A Book of Mormons
by Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker
1793. August 27: Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He became a hatter, following the waterways to obtain the beaver pelts necessary to his work. He later moved to Painsville, Ohio, where his business prospered.
In 1819 he married Lydia Clisbee; they had seven children. Two daughters, Eliza Marie and Emily Dow, married Joseph Smith on the same day in 1843. After the Prophet’s death, Eliza married Amasa Lyman, and Emily married Brigham Young. Two other daughters, Caroline Ely and Lydia, also married Amasa Lyman.
1830. Edward Partridge had been a member of Sidney Rigdon’s Campbellite congregation for two years when the Mormon missionaries visited his hatter’s shop. He quickly sent the “imposters” packing, but then had a change of heart and sent an employee after them to bring back a Book of Mormon.
He read it, was converted, and went to New York to meet Joseph Smith. The Prophet baptized him in the Seneca River on December 11.
First Bishop of the Church
1831. Partridge is mentioned in twelve sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, including section 41: “He should be appointed by the voice of the Church and ordained a Bishop unto the Church, to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the Church. And this is because his heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathaniel of old, in whom there is no guile.”
Anxious about leaving a flourishing business, Partridge wrote Lydia, “I must not fail, pray for me that I will not fail.” The prayers were answered; his financial competence was soon appreciated in the Church.
1831. August 3: Partridge attended the dedication of the temple site at Independence, Missouri, and eventually became [p.194]”head of the Church in Zion.”
For ten months, Partridge was the only bishop in the Church. Then Newel K. Whitney was appointed in Ohio.
1832. For a time, Joseph Smith thought Partridge was usurping authority. Doctrine and Covenants 85:8 warned, “that man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning.” But Partridge and the Prophet reconciled, and the bishop continued to preside over the Church in Zion.
1833. July 20: A mob attacked the home of W.W. Phelps and destroyed the print shop of the Evening and Morning Star. Partridge was dragged from his home and taken to the public square. The mob demanded that the Mormons leave Jackson County. “I told them that the Saints had suffered persecution in all ages of the world; that I had done nothing which ought to offend anyone; that if they abused me, they would abuse an innocent person; that I was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ; but, to leave the country, I was not then willing to consent to it.”
Having made his speech, Partridge was daubed with tar “from the crown of my head to my feet, after which feathers were thrown over me. … I bore my abuse with so much resignation and meekness, that it appeared to astound the multitude, who permitted me to retire in silence, many looking very solemn, their sympathies having been touched as I thought; and as to myself, I was so filled with the Spirit and love of God, that I had no hatred towards my persecutors or anyone else.”
Partridge, John Corrill, John Whitmer, W.W. Phelps, Algernon S. Gilbert, and Isaac Morley offered themselves as hostages if the Missourians would leave the rest of the Saints alone, but their offer was rejected; every Mormon would have to leave Jackson County. As presiding authority, Partridge signed an agreement to remove the Saints by January 1, 1834. In return, Missourians were not to interfere with their preparations.
[p.195]November 5: Mobs destroyed more than two hundred Mormon homes in Jackson County. “Gangs of men, sixty or more, went from house to house, whipping the men, driving the women and children at the point of their guns from their homes, and then setting fire to the houses.” With hundreds of others, the Partridge family was driven across the Missouri River into Clay County.
1838. November: After five more years of mounting hostility and violence, Partridge, Joseph Smith, and other leaders were arrested and charged with “high treason against the state, murder, burglary, arson, robbery, and larceny.” Scores of Mormons were rounded up and “confined in a large open room, where the cold northern blast penetrated freely. Our fires were small and our allowance for wood and food was scanty; they gave us not even a blanket to lie upon; our beds were the cold floors.” Three weeks later Partridge and most of the other prisoners were released and ordered from the state. Joseph Smith and several others were remanded to the jail at Liberty. Leaving his family in the care of King Follett, Partridge fled to Quincy, Illinois, where his family later joined him.
1840. While the family remained in Quincy, Partridge made preparations to relocate in Nauvoo. He built a stable and was working on the house when word arrived that his daughter Harriet had died in Quincy. After her funeral, he moved the rest of the family into the stable. But the burdens proved too great; he succumbed to exhaustion and exposure on May 27, at the age of forty-seven.
“No man had the confidence of the Church more than he,” the Times and Seasons reported. “His station was highly responsible …. Deeds and conveyances of land to a large amount were put into his hands for the benefit of the poor and for the church’s purpose; for all of which the directest account was rendered, to the fullest satisfaction of all concerned.”
Partridge was buried on the family property in Nauvoo.
Collette, D. Brent. “In Search of Zion: A Description of Early Mormon Millennial Utopianism as Revealed Through the Life of Edward Partridge.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1977.
History of the Church, 1:390-391.
Jenson, Andrew. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
Quinn, D. Michael. “Evolution of the Presiding Quorums of the LDS Church.” Journal of Mormon History 1 (1974)21-38.
1800. Born David Wyman Patten in Theresa (near Indian Falls), New York. He married Phoebe Ann Babcock in 1828.
1832. Baptized by his brother John, David Patten immediately left on a mission to Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
1834. Began a mission to Tennessee, where he served with Abraham O. Smoot and Wilford Woodruff. One day, “riding along the road on my mule, I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me. He walked along beside me for about two miles. His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in the saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight.”
Patten also rebuked the disease of a woman who had been seriously ill for several years, commanding, “In the name of Jesus Christ, arise!” Arising from her bed, she walked a mile to a stream, where Patten baptized her. Remembering her seven years of childless marriage, he promised children. Within a year she gave birth to a son, whom she named David Patten.
Wilford Woodruff told Abraham H. Cannon that one day Patten found his mule “on the ground nearly dead with the colic. Brother Patten said: ‘See here, old fellow, this won’t do! You have got to carry me 40 miles today,’ and with these words he stepped up to the animal, laid his hands on the animal, and blessed him. The mule immediately arose, and made the journey. Pres. Woodruff said that was the only time in his life when his faith had been tried, but he thought it strange for an Elder to administer to a mule, and thus do what seemed sacrilege in his mind at that time.”
[p.198]Member of the Original Quorum of the Twelve
1835. Called to the original Quorum of the Twelve by the Three Witnesses—Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer. Patten, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball were the only members of the original Quorum never disfellowshipped or excommunicated.
1836. Patten filled a second mission to Tennessee.
1837. July: During a disagreement, the Prophet “kicked him out of the yard.” Whatever the cause of this fracas, Joseph “later forgave him.”
1838. As general authorities acting in a local capacity, Patten, Brigham Young, and Thomas B. Marsh were called “Presidents Pro Tem” of the Church in Missouri.
1838. Clashes with Missourians had been common since 1833, when the Saints were driven from Jackson County. Caldwell County provided safety for a short time, but as opposition rose, Mormon men formed a secret, quasi- military band commonly known as “Danites.”
1838. October 24: Captain Samuel Bogard of the Caldwell County militia ordered a number of Mormon families to leave the state and took three men into custody. When word reached Far West, “Captain Fearnaught” Patten rallied seventy-five Mormons and set out to rescue the prisoners. Under cover of darkness, they attacked the encamped militia at Crooked River. In his white duster, Patten was an easy target. He was wounded in the bowels and died the next day at the age of thirty-eight.
Patten’s comrade-in-arms John D. Lee later wrote, “I admit up to this time that I frankly believed what the Prophet and his apostles had said on the subject. I had considered that I was bullet proof, that no Gentile ball [p.199]could ever harm me, or any Saint, and I had believed that a Danite could not be killed by Gentile hands. I thought that one Danite could chase a thousand Gentiles, and two could put ten thousand to flight. Alas! my dreams of security were over. One of our mighty men had fallen, and that by Gentile hands!”
Erroneous intelligence communications, coupled with a Thomas B. Marsh-Orson Hyde affidavit confirming the existence of the Danites, led Governor Lilburn W. Boggs to believe reports that Patten’s company had “massacred Captain Bogard and all his company,” and that Richmond was “laid in ashes this morning.” The governor issued his infamous “Mormon Extermination Order” on October 27: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description.”
Burial in Far West
1838. At Patten’s funeral, Joseph Smith said, “There lies a man who had done just as he said he would: he had laid down his life for his friends.” Patten was buried in Far West, Missouri.
Berlin. Elliott. “Abraham Owen Smoot, Pioneer Mormon Leader.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955.
Jenson, Andrew. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
Lee, John D. Mormonism Unveiled. Saint Louis: Bryan, Brand, & Co., 1877.
Millennial Star, 16:408.
Report of Sashiel Woods and Joseph Dickson to Governor Boggs. Documents, Correspondence, Orders, etc., in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons. Published by order of the Missouri Legislature, 1841.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Abraham H. Cannon Journal.
_____. Wilford Woodruff Journal, 25 June 1857.
[p.429]Wilson, Lycurgus Arnold. the Life of David Patten: The First Apostolic Martyr. Salt Lake City, 1900.
1839. August 8: Born Romania Bunnell in Indiana. She moved with her newly-converted Mormon family to Nauvoo in 1846. Lacking provisions, they were unable to travel west with the main body of Saints and returned to Indiana. Her father joined the gold rush to California, hoping to raise enough money to move the family to Utah. But he contracted typhoid fever in 1849 and died in a mining camp.
In 1859 she married Parley P. Pratt, Jr.; they had seven children.
1855. Romania’s mother took her four children to Omaha, Nebraska, where they joined a wagon train for Utah. Romania later recalled, “The journey across the plains with ox teams was a summer full of pleasure to me; the early morning walks gathering wild flowers, climbing the rugged and oftimes forbidding hills—the pleasant evening gatherings of the young folks by the bright camp fire while sweet songs floated forth on the evening air to gladden the wild and savage ear of the red men or wild beasts as well as our own young hearts.”
Romania had attended the Female Seminary in Crawfordsville, Indiana, before moving to Utah. The death of a friend may have determined the course of her future career. “I saw her lying on her bed, her life slowly ebbing away, and no one near knew how to ease her pain or prevent her death; it was a natural enough case, and a little knowledge might have saved her. Oh, how I longed to know something to do, and at that moment I solemnly vowed to myself never to be found in such a position again, and it was my aim ever afterward to arrange my life work that I might study the science which would relieve suffering, appease pain, prevent death.”
[p.202]1873. When Brigham Young called for women to study medicine, Romania sold her home and piano, arranged for her mother to care for her five surviving children (ages one to fourteen), and went to medical school in New York City.
While waiting for the term to begin at Women’s Medical College, Romania helped her husband Parley edit The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.
1874. Medical school was difficult. Long hours of study made the days seem “so much alike that it was as one long day.” After her first year, Romania returned home to a destitute family. She called on President Young for assistance; he told Eliza R. Snow, “She must continue her studies in the East. We need her here, and her talents will be of great use to this people. Take this upon yourself, Sister Eliza, to see to it that the Relief Societies furnish Sister Pratt with the necessary money to complete her studies.”
The next fall Romania returned to the Women’s Medical College; she graduated March 15, 1877. Her thesis was, “Puerperal Hemorrhage, Its Cause and Cure.” She remained in Philadelphia for two more years, specializing in diseases of the eye and ear.
Plural Marriage, Divorce, and Plural Marriage
Returning to Salt Lake, she learned that her husband had married a plural wife. “The principle of plural marriage seemed a most rational and eternal truth. I never opposed the principle when practiced with singleness of heart as commanded. See it lived according to the great and grand aim of its author, though it be a fiery furnace at some period of our life, it will prove the one thing needful to cleanse and purify our inmost soul of selfishness, jealousy, and other mundane attributes which seem to lie closest to the citadel of life.”
She divorced Pratt in 1881 and became the third plural wife of Charles Penrose in 1886. Penrose became an apostle in 1904, and counselor in the First Presidency in 1911.
1879. Dr. Romania B. Pratt established a medical practice in Salt Lake City. She also taught classes in anatomy, physiology, and obstetrics, and wrote hygiene articles for the Woman’s Exponent and Young Woman’s Journal.
1883. As a visiting professor at the Deseret Hospital, she performed the first cataract operation in Utah. She continued her medical practice until 1912.
1882. Dr. Pratt accompanied Zina D.H. Young and Ellen B. Ferguson, another Mormon physician, to the Woman’s Suffrage Convention in New York. As an advocate of woman’s suffrage, she espoused the philosophy that it was each woman’s “duty and privilege to do whatever she can that will promote the advancement and evolution of her own sex.”
1908. While her husband, Charles W. Penrose, served as president of the European Mission, Romania Pratt Penrose represented Utah at the Woman’s International Suffrage Alliance in Amsterdam, speaking to the convention on women’s suffrage in the western United States.
1932. November 9: Died in Salt Lake City at the age of ninety-three. Buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Romania B. Pratt. “Memoir of Romania B. Pratt, M.D.” Uncatalogued manuscript.
Waters, Christine Croft. “Romania P. Penrose.” Sister Saints. Edited by Vicky Burgess-Olson. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1978.
Woman ‘s Exponent, 7:217.
Young Woman’s Journal, 2:534.
1792. February 17: Born William Wines Phelps in Hanover, New Jersey. His complicated marital history began in 1815, when he married Sally Waterman; they had ten children.
1847. Married three women while on a trip to Saint Louis, but the marriages were later annulled by Brigham Young.
1848. Married a twenty-one-year-old “Sarah,” thirty-five years his junior. Brigham Young refused to grant her request for a divorce in 1849, and after a stormy period of adjustment, the couple apparently worked out their differences; Sarah gave birth to a son in 1861.
Phelps married a third wife, “Harriet H.” of Philadelphia, about 1855.
First Mormon Publisher
1830. Phelps was a prominent New York editor of several anti-Mason newspapers, including the Western Courier, Lake Light, and Ontario Phoenix Three days after the organization of the Church, he bought a copy of the Book of Mormon from Parley P. Pratt and read all night. “I always believed the scriptures, and believed that there was such a sacred thing as pure religion; but I never believed that any of the sects of the day had it. … I rejoiced that there was something coming to point the right way to heaven.”
1831. Phelps moved his family to Kirtland, Ohio, where he was baptized June 16. Three days later he left for Missouri with Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Martin Harris, Edward Partridge, and others “to seek the land of Zion. … When that goodly land was consecrated, we kneeled together; when the first house was raised I helped carry the first log.”
Joseph Smith called Phelps to be the Church printer in Independence, Missouri, authorizing him to “review and prepare such revelations as shall be deemed proper for publication” in the Book of Commandments. Phelps was also directed to correct and print the hymns selected [p.206]by Emma Smith, and publish the Church newspaper, the Evening and Morning Star.
1833. July: A Phelps editorial in the Star, intended “to prevent any misunderstanding among the churches abroad respecting free people of color,” was viewed by Missourians as an “invitation to free people of color to settle in Jackson County!”
Phelps tried to placate slaveholders in a special edition of the Star. “Our intention was not only to stop free people of color from emigrating to this state, but to prevent them from being admitted as members of the church.”
The clarification was too late. The Missourians demanded that Mormons stop publishing the Star and leave “within a reasonable time.” When Church leaders, including Phelps, refused, the “old settlers” stormed the printing office, threw Sally Phelps and her children into the street, destroyed the press, scattered pages of the uncompleted Book of Commandments, and pulled down the walls of the building.
George A. Smith could not recommend Phelps to the Prophet as editor to reissue the Star. “I told him that I considered Phelps the sixth part of an editor, and that was the satirist. When it came to the cool direction necessarily entrusted to an editor in the control of public opinion—the soothing of enmity, he was deficient, and would always make more enemies than friends; but for my part, if I were able, I would be willing to pay Phelps for editing a paper, providing no body else should have the privilege of reading it but myself. Joseph laughed heartily—said I had the thing just right. Said he, ‘Brother Phelps makes such a severe use of language as to make enemies all the time.'” Oliver Cowdery was chosen editor.
1836. Phelps’s “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning,” written for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, so impressed Joseph Smith that he asked for it to be printed “on white satin” for the event. In all, Phelps penned lyrics for twenty-nine of the ninety-one hymns Emma Smith selected for the Church’s first hymn book. His lyrics include: “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain,” “Redeemer of Israel,” “O God, the Eternal Father,” … “Earth with Her Ten Thousand Flowers,” and “Praise to the Man” (written after Joseph Smith’s death).
Excommunication and Readmission
1838. When Zion’s Camp, of which Phelps was a member, failed to “redeem Zion” in 1834, the Prophet advised, “the land should not be sold, but be held by the Saints, until the Lord in His wisdom shall open a way for your return.”
But the presidency of the “Church of Christ in Missouri”—W. W. Phelps and John and David Whitmer—ignored the counsel and tried to sell their abandoned lands. In February, 1838, a stake conference rejected their presidency, and when they refused to attend a March 10 hearing before the high council, they were excommunicated for “wickedness by endeavoring to palm themselves off upon the Church as her Presidents.”
Two months later the excommunicated dissidents received a long letter from Sidney Rigdon and eighty-three other Mormons, advising that “there is but one decree for you, which is depart, depart, or else a more fatal calamity shall befall you.” Phelps, who had intended to stay in Far West, departed.
July 8: Joseph Smith received a revelation respecting Phelps and former First Presidency member Frederick G. Williams: “If they will be saved, let them be ordained as Elders.” Phelps ignored the invitation, making no overtures to the Prophet for nearly two years.
1840. When Phelps finally requested readmission to the Church, Joseph Smith responded:
Come on, dear brother, since the war is past,
or friends at first, are friends again at last.
1847. Phelps married three women in Saint Louis without Church permission. On December 6 the Twelve voted that “W. W. Phelps be cut off from the Church for violating the laws of the priesthood in having women that do not belong to him & committing adultery with them.”
[p.208]Pioneer Judge Hosea Stout noted, “It appeared that Phelps had while East last summer got some new ideas into three young women & they had consented to become his wives & got Jacobs [Henry B.] to marry them to him in St. Louis and he lived with them as such all the way to this place. After a long and tedious hearing of the matter which was altogether their own admissions, President Young decided that Phelps had committed adultery every time that he had laid with one of them.” He was rebaptized in 1848.
1844. While living in Nauvoo, W. W. Phelps came to be recognized as a supreme toastmaster. New Years Day, 1845, he made a memorable toasting of the Twelve by giving each a descriptive sobriquet:
Brigham Young—”Lion of the Lord”
Heber C. Kimball—”Herald of Grace”
Parley P. Pratt—”Archer of Paradise”
Orson Hyde—”Olive Branch of Israel”
Willard Richards—”Keeper of Rolls”
John Taylor—”Champion of Right”
William Smith—”Patriarchal Jacob Staff’
Wilford Woodruff—”Banner of the Gospel”
George A. Smith—”Entablature of Truth”
Orson Pratt—”Gauge of Philosophy”
John E. Page—”Sundial”
Lyman Wight—”Wild Ram of the Mountain”
Eulogizer of Joseph Smith
1844. June 29:W. W. Phelps addressed the nearly ten thousand persons gathered to pay final respects to Joseph and Hyrum Smith two days after their murder. In his lengthy sermon at this memorial service, Phelps predicted: “Be assured, brethren and sisters, this desperate ‘smite’ of our foes to stop the onward cause of Mormonism, will increase its spread and prosperity an hundred fold … The priesthood remains unharmed. … The ‘Twelve’ (most now absent) … when they return will turn the ‘mantle’ [p.209]and step into the ‘shoes’ of the ‘Prophet, priest and King’ of Israel.” Phelps’s hymn, “Praise to the Man,” is a eulogy of continuing popularity in the Church.
A charter member of the Council of Fifty in 1844, Phelps served as a Nauvoo city councilman, assisted in drafting the constitution of the “State of Deseret” in 1849, and worked in the Utah legislature as Speaker of the House. In 1851 he served as “topographic engineer” with Parley P. Pratt’s exploring expedition to the south to “study the land for the site of possible settlements and for a road toward the sea.” That same year, he was sworn into office as “counsillor and attorney at law and solicitor in chauncery,” and became superintendent of metereological observations of the Territory of Deseret, furnishing the Deseret News with weather and astronomical observations. But he was perhaps most noted in Utah for his convincing portrayal of Satan in the endowment ceremony in the Salt Lake Endowment House on Temple Square.
1872. March 6: W. W. Phelps died at the age of eighty. Oliver B. Huntington recorded, “Before Brother Phelps died he lost all his judgment, lost all his mind, reason, consciousness and all sense. He knew nothing, not even his name, nor how to eat, thus being unable to taste of anything, not even death. His mind gradually dwindled, withered and dried up.”
Phelps was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. His epitaph, a poem called “Eternalism,” had been written by him for Brigham Young:
There is no end to matter
There is no end to space
There is no end to spirit
There is no end to race
There is no end to glory
There is no end to love
There is no end to being
There is no death above.
Bowen, Waiter Dean. “The Versatile W. W. Phelps: Mormon Writer, Educator, and Pioneer.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1958.
Brooks, Juanita, ed. On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout. 2 vols. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press/Utah Historical Society, 1964.
Esshom, Frank. Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah. Salt Lake City: Utah Pioneers Book Publishing Company, 1915.
History, of the Church, 1:390-391, 4:164, 5:390, 6:477, 7:268.
Jennings, Warren A. “Factors in the Destruction of the Mormon Press in Missouri: 1833.” Utah Historical Quarterly 35 (Winter 1967): 57-76.
Jenson, Andrew. Church Chronology. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1899.
_____. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. W. W. Phelps Papers.
_____. Brigham Young Papers.
Times and Seasons, 5:765.
1811. September 19: Born in Hartford, New York. Orson attended a few classes in bookkeeping, mathematics, geography, grammar, and surveying, but was basically self-educated.
He married Sarah Marinda Bates in 1836, and later Charlotte Bishop (1844), Adelia Ann Bishop (1844), Mary Ann Merrill (1845), Sarah Louisa Chandler (1846), Marion Ross (1852), and Juliette Ann Phelps (1855). He was the father of forty-five children.
1830. Baptized on his nineteenth birthday by his older brother, Parley. A short time later he was ordained an elder by Joseph Smith and sent on a mission to the Eastern States. Between 1830 and 1869 he served ten additional missions to the Eastern States, plus seven missions to Great Britain.
He was the first Mormon missionary to Canada (1832), and also the first to Scotland (1840), where in nine months he established an Edinburgh branch of more than two hundred members.
Member of the Original Quorum of the Twelve
Pratt attended the School of the Prophets in Kirtland (1833), participated in Zion’s Camp (1834), and at the age of twenty-four was called to the first Quorum of the Twelve by the Three Witnesses (1835).
1841. July: When Pratt returned from a mission to Great Britain, he found that Church leaders had withdrawn his wife’s food allotment and were accusing her of adultery with John C. Bennett. She countered that Joseph Smith had proposed she become one of his “celestial wives,” and that Brigham Young had urged her to say nothing, but “do as Joseph wished.”
[p.212]1842. May: Pratt did not join the other apostles in withdrawing “the hand of fellowship” from John C. Bennett.
July 15: According to the Prophet, Pratt attempted to commit suicide “and caused almost all the city to go in search of him.”
July 22: Pratt refused to endorse a resolution affirming Joseph Smith’s moral character. Brigham Young wrote Parley P. Pratt that “Br. Orson Pratt is in trouble in consequence of his wife. His feelings are so wrought up that he does not know whether his wife is wrong, or whether Joseph’s testimony and others are wrong, and do lie, and he deceived for 12 years or not; he is all but crazy about the matters … We will not let Br. Orson go away from us. He is too good a man to have a woman destroy him.”
Church leaders tried in vain to get Pratt to “recall his sayings against Joseph and the Twelve,” Wilford Woodruff recorded, “but he persisted in his wicked course and would not recall any of his sayings which were unjust and untrue.”
August 20: After four days of fruitless efforts at reconciliation, the Twelve excommunicated Pratt for “insubordination,” and Sarah for “adultery.”
Within three months Pratt publicly “confessed his error and his sin in criticizing Joseph.” In 1878 he said that he had “got his information from a wicked source, from those disaffected, but as soon as he learned the truth he was satisfied.” Joseph Smith rebaptized Orson and Sarah Pratt in January, 1843, and Orson was reinstated in the Quorum of the Twelve.
Sarah never admitted error. After Orson’s death she related details of the incident in a vituperative attack on Joseph Smith in “Workings of Mormonism” (unpublished), and in an 1886 interview in Mormon Portraits.
Brother Against Brother
1846. Parley P. Pratt, in the midst of severe marital problems with his wife Mary Ann, accused Sarah of”influencing his wife against him, and of ruining and breaking up his family,” of “being an apostate, and of speaking against the head of the church and against him.” In the Nauvoo [p.213]Temple on January 11 he accused her of “whispering against him all over the temple.” Orson exploded, defending Sarah so vehemently that they were both “voted” out of the temple, and Orson disfellowshipped. In an explanatory letter to Brigham Young, Orson argued, “If I had… insulted any of your families in so disgraceful a manner I should have been very thankful if I escaped without getting my head broke.” Orson “made satisfaction” a few days later and was readmitted to fellowship.
1847. July 13: Eleven days before the main party of pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, Pratt led an advance company of twenty-two wagons to “proceed to the Weber River canyon and ascertain if we can pass through safely, if not to find a pass over the mountains.”
[p.214]July 21: Pratt and Erastus Snow were the first pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley.
During the trek Pratt had invented an odometer to measure the distance traveled each day. He also directed the surveying of Salt Lake City.
1851. Between 1851 and 1881, in addition to several missions, Pratt served seven terms in the Utah legislature, where he was elected Speaker of the House.
Defender of Plural Marriage
1852. August: Brigham Young selected Pratt to introduce the doctrine of plural marriage officially to the Saints at a special conference in Salt Lake City. He was also called to begin a new magazine, The Seer, in Washington, D.C. The publication would expound “the views of the Saints in regard to the Ancient Patriarchal Order of Matrimony, or Plurality of Wives, as developed in a Revelation, given through JOSEPH THE SEER.”
[p.213 photo: no caption]
[p.214]1870. Dr. John P. Newman, chaplain of the U.S. Senate and President Ulysses S. Grant’s personal pastor, delivered a strong anti-polygamy sermon in his Metropolitan Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. Salt Lake Daily Telegraph editor Edward Sloan proposed Newman debate polygamy in Salt Lake. Newman accepted and, when Brigham Young declined to be his opponent, settled for Orson Pratt. The extended debate was reported daily in the New York Herald Mormon writer Edward Tullidge declared that “millions of readers followed the arguments of Dr. Newman and Orson Pratt and it is safe to estimate that quite two-thirds of them yielded the palm to the Mormon apostle.”
Pratt was “Professor of Mathematics and English Literature” at the University of Nauvoo. He taught mathematics at the University of Deseret, served as Church recorder and historian (1874-81), and prepared [p.215]the 1878 editions of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, arranging both books into chapters and verses, with footnotes and references.
His philosophical bent conflicted with Brigham Young’s practical posture. They publicly disagreed on everything from the nature of God to the propriety of publishing Joseph’s “inspired version” of the Bible. President Young said Pratt didn’t know enough to keep his foot out of it [his mouth], but drowns himself in his philosophy.”
1860. Wilford Woodruff told the Saint George High Council of Pratt’s “unyielding stubbornes, and of upbraiding the Twelve for not being manly, for not declaring their views the way he looked at it, and branding them as cowards &c &c. Spoke of the firmnes of Pres Young in correcting Orson Pratt and setting him aright; of Orson wishing to resign his position in the Quorum; of Pres. Young saying ‘No you wont Orson, I’ll rub your ears until I get you right.'”
Although Pratt apologized publicly, his popular philosophical writings continued to irritate the president so much that the First Presidency and apostles published point-by-point condemnations of Pratt’s views in 1865.
Following the death of Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon learned that Pratt found so little support in the presiding quorums because of the president’s dominating manner: “Some of my brethren … did have feelings concerning his course. They did not approve of it, and felt oppressed, and yet they dared not exhibit their feelings to him, he ruled with so strong and stiff a hand, and they felt that it would be of no use.”
Quorum Seniority Adjusted
1875. Two years prior to his death, Brigham Young readjusted the seniority of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve. Orson Pratt and Orson Hyde, both of whom had been ordained before John Taylor, were placed behind him, according to the dates of their reinstatement in the Quorum.
October 3: Died of diabetes at the age of seventy-seven in the home of his wife Marion Ross at 300 North 300 West in Salt Lake City. Shortly before his death, he dictated his epitaph to Joseph F. Smith: “My body sleeps for a moment, but my testimony lives and shall endure forever.” Buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Bergera, Gary James· “The Orson Pratt-Brigham Young Controversies: Conflict within the Quorums, 1853-1868.” Dialogue 13 (Summer 1980):7-49.
Cannon, Joseph J. “George Q. Cannon: Relations with Brigham Young.” The Instructor, June 1945, p. 259.
Durham, Reed C., and Heath, Stephen H. Successsion in the Church· Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970.
History of the Church, 5:60-61, 139.
Journal of Discourses, 4:297.
Larson, A. Karl, and Larson, Katharine. Diary of Charles Lowell Walker. 2 vols. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1980.
Lundwall, N. B. Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962.
Lyon, T. Edgar. “Orson Pratt: Early Mormon Leader.” Master’s thesis, University of Chicago, 1932.
Lyon, T. Edgar. “Orson Pratt: Pioneer and Proselyter.” Utah Historical Quarterly 24 (July 1956):261.
Millennial Star, 41:788.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Mrs. Orson Pratt, “The Workings of Mormonism.”
Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, 27:113-115.
Watson, Elden J., ed. Orson Pratt Journals. Salt Lake City: By the Author, 1975.
1807. April 12: Born Parley Parker Pratt in Burlington, New York. He married Thankful Halsey in 1827, and, six weeks after her death in 1837, married Mary Ann Frost. In 1843 he wed his first plural wife, Elizabeth Brotherton, and over the next twelve years married nine additional wives: Mary Wood (1844), Hannahette Snively (1844), Belinda Marden (1844), Sarah Huston (1845), Phoebe Sopher (1846), Martha Monks (1847), Ann Agatha Walker (1847), Keziah Downes (1853), and Eleanor J. McComb McLean (1855). He was the father of thirty children.
1830. Pratt was a member of Sidney Rigdon’s Campbellite congregation in Ohio when he learned of the Book of Mormon. “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.” He traveled to Palmyra, New York, to meet Joseph Smith, only to discover the Prophet had moved to Pennsylvania. After discussing the Book of Mormon with Hyrum Smith, Pratt requested baptism. The next day they walked to the Peter Whitmer home, twenty-five miles away, and on September 1, 1830, Oliver Cowdery baptized Parley P. Pratt in Seneca Lake. Except for Joseph Smith’s younger brother William, Pratt was the first of the original Quorum of the Twelve to be baptized.
1830. One month after his baptism, Pratt was called with Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, and Ziba Peterson on a mission “into the wilderness among the Lamanites” (D&C 32), some 1500 miles away in western Missouri. In Kirtland, Ohio, they gave a Book of Mormon to Pratt’s former minister, Sidney Rigdon. Within three weeks they baptized Rigdon, Edward Partridge, and one hundred twenty-five more converts. Eventually, the number baptized in Kirtland reached a thousand.
The missionaries preached and distributed the Book of Mormon to the Catteraugua Indians near Buffalo, the Wyandots of Ohio, and the Shawnee and Delaware in western Missouri. “We traveled on foot for three hundred miles through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow—no beaten road; houses few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces with a keenness which would almost take the skin off the face. We traveled for whole days from morning till night without a house or fire, wading in snow to the knees at [p.220]every step. … We often ate our frozen bread and pork by the way, when the bread would be so frozen that we could not bite or penetrate any part of it but the outside crust.”
1833. Pratt and his family were among 1200 Saints driven from Jackson County into Clay County, Missouri. He later returned to Kirtland and served in Zion’s Camp (1834).
1838. April: Pratt moved his family from Ohio to Far West, Missouri. In October he was imprisoned with other Mormon leaders on charges of “treason, murder, burglary, arson, robbery, and larceny,” but was never brought to trial. After eight months of imprisonment, he was allowed to escape. In 1843 he “confessed he was wrong in one thing in Missouri; that is, he left alive, and left them alive; and asked forgiveness, and promised never to do so again.”
Member of the Original Quorum of the Twelve
1835. Called to the original Quorum of the Twelve by the Three Witnesses, Pratt was ordained an apostle by Joseph Smith.
1837. Returning from a mission to Canada, Pratt was swept up in the “jarrings and discords” over the collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society. Charging that the “spirit of speculation” was “of the devil,” he demanded Joseph Smith refund the $2000 he had paid for three lots that had not cost the Prophet more than $200. A Church court convened to excommunicate Pratt and several others, but the dissenters successfully challenged the jurisdiction of the court. Before another court could try them, Pratt had a change of heart and obtained Joseph Smith’s forgiveness. His former companions were all excommunicated.
1840. While serving a mission in Great Britain with the Quorum of the Twelve, Pratt published the Millennial Star and in 1841 presided over all British conferences.
[p.221]1845. Presided over the Church in New England and the Atlantic States.
1846. Pratt exchanged strong words in the Nauvoo Temple with his brother Orson over Parley’s accusations that Orson’s wife Sarah was “ruining and breaking up his family.” Orson, expelled from the temple, complained to Brigham Young about Parley’s alleged immorality: “If he feels at liberty to go into the city of New York or elsewhere and seduce girls or females and sleep and have connexion [sic] with them contrary to the law of God, and the sacred counsels of his brethren, it is something that does not concern me.”
[p.218 photo: Parley P. Pratt and wife Elizabeth Brotherton.]
[p.221]Orson was referring to Parley’s relations with Belinda Marden, to whom he had been secretly sealed on November 20, 1844. At the time Belinda accompanied Pratt on a mission to New York, not even his wife, Mary Ann, was aware of the marriage. When Belinda gave birth to a son (1846), Mary Ann asked Belinda if the child were illegitimate. Told the truth, Mary Ann immediately severed her marital relationship with Pratt, though she did not divorce him until 1853, after coming to Utah.
July: Brigham Young sent Parley Pratt, Orson Hyde, and John Taylor to investigate the embezzlement of emigration funds in England.
1847. Pratt entered the Salt Lake Valley in September.
1849. Helped formulate a constitution for the provisional government of Deseret. When Utah became a territory in 1850, Pratt was elected to the territorial senate.
Parley P. Pratt’s Voice of Warning (1837) was the first published defense of Mormon doctrine. He also wrote Key to [p.222]Theology History of Missouri Persecutions, and his Autobiography published posthumously in 1873.
The lyrics of many popular Mormon hymns were written by Parley P. Pratt, including “The Morning Breaks,” “Come, O Thou King of Kings,” “An Angel from on High,” and “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth.”
Two Left Feet
Orson Hyde related, “When dancing was first introduced in Nauvoo among the Saints, I observed Brother Parley standing in the figure and he was making no motion particularly, only up and down. Says I, ‘Brother Parley, why don’t you move forward?’ Says he, ‘When I think which way I am going, I forget the step and when I think of the step I forget which way to go.'”
1857. May 13: Parley P. Pratt was murdered near Van Buren, Arkansas, at the age of fifty, by the legal husband of his twelfth wife, Elenore McComb McLean.
Pratt had met the McLeans in San Francisco. Her Church activity and Mr. McLean’s alcoholism led to separation, she moving to Salt Lake City. Though she and McLean were never divorced, Elenore married Pratt November 14, 1855.
Mrs. McLean, who declared that a marriage performed by “sectarian priests… is no marriage at all,” lost custody of her children to their father, who took them to Arkansas. When Pratt went to help her recover the children, he was arrested on a complaint sworn out by McLean for “alienating the affections of his wife and attempting to abduct the children.” Both Pratt and Mrs. McLean—who had been arrested on grounds of stealing her children’s clothes—were acquitted in Van Buren.
Immediately after the trial, Pratt headed for Missouri, where he planned to join an immigrant train west. A short distance out of town, he was overtaken by McLean, who, after missing with six pistol shots at the unarmed apostle, plunged a Bowie knife into his left side twice, then shot [p.223]him in the neck after he had fallen from his horse. Pratt survived for nearly three hours, long enough to tell passersby his name and the name of his assailant, and give instructions as to the disposition of his body and personal effects. Asked if he wanted a doctor, he replied, “I want no doctors for I will be dead in a few minutes.”
Pratt was buried a mile from the murder site in the cemetery at Sterman (also known as Fine’s Springs), near Van Buren, Arkansas. The first stanza of his hymn “The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee” is his epitaph.
Journal of Discourses, 6:15.
[p.430]New York Herald, 23 November 1869.
Pratt, Parley P. Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966.
Pratt, Steven. “Eleanor McLean and the Murder of Parley P. Pratt.” Brigham Young University Studies 15 (Winter 1975):225-256.
Smith, Joseph Fielding. Essentials in Church History. 26th ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1973.
Stanley, Reva. Biography of Parley P. Pratt: The Archer of Paradise. Caldwell: Caxton Printers Ltd., 1937.