Life and Labors of Orson Pratt
At the afternoon meeting, President Orson Pratt spoke at some length from Isaiah xl, 9; “O Zion that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God!”
This passage is one among numerous others, relating to great events which were to receive a fulfillment just previous to the second advent of our Lord, whose coming is clearly predicted in the following verses: “Behold the Lord God will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him. Behold his reward is with him and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them to his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” The subjects contained in the foregoing text, Elder Pratt arranged under three general headings:
First.—Who were to be the people whom the Prophet here addresses as “Zion?”
Second.—What is the nature of the good tidings which Zion shall bring?
Third.—Why is Zion commanded to get up into the high mountains?”
Upon these questions President Pratt spoke briefly in substance as follows:
“First.—Who were to be the people whom the prophet here addresses as “Zion!”
“They were to be a people raised up by the Lord Himself, just before He “comes with a strong hand” to rule with His own arm. David says (Psalm cii.) “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” The Zion mentioned in these passages could not have had reference to the Zion then existing at Jerusalem, but to a Zion that was to be built up and exist in the future. It could not have had reference to the church established under the administration of the ancient apostles; for the Lord did not “appear in His glory” to rule with a strong hand in that day. It could not have had reference to any people who have existed for the last seventeen centuries; for, according to their own testimony, the Lord has not spoken during that time; and therefore He has not called any of them Zion. Neither has He built up any city among them called Zion; for, if He had, He would have appeared in His glory. But, as a preparatory work for His glorious appearing, both a people and a city called Zion are to be raised up. The people now have an existence. The city is yet to be built up by them according to the pattern which the Lord shall give by new revelation. The Latter-day Saints, the ‘pure in heart‘ have already been acknowledged by the Lord to be Zion.
“The nations of the world will not be at a loss to know when the Lord builds Zion; for each dwelling in Zion will have an appendage to it different from what has ever been seen in any of the cities of the nations. Isaiah says, that “the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night. This peculiar appendage will distinguish the assemblies and dwelling places of all other cities. We think that this appendage will not be easily counterfeited. It will be a new order of architecture, that will puzzle the wise men of Babylon. Gas light and artificial illumination will rather get out of fashion in those days, especially in Zion. When the great men of the earth find that they can neither buy nor steal the patent for thus illuminating their cities, they will no doubt feel anxious to emigrate. Hence Isaiah says, ‘the gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.’ But some of the kings will get awfully frightened as they draw near the city, and behold a flame of fire over every habitation. They will find out that a city of such splendor is no place for them, and they will haste away as fast as possible.
“David illustrates this beautifully in the 48th Psalm: ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God in the mountain of His holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marveled, they were troubled and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as a woman in travail.’
“It seems, then, that the Lord will build up a city before he appears in His glory, that will strike sudden terror to the hearts of kings, as they assemble to see it. They will have something else to think of then besides catechisms, creeds, and doctrines of uninspired men. Their imaginary ‘God without body, parts, or passions,’ will, for awhile, be forgotten, as they look upon the dazzling glory of Zion. Such is the city and such are the people, whom Isaiah in our text calls Zion and to whom he addresses his prophetic message.
“Second.—What is the nature of the ‘good tidings‘ which this people called Zion were to bring?
“The ‘everlasting gospel‘ no doubt was to form the principal part of this message of ‘good tidings.’ The Lord could not raise up a people called Zion, without restoring to the earth the gospel as predicted by John in his prophecy. That gospel, when restored, must produce the same blessings among the children of Zion as were enjoyed in ancient times, namely, visions, dreams, new revelations, prophesies, healings, and, in fine, all the miraculous gifts promised to the believers.
“Now this, indeed, would be ‘good tidings’ to the nations, who, for a great many centuries have been destitute of such blessings. The gospel containing such tidings as nothing more nor less than the ‘everlasting gospel,’ that is, a gospel that is unchangeably and everlastingly the same, producing in all ages, among all nations, and at all times, the same fruits, the same blessings, the same miraculous powers and gifts, wherever and whenever it is preached by those sent of God, and received and obeyed in faith. Such a gospel had no been preached by one having authority on this eastern hemisphere for the last seventeen hundred years, until it was of late restored by an angel from heaven. But now it is preached with power and authority for the last time, and those who receive it are the children of Zion, and they are gathering out by the thousands from among the nations, that in the Lord’s due time they may build the city of Zion according to the prophets. This people then are the people who are carrying ‘good tidings‘ to the nations. Never were there better tidings revealed to man than are contained in the present message.
“O, ye inhabitants of the British Isles, rejoice, for Zion hath sent unto you ‘good tidings‘ of great joy. She hath sent to you the messengers of peace, holding the great seal of authority from her king. If you will hear their voice, and receive their good tidings, you shall become the King’s favorites, and assist in building Him a beautiful city, and He will come and dwell in your midst, and you shall go in and out in His presence, and His glory shall be upon you and upon your children, and upon all your assemblies, and upon every dwelling place of the city, and it shall be called ‘the perfection of beauty,’ and the great King shall honor it with His presence.
“Let the poor in the Isles rejoice in the tidings, for the day of their deliverance is near at hand; for they shall be gathered to Zion, and flourish in the rich valleys of Ephraim. Let the rich rejoice also; for they shall have the privilege of bringing their gold and their silver with them to beautify the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts—the mount Zion. Let the kings of the earth rejoice, for they shall come to the light of Zion, and shall be taught a perfect system of government; for a perfect law shall go forth of Zion, from which kings and many nations shall learn wisdom. Let all the inhabitants of the earth rejoice, for a feast of fat things is preparing, and all that will come, may come and partake freely.
“Behold, we publish ‘good tidings‘ to all nations and kingdoms, peoples and tongues, that the preparatory glory of the second coming of our Lord is about to be revealed. Blessed are they who shall take oil in their lamps and gather out from among the nations—from the midst of great Babylon, and go forth to meet the Bridegroom—to the place appointed, and there build unto Him a city and sanctuary that the place of His feet may be made glorious; for, recollect, the Bridegroom will not come until ‘He builds up Zion.’ Blessed are they who shall receive these good tidings, and shall seek with all their hearts to build up Zion, for they shall be filled with the gift and power of the Holy Ghost and shall perform miracles, signs and wonders in the name of the Lord God of Israel, and shall receive their inheritance among the mighty ones of Zion. Zion is now sounding her ‘good tidings‘ in the ears of the present generation.
“Third.—Why is Zion commanded to ‘get up into the high mountains?’ Why did He exclaim so emphatically, ‘O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountains!’ Surely He must have seen some cause of an important nature, why Zion should go into a high mountain, or He never would have uttered a commandment to take effect nearly three thousand years in the future. One of the principal causes why Zion should be required to ‘get up into a high mountain’ is, that they might build a house of God there, in fulfillment of prophecy. Micah, (chap. 4), says: ‘But in the last days it shall come to pass that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the tops of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall say, come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ * * * All this was to take place in the ‘last days.’
“We can see the propriety then of Isaiah’s calling upon the people of the latter-day Zion to ‘get up into the high mountain.’ For it is there that the ‘house of the God of Jacob’ is to be built. It is from the mountains that Zion shall send forth her perfect law to teach the kings of the earth wisdom, and the nations afar off a perfect order of government. It is in the house of God which shall be in the mountains, that ‘many nations’ shall be taught in the ways of the Lord, and be instructed to ‘walk in his paths.’ There must be something connected with the House of God in the mountains which is very peculiar, or it would never excite the attention of many nations. There are many thousands of houses built up at the present day, professing to be the houses of God. Scores of them are to be seen in almost every city of America and Europe; yet there does not appear anything very striking in any of them. There is not one house among the whole of them that has excited the attention of even one nation. There is a very good reason for this; for all nations have been entirely destitute of a ‘house of God’ for more than seventeen hundred years. Indeed, the house of God was not to be built again until the last days; and, when it was built, it should be built in the mountains, and not in several hundred places among the nations.
“The ‘house of God’ could not be built without new revelation to give the pattern of its various apartments. Without new revelation Zion would not know the precise time to ‘get up into the high mountains,’ they would not know the precise mountain where God would have His house to be built. The ‘house of God’ never was in any past age, and never can be in any future age, built without express commandments or new revelations being given to the people who build it. When the house of God shall be built in the right time, and in the right place, and according to the right pattern, and by the right people, then it will be acknowledged by the God of Jacob—then His glory shall rest upon it, and His presence shall come into it. Then ‘He shall sit between the cherubims,’ and reign in the midst of Zion. Then the wicked shall tremble, and the inhabitants of the earth shall be moved Then ‘many nations‘ shall say, come, let us go up to Zion, for God is there; His house is there; His people are there; His law is there; His glory and power are there; the “prefection of beauty” is there; whatsoever is great, and good, and noble are there? Come, then, let us go up, ‘for he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths,’ and we will no more lift up our swords against nations, but convert them into the peaceful implements of husbandry, and henceforth dwell with the people of God. It is to accomplish this great, this marvellous, this wonderful work, that Zion in the last days is commanded to ‘get up into the high mountain.’
“Thousands of her noble enterprising sons have already traversed the widely extended plains of North America, and have ascended the great central range of mountains that form as it were, the backbone of that continent, and among its deep, retired, and lonely recesses they have ‘sought out‘ a resting place for the children of Zion. In the spring of 1847,eight of the Quorum of the Twelve, in company with one hundred and thirty-five others, left Council Bluffs on the Missouri River, as pioneers, to explore the great interior of the continent, and find a place suitable for the location of the Saints. We prepared ourselves with astronomical and other scientific instruments of English construction, viz: one circle of reflection, two sextants, one quadrant, two artificial horizons, one large reflecting telescope, several smaller ones, two barometers, several thermometers, besides nautical almanacs, books, maps, &c. We also invented a simple machine attached to a wagon wheel, by which the whole distance, as well as distances from place to place, were accurately measured. By the aid of these instruments, the latitudes and longitudes of the most prominent places upon our route were obtained, as also their elevations above the sea. Meteorological and geological observations were also taken throughout the whole journey. Geographical descriptions of the streams, rivers, lakes, plains, deserts, mountains, and vales, will also be found interspersed throughout the numerous journals kept by us. Botanical and zoological observations were not forgotten by the scientific among us; and, indeed, the whole journey was rendered intensely interesting to the lovers of nature. New sceneries, grand and sublime beyond description, were constantly exhibiting themselves to our delighted vision. Mineral springs, hot springs, mineral tar springs, caves, and numerous other natural curiosities, were found in abundance, which constantly exited the analyzing and cause – seeking powers of our chemists and natural philosophers.
“In the latter part of July we arrived in the valley, called by us the “valley of the Great Salt Lake;” here we located a site for a city, called by us “Great Salt Lake City.” In this city we reserved a block for the building of a house unto the God of Jacob; this we called ‘Temple Block.’ The latitude of the northern boundary of this block, as ascertained by a meridian observation of the sun with a sextant, is 40 deg. 45 min. 44 sec. Its longitude, as ascertained from the mean of the calculations of three lunar distances taken by the sextant and circle, is 111 deg. 26 min. 34 sec., west of Greenwich. Its altitude above the level of the sea, as determined by taking the mean of a number of barometrical observations upon different days, is 4300 feet. The variation of the magnetic needle at the same place was 15 deg. 47 min. 23 sec., as determined on the 30th of July, 1847,by the mean of several observations and calculations of the sun’s azimuth and altitudes.
“This valley is almost shut up by high and lofty ranges of mountains on the east, west and south, and by the Great Salt Lake on the north. Two of the highest peaks of the range of mountains on the east are elevated about one and one-third miles above the level of the valley, and are capped with perpetual snow, which, glistening in the sunbeams, gives to the scenery the picture of eternal winter, wedded in sweet unison with the gentile mild, varied, and refreshing seasons of the valleys beneath. The mountain scenery of this whole region presents a beautiful picturesque appearance, awfully grand and imposing. The impress of the power of Divinity seems to be enstamped in majestic silence on every rugged brow. One would think that Sublimity itself had hewn out an everlasting habitation in these wild romantic mountains.
“It will be perceived that the site for the city is in the same latitude as the City of New York. And it is highly probable that all the variety of grains and fruit, so abundant in New York, can be raised in the valley. The average temperature during the month of August, in the heat of the day, was about 96Â° of Fahrenheit’s scale, which is about the same as in the same latitude on the eastern coast of that continent. The nights are cool and refreshing, the mountain breezes gentle, generally changing their directions with the sun, so that in twenty-four hours a pure, exhilerating, reviving breeze is experienced from every point of the compass. The winters are mild and pleasant; the grass remaining green the year round. Cattle, sheep, horses, mules, etc., graze at all seasons. The cutting and laying up of hay is unnecessary. It will be necessary to irrigate the soil, as there is not much rain that descends into the valley. The showers of rain, hail and snow generally fall upon the lofty ranges of mountains, where the vapor is condensed by coming in the neighborhood of large masses of snow, and immediately precipitates itself upon surrounding hills and forests, beautifully illustrating the prediction of Isaiah (chap. xxxii), who prophesied that the calamities of Israel should continue until the spirit poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceful habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; ‘when it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.’ To stand upon the site of our city, and cast our eyes up to the elevated regions above us, and see the showers of hail and snow descending upon the dark forests of the mountains, we would exclaim with the ancient prophet, that surely, ‘the city is low in a low place!’—the mountain storms do not effect her!—the hail of the high forests does not disturb her ‘quiet resting place!’
“If ever a city was low in a low place, when compared with the mountains in the immediate neighborhood, it is the ‘Great Salt Lake City.’ Or if ever a city was high in a high place, when compared with the general surface of the earth or with the sea level, it is Salt Lake City. Well might the ancient prophets speak of Zion going up into the high mountains, and of the house of the God of Jacob being built in the mountains, when it is ascertained that the ‘Temple Block’ is 4300 feet above the level of the ocean. It cannot, for a moment, be supposed that Zion would go up to the top of some mountain peak, and undertake to build a city and a temple upon its snowy summit. But the word mountain in those passages doubtless means some high elevated portions of the earth, and yet not so high as to be rendered sterile by eternal frosts and snows, for this would unfit it for the habitation of man.
“Isaiah (chap. lxii), says: ‘Behold the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. And they shall call them the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord; and thou shalt be called, sought out, a city not forsaken.’ By this passage it seems that the daughter of Zion was not only to ‘get up into the high mountain,’ but was to locate a city in a place ‘sought out.’ From this we learn, also, that the latter-day Zion was not to be built where Zion anciently stood, that is, in Jerusalem, the place of which has been well known for ages; but in the ‘high mountain,’ in a place unknown, that should be ‘sought out;’ and there they should be called, ‘the holy people’—’the redeemed of the Lord’—’a city not forsaken.’ This was something, too, that was to take place in connection with the great preparatory work for the coming of the Lord; for it will be seen in the above passage that the ‘end of the world’ was about this time to hear a proclamation concerning His coming, ‘His reward being with him, and His work before Him.’
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who are publishing ‘good tidings,’ that are saying unto Zion, ‘behold, thy God reigneth.’ Let the servants of the Lord cry aloud to the children of Zion scattered abroad, saying: Go ye ‘up into the high mountain’ and build yourselves a city, and the God of Jacob a house; for ‘He will suddenly come to His temple,’ and reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.”
[The Contributor, June 1891]
Life and Labors of Orson Pratt
Extracts From His Writing. Divine Authority.
“A message of simple truth, when sent from God—when published by divine authority, through divinely inspired men—penetrates the mind like a sharp, two-edged sword, and cuts asunder the deeply rooted prejudices, the iron-bound sinews of ancient error and tradition, made sacred by age and rendered popular by human wisdom. It severs with undeviating exactness between truth and falsehood, between the doctrine of Christ and the doctrines of men; it levels with the most perfect ease every argument that human learning may array against it. Opinions, creeds invented by uninspired men, and doctrines originated in schools of divinity, all vanish like the morning dew—all sink into insignificance when compared with a message direct from heaven. Such a message shines upon the understanding like the splendors of the noon-day sun; it whispers in the ears of mortals, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it.’ Certainty and assurance are its constant companions; it is entirely unlike all plans or systems ever invented by human authority; it has no alliance, connection, or fellowship with any of them; it speaks with divine authority, and all nations, without an exception, are required to obey. He that receives the message and endures to the end, will be saved; he that rejects it will be damned. It matters not what his former righteousness may have been—none can be excused.
“Joseph Smith testified that Peter, James, and John came to him in the capacity of ministering angels, and by the laying on of hands ordained him an apostle, and commanded him to preach, baptize, lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and administer all other ordinances of the Gospel, as they themselves did in ancient days. Did Swedenborg, did Irving’s apostles—or did any other impostors during the long age of darkness—profess that the apostleship was conferred upon them by those who held it last—by any angel who held the office himself? No, and therefore they are not apostles, but deceivers.
“If Mr. Smith had pretended that he received the apostleship by the revelation of the Holy Ghost, without an ordination under the hands of an apostle, we should at once know that his pretentions were vain and that he was a deceiver.
“If an impostor, how came Mr. Smith to discover all this? Why did he not, like the Irvingites, assume the apostleship without an apostle to ordain him? How came he to possess so much more wisdom than Irving, as to discover that he could not be an apostle without being ordained under the hands of an apostle? If Mr. Smith be a false apostle, it must be confessed that he has exhibited far more judgment than all the false apostles who have preceded him, learned and talented as they were…
“Joseph Smith’s doctrine is reasonable, scriptural, perfect and infallible in all its precepts, commands, ordinances, promises, blessings, and gifts. In his organization of the Church no officer mentioned in the New Testament organization is omitted. Inspired apostles and prophets are considered as necessary as pastors, teachers, or any other officer… The bold, unequivocal promise of the miraculous gifts to all who should believe and embrace this message, are all evidences such as no impostor ever has given, or ever can give. They are evidences such as will prove the salvation of every creature that receives the message, and the damnation of every soul that rejects it.”
“15 Wilton Street, Liverpool, September 30th, 1848.” (This date marks the event of my birth.)
I have made a note of some of the fundamental principles that Elder Pratt endorsed as set forth by Joseph Smith. He sat under his teachings when a boy, nineteen years of age, and ever treasured them to his death. Although he became well-informed in theology, conversant and well learned in the higher branches of education and theories of men, yet no cloud of doubt ever darkened his mind, or left an unbelieving line of infidelity to mar his path to a brighter sphere, where reason sat enthroned as a beacon light that never became dim by usage or application. Even the study of God’s works in the starry heavens above intensified his marvelous powers of mind to grasp His eternal laws and forces. A mind like his outstript the dogmas of an unbelieving world which had cast aside the consistencies of human thought, that no chains can fetter, or unbelief drag down to its narrow cell.
Intelligence and truth combined
Will grasp and hold the human mind.
The light of truth bids darkness flee,
And says to the captive soul, be free.
His writings were numerous while upon this three years’ mission. He labored incessantly as President over all the Conferences of the Church in the British Islands and adjacent countries. Besides editing the Millennial Star, he published and distributed many pamphlets on different subjects pertaining to the doctrine and tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which were in accord with the teachings of our Savior and His apostles, while they tarried here on the earth. The scriptures, as set forth in both the Old and New Testaments, were well nigh exhausted in the references brought to bear upon the subjects in his preachings and writings. On points of doctrine Elder Pratt was in direct opposition to many of the Christian world’s views of the dealings of God with his children, pertaining to their spiritual and temporal welfare. Instead of a God “without body, parts, or passions,” “whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere,” he set Him forth as a personal being, with all His attributes, in the most truthful and convincing manner. The Spirit of truth bringing things to his remembrance, he wielded his pen for the enlightenment of minds that superstition and tradition had calloused in error.
The subject of immaterialism, as applied to the Great Creator by the Church of England, and as set forth in their creed, which has had such a bearing upon the civilized Christian world in leading to infidelity of the worst form, Elder Pratt discussed, and exposed its absurdities to the conversion of many of the readers of his pamphlet on “Absurdities of Immaterialism,” from which the following is briefly extracted:
“As no immaterialist can, from experiment, reason, or any other process whatsoever, glean the least shadow of evidence in favor of the immateriality of any substance, therefore, we shall now on our part show that immaterialism is absurd, and opposed to true philosophy. The immaterialist assumes that God consists of an immaterial substance, indivisible in its nature, ‘whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.’ The indivisibility of a substance implies impenetrability; that is, two substances cannot exist in the same space at the same time; hence, if an indivisible substance exists everywhere, as it cannot be penetrated, it will absolutely exclude the existence of all other substances. Such a substance would be a boundless, infinite solid, without pores, incapable of condensation, or expansion, or motion, for there would be no empty space left to move to. Observation teaches us that this is not the case; therefore an infinitely extended, indivisible, immaterial substance is absurd in the highest degree, and opposed to true philosophy. An immaterial substance cannot exist.
“We shall first endeavor to show what is absolutely essential to the existence of all substance. It will be generally admitted that space is essential to existence. Space, being boundless, all substance must exist in space. Space is not the property of substance, but the place of its existence. Infinite space has no qualities or properties of any description excepting divisibility. Some eminent philosophers have supposed extension to be a property of space, but such a supposition is absurd. Extension is space itself, and not a property of space.
“As well might we say that azote is a property of nitrogen, whereas they are only two different names given to the same substance, as to say that extension is a property of space. Infinite space is divisible, but otherwise it cannot possibly be described, for it has no other properties or qualities by which to describe it. It has no boundaries—no figure—no other conceivable properties of any description. It has a variety of names such as space, extension, volume, magnitude, distance, all of which are synonymous terms.
“Duration is also essential to the existence of substance. There can be no such thing as existence without duration. Duration, like infinite space, is divisible, but otherwise it has no properties or qualities of any description. Like space, we can call it by different names, as duration, time, period; but to give it any other kind of description would be absolutely impossible.
“Infinite space can only be distinguished from duration by certain imaginary qualities, which can be assigned to finite portions of it, but which cannot be assigned to duration. We can conceive of cubical, prismatical and spherical portions of space, but we cannot conceive of portions of duration under any kind of shape. Both space and duration are entirely powerless, being immovable, yet both are susceptible of division to infinity. Nothing is the negative of space, of duration, and of matter; it is the zero of all existence. Modern immaterialists freely admit, as we have already shown, that a “disembodied spirit” is “nowhere.” “We must no longer allow ourselves to imagine” says the immaterialist, “that it is, or can be, in any place.” But that which does not occupy any place or space, has no magnitude, and is not susceptible of division; therefore it must be an unextended point or nothing. Immateriality is a representative of nothing; immaterial substance is only another name for no substance; therefore such a substance does not, and cannot exist.”
These short extracts from Elder Pratt’s writings may interest those who were acquainted with his useful life in the ministry. No doubt the English sisters will remember distributing his pamphlets. Many of the learned as well as the uninformed became convinced of the truths they contained.
We will here give some of his prophetic sayings in an editorial in the Millennial Star, as they were awakened by a letter of inquiry from a gentleman: “Awake O, ye honorable among the nations! Ye who desire righteousness, but know not where to find it! Awake from a deep sleep, and hear the voice of a humble servant of God; for the day-star has dawned upon a benighted world; but its light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. Come, then, to the light that your path may be illuminated. He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth, nor the dangers which await his footsteps. He that cometh to the light shall be guided in the straight path wherein he shall not stumble. That light which was from the beginning is again made manifest, and the power thereof, those who receive it may have eternal life, and those who receive it not, may have the light which they are in possession of taken from them. The keys of authority and power are once more committed unto the sons of men upon the earth; and they are sent forth by divine revelation to gather out the good and virtuous from among all nations, that they may be taught in all things pertaining to the Kingdom of God, and be prepared for the revelation of the powers of heaven.
“Woe unto the nations in that day that the righteous are gathered out of their midst, for they shall be as Sodom and Gomorrah, and shall speedily be consumed in their wickedness, for their sins cry aloud to the heavens for vengeance.
“But we are aware that this great division between the wicked and the righteous is unlooked for by the slumbering nations. So great are the powers of darkness which now prevail that even many who desire to know the truth, do not, at first, because of the imperfection of their visual powers, clearly discern its bright and effulgent rays.”
[The Contributor, July 1891]
Life and Labors of Orson Pratt
Elder Pratt left part of his family in Iowa, when he went on his mission to England. He and his family were like the rest of the Saints—in destitute circumstances, as they had been robbed and plundered of their all. The winter before he left them, their best meal was frozen turnips and dry buck-wheat cakes; but he trusted his loved ones to the care of “Him who feedeth the sparrows when they cry.” He told one of his wives, that while on his mission he prayed earnestly to the Lord to give him sufficient means to supply his wants and the wants of his family. He said the Lord heard his prayer and blessed him with abundance. He was so destitute of means when he moved from Nauvoo to Council Bluffs, that the brethren furnished him with teams to move them and their little effects. He was greatly blessed in selling his publications while in England, and soon was able to send back means to those he left. In May 1850, after two years absence, he returned to make them a visit. Soon after he arrived he received word from President Young at Salt Lake City that he was released from his foreign mission to move to Salt Lake Valley—his destined home. In six weeks he returned to England and stayed until the spring of 1851. Having filled his three years mission he came back to the Bluffs to prepare an outfit for a thousand miles’ travel with ox teams across the plains. He had engaged thirteen young men in England to drive a like number of teams across the plains. He left Council Bluffs in the month of July 1851. The cattle were mostly wild and the drivers inexperienced. They knew but little about driving cattle, and with narrow tracked wagons and rough roads, some of the wagons turned over and their contents had to be picked up. There were no bones broken, but the staves and wagons were broken. This tried Elder Pratt’s patience somewhat, but he stopped a few days longer after the first wagon upset, and bought a few yoke of gentle leaders, but after this some of the wagons loaded with staves again turned over and broke them up badly; the fault being in narrow track wagons. As the journeying progressed, there were a great many things picked up which had been thrown out by the road side, from the wagons of the gold seekers, who, without experience, had loaded too heavily for such a journey, and being single handed they had to leave what they could not carry.
The journey was long and tedious; many a poor ox laid down to die and his bones, left to bleach in the sun; others were left because they could go no farther until rest and food, found by the way, restored them to strength, and the back companies would bring them on. The sand was so deep in places it seemed almost impossible to pull through it, while the sun was scorching hot in the summer months.
One day there was a narrow escape from death. A buffalo was shot at by one of the company while traveling near a herd of them; a stampede occurred, but the herd passed between the wagons and was soon in the distance. It was forbidden to shoot them so near as it endangered the lives of the people. There was a stampede of our cattle in the night, while camped on the Sweet-Water. When they took fright the noise sounded like a rushing torrent. It took some time to get them together and some of them could not be found. Elder Pratt’s wife Sarah went on ahead in the carriage. She ascended a hill and was out of sight, when an Indian sprang out of ambush and, with a knife, was going to cut the horses loose as he held them by the bits. Just at this moment Ormus Bates, her brother came to her rescue and the Indian fled. She had her two children with her, Orson and Celestia. Harmel Pratt, their son, was born on the journey August 21, 1851, on the north side of the Platte River, about twelve miles from Fort Laramie.
The company at one time traveled all day without water. The poor cattle suffered greatly without it, as the roads were very dusty. They came to a stream of water near the mountains at the mouth of a ravine. Here Elder Pratt crossed over as he was ahead of the other company. All of a sudden a thunderstorm came on and the stream swelled to such an extent that the rest of the company could not cross it. Some of the sisters had started fires to wash near the stream and the rush of water swept their things away down the river. It soon fell and all came over safely.
The teamsters were truly faithful to their task, walking most of the time, doing their own cooking and washing, some driving the teams, others the loose stock. These young men were all unmarried. After arriving in the valley they married, became prominent citizens and those surviving are now grey haired. A few names might be mentioned: Clements who married a young woman who came in with the family of Elder Pratt; they both died shortly after reaching the Valley; David McKenzie, James Jack, Thomas Ellerbeck, Edward Davis, whose pens still mark the continuance of Church matters, and Thomas Highams, an old and respected citizen of the Twenty-First Ward, this city. William Allred was the carpenter who stood ready at all times to render his assistance.
Arriving on top of the big mountain, Elder Pratt said, “all get out and have a view of the city.” They stood there and took a view of this isolated city that seemed to have sprung up out of the elements like magic. Only three years since, he had traversed its barren waste, when there was no human dwelling; when the wild man, buffalo, deer, and the elk roamed unmolested. Now to behold a fair city, resting in peace on the mountain side, filled him with thanks giving to God who had brought him out of the wilderness.
This short outline of Orson Pratt’s travels may bring to the mind of others, circumstances of their own experience on that journey He arrived with his family in Great Salt Lake City, as it was then named, on the seventh of October, 1851, having spent four years on a mission abroad, crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice and traveled thousands of miles to preach the everlasting gospel to a dark and benighted world.
[The Contributor, Aug. 1891]
Life and Labors of Orson Pratt
Having arrived with his family safe and well in the valley, Elder Pratt corralled his wagons on the Temple Block. At that time meetings were held out of doors under a bowery. In about two weeks he moved his family to the Seventh Ward, on a lot he purchased which had a good house and other improvements upon it. The following year, 1852, at the April conference Elder Orson Pratt addressed the Elders on the “responsibility resting upon them to prepare for the morning of the resurrection, and for celestial glory.” At this conference it was announced that Professor Orson Pratt would deliver his last lecture on Astronomy. He had previously delivered several of these lectures—twelve in all—which were published in the Deseret News. A great number of the Latter-day Saints were interested in them. Professor Pratt ever seemed anxious to awaken an interest in the higher branches of education, and at one time offered to teach the youths of Zion free of charge, if they would give their time to study. He was teacher for some time at the University of Deseret.
A special conference of the Elders was held at the Tabernacle on the 28th and 29th of August, which was fully attended, and a most animating spirit prevailed, when many Elders were selected and set apart for various missions. Elder Orson Pratt was selected to go to Washington, D. C. This was his first mission from the valley. He was appointed to preside over the Saints in the United States and the British Provinces in North America. He and the brethren left about the 15th of September, journeying by way of South Pass and Missouri river.
Elder Pratt made Washington, D. C., his headquarters and in January, 1852, he commenced the publication of a periodical which he named The Seer, a title which he assumed for this periodical in commemoration of Joseph Smith, the Seer of the last days, who, as an instrument in the hands of the Lord, laid the foundation of the Kingdom of God, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah to reign with universal dominion over all the earth. The pages of the Seer were mostly occupied with original matter, elucidating the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The doctrine of celestial marriage for all eternity, 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 were clearly and fully published. The celestial origin and pre-existence of the spirits of men—their first estate or probation in a previous world—the great benefits derived by entering fleshly tabernacles, and keeping the laws of their second estate—and their final redemption and exaltation, as Gods, in their future state, were subjects most clearly set forth by the author. Some of the prophecies relating to the grand and remarkable events of the last days, one of which was the “Revelation on War” that had its commencement of fulfillment some ten years later, in the great War of the Rebellion, were also published with such commentatory lines of earnestness that the author of the Seer could well be classed with the foremost ancient and modern inspired prophets.
In the spring of 1853, Elder Pratt went to England to get some publishing done, as it could be had cheaper there. He published “Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his Progenitors,” and republished the Seer while in England and returned in the fall to Washington, where he continued the publication of the Seer. Among the leading subjects contained in this publication by the editor’s pen which are very instructive, and we might say, intensely interesting, are articles with the following captions:
The Pre-existence of Man, Figure and Magnitude of Spirits, Power and Eternity of the Priesthood, Powers of Nature, Formation of the Earth, New Revelation, Latter-day Zion, Resurrection of the Saints, The Equality and Oneness of the Saints.
We make the following extract from the author’s subject on the Resurrection of the Saints: “Among all the blessings which God has promised to fallen man, there are none greater than that of the resurrection of the body to eternal life and happiness. The life that we now enjoy, though mingled with sorrow and trouble, is still desirable, and sought after most eagerly by man. When death stares him in the face, he would be willing to part with thrones and kingdoms, with houses and lands, and with all his possessions, could he redeem himself from the grasp of this awful monster. Many remedies have been sought out and prescribed, not to redeem man from death, but to shield and protect him for a few years longer from this fearful enemy. But no one has been able to discover a remedy that will render man immortal. All are overtaken, sooner or later, by the grim tyrant, and prostrated low in the dust. Generation after generation fall beneath the mighty conqueror! Oh, how dismal must be the thought of a never-ending sleep in the tomb! Death must be bitter indeed, to those who have no knowledge of the resurrection—who lay their bodies down without the least idea of receiving them again; and yet, many hundreds of millions have passed away without the faintest hope of a future resurrection—who suppose that they part with their bodies forever.
“Could man be fully persuaded that his body would rise again from the grave, and that he would live, and move, and act, as he does now, and enjoy the same that he now experiences, he would consider it a blessing far greater than earthly riches or honors; and were he certain that such a blessing could be obtained, there would be no sacrifice too great for him to make in order to receive an immortality in a world that would afford him no greater happiness than the present one. If, then, in a world like this, where troubles meet us on every side, we still enjoy life, and so earnestly cling to it, what would be our joy were we as sure of a resurrection to an eternal life of a most perfect happiness, where no troubles or sorrows could ever come, where death could no more enter! What tidings could be more joyful to the soul than these?
“Now, the inhabitants of this fallen world have been most positively assured by the word of God, that their bodies shall all live again—that they shall be called forth from the dust and be reorganized, and that the same spirits which have once inhabited them, shall animate them again. This redemption of the body is not a partial one—that is, the body is not merely redeemed from the grave to a life of mortality subject to a second dissolution, but it is redeemed to immortality—the spirit being reunited with the body never more to be disunited.
“The resurrection of the body from the dust will be effected by the word and power of God. The Spirit of God which dwells in the elements, will by His command, bring them together, depositing every particle in its proper position, so as to form a perfect tabernacle. The deformities existing in the mortal body, will not appear in our resurrected bodies; but all who are counted worthy to receive a celestial body, will appear in the image and likeness of the glorified body of Jesus; and his body is in the express image and likeness of his Father’s person. Paul in speaking of the resurrection says that Jesus “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” (Philippians iii, 21). Notwithstanding we shall be fashioned like his body, yet there will be a variety of features and sizes by which one will be distinguished from another, the same as in this life. The likeness will be in the general outlines—in the perfection of the organization—in the beautiful adjustment of the several parts—in the perfect symmetry of the whole—and in the purity, immortality and glory with which it is filled and surrounded. In all these respects there will be a perfect likeness. But when sizes are compared, there will be a great variety, from the tabernacles of infants up through every grade to those of gigantic magnitude. Although there will be an endless variety of features, yet all will appear equally glorious and beautiful; the beauty being the result of the perfection and glory of the spirit inhabiting the tabernacle. There will undoubtedly be distinguishing characteristics relating to the age attained previous to the dissolution. This distinction will probably be manifested, in some small degree, in the countenance and in the color of the hair, and in the difference of size between the child and the man of grey hairs. In all the works of God, we behold a resemblance among classes; but a variety among individuals belonging to each class. All the planets of our system resemble each other more or less in form; but in magnitude and in many other respects, there is a great variety. In every species of animals and plants, there are many resemblances in the general outlines, and many specific differences characterizing the individuals of each species. So in the resurrection: there will be several classes of resurrection bodies; some celestial, some terrestrial, some telestial, and some sons of perdition. Each of these classes will differ from the others by prominent and marked distinctions; yet in each, considered by itself, there will be found many resemblances as well as distinctions. There will be some physical peculiarity by which each individual in every class can be identified.”
After arguing this subject from a scientific standpoint on the question, “Will the same identical materials composing the mortal body be reorganized in the resurrection body?” and showing most conclusively that there will be a sufficient quantity of those materials brought forth to form a perfect immortal tabernacle for the spirits, Apostle Orson Pratt continues the subject in the following strain of sublime thought:
“The resurrection is a gift bestowed upon all mankind. Because of the fall the human race forfeited their bodies and lost them; but the Son of God having given his body to the shafts of death, and suffered in man’s behalf, wrought out a full and perfect redemption for the bodies of all the human family; not a redemption which immediately restores man to immortality, but a redemption which grapples with the monster death, after he has overpowered his victim and laid him low in the grave. Justice armed death with eternal powers; it authorized him to destroy all nations and generations, and plunge them into the dismal gulf, and to set an eternal seal upon them; it gave him power to bind them down with everlasting chains which no man could loose; the huge gates were closed; the bolts, and bars, and locks, were firmly fastened; a world of fallen beings was enclosed in the eternal prison of the grave; all nature wept, and eternity was clothed in mourning, while the greedy monster death, having satiated his capacious maw, sat enthroned upon the funeral pile exulting in the eternal ruin of a once beautiful world!
But hark! A voice is heard on high of one mighty and strong! It is the voice of one who pleads! Ah, see! He stands before the majestic throne, where justice sits! He weeps, but not for himself; it is for fallen man! Listen! He speaks of mercy for a ruined world! What compassion swells his bosom! What lovely words pour forth in melting strains of mercy! Justice is moved to tears, but still holds fast the flaming law, and with sword unsheathed exclaims, “How can I show mercy! Must not the penalties of my law be inflicted, and the honor of my throne be maintained?” The merciful—the kind—the Holy One, with bowels yearning over the miseries of a fallen world, replies: “On me, O Justice, let all thy vengeance fall! but spare these my brethren!” Mercy prevailed—the offer was accepted—and the Only Begotten of the Father left the peaceful heavenly mansions of glory, to suffer, to die, to enter the solitudes of the grave, to unbar the gates of death, and break the everlasting chains, and say to the sleeping nations, “live.”
In the spring of 1854, Elder Pratt left Washington, D. C., for Utah. At the April conference he and Orson Spencer were called to go on a mission to Cincinnati to establish a gathering place for the Saints. He returned to Salt Lake City August 27th, accompanied by H. S. Eldredge, F. Kesler and George Halliday.
On the 11th day of November, 1850, Professor Pratt made an astronomical discovery of a law governing planetary rotation. Even if we had time and space to devote to the insertion of extracts from his able pen upon his discovery of this law, so abstruce a subject, to the generality of readers, may not be of much interest, any further than as they take an interest in the progress of science and general education.
Professor Pratt was a self-educated man, and like many of his brethren, he had to struggle on through poverty, sustain his family, preach the Gospel, and attend to the varied duties of his calling in the Priesthood. But amidst all this, he was a most devoted student of the sciences of mathematics and astronomy. The discovery of this law, together with many other mathematical problems and discoveries obtaining in the solar system, which he has so ably set forth, from time to time, in his lectures and writings, will rank him with such men as Kepler, La Place, Newton and many others by whom have been discovered some of the general laws which govern the planetary worlds.
It is related that when Professor Proctor the world renowned astronomer was lecturing in this city, he took occasion to refer to Professor Pratt, and among his remarks he stated that, in his opinion, there were only four real mathematicians in the world and Professor Orson Pratt was one of that number.
On the 11th of September, 1855, Professor Pratt and Jessie W Fox started for Green river in order to survey and determine the northern boundary line of Utah Territory, at a point where it crosses the river.
At the general conference held April 6th, 1856, Elder Pratt was appointed to the presidency of the British Mission. He left Salt Lake City on the 22nd of April, and arrived in Liverpool, England, July 13th with five other elders. While in England he edited the Millennial Star, published many pamphlets and attended to various duties as president of the mission. He left Liverpool in October, 1857, and returned by way of California, while the army was en route to Utah, arriving home about the 20th of January, 1858. The following spring he moved his family south to Fillmore, and returned to Salt Lake City the following summer. On September 23rd, 1860, he was called on a mission to the United States, and left the valley for the same October 1st. He returned in the fall of 1861. In 1862 he moved a portion of his family to St. George in the southern part of the Territory, where he presided for about two years.
On the 24th of April, 1864, he was set apart for a mission to Austria. He with Elder William Riter, went to that land, but in consequence of the stringent laws was unable to open the door of the kingdom of that nation, but bore his testimony to the authorities and left, going over to England, where he visited the conferences and labored assiduously.
In May, 1866, while in England, he published an edition of his mathematical work entitled Pratt’s Cubic and Biquadratic Equations. He returned home August 4th, 1867.
In the summer of 1869, he went to New York City and transcribed and published the Book of Mormon in phonetic characters called the Deseret Alphabet, and returned in the fall of that year.
In August, 1870, he held the famous three day’s discussion with Dr. J. P. Newman on the subject of “Does the Bible Sanction Polygamy?” totally routing that debater, for which he never forgave the Mormons.
At the adjourned general conference in 1874, he was appointed and sustained as historian and general church recorder, which position he retained till his decease. He superintended the compilation of over thirty thousand foolscap pages of documental history of the Church.
On the 18th of July, 1877, he once more left his home to cross the ocean to England, this time to transcribe and publish an edition of the Book of Mormon in the Pitman phonetic characters. He arrived in England August 9th, 1877. In consequence of the death of President Brigham Young he was soon called home without accomplishing his mission. Leaving England on the 12th of September he arrived home on the 27th of the same month.
On the 3rd of September, 1878, he went East with Apostle Joseph F. Smith, visiting David Whitmer in Richmond, Missouri, the Hill Cumorah and other places figuring in the history of the Church, and returned on the 3rd of October. On the 3rd of December, 1878, he started again for England to stereotype the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, which he arranged in verses, with foot notes and references. He also published his astronomical work—Key to the Universe, or a New Theory of its Mechanism, founded upon a constant propulsion and resistance. We will also note that it was while upon this mission Professor Pratt made the important discovery in regard to the chronology and symbolism of the great prophetic pyramid of Egypt, as portrayed in its grand gallery’s great step. His discovery demonstrates that the date of the great event of the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is symbolized in the grand gallery’s chronological floor line. This discovery was made to him, as if by inspiration, in the night time, while in London, when meditating on the subject, after he had been reading some works on the Pyramid. He was tempted, then and there, to arise in the night, make the necessary calculations and satisfy his mind; but he concluded to delay till morning. Judge of his surprise and pleasure, when making the line from the upper frontal edge of the step perpendicular with the inclined floor of the gallery, and continuing the measurement of the gallery to that point, he found it demonstrated by plain figures, that it reached the Pyramid date of April 6th, 1830. That is, the length of the floor line of the Grand Gallery from the north wall to the base of the square with the upper frontal edge of the Grand Step, being one thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine, two thousand six hundred and twenty five ten thousandths Pyramid inches, or one thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine years completed, and two thousand six hundred and twenty five ten thousandths of the year A. D. 1830; corresponding to nine o’clock p.m. Pyramid time, or about two o’clock p.m. at Fayette, Seneca County, New York; the exact day on which the Church and Kingdom of God was organized by the revelation and commandment of the Most High.
While upon this mission Elder Pratt worked for weeks at a stretch not less than eighteen hours out of the twenty-four. And, in fact, while sitting so closely confined at his desk in Liverpool, he began to show symptoms of the complaint which finally resulted in carrying him off. From this important and laborious mission he returned September 2nd, 1879.
At home Elder Pratt visited a number of conferences, attended the legislature, acting in his usual capacity as Speaker of the House. He was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly during its first session, and at each successive session when he was in the Territory, and seven times was chosen speaker of the House. From this time on his health was poor, much of the time being unable to leave his room. The disease with which he was attacked was diabetes from which he suffered severely. However, he recovered in a great measure from that disease, but was much emaciated, and though able to be out and meet with his brethren occasionally, he was still feeble.
On Sunday, September 18th, 1881, he addressed the congregation in the Tabernacle in a clear and forcible manner, speaking about twenty minutes. His remarks were published in the Deseret Evening News of Monday, the 26th. He then expressed a desire to live that he might again lift up his voice as a missionary to the nations of the earth. Next day he was seventy years old and felt well. He afterwards attended some business meetings in relation to the Historian’s Office, and the exertion of mind told heavily upon him. He was seized with vomiting and was again prostrated, and gradually sank, with brief and fitful times of reviving, until midnight on Sunday, when he visibly rallied. Members of his family in the city were summoned, who gathered around his bed and gazed with mournful sadness upon his venerable countenance before he sank into his last gentle slumber. At the very minute of his decease, Apostle C. C. Rich, who had been sick for a long time, was sending this dispatch to the deceased’s son, Milando Pratt:
“Paris, Idaho, October 3rd, 1881, 8:35 a. m.—How is your father? I am anxious to hear. C. C. Rich.”
The news of Apostle Pratt’s decease was mournfully received. Telegrams were forwarded to every part of the Territory with the sad tidings, and expressions of sorrow were heard on every hand. No man in the Church was better known or more widely respected. His refined and intelligent countenance, silvery hair and beard, dignified manner and powerful public address, were familiar to all, and he left an impression upon the Church and the world that will be felt in time and eternity.
[The Contributor, Sept. 1891]