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How did Joseph Smith correctly predict the 1833 Meteor Storm?

Philo Dibble recorded the following prophecy by Joseph Smith:

On one occasion Joseph was preaching in Kirtland, sometime in the fall of 1833. Quite a number of persons were present who did not belong to the Church, and one man, more bitter and skeptical than others, made note with pencil and paper of a prophecy uttered on that occasion, wherein Joseph said that ‘Forty days shall not pass, and the stars shall fall from heaven.’ ”

– John P. Pratt, “Spectacular Meteor Shower Might Repeat,” Meridian Magazine, October 15, 1999.

He then reports how the prophecy was fulfilled:

On the thirty-ninth day after the utterance of that prophecy, a man and brother in the Church, by the name of Joseph Hancock,… and another brother were out hunting game and got lost. They wandered about until night, when they found themselves at the house of this unbeliever, who exultingly produced this note of Joseph Smith’s prophecy and asked Brother Hancock what he thought of his prophet now that thirty-nine days had passed and the prophecy was not fulfilled.

“Brother Hancock was unmoved and quietly remarked, ‘There is one night left of the time, and if Joseph said so, the stars will certainly fall tonight. The prophecy will all be fulfilled.’

“The matter weighed upon the mind of Brother Hancock, who watched that night, and it proved to be the historical one, known in all the world as ‘the night of the falling of the stars.’

“He stayed that night at the house of the skeptical unbeliever, as it was too far from home to return by night, and in the midst of the falling of the stars, he went to the door of his host and called him out to witness what he had thought impossible and the most improbable thing that could happen, especially as that was the last night in which Joseph Smith could be saved from the condemnation of a ‘false prophet.’

“The whole heavens were lit up with the falling meteors, and the countenance of the new spectator was plainly seen and closely watched by Brother Hancock, who said that he turned pale as death and spoke not a word.”

– John P. Pratt, “Spectacular Meteor Shower Might Repeat,” Meridian Magazine, October 15, 1999.

Why did Brother Hancock turn pale as death? Doesn’t this show how unexpected the fulfillment of this prophecy was?


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