The ‘Wagon Box Prophecy’


Dan Cravens is a member of the Blackfoot 15th LDS Ward

Currently, Eastern Idaho is suffering from widespread flooding. Bad weather is not a new situation for local residents. A group of early settlers encountered a great deal of hardship in their efforts to make East Idaho their home.
Shortly after members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived to settle in the Salt Lake Valley, their president Brigham Young began to send groups of them to colonize various suitable areas of the Mountain West. The new settlements provided places where LDS converts, many from Europe, could make for themselves a new and prosperous life. The new colonies also served to provide LDS members in the Mountain West with a wide supply of goods, and to promote economic independence.
An area the church had a keen interest in settling was the Snake River Valley of Eastern Idaho. In the late 1870s and early 1880s LDS settlers had been sent to this region to establish new communities. However, the new settlers struggled greatly. The climate, with its arid nature and short growing season, proved very difficult to overcome. Early LDS settlers to the Snake River Valley suffered from crop failures, hunger, disease and poverty.
In 1884, Wilford Woodruff, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came to visit the embattled LDS settlers in the Snake River Valley. The LDS apostle found many of the LDS settlers to be very discouraged and ready to move south to areas where they felt more able to grow the crops they depended on to survive.
Woodruff came to visit the LDS community of Iona, Idaho.
Like many of the LDS settlements in East Idaho, Iona was poor and in desperate need. The community was so poor it had not yet been able to build a meeting house. President Woodruff addressed the LDS faithful of Iona from the back of a wagon, which was being used as a makeshift pulpit for the church meeting. Moved by the pain and desperation of his fellow church members in the community, he felt inspired to tell them the following:
“The spirit of the Lord rests on me and I feel to bless you in the name of Jesus Christ. I promise you that the climate will be moderated for your good. I can see these great sagebrush prairies as far as the eye can reach turned into fertile fields.
“I bless the land that it shall yield forth in its strength. Flowers and trees and fine homes shall grace the valley from one end to another. Schools and colleges of higher learning shall be built to serve you, that you may learn the mysteries of God’s great universe. I see churches and meetinghouses dotting the landscape, where the God of Israel may be worshiped in truth and in spirit.”
At the time the prophecy seemed very farfetched to a people barely able to survive in harsh conditions. However, the LDS settlers stayed and trusted in Woodruff’s words because they believed he was a prophet of God.
In 1999, LDS members dedicated a monument in remembrance of Woodruff’s statement, known today as the “Wagon Box Prophecy.” The monument located at the Iona Stake Center not only pays tribute to President Woodruff but also the LDS pioneers of this region.
Today Eastern Idaho is very much the place Wilford Woodruff saw in his vision. There are fertile fields, schools, colleges, churches, gardens and fine homes throughout the region. President Woodruff’s vision has played an important role in helping grow and develop Eastern Idaho.