Parley P. Pratt on the Book of Mormon

An excerpt from A Voice of Warning

Parley Parker Pratt

Editor’s Note: Parley Parker Pratt (1807-1857) was prolific in writing, preaching, traveling, and exhorting the Saints to faithfulness to truth. He served in the Quorum of the Twelve for twenty-two years, and spent over ninety percent of his time in the Church on missions. He wrote more than fifty hymns and hundreds of unpublished poems. His understanding of the Gospel plan seemed unbounded. With the coming Church curriculum year (2000) being a study of the Book of Mormon, Meridian Magazine offers the following small excerpt from A Voice of Warning dated 1837, to be helpful in beginning anew your studies and thoughts on the Book of Mormon. Other classic talks and writings concerning the Book of Mormon will be given to you in weeks to follow.

Poetic Introduction
Ye gloomy scenes, far hence, intrude no more!

Sublimer themes invite the muse to soar

In loftier strains, while scenes both strange and new

Burst on the sight, and open to the view.

Lo! from the opening heavens, in bright array,

An angel comes-to earth he bends his way,

Reveals to man, in power, as at first,

The fulness of the gospel long since lost.

See earth, obedient, from its bosom yield

The sacred truth so faithfully concealed.

The wise, confounded, startle at the sight,

The proud and haughty tremble with affright.

The hireling priests against the truth engage,

While hell beneath stands trembling, filled with rage;

False are their hopes, and all their struggles vain,

Their craft must fall, and with it all their gain;

The deaf must hear, the meek their joy increase;

The poor be glad, and their oppression cease.

Hireling Priests Fight Truth

A Voice is Heard from the Wilderness
While darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, every man walking in his own way, and looking for gain from his quarter, the Lord, having for a long time held his peace, and the people having fondly flattered themselves that the voice of inspiration would never again sound in the ears of mortals to disturb or molest them in their sinful career; while a few more were looking for the consolation of Israel, and crying to God for the ushering in of that long expected day, when an angel should fly through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth-suddenly a voice is heard from the wilderness, a cry salutes the ears of mortals, a testimony is heard among them piercing to the inmost recesses of their hearts, when all at once the heathen begin to rage and the people imagine a vain thing; the clergy lift a warning voice, crying imposter, false prophets, beware of delusions, etc., while the professors of religion, the drunkard, the sweater, the learned, and the ignorant soon catch the sound and reiterate it again and again.

Ancient Religion Returning to the Earth
Thus it reechoes from one end of our country to the other for a long time and if anyone should be so fortunate as to retain his sober senses, and should candidly enquire, “What is the matter?” the reply is, “We hardly know anything about it, but suffice it to say, some fellows have made their appearance, Paul like, who testify something about the ministering of angels, or some revelation or inspiration, just as though the religion of ancient days, and the faith once delivered to the saints, were returning to the earth in this enlightened age; so that not only this our craft is in danger, but our modern systems of religion, built upon the wisdom and learning of men, without direct inspiration, are like to be spoken against and their magnificence despised, though worshiped by all the world.”

And then all again cry with a loud voice, saying, “Great is the wisdom of man; great are the systems of modern divinity; great is the wisdom of uninspired priests who come unto us with excellency of speech, and with man’s wisdom, determined to know nothing among us save opinions and creeds of their own; and their speech and their preaching are with enticing words of man’s wisdom, not in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, for that is done away, that our faith should not stand in the power of God, but in the wisdom of man.”

Book of Mormon Misunderstood and Misrepresented
In the midst of the noise and clamor and prejudice of an opposing world, it is difficult to get the people to understand the facts of the case in relation to one of the most important subjects ever presented to the consideration of mankind.

The Book of Mormon has perhaps been less understood, and more misrepresented, by the world at large than any other publication which has ever appeared.

America and England have, as it were, been flooded with publications against the said book; and many of them written by those who had never seen the book, or by those who had only read a page or two in it, or slightly looked it through with a biased mind and a determination to find fault.

By some of these it has been represented as a romance; by others as a new Bible, calculated to displace the Bible, or do away with it. Some have pronounced it a “silly mess of stuff,” not worth the perusal; and others, the most ingenious literary work ever put together.

Some have found fault with it for being so much like the Bible, and agreeing with it; and others have condemned it for not being sufficiently like the Bible, and for disagreeing with it. Some have denounced it as notoriously corrupt, immoral, and blasphemous in its principles; and others have condemned it for being so exceedingly pure and moral in its principles as to be just calculated to deceive.

One clergyman in particular, in a tract of sixty pages on this book, condemns it for being “a strange mixture of faith and works, of the mercy of God and the obedience of the creature.” Some literary persons have pronounced it as altogether ancient in its style, language, and subjects, and as bearing great internal evidence of its own antiquity; while others have condemned it as bearing every mark of being a modern production.

Some have said that there were no definite predictions of the future contained in it, by the fulfillment or failure of which its prophetic merits might be tested, and others have quoted largely from its most plain and pointed predictions, which relate to circumstances about to be fulfilled, and have condemned it on account of its plainness…

Greatest Discovery of Modern Times
“Well,” said the objector, “if it were not for the marvelous, the book would be considered one of the greatest discoveries the world ever witnessed. If you had been ploughing, or digging a well or cellar, and accidently dug up a record containing some account of the ancient history of the American continent, and of its original inhabitants, together with the origin of the Indian tribes who now inhabit it; had this record nothing to do with God, or angels, or inspiration, it would have been hailed by all the learned of America and Europe as one of the greatest and most important discoveries of modern times, unfolding a mystery which had, until then, bid defiance to all the researchers of the learned world. Every newspaper would have been filled with the glad tidings, while its contents would have poured upon the world a flood of light, on subjects before concealed in the labyrinth of uncertainty and doubt. But who can stoop, and so humble himself, as to receive anything, in this enlightened age, renowned for its religion and learning, from the ministering of angels, and from inspiration? This is too much; away with such things; it comes in contact with the wisdom and popularity of the day.”

To this I reply, the Lord knew that before he revealed it; this was one principal object he had in view; it is just the manner of his dealing with the children of men. He always takes a different course from the one marked out for him by the wisdom of the world, in order to confound the wise and bring to naught the understanding of the prudent; he chooses men of low degree, even the simple and the unlearned, and those who are despised, to do his work, and to bring about his purposes, that no flesh shall glory in his presence.

O! ye wise, and ye learned, who despise the wisdom that comes from above! know ye not that it was impossible for the world by wisdom to find out God? Know ye not that all your wisdom is foolishness with God? Know ye not that ye must become as a little child, and be willing to learn wisdom from the least of his servants, or you will perish in your ignorance?

Ancient Promises Given to Joseph and Ephraim
But what are the evidences which we gather from scripture concerning the coming forth of this glorious work? We shall attempt to prove, first, that America is a land promised to the seed of Joseph; second, that the Lord would reveal to them his truth as well as to the Jews; and third, that their record should come forth, and unite its testimony with the record of the Jews, in time for the restoration of Israel in the last days.

First, Genesis 48. Jacob, while blessing the two sons of Joseph says, “Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Gen. 48:16) In the same blessing it is said of Ephraim, “His seed shall become a multitude of nations.” (Gen. 48:19) Now put the sense of these sayings together, and it makes Ephraim a multitude of nations in the midst of the earth.

In Genesis 49, it is prophesied concerning Joseph, while Jacob was blessing him, that he should be “a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength.” (Gen. 49:22-24) Again, he further says, “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” (Gen. 49:26)

Now, I ask, who were Jacob’s progenitors and what was the blessing they conferred upon him? Abraham and Isaac were the progenitors, and the land of Canaan was the blessing they conferred upon him, or that God promised them he should possess. Recollect that Jacob confers on Joseph a much greater land than that of Canaan: even greater than his fathers had conferred upon him, for Joseph’s blessing was to extend to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. Now, reader, stand in Egypt, where Jacob then stood, and measure to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills, and you will land somewhere in the central part of America.

Again, one of the prophets says, in speaking of Ephraim, “When the Lord shall roar, the children of Ephraim shall tremble from the west.” (Hosea 11:10) Now let us sum up these sayings, and what have we gained? First, that Ephraim was to grow into a multitude of nations in the midst of the earth; second, Joseph was to be greatly blessed in a large inheritance, as far off as America; third, this was to be on the west of Egypt or Jerusalem.

Concerning the Stick of Ephraim
Now, let the world search from pole to pole, and they will not find a multitude of nations in the midst of the earth who can possibly have sprung from Ephraim unless they find them in America; for the midst of all other parts of the earth is inhabited by mixed races, who have sprung from various sources; while here an almost boundless country was selected from the rest of the world, and inhabited by a race of men, evidently of the same origin, although as evidently divided into many nations.

Now, the scriptures cannot be broken; therefore, these scriptures must apply to America, for the plainest of reasons, they can apply to no other place.

Now, secondly, we are to prove that God revealed himself to the seed of Joseph or Ephraim-their location we have already proved-dwelling in America. For this we quote Hosea 8:12; speaking of Ephraim, he says by the spirit of prophecy, “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” This is proof positive, and needs no comment, that the great truths of heaven were revealed unto Ephraim, and were counted as a strange thing.

Third, were these writings to come forth just previously to the gathering of Israel? Answer: they were according to Ezekiel, 37th Chapter, where God commanded him to “take thee one stick, and write upon it, for Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

“And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these? Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.

“And the sticks whereupon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” (See Ezekial 37:15-22)

Truth Shall Spring out of the Earth
Now, nothing can be more plain than the above prophecy: there is presented two writings, the one to Ephraim, the other of Judah: that of Ephraim is to be brought forth by the Lord, and put up with that of Judah, and they are to become one in their testimony, and grow together in this manner, in order to bring about the gathering of Israel.

The 85th Psalm is very plain on the subject: speaking of the restoration of Israel to their own land, it says, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.” (Psalms 85:10-13) Now, the Savior, while praying for his disciples, said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)

From these passages we learn that this word is to spring out of the earth, while Righteousness looks down from heaven. And the next thing that follows is, that Israel is set in the way of his steps, and partaking of the fruit of their own land. Jeremiah, 33:6, speaking of the final return from captivity of both Judah and Israel, says, “I will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.” And Isaiah, speaking of the everlasting covenant which should gather them, makes this extraordinary and very remarkable expression, “Their seed shall be among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people.” (Isaiah 61:9)

Now, reader, let me ask, can anyone tell whether the Indians of America are of Israel, unless by revelation from God? Therefore this was a hidden mystery, which it was necessary to reveal in time for their gathering.

Book of Mormon Brings to Light Truths
So much, then, we have produced from the scriptures, in proof of a work, like the Book of Mormon, making its appearance in these days to say nothing of Isaiah 29. “But,” says one, “what is the use of the Book of Mormon, even if it be true?” I answer: First, it brings to light an important history, before unknown to man. Second, it reveals the origin of the American Indian, which was before a mystery. Third, it contains important prophecies yet to be fulfilled, which immediately concern the present generation. Fourth, it contains much plainness in regard to points of doctrine, insomuch that all may understand, and see eye to eye, if they take pains to read it.

“But what are its proofs, as to chosen witnesses who testify to its translation by inspiration?” For this testimony I refer the reader to the testimony of the witnesses in the first page of the Book of Mormon; he will there find as positive testimony as has ever been found in the other scriptures concerning any truth which God ever revealed. Men there testify, not only that they have seen and handled the plates, but that an angel of God came down from heaven, and presented the plates before them, while the glory of God shone round about them; and the voice of God spoke from heaven, and told them that these things were true, and had been translated by the gift and power of God, and commanded them to bear record of the same to all people.

Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers; he has visited his people, and the day spring from on high has dawned upon our benighted world once more; for no sooner had the Book been translated, and men began to bear record of the same, than the angel of the Lord came down from heaven again, and commissioned men to preach the gospel to every creature, and to baptize with water for the remission of sins.

No sooner did the people begin to believe their testimony, and be baptized, than the Holy Ghost fell upon them, through the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus; and the heavens were opened; and while some had the ministering of angels, others began to speak in other tongues, and prophesy.

Witness Will be Given with Belief in Book of Mormon
From that time forth many of them were healed by the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus; and thus mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed. And thus thousands have been raised up to testify that they do know for themselves, and are not dependent on the testimony of any man for the truth of these things, for these signs follow them that believe; and when a man believes the truth, through the testimony of God’s witnesses, then these signs follow, not only them, but him also, if he has the ministering of angels; if he has been healed, or heals others, by the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus, or if he speaks in other tongues, or prophesies, he knows it for himself; and thus is fulfilled the saying of scripture. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” (John 7:17)

Thus faith comes by hearing, and knowledge by obeying; but hearing comes by preaching, and preaching comes by sending; as it is written, “How shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:15)

But there are many who say, “Show us a sign, and we will believe.” Remember, faith comes not by signs, but signs come by faith. Gifts were not given to make men believe; but what saith the scripture? “Gifts are for the edifying of the Church.” If otherwise, why was it not written, “Faith comes by miracles,” instead of “Faith comes by hearing?”

I always take it for granted that men or women who come demanding a sign, in order to make them believe, belong to a wicked and adulterous generation, at least, to say no worse; for any person who will go to Jesus, with a pure heart, desiring and praying in faith, that he may know the truth concerning these things, the Lord will reveal it to him, and he shall know, and shall bear testimony, for by the Spirit of God they shall know truth from error; and it is written, “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27) And he that will not come unto Jesus by faith shall never know the truth, until, too late, he finds the harvest is over, and the summer is ended, and his soul not saved…

Repent and Believe
Thus the religion of Jesus unlike all other religious systems, bears its own weight, and brings certainty and knowledge, leaving no room for imposition. And now I say unto all people, Come unto the Father, in the name of Jesus; doubt not, but be believing as in days of old, and ask in faith for whatsoever you stand in need of, ask not that you may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness not to be shaken, that you will yield to no temptation, but that you will keep his commandments, as fast as he makes them manifest unto you; and if ye do this, and he reveals to you that he has sent us with a new and everlasting covenant, and commanded us to preach, and baptize, and build up his Church as in days of old, then come forward and obey the truth; but if you do not know, or are not satisfied, that he has sent us, then do not embrace the doctrine we preach.

Thus to your own master you shall stand or fall; and one day you shall know, yea in that great day when every knee shall bow, then shall you know that God has sent us with the truth, to prune his vineyard for the last time, with a mighty pruning….