“…the Depression will seem like a Sunday school picnic…”

February 28, 1989

David Hughes Horne, P.E.; Chemical Engineer

Sometimes rare, traumatic, or shocking events become emblazoned into one’s memory. This paper documents such an event. In 1946 I witnessed a prophetic utterance made by George Albert Smith, prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1945 to 1951. I am a son of Dr. Lyman Merrill Horne and Myrtle Swainston Horne. My father was a great-grandson of George A. Smith, cousin of the Prophet Joseph and counselor to Brigham Young. His grandson, President George Albert Smith, was Dad’s mother’s first cousin.

From 1944 until March 1947 we lived on the same block in the Yale Ward as George Albert Smith and frequently had contact with him. Many times he paused at our home while on his evening walk and talked with me as I worked in our front yard. My family visited him a few times at his home, and he visited my family at our home several times. He always showed pleasure when I met him and once told me what work the Lord had for me to do and what I must do to be prepared to do His work.

One day our father arranged for George Albert Smith to speak to us in a family time. The Prophet told us of a vision he had had. At least eleven elements of it have occurred, and the rest may occur soon. My record of his prophecy may be important because it may not be officially recorded. Last year I visited the Church historian’s library to read Pres. Smith’s journal to see what he had written about it but the staff knew nothing of it. I then discussed it with Leonard Arrington, former Church historian, who said, “I have never heard of it.” Even Arthur Haycock, his faithful secretary, did not know of it, but he did not work with Pres. Smith until July 1947.

We dressed up in our best clothes. I shined my shoes again and again. Our father was disappointed with a sister who went to a movie with her boyfriend. Dad asked her to stay with her beau, who had finished his Navy service in August 1946, and share the evening with the Lord’s prophet, but she would not. We were seated at the given time in the living room ready for the prophet to arrive. Present were my father and mother, my sister, Alice Merrill Horne II (age 17), my brother, Robert H. Horne (age 14), my twin, Jonathan H. Horne, and I (ages 11). It was after dark and we had difficulty making the front porch light work. It was cold in that room and I was glad to wear a coat. Thus I think his visit was between October 1946 and January 1947. Thereafter we were preparing to move. President Smith said much more than what I remember exactly, but some of his statements were so impressive that I have a brilliant recollection of them.

When Pres. Smith arrived we sang a verse of “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” He stood and talked without notes for some time about the importance of keeping the commandments, always giving a full tithe, and being a good example wherever we are. He told us he was once on a train in Mexico with no other individuals of northern European descent on board. He said that a man recognized him as a leader of the “Mormon” Church and introduced himself as a Mexican government official. Pres. Smith noted how embarrassed he and the Church would have been had he not been acting as a faithful servant of the Lord should. I heard him also tell that story in another talk.

Then Pres. Smith said, “I have had a troublesome vision of another great and terrible war that made the war just ended look like a training exercise World War II and people died like flies. It began at a time when the Soviet Union’s military might dwarfed that of the United States, and we [that is, the United States] would have missiles in Europe that carried an atomic bomb. I saw the United States withdraw its missiles to appease the Soviet Union, and then the war began.” He also said that we would have big missiles in deep holes he described like grain silos which the Soviets would try to destroy with their own missiles. They would hit military installations and some cities also. He said that the president at that time would be of Greek extraction.

Until then all the presidents would be of British or northern European ancestry. He continued that the U.S. would be bound by numerous entangling alliances and would take away weapons owned by the people. He talked some about the initial attack and the ground warfare, but I can’t remember enough to document all their tactics and in which countries various things occurred. One tactic, especially in Europe, was to transport tanks in thousands of big trucks like semi-trailers on the super highways to have them located where they wanted them when the war was to begin. During that explanation I asked, “What about the Atomic Cannon?” to which he answered, “I didn’t see anything like that.” Then he said, “The aftermath was dreadful. Think of the worst, most difficult times of the Depression.” He turned to us children and said, “You won’t remember the Depression,” which was true. I didn’t know there was a depression as I was growing up – the sun came up every morning, flowers bloomed, we went to school, and there was church every Sunday. But he repeated to our parents, “Think of the worst condition of the Depression. Can you think of something?” Our father answered, “Oh yes!” Then Pres. Smith continued, “You know how Sunday school picnics are complete with salad, chicken, root beer, and dessert, and everyone has a wonderful time. The worst time of the Depression will seem like a Sunday school picnic when compared with conditions that will exist after that great war.” When he finished speaking he turned around and went to the front door. As he left I thought to myself, “What he said is really important. I’ve got to remember it!”

To understand Pres. George Albert Smith’s woeful statement, “I have had a troublesome vision…,” one first must comprehend the kind of man Pres. Smith was. Those who knew him best describe him as the most humble, compassionate, magnanimous, kind, and merciful person they knew. He exemplified the pure love of Christ and showed his love for all of God’s children by his unqualified service. For example, at the end of World War II he organized a relief program for war-torn Europe’s destitute people. The Relief Society sisters made quilts and clothes. The Church welfare cannery produced millions of cases of food donated from farms and home gardens. Other materials and food were purchased from donations by church members worldwide. Then he obtained U.S. Pres. Truman’s permission to send the aid and assigned Elder Ezra Taft Benson to administer its distribution in Europe. The aid was not restricted to LDS Church members. The government of Greece honored Pres. Smith for his and the Church’s service to its people.

Thereafter, the government initiated the Marshall Plan and organizations like CARE sprang up. Thus for him to see an event of which he also said in his April 1950 general conference concluding speech, people by the millions will die like flies” (CR-4/50:5, 169) indeed must have been a troublesome vision. (See also Harold B. Lee, CR-10/51:28-29.)

When Pres. Smith told us of his vision, the U.S. and the USSR were allies. Some tiffs had occurred between the USSR and the U.S., but the idea that the Soviets would become an enemy wasn’t popular. In 1946 the United States was the world’s great military power. It seems the allies of the U.S. succeeded in World War II because we had sent them material. The idea that the USSR would dwarf the military might of the United States was contrary to any reasonable expectation, but today it is exactly true. The Soviet’s military might is awesome. Nearly all their population, including peasant farmers, serve in their reserves and may become part of their army in time of war. They have amassed a year’s supply of food (including U.S. grain) so they will not have to farm during the first year of any war. They have about five times as many fighters and several times as many modem bomber aircraft as we do. They are well made, effective aircraft with well-trained pilots and crews. Their infantry’s weapons and logistics preparations are staggering. Thus, two elements of Pres. Smith’s vision were exactly correct: the USSR became our enemy and their military might dwarfs our own.

It’s no secret that we have nuclear warhead missiles in Europe and in underground silos here. But in 1946, nuclear missiles were beyond imagination. Even the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said (in 1950), “Intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads are impossible.” But we had them by 1963. I’ve worked in Minuteman missile silos which accurately fit Pres. Smith’s description. But our Cruise missiles were made after 1980. General Bernard Rogers, NATO commander, was so outspoken against the INF Treaty that he was removed. General John Gavins, his successor, said that he could not maintain Europe in a war for more than two weeks without nuclear weapons. So five more elements of Pres. Smith’s vision are verified: we have missiles – in Europe and in silos – that carry atomic bombs and are essential for U.S. defense.
Next Pres. Smith said that we would withdraw our missiles from Europe to appease the Soviets. Former UN Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick said that the INF Treaty hurts us militarily, but we have to do it. Dr. Eugene Callens says the treaty was politically motivated: missiles were used as bargaining chips, in negotiations with the Soviets, which is a form of appeasement, and Pres. Reagan may have been buying time with their removal until other new systems were in place. During the negotiations we revealed that we knew the USSR plans to violate the treaty. Thus two more elements of Pres. Smith’s vision are verified. On 1 September 1988 the U.S. began removing missiles to comply with a treaty designed to appease the Soviets. By 31 December 1989 our missiles should be disarmed.

Just before Pres. Smith visited us, the newspaper headlined a giant (about 24-wheel) artillery piece named the Atomic Cannon. It was to have been like Big Bertha which Germany used to batter Liege, Namur, and Paris. The Atomic Cannon was designed to fire atomic bombs 100 miles to assure no potential aggressor ever would start another war. But Pres. Smith said he did not see anything like that. History reveals that the Atomic Cannon was a flop and by about 1948 the program was canceled. The U.S. has a howitzer able to fire a nuclear weapon about 20 miles, but it is very different from the colossus shown in the news. Thus another element of Pres. Smith’s prophecy is verified.

As predicted, all U.S. presidents have had north European or British ancestry. But in 1988 a man of Greek descent led the polls for a time. He may run again. Thus one more element of Pres. Smith’s vision is realized; we see how another element could occur.

The next elements in Pres. Smith’s prophecy were another great and terrible war that would make World War II look like a training exercise and that people would die like flies. This obviously hasn’t happened, but consider some of the Soviets’ weapons and military preparations and the results of their use. The Soviets have 100-megaton hydrogen bombs which could be used against military bases and cities. Also, when, the Soviets tested one of their first 100-megaton bombs the electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which is an incredibly high-energy radio wave produced by the detonation, melted an electrical system power transformer’s windings 190 miles away. The Soviets are far ahead of the U.S. in space technology and the number of satellites in orbit. From January through September 1987 the Soviets fired more than 700 vehicles into space – mostly military. The U.S. space program for that same time was almost stopped. And certain rnilitary analysts believe that some of the Soviet satellites in orbit above the U.S. contain high-yield nuclear bombs purposely to destroy all the transformers in our nationwide power grid: computers, radios, televisions, telephones, and most other electronic devices.

Pacemakers and electronic watches may be blown out, too. Most transistors, diodes, integrated circuits, and other semiconductor devices can tolerate less than 30 volts, but EMP is about a 50,000-volt/meter wave. Evacuation from cities before the bombs hit may be difficult because later-model vehicle engines and alternators today have semiconductor controls. Their junctions could be melted in a millionth of a second by the EMP. It may be as if for an instant the entire continent were a microwave oven. Older vehicles with points in their distributors and mechanical voltage regulators may continue co operate if their alternator diodes are not blown. Diodes and electronic auto parts can be replaced if spares exist that were shielded. My amateur radio gear with electron tubes still may work afterward. But well pumps that supply our drinking water may be out of service for a long time.

The USSR’s military buildup is not to protect their country from invasion. Who since Hitler has invaded the USSR? Instead, the USSR has been the aggressor in many wars throughout the world. Two reliable military sources have told me that on 4 July 1987 a Soviet Bear bomber 2,000 miles from Hawaii fired an intermediate-range missile at Hawaii. When it was about 100 miles from Honolulu the U.S. had not destroyed it and a Soviet aircraft that was there shot it down. The military information officer reported that when he revealed the story to the news media the media managers refused to air it, saying, “It would be bad for business.” Recent reports of Soviet landings on the Aleutian Islands and other places suggest that they are practicing for an invasion.

If the war Pres. Smith saw occurs, conditions will be like those our pre-1800 ancestors knew – with some shelter, but few of the modern machines with which we work. Conditions will be worse for a long time. Government and major services including police, electricity, potable water and waste, and fuel; commercial food, medicines, and clothes may not exist. Engines to power pumps, vehicles, and machines may not work; 3 Nephi 21:14-15 says that if the gentiles don’t repent the Lord will destroy their chariots, cities, and strongholds. Our ancestors had wagons and horses for transportation and work. Shovels, hoes, seeds, and bikes with puncture-resistant tubes may be scarce. There may be no food from farms other than what we can carry, no manufactured goods or safe drinking water. Our forebears knew how to do things without machines that we don’t know how to do. Thus, conditions could be exactly like Pres. Smith described -the worst conditions of the Depression would seem like a Sunday school picnic in comparison.

In about 1940 my parents started a Sunday evening study group which their friend Dr. Sidney B. Sperry taught. About 1964, while studying the Doctrine and Covenants, Dr. Sperry noted that Section 1:17 said a calamity would come upon the children of men. He told us of an experience he had with Pres. George Albert Smith at the end of a general conference. Dr. Sperry said, ‘I rushed up onto the platform to speak with Pres. Smith after the prayer. When I arrived at his side he was standing overlooking the congregation. The people were just starting to stand up and the ushers were opening the doors so everyone could leave. And I heard the president woefully mutter as he looked over the congregation, -They’ll die like flies.” Dr. Sperry explained his concern that Pres. Smith looked at the Saints and said, “They’ll die like flies.’ Neither my father, mother, nor I said anything to the group about what Pres. Smith had told us in our home. Knowing that Pres. Smith considered that Saints would be among those whom he told us would die like flies greatly concerned me, too. For I am one of them and was in the tabernacle when that occurred. I saw Dr. Sperry rush up to the speakers’ platform at the end of conference. Perhaps I feel like Laman felt about the Jews at Jerusalem being righteous – that many Saints are honorable, diligent in the Lord’s work, and doers of the word, not hearers only. Yet I know Pres. Benson has said that the revelation on the production and storage of food may be as important to our temporal salvation as it was for Noah to get into the ark. And few have complied with this counsel of the Lord’s living prophet.

Remember that the Lord said, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” Ancient prophets knew our day would be difficult yet yearned to see it. The Saints are commanded to obey and teach the Lord’s laws; to multiply and fill the earth, and to build the Lord’s kingdom. Our task is not to shrink but to prepare for challenges that may demand our greatest efforts to survive free from AIDS or the plagues that otherwise might infect everyone.

I record this as a witness of my friend and cousin, George Albert Smith’s description of a prophetic vision he saw. I began writing it last September and have remembered more as I concentrated on his comments. I’ve not recorded here all I now remember. See also Pres. Smith’s general conference speeches CR-10/46: 149-153 and CR-10/50: 180-181.

After reading my 28 October version my brother Robert said he remembered Pres. Smith’s visit exactly as I wrote it but doesn’t remember some I have since added. Alice said she remembered some of the December version. On 18 December Dr. Hugh Nibley said his mother, a close friend of Pres. Smith, told him about the vision that Pres. Smith received. Sister Nibley heard the prophet relate this story at a conference in the Bay Area. Dr. Nibley also said he was close to LeGrand Richards’ family and Sister Richards told him about the vision as well.

David H. Horne



Once source claims the following:

“You all need to know that one thing that Brother Horne has retracted was the statement that the president at the time would be of Greek extraction. So PLEASE don’t put any stock in this particular part. This keeps being spread around and needs to have that part deleted. Keep in mind he is going from memory. Not ALL of it is correct.” (https://www.ldsfreedomforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=13552)