The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt –
Revised and Enhanced Edition

Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor

Chapter 18, Part 1

Crowded ­meeting – ­Discourse – ­Baptize the people and organize a ­church – ­Spread of the ­work – ­First visit to the ­country -­ Opposition – ­Remarkable ­success – ­Return to Kirtland

May 1, 1836-Early July 1836

In the evening [1] Mr. Patrick’s large rooms were crowded to excess with anxious listeners. I then addressed them on the subject they had been investigating. The following is an outline of the discourse, which occupied from two to three hours:

“Friends, I am aware that the subject now under consideration is one of the most vital importance to the Christian world, and, though it may seem to be new to most persons, it is familiar to me. I have traced it in all its bearings, weighed it in every possible light, and am prepared to impart to others that which, I trust, will satisfy and enlighten the inquiring mind.

“It appears from our text, as well as from the general tenor of the New Testament, that certain definite principles existed, which, acted upon and enjoyed, constituted the Christian Church, or body of Christ, viz:

“First. An inspired priesthood or apostleship, authorized to administer salvation in the name of Jesus.

“Second. Faith in their words and testimony, on the part of those who heard them.

“Third. Reformation of life.

“Fourth. Obedience to certain ordinances, as baptism and the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

“Fifth. The spiritual gifts imparted to the body thus organized, in order to its edification, growth and perfection.

“It may be presumed that every portion of the professed Christian Church, without any exception – I mean those who admit the Scriptures to be a record of things as they existed – will readily agree, that the five principles just named did exist, and did constitute the Christian Church or body of Christ. This, then constitutes the model or pattern of the object of our present search.

“We have only to compare modern pretences with this ancient model, in order to judge of them at once. Either the same principles would be required to constitute the body of Christ in all succeeding ages, or else the New Testament must cease to be a standard, and be superseded by a dispensation of later origin; claiming power to nullify or make void the dispensation of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, and to introduce another order of things in its stead.

“This last alternative none are so bold as to claim. All agree that the gospel was a perfect system, an unchangeable and everlasting covenant, never to be changed or altered by the Lord, and only perverted or altered by man under a severe penalty – a dreadful anathema. In physical matters men are not easily deceived or duped; for instance, a man sees or hears an exact description of a human body as existing in the days of Socrates or Plato; it has head, eyes, ears, mouth, arms, hands, legs, feet, etc. Can an impostor impose upon that man in this age? Can he introduce a wild beast, a fowl, a serpent, a man dismembered of his head, eyes, ears, hands, or feet? Could he pass any of these upon his fellow men as constituting the human body; the model or pattern answering to the former description? No, he could not. He would be considered out of his senses, and would be laughed to scorn for attempting such a thing.

“Why, then, are we at a loss in judging of the various systems which, in modern times, claim to be the church of Christ? Why do we not compare them with the model, and reject or receive at once? Perhaps you will say that such a course leads to consequences and conclusions so awful, that it opens truths so unwelcome, that it is natural to shrink from the view; and, like the ostrich in the desert, when pursued too closely, hides the head and eyes in a false covering, while the body is exposed to certain destruction.

“Says one, ‘If the ancient model or pattern is the standard, then the veil of modern Christendom is thrown off, and the entire world unchristianized – for we nowhere find such a pattern.’ Well, admit then that there is no Christian church in existence among men, and that there has not been for many ages. What then? Is it a truth? If so, truth will not harm anybody. If the whole world has been for ages wrapped in mystery and deception, is it not better to find it out now than to continue in ignorance until Jesus reveals it at the judgment day, and sinks us in a moment from the highest pinnacle of hope and expectation to despair, rendered a thousand-fold more painful by a sudden reverse?

“But suppose, on opening our eyes to this great discovery, we search and find our observations and conclusions warranted by the whole tenor of prophetic writ? Suppose Jesus Christ and his Apostles and prophets all agree in bearing testimony, and foretelling the very order of things which we find to exist; also, its final end or termination, and the restoration of his Church and the reign of his Saints? Would not our own observations of what actually exists, confirmed by the prophetic declarations of such a host of witnesses, all testifying that it would be so, be a double assurance that we had opened our eyes to a snare in time to escape, and cause, us to leap forward with a thrill of joy and faith to that which is to come?

“We could then exclaim, in viewing the trumpery, pomp, splendor and greatness of Catholicism, or the scarcely less false and glaring systems of absurdity and priestcraft under the name of Protestantism, in their various forms, O, thou mystery of iniquity! thou art at last revealed, thou who deceivest all nations with thy sorcery, and with whom the kings of the earth and the nobles and great men have committed fornication, and lived deliciously; thy covering is removed, and the people shall see thy nakedness and abhor thee; and many shall be ready when the proclamation is made, ‘Come out of her, my people.’

“But suppose, on the other hand, we shut our eyes to these truths, and hug to our bosoms those systems of falsehood and error, which claim to be of Christ, but are not? The result will be a continuance on our part to build up that which the Lord purposes in due time to tear down, and to oppose that which the Lord will send into the world to accomplish his purposes. We would in this case be his enemies, and be found fighting against him.

“Let us look at the Jews in the glass of prophecy. Our own dear selves not being in the scale, perhaps we can the more readily discern the equity of the balance, and afterwards venture to be weighed in the same, even though both Jew and Gentile should be found wanting.

“For nearly two thousand years we behold the Jews without a prophet, inspired priest, king, ruler or teacher, to lead them to light, to freedom, or to God. No voice from the burning bush; no thunderings upon Sinai; no still small voice whispering of right and salvation; no call from the eternal throne; no vision, angel or dream to light them on their pathway, as they wander and are oppressed amid the darkness of Gentile dominion. Their temple is in ruins; their sacrifices have ceased; their priesthood is powerless; while their very city and country is desolate, or trodden under foot. We say to the Jew, why all this? Is it not possible that your fathers have rejected the Messiah and his holy Apostles and prophets; and these things been withheld from them in the anger of the Almighty? O, no, says the Jew, we are the true church and people of God; revelations, prophets, visions, angels and gifts were only given at first to establish the church of Israel, and the canon of Scripture being complete, there was no further need of these things; therefore, they ceased.

“Now, you know that this Jew is mistaken. You pity him. You wonder at his ignorance. You know that when in the days of Samuel’s childhood there was no open vision from the Lord; [2] it was because the priesthood, the proper communication between God and the people, was in transgression. The priests of the house of Eli were robbing the sacrifices for their own aggrandizement; and were committing whoredoms with the very women who came there to worship. [3] You also know that when King Saul was no longer favored with revelation, when the heavens were shut against him, and the Lord answered him not, neither by vision, angel, dream, Urim and Thummim, nor prophet; [4] it was because the Lord had forsaken him and had rent the kingdom from him, and had given it to David, dooming him to destruction, and withdrawing His spirit from him, abandoning him to a spirit of murder and persecution towards the chosen instruments of the Almighty. You also know that, when, before Christ, these gifts had ceased in the Jewish church (say from Malachi to John the Baptist), there were a multitude of sects, none of which were right. All had to come on a level and repent, and be baptized by John, in order to prepare the way of the Lord. [5]

“You also know that the Jews were no longer favored with apostles and inspired men after they had rejected Christ and his Apostles, because they were rejected of the Lord; and the kingdom, according to the words of Jesus, was taken from them and given to a people who should bring forth the fruits of the same. You also know that the reason why a Jew to this day is without these things is, because his fathers, eighteen hundred years ago, rejected them.

“But the Jew knows none of these things. He is blinded with the vain and delusive thought that his race, being the chosen of the Lord, must forever remain in favor, whether they do iniquity or not. Why! exclaims the Jew, we dare not for a moment look at things in the light you suggest; it would disfranchise the whole nation for eighteen centuries, and count them as aliens from the covenant of their fathers, and from the commonwealth of Israel. Well, what if it does? Is it not better for them to know the worst in time to mend?

“Now, let us turn to the Gentile church. They, by the ministration of the Apostles, received the kingdom of God, and enjoyed its fruits. The natural branches were broken off, and they were grafted in; ‘take heed,’ says Paul, ‘for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he spare not thee.’

“When the Gentile church received the kingdom, and became such, they were everywhere blessed with the ministry of inspired men, and were favored with revelations, visions, angels and prophets, as the New Testament bears witness. What became of these things? Under what circumstances, and in fulfilment of what Scriptures did they cease from among the Gentiles?

“The prophet Daniel had foretold of the several powers which would arise and bear rule in the earth. [6]But the Roman, the most terrible power of all, should ‘destroy the mighty and the holy people.’ This power should change the times and the laws, and wear out the Saints of the Most High, until the end, when the Saints should take the kingdom under the whole Heaven, and possess it. Such in substance is Daniel’s testimony.

“John, in his revelations, bears the same testimony. He predicts that a certain power under the figure of a woman upon a beast, with Mystery written upon her forehead, should have dominion among all nations; have to do with all kings; and that all nations should be deceived by her, and their kings live deliciously with her, while she would be drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. [7]

“Paul also predicts a time when men ‘would not endure sound doctrine, but would turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables, heaping to themselves, teachers.’ [8] That they would ‘have a form of godliness and deny the power.’ [9] Paul also bears testimony that the Gentiles, if they abide not in faith, shall meet with a similar fall as did the Jews. [10]

“Jesus Christ speaks of a time when the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled: their dominion come to an end with great judgment, and Jerusalem no longer be trodden under foot by them. [11]

“Now the summary of these things is this:

“The Gentiles killed the Apostles and inspired men.

“The Gentiles ceased to bring forth the fruits of the kingdom.

“The Gentiles became drunken with the blood of the saints.

“The Gentiles destroyed the mighty and holy people.

“The Gentiles changed the times, and laws, and ordinances of God.

“The Gentiles turned away their ears from the truth, and were turned unto fables.

“The Gentiles would not endure sound doctrine, but heaped to themselves teachers.

“The Gentiles maintained a form of godliness without its miracles and powers.

“The Gentiles were ‘full of names of blasphemy,’ [12] and mystery was written as a frontispiece on all their institutions.

“The Gentiles deceived all nations, and drew kings and great men into the wake of their mysterious abominations and religious mummeries.

“The Gentiles continue to bear rule by these means till the judgments of the Almighty sweep them from the earth, and put an end to their dominion; and God restores Israel and Jerusalem, and gives the dominion to his Saints.

“How often the Lord may have restored the priesthood and ordinances, the true Church and its gifts to the earth, among the humble, is not known. But this much we know, there would be no peace nor security for men professing such institutions; they would be either hunted down and destroyed, or driven to the necessity of secluding themselves in the most secret recesses, where their history would never come down to us. As Protestants, we can make no pretences to a successive line of apostleship; for this would imply that we were never Roman Catholics; therefore, what need of protestation or dissent from that to which we never had belonged? Nothing short of a new dispensation – a new revelation to commission apostles as at the first, could give any religious body a claim, or a shadow of claim, to be the Church of Jesus Christ, or entitle them to the spiritual gifts.

“Such, my friends, is the deplorable picture of Gentile Christianity as presented before us, whether we look with the naked eye on facts around us, or, aided by the glass of prophecy and history, review the dim vista of successive generations in the mighty past. Yet in the midst of the reign of error and blood there have always been many individuals who desired to know and serve the Lord. They have desired to see the triumph of truth; but the time had not come; they died without the sight; but they will arise again to enjoy the triumph; they with us will rejoice when error is overthrown and the Saints possess the kingdom.

“I have now reviewed the past, my friends, and have shown by what means the Jews and Gentiles have lost the peculiar blessings which characterize the Church of God. I have detained you long, and am, as yet, only on the threshold of the great subject before me. In another discourse I might draw a brighter picture by setting before you the great and precious promises which ensure to the world a new dispensation, in which all these things will be restored, and the Church of the Saints grow, flourish and triumph in the earth.

“I must now close by blessing this people who have opened their hearts to listen with such attention. May the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ and his spirit rest upon you, that you may receive and know the truth. Amen.”

As I finished speaking the unanimous voice was for another meeting, which was finally given out for the next evening.

Evening came again. [13]Crowds assembled.

I then went into detail with a chain of prophecy, beginning with Moses and the prophets, and ending with John’s revelation; showing that the latter-day glory was to be ushered in by a new dispensation revealed from heaven; by the ministration of angels, and sustained by the marvelous power and gifts of God; till it resulted in the overthrow of all mystery, darkness, ignorance and corruption, and the ushering in of the universal reign of peace and truth.

This prophetic review occupied some two or three hours more. I then closed by saying that had I time I would give them the details of the commencement of this restoration by a new dispensation revealed from the heavens by the angels of God, and in exact and detailed fulfilment of some of the prophecies which I had been reviewing. All cried out for another meeting, which was appointed for the next night.

In the third evening [14] I related the visions, manifestations and many of the details of the organization and movements of the Church of the Saints.

The truth was now plainly before this people, who had been in so wonderful a manner prepared for its reception, as predicted by brother Kimball on my head before leaving home. The man of the house now rejected me, and the meeting of seekers after truth left his house, and came and were baptized, and held their meetings at the house of the widow Walton, who had received me, and who was now baptized with all her household, who were of sufficient age to receive the gospel.

John Taylor and his wife, whose house I first entered in Toronto, were also baptized. [15]He soon became an assistant in the ministry. This is that same John Taylor who is now one of the Twelve Apostles.

The work soon spread into the country and enlarged its operations in all that region; many were gathered into the Church, and were filled with faith and love, and with the Holy Spirit, and the Lord confirmed the Word with signs following. My first visit to the country was about nine miles from Toronto, among a settlement of farmers, by one of whom I had sent an appointment beforehand. [16] John Taylor accompanied me – this was before he was baptized – we rode on horseback. We called at a Mr. Joseph Fielding’s, [17]an acquaintance and friend of Mr. Taylor’s. This man had two sisters, young ladies, who seeing us coming ran from their house to one of the neighboring houses, lest they should give welcome, or give countenance to “Mormonism.” [18]Mr. Fielding stayed, and as we entered the house he said he was sorry we had come, he had opposed our holding meeting in the neighborhood; and, so great was the prejudice, that the Methodist meeting house was closed against us, and the minister refused, on Sunday, to give out the appointment sent by the farmer.

“Ah!” said I, “why do they oppose Mormonism?” “I don’t know,” said he, “but the name has such a contemptible sound; and, another thing, we do not want a new revelation, or a new religion contrary to the Bible.” “Oh!” said I, “if that is all we shall soon remove your prejudices. Come, call home your sisters, and let’s have some supper. Did you say the appointment was not given out?” “I said, sir, that it was not given out in the meeting house, nor by the minister; but the farmer by whom you sent it agreed to have it at his house.” “Come then, send for your sisters, we will take supper with you, and all go over to meeting together. If you and your sisters will agree to this, I will agree to preach the old Bible gospel, and leave out all new revelations which are opposed to it.”

The honest man consented. The young ladies came home, got us a good supper, and all went to meeting. The house was crowded; I preached, and the people wished to hear more. The meeting house was opened for further meetings, and in a few days we baptized brother Joseph Fielding and his two amiable and intelligent sisters, for such they proved to be in an eminent degree. [19] We also baptized many others in that neighborhood, and organized a branch of the Church, for the people there drank in truth as water, and loved it as they loved life.

After ministering in and about Toronto for about two months I found it necessary to return home, as some of my debts were pressing, and we needed a supply of our printed works to circulate among the people. I accordingly gave out word, in a meeting in Toronto one Sunday evening, [20] that I should take boat for home next morning. Now all this time I had asked no man for money, nor had I explained my circumstances. However, on shaking hands at the close of the next meeting, several bankbills were secretly shaken into my hands, amounting in all to several hundred dollars – including subscriptions for books, periodicals, etc. I thanked the Lord God of Israel for the fulfilment of the first instalment of brother Kimball’s prophecy, and went on my way rejoicing. On my arrival in Kirtland I was enabled to meet my most urgent debts, and to get time on the remainder.

I found my wife had been healed of her seven years’ illness from the time brother Kimball had ministered unto her, and I began to realize more fully that every word of his blessing and prophecy upon my head would surely come to pass. After a pleasant visit with the Saints, I took my wife with me and returned again to Toronto, in June, 1836. [21]

Part 2 of Chapter 18 will be continued next week on Meridian.


Notes

Sunday, May 1, 1836.

See 1 Samuel 3:1.

See 1 Samuel 2:22.

See 1 Samuel 28:6.

See Matthew 3:1-6.

See Daniel 2:36-45.

See Revelation 17:1-18.

2 Timothy 4:3-4.

2 Timothy 3:5.

See Romans 11:20-24.

See Luke 21:22-24.

Revelation 17:3.

Monday, May 2, 1836.

Tuesday, May 3, 1836.

John and Leonora Cannon Taylor were baptized the following Monday, May 9, 1836.

This visit to the countryside was between May 4 and May 8, 1836.

Joseph Fielding (1797-1863) was the son of John and Rachel Ibbotson Fielding of Bedfordshire, England.

These sisters were Mary Fielding (born July 21, 1801) and Mercy Rachel Fielding (born June 15, 1807). Their older brother, James, still in England at the time, played a key role in opening that country to the gospel, though he never joined the Church. Mary later married Hyrum Smith. Mercy married Robert B. Thompson, personal secretary to the Prophet.

Joseph Fielding recorded: “While I was thus searching the scriptures and crying to the Lord, it pleased God in answer to prayer to send his word unto us. We had before heard some few evil reports of some people called Mormons, but as there had been several others bringing something new and strange, for which I had no relish, I thought it not best to encourage anything of that kind. At this time it was that Elder Parley P. Pratt came over to Toronto about 10 miles from my home; he was said to be a Mormon preacher; and Izabella Walton (not our grandmother) who was the first to receive him into her house in that town (a faithful widow woman also formerly of the Methodist Society) she having relations living by me, invited him to come out and preach to us, but so great were our prejudices that we sent him word not to come. He however determined that as he had accepted the invitation he would come. When he came we received him with great coolness. We had determined not to go to hear him, but as an old friend (Bro. Taylor) brought him to my house, I could not refuse to hear, and I soon discovered that he had the Spirit and Power of God and such wisdom as none but God himself could have given to man, by which he could explain those prophecies of which the preachers of the day were ignorant, showing the great design and connection of the Scriptures throughout. He also spoke of and introduced the Book of Mormon. Of this I need not here speak for it will speak for itself. He at the same time said that the angel made known the record of the fallen people, the Nephites. He spoke also of the present state of the Gentile Church, saying that they were in a fallen condition, that they had all departed from the truth, that there were none with whom the Lord was well pleased; that they had transgressed the law, changed the ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant, and it was necessary that the covenant should be renewed before a pure Church could be built up, to have the ordinances, gifts, and blessing of the Church of Jesus Christ as established by himself; also that the day of the Lord was nigh at hand, that those prophecies which speak of that great and dreadful day, in which the wicked should be cut off and the earth purified by fire, to prepare it for the coming of Christ to reign thereon with his Saints, was nigh at hand, even the present generation should not all pass away until all these things should be fulfilled. Elder Pratt laid before us the ordinances of the gospel, which were very plain, being perfectly in accordance with the scriptures, being still more clearly expressed in the Book of Mormon.

“Many strongly opposed the work, false reports were raised, etc. Some times our faith was shaken, but the word preached came with great power, in demonstration of the Spirit, so that we could not reject the testimony but to our own condemnation. I therefore with my two sisters then embraced it, and entered the Church of Latter-day Saints by baptism. This was in the spring of 1837 [1836] . I soon found that the Spirit of God was imparted unto me in a greater measure than I had before experienced, and instead of its leaving me, as it were in spite of my endeavors, I found it increasing, giving me more light and more power” (Fielding, Journals , 5-7).

June 19, 1836.

Thankful conceived a child during this time with her husband.

 


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