there (the U.S.) is where some idiot believed it, but it was you guys who wrote the stupid thing in the first place.

    One more thing, what don’t you learn how to insult like a man and not like a little girl? You come here to make yourself look good, but for you, like any other pig/slob your [“Nochebuena”: Christmas Eve, but I can only imagine him intending something more insulting] will come.

    Well, Aaron, we had the word “chambón” in Guat, which means idiot. Maybe that’s what “Chabón” means.

  77. Aaron:
    I went on my mission to Argentina BA North 85-87 and we had the letter you referenced. We also had a letter supposedly written to Elder Brewerton from a renegade Catholic priest. It detailed Vatican hit squads and past misdeeds, including the usual crap about tunnels under convents filled with the bodies of aborted fetuses, the results of illicit unions between priests and nuns.
    As you observed in your exchange with chabon, while some Americans believed the stuff my experience was that Argies believed it more than anyone else.

    My wife is Argie so I can help you a little with the Spanish:

    Bravuconuda means bravado.

    The saying ‘a cada lechon le llega su Nochebuena’ is a Caribbean saying referring to their tradition of eating lechon or suckling pig for Christmas. It simply means ‘you get what is coming to you’.

    Incidentally, chabon is what Argies call each other now, more or less translated as ‘dude’. That term wasn’t used until the late 1990s.

  78. David King Landrith says:

    Thanks for the clarifications, everyone.

  79. I can vouch for Aaron’s long-standing skepticism.

    BTW, I got a copy of that prophecy while I was still in Trenque Lauquen. The missionary who copied it for me told me that it was very special and that he was reluctant to give it to anyone who wouldn’t appreciate it. Evidently I passed his test; I felt a little bad for feigning fealty, though.

    From the sound of things, this sort of thing still gets passed around quite a bit. I recently heard of something similar from a nephew currently serving a mission.

    Apropos chabon’s question (“¿pq no aprendés a putear como un hombre y no una mina cualquiera?”), he really can’t simultaneously claim to know Aaron that well (“algunos te conocemos desde hace tiempo”) and ask such things. It must be some kind of goad — but a dangerous one. Aaron is an artist. I’m blushing just thinking about some of the conversations we’ve had. I fear that such taunts can only unleash a torrent of abuse that will unsettle (albeit amaze) us all.

  80. John W.

    Your story confirms mine that the method in which these things are passed around not only stengthens their believability in the eyes of the recipient but prevents them from falling into the hands of one that might debunk it.

  81. john fowles says:

    That BYU Studies article by Professor Pixton is fascinating and lessens the absurdity surrounding this prophecy that Aaron attributes to it. Pixton points out that the source of this prophecy in the Church was Jacob Spori, a Swiss convert and missionary in Switzerland in the 1870s and 80s and eventually the president of the Turkish Mission and then the precursor to Ricks college before teaching German, French, and Math at the Brigham Young Academy. Spori apparently had read works of the prolific eighteenth-century Pietist Samuel Lutz and then paraphrased them years later in what became the prophecy. As President Rulon S. Wells, the first to question and try to debunk the prophecy, noted in his 1908 article: “There is enough real prophecy without using any that is bogus, to convince the honest in heart of the truth” (Pixton 3). This is true, so if the prophecy is false, then it is very unfortunate that missionaries might have devoted teaching time to including this prophecy.

    Pixton has certainly done his research. He focuses largely on the morphed pen-name of Samuel Lutz to Lucius Gratus or Lucius Gratianus from its legitimate forms, which included Christophilus Gratianus, and on the lack of a 1739 edition of the work. True, these factors weigh against the veracity of the story. But Pixton also leaves one thing hanging. In the 1922 investigation ordered by President Grant, Elder O.K. Winters found a work by Theophile Gratianus published in 1732, the date of the original publication of Samuel Lutz’s work Hoffnung Zions. First of all, Pixton does not address this new pen name mentioned by Winters and also does not address Winters’s statement that there were hundreds of entries in the library’s card catalogue under “Gratianus.” None of the previous people who had searched for the book, as reported by Pixton, had reported that the author was Theophilus Gratianus. The year corresponds but how can Pixton brush this point aside? Further, Winter states that

    The book is rich in prophecies concerning the restoration of the gospel and is remarkable in that it mentions a church with prophets and patriarchs and that the Urim and Thummin would be restored, etc., etc.

    Pixton never addresses this statement by Winters. In spite of all the research done here, it almost seems like Pixton and Winters are speaking past each other; that is, could there be another book by Theophilus Gratianus that contains something close to the peophecy reported by Spori? Pixton admits that Spori must have paraphrased, through the lense of a recent Mormon convert, some of the writings and speculations of Samuel Lutz. But Pixton and others reported by Pixton say that nothing in Lutz’s Hoffnung Zions — either the 1732 or the 1737 editions — is even similar at all to Spori’s reported prophecy. So what is Winters referring to in 1922? Why does Pixton avoid that issue? Is it possible that much of this stems not only from Spori’s loose paraphrasing twenty years after his opportunity to have actually read the work (as Pixton notes) but also from a misattribution by Spori to Lutz? Pixton writes that “[o]n none of the known writings of Samuel Lutz does the name Lutius Gratianus ever appear” (Pixton 5). This is the name that Spori assigned as the author of the prophecy. Pixton does not list Theophilus Gratianus as one of the known pseudonyms of Samuel Lutz. Winters found prophecies in a book by Theophilus Gratianus of a similar (but not the same) name — Hoffnung Israels rather than Hoffnung Zions — printed in 1732 that correlate, at least loosely, to Spori’s paraphrased prophecy that Spori attributed to Lucius Gratianus in 1893. Also, Pixton notes that Lutz’s Hoffnung Zions was included in later larger works beginning in 1737, but he does not address the content of the larger works. Finally, Pixton acknowledges a 1759 edition of Lutz’s work that also included a revised version of Hoffnung Zions. All of these discrepancies leave the door open to the possibility that Spori, a man whose integrity Pixton was very careful not to impugn, was not embellishing as much as Pixton implies in his paraphrasal of the prophecy he claimed to have read. If the prophecy itself stemmed from Muhlestein alone, a missionary from Provo who seized on Spori’s 1893 Stern article and gave a lecture in 1894 in Basel in which he used the prophecy as an apologetic tool, then I would not be engaging in this exercise pointing out the weaknesses of Pixton’s own debunking of Spori’s paraphrased prophecy. But we have Spori’s own version and don’t have to rely on Muhlestein, who, by the way, testified in 1950-51 that he had found and verified the text of the prophecy in the book back in 1894. Pixton points out that Muhlestein attributed it to Lucius Gratianus, Hoffnung Zions 1739, and thus Pixton dismisses Muhlestein’s testimony since later research showed that no 1739 edition of Samuel Lutz’s work Hoffnung Zions exists. But Pixton does not address the possibility of misattribution by Muhlestein; what if Muhlestein had come across the same book in 1894 that Winters found in 1922, namely a 1732 book by Theophilus Gratianus entitled Hoffnung Israels (not Hoffnung Zions)? Pixton’s paper is the weaker for not addressing these possibilities.

    I am not arguing with all of this that the prophecy is real. Rather, I am suggesting that missionaries have not been complete idiots over the years for being intrigued by this and that Pixton’s paper is not the last word on this since he left many stones uncovered, most importantly, Winters’s 1922 discovery of similar prophecies. It is unfortunate that Pixton did not search the library’s archives himself. If there are hundreds of entries in the card catalogue attributed to various “Gratianus” authors, then it seems that a thorough treatment would need to assess each one of those works individually (at least those that fall within eighteenth century) to see if any of them contain a prophecy similar to that reported by Spori, a man who was very unlikely trying to invent a prophecy but who likely was actually paraphrasing something he had read (and which is not found in any work by Samuel Lutz, as noted by Staehelin, the Basel professor who wrote a memo on the topic in the 1950s).

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