Elder Orson Pratt.

Today (September 19) is the eighty-third anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest men of modern times, whose life’s work is inseparably linked with Utah’s history.  We speak of Orson Pratt.  He was one of the first two men (the other being the late Elder Erastus Snow) of the memorable band of Utah Pioneers to enter the valley of the Great Salt Lake, as he had pushed on three days in advance of the main company.  As a matter of record, he was the very first who set foot on the site of Salt Lake City.  His companion, Elder Snow, having lost his coat on the beach, Elder Pratt came on alone on foot, traversed the site of the future city and then went back to Emigration canyon.  From the moment he arrived  in the Territory until his death, he was a fearless, earnest and able worker for the advancement of her interests.  As her favored representative, he was a member of every Legislative Assembly which held its session while he was in Utah, and seven times he was elected speaker of the House of Representatives.  As a member of the Pioneer company he took scientific observations on the journey across the Plains, determining the latitude and longitude of prominent places, the elevation above sea level, etc., in anticipation of the great Pacific railway which even at that time the Saints expected would span the continent, and which followed almost the identical route indicated by the Pioneers in their journey to Utah.

Elder Pratt was a member of the first council of Twelve Apostles organized by divine authority in this dispensation.  He was a native of Hartford, Washington county, New York, where he was born Sept. 19, 1811.  His parents were poor people, and in his boyhood he worked at farming.  He was studious, and though his search for knowledge was prosecuted under many great difficulties, by perseverance and energy he acquired distinction as a profound scholar.  Though of a prayerful, devotional nature as a youth, he did not unite himself with any religious denomination until on his nineteenth birthday, when he became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Less than three months after this, he was sent out upon his first mission.  In his labors as a teacher of the Gospel, he proved an eloquent speaker, a powerful minister, and a logical and convincing writer.  His mind was well stored with knowledge of Scripture, ancient and modern.  He performed several missions in the United States, and sixteen times he crossed the Atlantic ocean in his calling as a messenger of salvation.  His last public discourse was delivered in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Sept. 18, 1881, the day before his seventieth birthday, when he delivered a clear and forcible address.  On the 3rd of October following he breathed his last.

In the life of this eminent Pioneer is a valuable lesson to the youth of Utah.  There are few who have less opportunity for acquiring an education than had Orson Pratt; yet by the intelligent application and indomitable energy he placed himself very close to the top round of the ladder, in the department of mathematics far surpassing the men of his time.  As a statesman in directing the affairs of a young commonwealth, he held a place in the front rank.  As a teacher and exemplar in religion, he left a record of undying honor.  In his integrity to his convictions, his honesty of purpose, his readiness to grasp inspirational power, and his steady, determined progressiveness is acquiring knowledge and absorbing the great truths of the universe, his career stands as a shining example to Utah’s sons and daughters, to lead them to a similar development.

[Deseret News, Sept. 22, 1894]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Sept. 2006]

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