The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt – Revised and Enhanced Edition
Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor
A vision - Remarkable signs in the heavens - A false prophet - A dream – Impression - Prayer – Interpretation given in a second dream – Attend Mr. Caird’s meeting - He shows himself to be a railer and a liar - We challenge him to an investigation – He visits Toronto – We return there - Continues his opposition – Refusing to meet us - Great meetings – Excitement – Text – Summary of the discourse proving him a false teacher – He retires to private life - Return to Kirtland – Birth of my first born.
July 1836- March 25, 1837
In July, 1836, while lodging at the house of brother Joseph Fielding, the voice of the Lord came unto me in a dream, saying: “Parley!” And I answered: “Here am I;” for I was in a vision of the Spirit and knew that it was the Lord who spake unto me. And he said: “When did I ever reveal anything unto you in a dream and it failed to come to pass?” And I answered: “Never, Lord.” “Well, then,” He continued, “go unto this people and cry unto them with a mighty voice that they repent, lest I smite them with a curse and they die; for, notwithstanding the present fruitfulness of the earth, there shall be a famine in the land; and not only a famine for bread, but a famine for the Word of the Lord; for I will call my servants out from their midst and send them to the nations afar off.”
Having heard these words I took courage, and I continued to lift up my voice in the congregations, both in town and country, testifying of the gospel and warning the people of things to come. Many repented and were baptized, while many hardened their hearts and were filled with a contentious and lying spirit. But the Saints were filled with faith, joy, and love; and they met together oft, and had great union and peace, and were happy in the society of each other.
In the autumn of the same year – I think in September – I had preached on Sunday in the chapel, on the subject of the coming of the Son of Man and the signs which would precede his coming. I prophesied that they would see signs in the heavens very soon, such as were spoken of by Jesus Christ in the New Testament; and that when they should begin to see them they might know for themselves that His coming was nigh at hand.
After thus preaching I returned in the evening to the house of brother and sisters Fielding, at the hour of 9 p.m. ; we sat up for an hour or two conversing on these important things and rejoicing, when, on going out at the door and looking abroad, we beheld a most wonderful scene in the heavens, and, as it continued for some time, we finally went to some of the nearest neighbors and called them out to behold it.
A wave of white light extended like a rainbow from east to west over the entire horizon, a little south of the meridian. It was in appearance about twenty feet wide, and seemed agitated in its motions like a wave of the sea; at length it removed like the motions of a great swell of the sea towards the south and disappeared; when lo! another similar light appeared immediately in the place of the former, and, after remaining stationary with agitated motions for some time, it rolled away to the south and disappeared like the former, and was replaced by a third. Thus the same scene was renewed and continued for hours. We finally all retired to rest, while it yet continued to be exhibited. 1
After spending the season in continued labors, and organizing the Church in many places, I was about to return in October to Kirtland, Ohio, to my home. Now, there was a man named Caird, who, previous to my visit to Canada, had been over from England as a preacher, who pretended to be sent of God by revelation. He had preached many things, and told the people that God had raised up apostles in England, and organized the true church, and was sending preachers from thence into all the world, to prepare the way for the coming of the Son of Man. This man held to the sprinkling of infants, which he called baptism. He also held that the church of which he was a representative and messenger, included the national Church of England; and all others who had been baptized (sprinkled), whether Catholic or Protestant. This great, universal church was the true church, only needing the restoration of apostles and gifts which had now commenced to be restored.
This man had great influence in Canada on his former visit, and he had long been looked for to return to Toronto on his second visit. The people were all expectation, and very anxious that he should arrive in time to meet me before I should return home; for many persons greatly wondered that there should arise about the same time one church in America and another in England, both professing apostolic power and universal jurisdiction. Some of those who had heard both of us, tried to think that both systems were one and would run together. Others said they would wait and see which serpent swallowed the other before they would join either.
Some affirmed that Mr. Caird would never shrink from the investigation of anything, therefore, he must embrace “Mormonism;” for it has only to be investigated to be appreciated. Others equally affirmed that Mr. Pratt never shrank from investigation, and, therefore, they must meet each other; must come to an understanding; must become one, or else one of their systems must be shown to be very erroneous; for these men have neither of them ever found his master in any of the sects here in Canada at any rate.
Such is a specimen of the sayings and feelings of an excited public, in view of the meeting of two such men. On my own part, although I knew his system was erroneous and not founded in truth, yet I had formed a very favorable opinion of the man, and had made up my mind to meet a fearless champion who would not shrink one moment from a full and free investigation. Believing this, I felt in high hopes that he would be an instrument in the hands of God to receive and spread the truth.
This man still lingered at Kingston, two hundred miles distant, and did not come up to Toronto as expected. To satisfy the anxiety of the people, I at length proposed in our meeting one Sabbath, that I would take steamer the next morning and go down to Kingston, and see this strange man.
That same night I had a dream, as follows: I thought I was in a vast wilderness of wild beasts of every description, among which was a species of elephant so large that its trunk reached nearly to the tops of the tall trees, and when he walked the earth trembled; the beasts of the field fled from before him, and the trees were swayed on either side of him as slender reeds. At this I was afraid, and I wafted myself up by the power of the Spirit, and sat in the top of a tall tree. As he approached, I reflected as follows: Why should such a man as I fear? I have any amount of power given me of God, I will, therefore, descend to earth before him; for he can never harm me. I accordingly descended. He considered this a defiance on my part, so he boasted that I had no power, and that I could not stand before him.
At this I put forth my hand and caught him by the trunk, and lifting him from the ground by the power of the Spirit, I dashed him to the ground a number of times; at this he seemed to dwindle down to about the size of a suckling calf, and finally turned into a serpent and swelled out to the length of about a hundred feet, and half the size of a man’s body. He then spoke great swelling words in defiance of my power; said it was not the power of God, but only the power of a man; and he continued to mock and defy me, saying, “If you have the great power of God, why do you not pull me in pieces?”
At this I saw a great white stone, smooth and round at the top, in the shape of the half of an egg, and about six feet in diameter. The serpent coiled himself around this stone, and professed to be fastened to it. And he said: “Now I will remain fast to this rock, and give you a fair chance to pull me to pieces.” I answered, “You are not fastened to the rock, but will slip from it the moment I pull.” “Nay,” said he, “try me, and see.” I laid hold of him, and the same power came on me as before, but as I began to pull he slipped from the rock. I then tried to fasten him to some weeds or some rubbish which was near, but the moment I pulled he would slip from them; I could not, therefore, fasten him to anything. I said to him, “You will not remain fastened to anything; how, then, can I pull you to pieces?”
Being a little at a loss to know what to do, I turned to Elder Orson Hyde, who seemed to stand by, and said, “Brother Orson, see those wide jaws and that small neck; it is an excellent hold; seize him by the neck and hold him fast, and, in the name of Jesus, I will give an almighty pull.” He did so, and I pulled; the serpent then dwindled down to the size of a small snake half a yard in length, and crawled off and hid among the grass.
I awoke under the strong impression that the great beast and the serpent represented Mr. Caird; and that the rock was the true gospel, to which he pretended to be fast. This impression was so different from the opinion I had formed of the man, that I felt greatly disappointed. I was not willing to believe the vision; I exclaimed in the bitterness of sorrow and disappointment: “Is it possible that this is Mr. Caird, so beloved, so revered as a great and good man?” I hardly dare believe it. “O Lord, if this vision is of thee and its application, please show me the interpretation of it in plainness, that I may not err.” I immediately fell asleep again and dreamed as follows:
I thought I took a steamer and arrived in Kingston at early dawn. I thought I took up one of the principal streets, directly northward from the water, and put up at a house of entertainment. I then inquired for Mr. Caird, and was told that he was on the same street near to me. I saw him, and tried to tell him of the glorious fulness of the gospel. He immediately rejected, and refused to hear me, and commenced to speak reproachfully of me and the cause. I replied to him in the language of the New Testament: “Doth our law judge a man before it hear him?” He answered with a sneer: “I am perfectly willing to judge Mormonism without hearing it; I would not break my shins to hear it anyhow.” I awoke a second time, feeling satisfied in regard to Mr. Caird.
I arose next morning and told the people that I now knew Mr. Caird; that he was false, and would bitterly and utterly refuse to investigate or hear the truth. I told them I had no desire to go to see him, for the Lord had shown him to me in a dream, and I knew more about him than all of them. This, however, they could not realize; they assured me that he was no such man; and, as they had found me the means to go and see him, and had chosen a man to go with me, they rather insisted on my going. “Well,” said I, “I will go, but you will find the matter just as I tell you.” So I went, accompanied by a Mr. Goodson.
We landed in Kingston at early dawn, went up the street as I had dreamed, took lodgings, and then inquired for Mr. Caird, and was answered that he was near us on the same street. I wrote him a line seeking an interview. No answer was returned. We waited all day, and then attended his meeting at evening. He preached well, and showed great intelligence. I could detect nothing to condemn. As he was about closing, I prayed the Lord to cause him to show himself, that I might discern his spirit. On a sudden he broke off from his subject, and commenced railing against Mormonism at a most horrible rate. He said he had that day received a line from one of these impostors, calling him brother, and professing to be of the new church, which had been lately organized in England by the spirit of revelation; “by this false profession,” he said, “they had deceived some of his friends in Toronto.” Now all these things were lies.
I arose in the meeting and asked to speak, but did not obtain privilege. I, however, told the people that Mr. Caird had lied; he had received no line from an Elder of the Church of the Saints calling him brother, or professing to be of his new church, organized in England; I defied him to produce such a line. All the answer the multitude returned to this was to hiss, and to cry, “Gold Bible! Gold Bible! – New Revelation!” etc.
Next morning we published a printed handbill with a statement of his lying, a copy of the line I had really sent to him, and a statement of our doctrine as Latter-day Saints. This we circulated freely in his next meeting, challenging him to refute the charge, or to meet us in debate.
We could draw no answer from him. We circulated the handbills in the streets by hundreds, and then sent plenty of them by mail to our friends in Toronto. The bill was headed: “Doth our law judge a man before it hear him?” Our friends in Toronto were astonished above measure at the confirmation of the dream, in which God by his servant had revealed a man’s spirit, and clearly exposed the heart of a wicked man whom his best acquaintances were unable to discern.
Mr. Caird, on being exposed at Kingston, fled to Toronto, and there commenced preaching to crowds in the Court House; but there the newsboys met him in the face, and circulated the handbills which we had sent, showing him to be a liar, and he utterly unable to refute or gainsay it. He threatened prosecution; but the boys, nothing daunted, continued to offer the bills gratis in his face to those who went in to hear.
We returned to Toronto, and his old friends urged him to meet me; but he could not be prevailed on to do so, although his discourses were full of opposition, and misrepresentation of the principles of the Saints. I now applied to Wm. Lyon McKenzie, a printer and editor, in King street, for some large public halls or rooms of his, which would hold hundreds of people. He gave us the use of them, and we put out a bill, advertizing two meetings, and pledging to the public that we would prove to a demonstration that Mr. Caird, who was now preaching in this city, was a false teacher, whom God had never sent, and that no believer in the Bible, who listened with attention, should go away unconvinced of that fact, or the truth of the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2 In the handbill Mr. Caird was again invited to attend.
Long before the hour of the first appointment had arrived the house was thronged to that degree that ten dollars was in vain urged upon any one who would vacate their seat, even on the stairs which led to the hall. I took for a text the saying of the Apostle John: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, the same hath not God.” 3 I then reviewed the doctrine of Christ and of His Apostles, in detail, showing what were the ordinances, gifts, powers, precepts, promises, and commandments of Jesus Christ, as contrasted with the public teachings and doings of this man, Caird.
The people were astonished at the review and contrast, and were apparently all satisfied that we had fulfilled the pledge to a demonstration. The next evening the house was as crowded as the first; all listened with profound attention. We opened the Scriptures of the prophets, and many were enlightened. In these two meetings Elder Hyde was present, and presided as chairman. Thus was fulfilled to the letter this strange and wonderful double dream. And thus the truth prevailed over the counterfeit, while the people’s minds were settled as to which was the Moses and which was the magician.
Mr. Caird retired from the country, returned home to Scotland, where I found him ten years afterwards living in private life and of no notoriety. 4
The truth had now triumphed in Canada, as was predicted on my head on starting from Kirtland, Ohio. Several branches of the Church had been organized, and Elders had been ordained to take care of the flocks and to continue the work. I took an affectionate leave of my friends in that country, and, with my wife, returned home. Where I had labored, the Lord had opened the hearts of the Saints sufficiently to pay up my debts, as had been predicted; and at the turn of the season, less than a twelvemonth from the date of brother Kimball’s prophecy, my wife bore me a son, and we called his name Parley. He was born early in the morning of March 25th, 1837. 5
1. This appears to be a description of the aurora borealis or northern lights.
2. Here Parley uses the official name of the Church, though that name was not given by revelation until April 26, 1838 (see D&C 115:3-4). Parley put together this part of the manuscript for his autobiography in 1854. By then the name of the Church would have been second nature to him.
3. 2 John 1:9.
4. Orson Hyde, John Taylor, and Parley were appointed by Brigham Young in July 1846 to go on a mission to England to set in order the affairs of the Church there. Elders Hyde and Taylor arrived in Liverpool on October 3, 1846; Parley arrived October 14. During this mission Parley again found Mr. Caird.5. Parley Parker Pratt Jr. was the first of Parley’s thirty-one children (fifteen sons and sixteen daughters). Seven of his children died in infancy or as small children. Seventeen lived into the twentieth century (see Appendix C).
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