Elder Parley P. Pratt (April 12, 1807 – May 13, 1857) was an early apostle, missionary and important leader during the early days of the Church. Following Elder Pratt’s death, President John Taylor wrote that he had a “true and living faith in God and his religion—an honesty of purpose, an inflexible will, and an unflagging, indefatigable industry and perseverance. He possessed a comprehensive mind, coupled with a sound judgment. He manifested an indomitable fortitude under the most trying circumstances, and in adversity and trials, as well as in prosperity, exhibited an example worthy of praise and emulation. He was indeed a true Latter-Day Saint, an honorable Apostle, a good and kind husband, an affectionate father, a true friend, and an honest man. . . . [He] has left a name and a fame that will live throughout time and burst forth in eternity; and in the morning of the first resurrection, when the opening heavens shall reveal the Son of God, and he shall proclaim, ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ when Death shall deliver up the dead, I expect to meet Bro. Parley in the resurrection of just.” (To the Public, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt)
Parley P. Pratt was born April 12, 1807. “My father [Jared Pratt] was a hard working man, and generally occupied in agricultural pursuits; and, although limited in education, he sometimes taught school, and even vocal music. He was a man of excellent morals; and he exerted himself diligently, by stern example as well as precept, to instill into the minds of his children every principle of integrity, honesty, honor and virtue. He taught us to venerate our Father in Heaven, Jesus Christ, His prophets and Apostles, as well as the Scriptures written by them; while at the same time he belonged to no religious sect, and was careful to preserve his children free from all prejudice in favor of or against any particular denomination, into which the so-called Christian world was then unhappily divided.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt)
He married Thankful Halsey in Canaan, New York, on September 9, 1827.
Sacrifices Farm for the Gospel
In 1830, Parley P. Pratt had, through hard industrious labor, obtained a flourishing farm, orchard and home. However, he “felt drawn out in an extraordinary manner to search the prophets, and to pray for an understanding of the same. My prayers were soon answered, even beyond my expectations; the prophecies of the holy prophets were opened to my view; I began to understand the things which were coming on the earth the restoration of Israel, the coming of the Messiah, and the glory that should follow. I was so astonished at the darkness of myself and mankind on these subjects that I could exclaim with the prophet: surely, ‘darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people.’ I was all swallowed up in these things. I felt constrained to devote my time in enlightening my fellow men on these important truths, and in warning them to prepare for the coming of the Lord.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt)
During this period of contemplation, he met with his brother William whom he had not seen for many years.
“This was a joyful and unexpected meeting of two brothers. He immediately accompanied me home, and was introduced to my wife and our little farm in the wilderness, where we spent some days together. He admired my wife; but above all my farm. “Brother Parley,” said he, “how have you done all this? When we were last together you had no wife, no farm, no house, no orchard, and now you are here with everything smiling around you.” I replied that hard work had accomplished it all. And, continued I, we are now about to leave this quiet home which we have toiled so hard to make, and perhaps, never see it again. “How so?” said he, with much surprise, and somewhat of disappointment. I then unfolded to him the gospel and prophecies as they had been opened to me, and told him that the spirit of these things had wrought so powerfully on my mind of late that I could not rest; that I could no longer be contented to dwell in quiet and retirement on my farm, while I had light to impart to mankind, of which I knew they were in a great measure ignorant. “But,” said he, “if I had fifty acres of land, a comfortable house, a fine orchard, a beautiful garden, with meadow land, grain, and above all, such beautiful flowers and so valuable a housekeeper as you have, and all these things the work of our own hands, I am sure I would stay and enjoy the same while I lived; and the world might go on its own jog, and its own way, for all me. Besides, how are you to get your living? This is your all; you have toiled for years to obtain it, and why not now continue to enjoy it?” “William,” said I, “I see plainly you know hut little of my circumstances if the changes which have taken place with me since we parted five years ago, nor how vastly wealthy I have become within that time. Why, sir, I have bank bills enough, on the very best institutions in the world, to sustain myself and family while we live.”
“Indeed,” said he, “well, I should like to see some of them; I hope they are genuine.” “Certainly,” I replied, “there is no doubt of that. They are true bills and founded on capital that will never fail, though heaven and earth should pass away. Of this I will convince you in a moment.”
I then unlocked my treasury and drew from thence a large pocket book, fall of promissory notes like the following: “Whoever shall forsake father or mother, brethren or sisters, houses or lands, wife or children, for my sake and the gospel’s, shall receive an hundred fold in this life, and in the world to come lie everlasting.” “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will in my name and I will give it you.” “All things are possible to him that believeth.”
“Now, William,” said I, “are these the words of Jesus Christ, or are they not?” “They certainly are,” said he, “I always believed the New Testament.”
“Then you admit they are genuine bills?”
“Is the signer able to meet his engagements?”
“He certainly is.”
“Is he willing?”
“Well, then, I am going to fulfill the conditions to the letter on my part. I feel called upon by the Holy Ghost to forsake my house and home for the gospel’s sake; and I will do it, placing both feet firm on these promises with nothing else to rely upon.” “If I sink, they are false.”
“If I am sustained, they are true. I will put them to the test. Experiment shall now establish the truth of Christ’s promises, or the truth of infidelity.”
“Well,” said he, “try it, if you will; but, for my part, although I always believed the Bible, I would not dare believe it literally, and really stand upon its promises, with no other prop.”
We parted. He to his business, I to my preparations for a mission which should only end with my life.
In August, 1830, I had closed my business, completed my arrangements, and we bid adieu to our wilderness home and never saw it afterwards.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt)
Discovering the Book of Mormon
Through his willingness to sacrifice his possessions and fortune for the sake of spreading the gospel as he understood it, Parley P. Pratt came across the Book of Mormon. During their journey to Albany, Brother Pratt felt impressed to leave the boat.
“Arriving at Rochester, I informed my wife that, notwithstanding our passage being paid through the whole distance, yet I must leave the boat and her to pursue her passage to our friends; while I would stop awhile in this region. Why, I did not know; but so it was plainly manifest by the Spirit to me. I said to her, “We part for a season; go and visit our friends in our native place; I will come soon, but how soon I know not; for I have a work to do in this region of country, and what it is, or how long it will take to perform it, I know not; but I will come when it is performed.”
My wife would have objected to this; but she had seen the hand of God so plainly manifest in His dealings with me many times, that she dare not oppose the things manifest to me by His spirit. . . . It was early in the morning, just at the dawn of day, I walked ten miles into the country, and stopped to breakfast with a Mr. Wells. I proposed to preach in the evening. Mr. Wells readily accompanied me through the neighborhood to visit the people, and circulate the appointment.
We visited an old Baptist deacon by the name of Hamlin. After hearing of our appointment for evening, he began to tell of a book, a STRANGE BOOK, a VERY STRANGE BOOK! in his possession, which had been just published. This book, he said, purported to have been originally written on plates either of gold or brass, by a branch of the tribes of Israel; and to have been discovered and translated by a young man near Palmyra, in the State of New York, by the aid of visions, or the ministry of angels. I inquired of him how or where the book was to be obtained. He promised me the perusal of it, at his house the next day, if I would call. I felt a strange interest in the book. I preached that evening to a small audience, who appeared to be interested in the truths which I endeavored to unfold to them in a clear and lucid manner from the Scriptures. Next morning I called at his house, where, for the first time, my eyes beheld the “BOOK OF MORMON” that book of books-that record which reveals the antiquities of the “New World” back to the remotest ages, and which unfolds the destiny of its people and the world for all time to come; that Book which contains the fullness of the gospel of a crucified and risen Redeemer; that Book which reveals a lost remnant of Joseph, and which was the principal means, in the hands of God, of directing the entire course of my future life.
I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.
As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life. I soon determined to see the young man who had been the instrument of its discovery and translation.
. . . As I approached the house [home of Joseph Smith Sr.] at the close of the day I overtook a man who was driving some cows, and inquired of him for Mr. Joseph Smith, the translator of the “Book of Mormon.” . . . It was Mr. Hyrum Smith. I informed him of the interest I felt in the Book, and of my desire to learn more about it. He welcomed me to his house, and we spent the night together; for neither of us felt disposed to sleep. We conversed most of the night, during which I unfolded to him much of my experience in my search after truth, and my success so far; together with that which I felt was lacking, viz: a commissioned priesthood, or apostleship to minister in the ordinances of God.
He also unfolded to me the particulars of the discovery of the Book; its translation; the rise of the Church of Latter-day Saints, and the commission of his brother Joseph, and others, by revelation and the ministering of angels, by which the apostleship and authority had been again restored to the earth. After duly weighing the whole matter in my mind I saw clearly that these things were true; and that myself and the whole world were without baptism, and without the ministry and ordinances of God; and that the whole world had been in this condition since the days that inspiration and revelation had ceased–in short, that this was a new dispensation or commission, in fulfillment of prophecy, and for the restoration of Israel, and to prepare the way before the second coming of the Lord.
In the morning I was compelled to take leave of this worthy man and his family–as I had to hasten back a distance of thirty miles, on foot, to fulfill an appointment in the evening. As we parted he kindly presented me with a copy of the Book of Mormon. I had not yet completed its perusal, and was glad indeed to possess a copy of my own. I traveled on a few miles, and, stopping to rest, I commenced again to read the book. To my great joy I found that Jesus Christ, in his glorified resurrected body, had appeared to the remnant of Joseph on the continent of America, soon after his resurrection and ascension into heaven; and that he also administered, in person, to the ten lost tribes; and that through his personal ministry in these countries his gospel was revealed and written in countries and among nations entirely unknown to the Jewish apostles.
Thus revealed, written, handed down and preserved, till revealed in this age by the angels of God, it had, of course, escaped the corruptions of the great and abominable church; and been preserved in purity.
This discovery greatly enlarged my heart, and filled my soul with joy and gladness. I esteemed the Book, or the information contained in it, more than all the riches of the world. Yes; I verily believe that I would not at that time have exchanged the knowledge I then possessed, for a legal title to all the beautiful farms, houses, villages and property which passed in review before me, on my journey through one of the most flourishing settlements of western New York.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt)
Parley P. Pratt was baptized and confirmed into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He then returned to his wife and family and began ministering among his family members to teach them the restored gospel.
Vision of Square, Compass, and Line
In the autumn of 1830, early Church leader Parley P. Pratt experienced the following remarkable vision.
“I had been on a visit to a singular people called Shakers, at New Lebanon, about seven miles from my aunt Van Cott’s, and was returning that distance, on foot, on a beautiful evening of September. The sky was without a cloud; the stars shone out beautifully, and all nature seemed reposing in quiet, as I pursued my solitary way, wrapt in deep meditations on the predictions of the holy prophets; the signs of the times; the approaching advent of the Messiah, to reign on the earth, and the important revelations of the Book of Mormon; my heart filled with gratitude to God that He had opened the eyes of my understanding to receive the truth, and with sorrow for the blindness of those who lightly rejected the same, when my attention was aroused by a sudden appearance of a brilliant light which shone around me, above the brightness of the sun. I cast my eyes upward to inquire from whence the light came, when I perceived a long chain of light extended in the heavens, very bright, and of a deep fiery red. It at first stood stationary in a horizontal position; at length bending in the center, the two ends approached each other with a rapid movement, so as to form an exact square. In this position it again remained stationary for some time, perhaps a minute, and then again the ends approached each other with the same rapidity, and again ceased to move, remaining stationary, for perhaps a minute, in the form of a compass; it then commenced a third movement in the same manner, and closed like the closing of a compass, the whole forming a straight line like a chain doubled. It again remained stationary for a minute, and then faded away.
“I fell upon my knees in the street, and thanked the Lord for so marvelous a sign of the coming of the Son of Man.
“Some persons may smile at this, and say that all these exact movements were by chance; but, for my part, I could as soon believe that the letters of the alphabet would be formed by chance, and be placed so as to spell my name, as to believe that these signs (known only to the wise) could be formed and shown forth by chance.
“Renewed in spirit and filled with joy I now pursued my way, and arrived at my aunt Van Cott’s, not weary, but refreshed with a long walk, and deep communion with myself and God.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 31)
After preaching for some time, he and his family traveled to western New York to join the body of the Church
Meeting Joseph Smith
“On our arrival, we found that brother Joseph Smith, the translator of the Book of Mormon, had returned from Pennsylvania to his father’s residence in Manchester, near Palmyra, and there I had the pleasure of seeing him for the first time.
He received me with a hearty welcome, and with that frank and kind manner so universal with him in after years.
On Sunday we held meeting at his house; the two large rooms were filled with attentive listeners, and he invited me to preach. I did so, and afterwards listened with interest to a discourse from his own mouth, filled with intelligence and wisdom. We repaired from the meeting to the water’s edge, and, at his request, I baptized several persons.
President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active, of a light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself, on which the eye naturally rested with interest, and was never weary of beholding. His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity; and there was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heavens, and comprehend all worlds.
He possessed a noble boldness and independence of character; his manner was easy and familiar; his rebuke terrible as the lion; his benevolence unbounded as the ocean; his intelligence universal, and his language abounding in original eloquence peculiar to himself- -not polished–not studied–not smoothed and softened by education and refined by art; but flowing forth in its own native simplicity, and profusely abounding in variety of subject and manner. He interested and edified, while, at the same time, he amused and entertained his audience; and none listened to him that were ever weary with his discourse. I have even known him to retain a congregation of willing and anxious listeners for many hours together, in the midst of cold or sunshine, rain or wind, while they were laughing at one moment and weeping the next. Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome, if he could once get their ears.
I have known him when chained and surrounded with armed murderers and assassins who were heaping upon him every possible insult and abuse, rise up in the majesty of a son of God and rebuke them, in the name of Jesus Christ, till they quailed before him, dropped their weapons, and, on their knees, begged his pardon, and ceased their abuse.
In short, in him the characters of a Daniel and a Cyrus were wonderfully blended. The gifts, wisdom and devotion of a Daniel were united with the boldness, courage, temperance, perseverance and generosity of a Cyrus. And had he been spared a martyr’s fate till mature manhood and age, he was certainly endued with powers and ability to have revolutionized the world in many respects, and to have transmitted to posterity a name associated with more brilliant and glorious acts than has yet fallen to the lot of mortal. As it is, his works will live to endless ages, and unnumbered millions yet unborn will mention his name with honor, as a noble instrument in the hands of God, who, during his short and youthful career, laid the foundation of that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt)
Linen Robe Dream
In September 1831, Parley P. Pratt arrived in Missouri after suffering many privations while journey as a missionary through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and finally Missouri. The next several months were filled with trials for both himself and the other Saints. Sickness, fatigue, freezing conditions and hunger plagued them “but it was for the gospel’s sake, and all were very cheerful and happy.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt)
“It was during my long illness in this dreary winter that I had the following dream or vision: I thought I saw myself dressed in a clean and beautiful linen robe, white as snow, and extending from the neck downward in beautiful folds. On either breast were lines of golden writing, in large Roman letters, about a third of an inch in length, and the lines extending from the center of the breast on each side six or eight inches long. The upper line on each side appeared larger and more beautiful or conspicuous than the others; one of these lines was: “HOLY PROPHET,” and the other was: “NEW JERUSALEM.”
On awaking from this dream I immediately called to mind the words of the Saviour to John the Revelator: “He that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the City of my God, which is New Jerusalem.”
This dream certainly encouraged me, and enabled me to bear my sickness, privation and long absence from my wife and former friends more patiently.”
Miraculously Healed of Fever
In February 1832, a conference was held and Parley P. Pratt joined Elder Levi Hancock, and then later John Murdock, as they journeyed to Kirtland, Ohio.
While ministering in these settlements, and exposed to a heavy snow storm, brother John Murdock was taken sick with a heavy fever; this caused us to stop early in the day among strangers, in a small log cabin consisting of one room; we held a meeting in the evening, and then had a bed made down on the floor, before the fire. Before morning brother Murdock was much better, but I was seized with a most dreadful chill, followed by a heavy turn of fever; morning found me unable to rise or speak. . . .
I lay, entirely helpless with a burning fever, during which I distinctly heard a dialogue between John Murdock and the lady of the house; she upbraiding us as impostors thrown upon them at this inclement season, while they were out of milling and of wood, and but illy prepared for such a burden; that one was sick the night before, and now the other was taken down; that it was six miles to the next house, deep snow and no road broke, and we would probably be on their hands for weeks.
To these inhospitable remarks brother Murdock mildly replied, trying to soothe the woman; reasoning with her, and telling her that brother Parley would soon be better, and then we would go our way.
This dialogue gave me such a sense of unwelcome, and I pitied brother Murdock to that degree for having to stay with such spirits on my account, that I felt I could endure it no longer. With the utmost effort I roused myself sufficiently to call brother Murdock to my bed, whispering to him to lay hands on me unobserved, so as not to be seen or overheard. He did so; I then asked him to give me a drink of water. The effort had been too much, I swooned away while he was gone for the water; he could hardly arouse me sufficiently to drink of it; it was like waking from the dead. I drank of it, bounded on my feet, dressed myself, put on my shoes and hat, and told him I was ready to start. The family all marvelled; one exclaimed, “what a strange disease; it could not be fever, and then be cured in an instant.” We gave no explanations, but started on our journey up a steep hill, in the deep snow, in the midst of their urgings to stay to breakfast, or at least have a cup of coffee. I said nothing, but thought to myself: ye hypocrites, to murmur as you have, and then ask me to stay and eat.
We travelled on for some miles nearly in silence—I waiting all the while for brother Murdock to make some remarks referring to our inhospitable treatment, and the dialogue with the mistress of the house. At last I broke silence. Said I, “Brother Murdock, how did you feel to be talked to by that woman? I thought you bore it with great patience, and I pitied you from my heart, or I never should have had faith and courage to be thus healed and start my journey.”
He replied that no such conversation had occurred between him and the lady, nor had she uttered one word indicative of any such inhospitable feeling.
“Well,” said I, “I heard it articulated in plain English by some two persons perfectly imitating her voice and yours; it was no imagination, or raging delirium of a fever. I can swear I heard a conversation to that effect for a length of time.
“If it was not the lady and yourself, then it was something from an invisible world, which clearly revealed to me the spirit of our hostess.”
We reached the next house; I was a well man; found good quarters, and we were kindly and hospitably entertained for some days.