The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt – Revised and Enhanced Edition
Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor

Chapter 17

Journey ­resumed – ­Ministry – ­Striking answer to ­prayer – ­Arrival at ­Toronto -­ John Taylor – ­Visit the religious ministers, the sheriff, and the public market, seeking for an opening, but in ­vain – ­Secret ­prayer – ­About to leave the ­city -­ God sends a widow to receive ­me -­ Great ­faith -­ Eyes of the blind ­opened -­ Great excitement and gainsayings -­ Public ­preaching – ­Find a people prepared to receive the message.

April 22, 1836-May 1, 1836

Leaving the Falls we continued our journey for a day or two on foot, and as the Sabbath approached we halted in the neighborhood of Hamilton, and gave out two or three appointments for meetings. [1] Brother Nickerson now left me to fill these appointments, and passed on to his home, in a distant part of the province.

I preached to the people, and was kindly entertained till Monday morning, [2] when I took leave and entered Hamilton, a flourishing town at the head of Lake Ontario; but my place of destination was Toronto, around on the north side of the lake.[3] If I went by land I would have a circuitous route, muddy and tedious to go on foot. The lake had just opened, and steamers had commenced plying between the two places; two dollars would convey me to Toronto in a few hours, [4] and save some days of laborious walking; but I was an entire stranger in Hamilton, and also in the province; and money I had none.

Under these circumstances I pondered what I should do. I had many times received answers to prayer in such matters; but now it seemed hard to exercise faith, because I was among strangers and entirely unknown. The Spirit seemed to whisper to me to try the Lord, and see if anything was too hard for him, that I might know and trust Him under all circumstances.

I retired to a secret place in a forest and prayed to the Lord for money to enable me to cross the lake. I then entered Hamilton and commenced to chat with some of the people. I had not tarried many minutes before I was accosted by a stranger, who inquired my name and where I was going. He also asked me if I did not want some money. I said yes. He then gave me ten dollars and a letter of introduction to John Taylor, [5] of Toronto, where I arrived the same evening.[6]

Mrs. Taylor received me kindly, and went for her husband, who was busy in his mechanic shop. To them I made known my errand to the city, but received little direct encouragement. I took tea with them, and then sought lodgings at a public house.

In the morning I commenced a regular visit to each of the clergy of the place, introducing myself and my errand. I was absolutely refused hospitality, and denied the opportunity of preaching in any of their houses or congregations. Rather an unpromising beginning, thought I, considering the prophecies on my head concerning Toronto. However, nothing daunted, I applied to the Sheriff for the use of the Court House, and then to the authorities for a public room in the market place; but with no better success.

What could I do more? I had exhausted my influence and power without effect. I now repaired to a pine grove just out of the town, and, kneeling down, called on the Lord, bearing testimony of my unsuccessful exertions; my inability to open the way; at the same time asking Him in the name of Jesus to open an effectual door for His servant to fulfil his mission in that place.

I then arose and again entered the town, and going to the house of John Taylor, had placed my hand on my baggage to depart from a place where I could do no good, when a few inquiries on the part of Mr. Taylor, inspired by a degree of curiosity or of anxiety, caused a few moments’ delay, during which a lady by the name of Walton [7] entered the house, and, being an acquaintance of Mrs. Taylor’s, was soon engaged in conversation with her in an adjoining room. I overheard the following:

“Mrs. Walton, I am glad to see you; there is a gentleman here from the United States who says the Lord sent him to this city to preach the gospel. He has applied in vain to the clergy and to the various authorities for opportunity to fulfil his mission, and is now about to leave the place. He may be a man of God; I am sorry to have him depart.” [8]

“Indeed!” said the lady; “well, I now understand the feelings and spirit which brought me to your house at this time. I have been busy over the wash tub and too weary to take a walk; but I felt impressed to walk out. I then thought I would make a call on my sister, the other side of town; but passing your door, the Spirit bade me go in; but I said to myself, I will go in when I return; but the Spirit said: go in now. I accordingly came in, and I am thankful that I did so. Tell the stranger he is welcome to my house. I am a widow; but I have a spare room and bed, and food in plenty. He shall have a home at my house, and two large rooms to preach in just when he pleases. Tell him I will send my son John over to pilot him to my house, while I go and gather my relatives and friends to come in this very evening and hear him talk; for I feel by the Spirit that he is a man sent by the Lord with a message which will do us good.”

The evening found me quietly seated at her house, [9] in the midst of a number of listeners, who were seated around a large work table in her parlor, and deeply interested in conversation like the following:

“Mr. Pratt, we have for some years been anxiously looking for some providential event which would gather the sheep into one fold; build up the true church as in days of old, and prepare the humble followers of the Lamb, now scattered and divided, to receive their coming Lord when He shall descend to reign on the earth. As soon as Mrs. Taylor spoke of you I felt assured, as by a strange and unaccountable presentiment, that you were a messenger, with important tidings on these subjects; and I was constrained to invite you here; and now we are all here anxiously waiting to hear your words.”

“Well, Mrs. Walton, I will frankly relate to you and your friends the particulars of my message and the nature of my commission. A young man in the State of New York, whose name is Joseph Smith, was visited by an angel of God, and, after several visions and much instruction, was enabled to obtain an ancient record, written by men of old on the American continent, and containing the history, prophecies and gospel in plainness, as revealed to them by Jesus and his messengers. This same Joseph Smith and others, were also commissioned by the angels in these visions, and ordained to the apostleship; with authority to organize the Church, to administer the ordinances, and to ordain others, and thus cause the full, plain gospel in its purity to be preached in all the world.

“By these Apostles thus commissioned, I have been ordained as an Apostle, and sent forth by the word of prophecy to minister the baptism of repentance for remission of sins, in the name of Jesus Christ; and to administer the gift of the Holy Ghost, to heal the sick, to comfort the mourner, bind up the broken in heart, and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

“I was also directed to this city by the Spirit of the Lord, with a promise that I should find a people here prepared to receive the gospel, and should organize them in the same. But when I came and was rejected by all parties, I was about to leave the city; but the Lord sent you, as a widow, to receive me, as I was about to depart; and thus I was provided for like Elijah of old. [10] And now I bless your house, and all your family and kindred in His name. Your sins shall be forgiven you; you shall understand and obey the gospel, and be filled with the Holy Ghost; for so great faith have I never seen in any of my country.”

“Well, Mr. Pratt, this is precisely the message we were waiting for; we believe your words and are desirous to be baptized.”

“It is your duty and privilege,” said I, “but wait yet a little while till I have an opportunity to teach others, with whom you are religiously connected, and invite them to partake with you of the same blessings.”

After conversing with these interesting persons till a late hour, we retired to rest. Next day Mrs. Walton requested me to call on a friend of hers, who was also a widow in deep affliction, being totally blind with inflammation in the eyes; she had suffered extreme pain for several months, and had also been reduced to want, having four little children to support. She had lost her husband, of cholera, two years before, and had sustained herself and family by teaching school until deprived of sight, since which she had been dependent on the Methodist society; herself and children being then a public charge. Mrs. Walton sent her little daughter of twelve years old to show me the way.

I called on the poor blind widow and helpless orphans, and found them in a dark and gloomy apartment, rendered more so by having every ray of light obscured to prevent its painful effects on her eyes. I related to her the circumstances of my mission, and she believed the same. I laid my hands upon her in the name of Jesus Christ, and said unto her, “your eyes shall be well from this very hour.” She threw off her bandages; opened her house to the light; dressed herself, and walking with open eyes, came to the meeting that same evening at sister Walton’s, with eyes as well and as bright as any other person’s.

The Methodist society were now relieved of their burden in the person of this widow and four orphans. This remarkable miracle was soon noised abroad, and the poor woman’s house was thronged from all parts of the city and country with visitors; all curious to witness for themselves, and to inquire of her how her eyes were healed.

“How did the man heal your eyes?” “What did he do? – tell us,” were questions so oft repeated that the woman, wearied of replying, came to me for advice to know what she should do. I advised her to tell them that the Lord had healed her, and to give Him the glory, and let that suffice. But still they teased her for particulars. “What did this man do?” “How were your eyes opened and made well?”

“He laid his hands upon my head in the name of Jesus Christ, and rebuked the inflammation, and commanded them to be made whole and restored to sight; and it was instantly done.”

“Well, give God the glory; for, as to this man, it is well known that he is an impostor, a follower of Joseph Smith, the false prophet.

“Whether he be an impostor or not, I know not; but this much I know, whereas I was blind, now I see! Can an impostor open the eyes of the blind?”

“Perhaps, then, you intend to be his disciple, to join the ‘Mormons?'”

“He said nothing to me about joining the ‘Mormons,’ but taught me the gospel, and bore testimony that God had restored its power to the earth. Would you like to be partakers thereof? Or why do you inquire so earnestly about my eyes being healed?”

“Oh, we are John Wesley’s disciples. We are the Christian Church. We know John Wesley, but as to this man, we know not whence he is.”

“How is this that you know not whence he is, and yet he hath opened my eyes? Did John Wesley open the eyes of the blind? Can an impostor do it?”

“Ah, we see how it is. You are determined to forsake the Christian Church, the good old way, for the sake of these fools, these weak impostors – the Mormons. Well, farewell. But remember, you will have no more support from our society, no more encouragement of any kind; you shall not even teach a school for us. How then will you live?” [11]

Such contentions and discouragement as these, poured into the ears of a poor mother from day to day, together with railings, lyings, and various sophistry and slander, soon caused her to waver, and like thousands of other poor, weak mortals, she shrank back into the net of sectarian delusion, and was seen by the Saints no more. In the meantime our meetings commenced at Mrs. Walton’s. At first very few attended, but they gradually increased till her rooms, and sometimes her yard, were well filled with attentive hearers.

Sunday at length arrived, [12] and, not wishing to show opposition, or to set up a separate standard without cause, I appointed no meeting, but accompanied a friend who invited me to hear a preacher in a certain chapel. After the discourse, I was introduced to the speaker by my friend, who invited us both to dine at his house. After much interesting conversation, I was invited to accompany them to another meeting, held at the residence of a Mr. Patrick, a wealthy, aristocratic gentleman, who held an office in the government.

In a large apartment, well furnished, was soon convened a solemn, well dressed, and, apparently, serious and humble people, nearly filling the room. Each held a bible, while Mr. Patrick presided in their midst, with a bible in his hand and several more lying on the table before him. With one of these I was soon furnished, as was any other person present who might lack this, apparently, necessary article. In this manner these people had assembled twice each week for about two years, for the professed purpose of seeking truth, independent of any sectarian organization to which any of them might nominally belong.

Here had assembled John Taylor, his wife, Mrs. Walton and some others who now knew me, although to the president and most of the congregation I was entirely unknown, and, from my appearance, was supposed to be some farmer from the country, who had dropped in by invitation.

Meeting was soon opened by singing and prayer in a fervent manner, after which each one was at liberty to introduce such subject of investigation as he might think proper. John Taylor arose, and read in the New Testament the account of Philip going to Samaria and preaching the gospel, and what followed. [13] Closing the book, he remarked that the Samaritans received the Word with joy; and were then baptized, both men and women; after which the two Apostles, Peter and John, came from Jerusalem, and laid their hands on them in the name of Jesus, and prayed that they might receive the Holy Ghost; and they received it, and spake with tongues, and prophesied.

“Now,” said he, “where is our Philip? Where is our receiving the Word with joy, and being baptized when we believed? Where is our Peter and John? Our apostles? Where is our Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands? Where are our gifts of the Holy Ghost? Echo answers, where?

“Is this the pattern of the Christian Church, the model for the organization in all after times? If so, we, as a people, have not the ministry, the ordinances, the gifts which constitute the Church of Jesus Christ. We are told that we were sprinkled in our infancy, but this was not baptism; and if it was, we neither believed nor rejoiced at the time, nor did we act in the matter at all, but were acted upon. How different from the Samaritans, who were baptized when they believed, and received the Word with joy.

“Again, Peter and John were commissioned as Apostles, and they administered the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus. Instead of which, we have had ministers commissioned by the King and Parliament of England, or by John Wesley and his successors, without any pretence of a word from the Lord or his angels to commission them.

“Again, the Samaritans had spiritual gifts. We have none. If, then, we differ entirely from the pattern in all things, what claim have we, or any of the Christian world, to be considered the Church of Christ? If we are not members of the Church of Christ, wherein do we differ from the heathen, whom we affect to despise or pity? We even shudder for nations or individuals grown up without baptism, while at the same time it would appear that we are all without it, – that we are all heathen, so far as the Christian Church is concerned, as we have not even the shadow of anything according to the pattern. We cannot boast of even an approach to a base resemblance or counterfeit. What say you to this, my brethren?”

The subject now opened gave rise to a most candid investigation. Several spoke to the point. Some were of the opinion that the principles, being lost, were never to be restored. Others suggested that it was their privilege to pray that the heavens might be opened and men commissioned by new revelation. Others, again, hinted that the Lord might, perhaps, have commissioned men already in some part of the world; and, if so, why not pray that he would send them to us. [14]

Nothing definite was concluded on when the old preacher who invited me arose and said: “There is a stranger present who, perhaps, might wish to speak.”

The chairman observed that he was not aware of the presence of a stranger, but if such was the case he was at liberty, as were all persons in these meetings, to make remarks. I arose, and observed that I was a stranger from the United States; but not a stranger to the great principles under investigation in this meeting. I was prepared to speak on the subject at some length; but should not do so then, as the time had been well occupied and the people edified.

My credentials were then presented to the meeting through the chairman, and a special appointment given out for me at evening.  However they might differ as to the means of restoration of the Christian Church, certain it is that they appeared at the close to unite, with one voice, in acknowledgment of their destitution.

“O Lord,” said the chairman, in his closing prayer, “we have neither apostles, visions, angels, revelations, gifts, tongues, ordinances, nor a Christian ministry; we acknowledge that we are destitute of everything like the pattern of the true Church, as laid down in thy holy Word, and we pray thee to send whom thou wilt.” At this all seemed to say Amen, while tears and sobs attested their sincerity.

Notes



[1] April 24, 1836.

[2] April 25, 1836.

[3] Hamilton is located forty miles southwest of Toronto.

[4] Steamers on the lake could travel five to six miles an hour; thus, the trip would require six to eight hours.

[5] Of John Taylor’s desire to come to the New World, B. H. Roberts wrote: “While crossing the British channel the ship he sailed in encountered severe storms, which lasted a number of days. He saw several ships wrecked in that storm, and the captain and officers of his own ship expected hourly that she would go down. But not so with our young emigrant. The voice of the Spirit was still saying within him, ‘You must yet go to America and preach the gospel.’ ‘So confident was I of my destiny,’ [John] remarks, ‘that I went on deck at midnight, and amidst the raging elements felt as calm as though I was sitting in a parlor at home. I believed I should reach America and perform my work'” (Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, 28-29).

[6] Parley arrived at the Taylor’s home April 25, 1836.

[7] Izabella Walton (Fielding, Journals, 5).

[8] “Leonora Cannon Taylor . . . was . . . no stranger to the guidance of the Lord. As a young girl she . . . had been inspired to migrate from England to the New World; she had a prophetic dream that prompted her to accept an invitation to go to Canada with a dear friend whose father, Mr. Mason, had recently been chosen as private secretary to the Governor General of that country. Soon after her arrival in Canada, Leonora became affiliated with the local Methodist congregation, where she met the brilliant young Englishman, John Taylor, who soon fell in love with her and asked her to be his wife. At first she refused him, but inspired by another dream where she saw herself happily married to him, she accepted his renewed proposal. John and Leonora were married on January 28, 1833” (Flake, George Q. Cannon, 9).

[9] April 26, 1836.

[10] See 1 Kings 17:8-16.

[11] Parley is drawing readers to the parallels found in John 9.

[12] May 1, 1836.

[13] See Acts 8:5-17.

[14] John Taylor’s musings parallel the thoughts young Parley shared with his father while the two labored together in the forest (see chapter 2).

 


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