Belinda Marden Pratt
Belinda Marden Pratt was born in Chichester, Merrimack Co., New Hampshire, Dec. 24, 1820. She was the youngest child of her parents, John Marden and Rachel Shaw. She was the fifteenth child, there being 8 boys and 7 girls. Her parents were strictly moral and members of the Congregational church. Her father died at the age of 61; her mother lived to the age of 83.
At the age of 19 she was living in the city of Boston, Mass. These are her very own words concerning her conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ: “I was continually ambitious to find the right kind of religion, never feeling assured that those I was acquainted with were right. In the winter of 1843 I was attracted by a handbill stating that a Mormon preacher would hold three meetings in the Boyiston Hall. I decided to go in and hear him. The Elder was at prayer. And such a prayer! I stood in the aisle till he finished. I think the light of heaven rested down upon me for the joy and peace I experienced was inexpressible. I attended the 3 meetings. I had an over whelming testimony that what he preached was true and was so rejoiced that I seemed to myself light as air; al tho’ my feet scarcely touched the ground. I prayed often and much. I wrote to my sisters. They thought I must be crazy. All opposed me and all I could do was to continually cry to the Lord. I continued to attend the meetings and one day in March 1843 I was baptized in Boston. It was so cold the ice had to be broken and held back with poles while I went in. I was baptized by Elder Ira P. Magin, and I think confirmed by the same. I think it was near the last of March. Don’t know the exact day. Oh what joy! Didn’t my heart rejoice!
“I was so conversant with the scriptures that with the testimony of the Spirit, I knew the doctrine preached by the Elders was true and I so much wished I could gather with the Saints in Nauvoo. All my relatives were so bitter and so filled with the spirit of persecution; they let me have no peace, forbidding my going to meetings or having any association with the Mormons as they chose to call them. I did not know what I was going to do or how I could live under the pressure. All I could do was to pray continually to the Lord and he surely heard my prayers. Now see God’s hand!
“In the spring of 1844 there were quite a number of the Elders from Nauvoo and the branch then in Boston was quite large. The visiting elders were Apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff and Lyman Wight. An Elder invited Elder Brigham Young to come and see me. He came and I told him that I was about to go on a visit for some weeks in the country to see my relatives. He said when you go, go to the clerk of this branch and get a letter of recommendation. Some time in July I went to the clerk for my letter of recommendation alto’ I could not see what good it would do to get it when I was just going on a visit; but to be obedient to the Council of Pres. Young I went. The clerk proceeded to write. Elder Lyman Wight stood by and heard our conversation, and turning to me said privately, ‘Why don’t you go to Nauvoo?’ I said, ‘How can I? I haven’t money for so long a journey.’ He told me there was a sister in Utica, N. Y. he thought would help me with money for the journey. He finally told me in the name of the Lord, God of Israel, if I would go I would never see the day I would be sorry for it. He gave me her address and I accordingly got my letter, went home and began my preparations. I had not the least conviction of conscience, nor one thought that I was doing wrong. My heart was filled with joy and thanksgiving for I never doubted for one moment but what I would get along all right, and that God would bless me.
"On July 22, 1844 at 5 o’clock P.M. I started in a second class train, thinking to save money by it, but a drunken man was so insulting I was obliged to call a conductor and get on a first class car and pay full prices. I got to Springfield, Mass. the first night and stayed at a hotel. At 7 A.M, I started for Utica, N.Y. arriving about 7 P.M. I went in a carriage to Sister Monroe’s. I found her and her sisters and daughters a very agreeable family and we had a night of rejoicing. Sister Monroe was a widow and said she had no immediate means she could spare. I told her I was a dressmaker and she gave me plenty of work. I made dresses and satchels for two months and then her sister, now Sister Ruth Kimball, and I started on our journey alone, about fifteen hundred miles to Nauvoo, Illinois. I need not say we had many adventures traveling as we were alone without a protector, but the Great Father protected us and we accomplished our journey in safety, arriving in Nauvoo the last of September. I soon found employment at dress making and many kind friends.
"In my mind I had accepted all the revelations of God but I suffered the temptation of Satan to nearly overcome me so far that I thought I would have nothing to do with Polygamy. A good sister where I was staying called in President Young to talk to me. He instructed me in the principle and desiring with all my heart to understand the truth. I testify that the Holy Spirit of God rested down upon me and it was made plain to my understanding that it was a divine principle; and with great joy of heart I accepted it, and never from that time to this (1889) has there been a doubt in my mind concerning it"
(Here I’d like to say a word concerning Polygamy. Some may wonder why the church would at one time sanction it and at another later time excommunicate any who practiced it. The Prophet Joseph Smith was given the revelation commanding him and others of the brethren to have a plurality of wives. There was no law then in the U.S. against it. The Saints have always advocated the keeping the laws of the land and have always done so. Even when they were persecuted and driven for it, there was no law in this land opposing it. In 1890 the government made a law, the "Edmund Tucker Act", to stop it, so Pres. Wilford Woodruff issued the manifesto for all saints to cease practicing it so, since that time, it has not been practiced with the sanction of the church. Those who already had wives and children did not cease to care for and support them, but they did not marry any more than one from that time on Carrie Robison Dispain)
"I was sealed to Parley Parker Pratt on or about the first of November, 1844. I was sealed to this, one of the first twelve apostles of this dispensation by President Brigham Young for time and for all eternity. In 1845 the Nauvoo temple was completed so far as to give endowments therein. 29 Dec 1845 I received my endowments and blessings therein and was again sealed over the Alter.
"About the first of Dec 1844 Mr. Pratt was appointed and set apart for a mission to the Eastern States. As I was without home or relatives in this part of the country he wished me to accompany him. I will not attempt to tell the joy that filled my heart. I had never expected to have so great a privilege. We went to the city of New York, arriving Christmas Eve. We rented a house and I commenced dress making and knitting baby socks, which I sold by the dozen earning from fitly cents to one dollar a day nearly all the time I was there, besides my house work. Mr. Pratt was called home to Nauvoo 18 Aug. 1845. We came home by Erie Canal and Great Lakes, journeying from Chicago to Nauvoo by land. After awhile it was arranged for his wife Mary and me to keep house in rooms upstairs in P.P. Pratt’s house. On January 1, 1846 I had a son born who was blessed and named Nephi by his father."
(I knew Uncle Nephi Pratt very well. He was a great and good man. Presided over the NorthWestern States Mission for 8 years. He died in 1910 right after his release. He was co-editor of the Improvement Era for some years. Carrie Robison Despain)
"The persecution of the Saints became so great the authorities of the church and many of the Saints had to bid farewell to their homes in Feb. 1846 and we crossed the Mississippi River the 14th of this month. It was extremely cold and my babe only six weeks old. It was a terrible journey from Nauvoo to the Missouri River. It stormed almost continually, snow and rain, and the earth was so soaked that the poor horses and cattle could drag us but a few miles a day. We arrived in July to the Missouri River near Council Bluffs, Iowa, and camped for several weeks." (End of Quotation)
I, of necessity, will have to shorten this sketch. It is published in the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. All the things he and his families experienced in their trek across the plains — their joys, their sufferings and their hardships, their arrival in the Valley of Salt Lake, Utah, and what they went thru living in huts and on sego roots and thistles till their first harvest. What they suffered could only be endured by their hopes, faith and trust in the Lord, who surely blessed them.
I glean from the writings of my mother, her daughter Birdie Pratt Robison the following:
"Her people mourned for her as if she were dead. When they learned of her whereabouts they were so ashamed and shocked to think she had joined that ‘low, degraded people’ as they styled them. They wrote to her that if she would leave the church and come home they would share all they had with her; if she did not she would see the time she would be hungry. She replied that she had suffered hunger, having nursed twins for several months without bread; but that her testimony was so strong that this is the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ, that she had never for one moment been sorry for having cast her lot with the Saints of God. Her sacrifice she counted as nothing for the gospel and the hope which she had in eternal life and eternal family ties, more than repaid her for all and she felt to claim the fulfillment of the promise of the Savior that those who would leave father, mother, brothers and sisters and their lands and homes for his sake and the gospel would receive a hundred fold now and in the world to come eternal life. Quoted correctly from Mark 10:29-30. Her mother, believing all the untruths of our enemies against the saints said of her: ‘Belinda has always been my little white lamb, now she is the black sheep of the family.’
"Belinda passed thru the unspeakable grief of losing her husband by assassination while he was on a mission for the church in 1857. Left with a family of little children 5 in all, unprovided for and unprotected, she struggled through years of more than ordinary hardships and privations.
"She was an educated, refined and gentle woman, full of sympathy, generosity and kindness. She taught school, made dresses, clerked in the store and took in boarders. She was among the first school teachers in Utah. The struggle was a brave one. She gave her children what education she could.
"When the Relief society was again organized in the wards in Salt Lake she was a teacher therein and maintained that position until she moved to Fillmore in the autumn of 1870. While living in the 14th ward in Salt Lake City she always paid her tithing and fast offering. Bishop Hoagland asked her why she did it and if she thought a poor widow should do so. She told him she wanted the blessings and the approval of God. She was for many years an active, intelligent and persistent worker for the public good.
"She was president of the Fillmore Ward Relief Society at one time, also the first Stake President of the Relief Societies of the Millard Stake. She said the hum of the conversations of the sisters of the R. S. while at work was music to her ears.
"Some of her relatives distinguished themselves by their bravery and became officers in the army. Some were fine musicians and composers of music, some were renowned for their oratory and literature, some held important positions in the government of the U.S., not one received the ‘glad message of good tidings’ besides herself; so she, despised of all her race, became a Savior to her father’s household. She spent much of her hard earnings gathering genealogy; did what work she could for them in the temples and laid a foundation for her children to build upon.
"Belinda Marden Pratt died Feb. 19, 1894 in Salt Lake City, Utah.. Brother Angus M. Cannon said in remarks made at her funeral ‘She was without a peer. She has walked the earth as a queen among women; her course has been without reproach.’ (End of quotation)
For over forty years I spent all my spare time getting out the records of her forefathers. In getting out her genealogy I find that she sprang from the best Puritan blood of this nation; her forefathers having come here from England with the Puritans between 1630-1649 for freedom of religious worship, and they were among the leaders in education, civil and religious affairs.
Written April 1854 by Belinda M. Pratt to her husband, Parley P. Pratt, the answer by him.
"If he from my home will stray
And leave me thru the live-long day
And when the night comes creeping on
Forget with me he has a home
Then will this heart that now beats high
With hope and joy within me die
For not to me is all beside,
If of his presence I’m denied.
The happy hours with him I’ve spend
To me a holy charm have been
And be my fate in after years
For worse than what it now appears.
On seasons past my thoughts will dwell
And of his goodness often tell.
Father of mercies, hear my prayer,
And grant his precious life to spare.
Or else together let us die and hasten to
Our home on high.
Far from these scenes of mortal strife
Where love and joy are ever rife."
My dear, your payers for future life are granted,
You shall be my wife in time, in vast eternity.
By all above, by love I swear,
If god will grant to hear my prayer
You shall with me forever dwell
Thou blessed lamb, I love thee well.
The sentiments you breathe above
Would melt a heart to liquid love."
[History & Genealogy of the Franklin Alonzo Robison Family, written & compiled by Carrie Robison Despain and Melba Despain Garner, 1960]