Utah Penitentiary, Aug. 22, 1885
President D.H. Wells

Dear Brother,

I am gratified to learn that the bright luminary, the Millennial Star, which my lamented and much respected father had the honor of first editing, still continues to shed its light to those who are in darkness and in the regions and shadows of death. May it still continue to shine with increasing splendor until all the sons of God, who may desire to do so, shall bask in its light, and rejoice in the glorious truths now so abundantly revealed to man.

I thank God everyday of my life that I have a knowledge in regard to the divinity of the great latter-day work of the “dispensation of the fullness of times,” and my testimony today is as fresh, green and bright, and I trust more so, as that which I bore to the people of Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Liverpool and London, and to people in other parts of England, in the years 1861, 1862, 1863 and 1864.

It seems somewhat strange to me that here in my own native country, in this boasted land of political and religious freedom, that honorable men and women, who live in peace with their neighbors, and who have never been known to violate the laws of their country, should be persecuted and oppressed for conscience sake, by representatives of the government, whose oath of office requires them to protect, and not oppress, all American subjects, irrespective of their religious opinions. The Constitution of our land expressly declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The “accused” shall also be “tried by an impartial jury of his peers.” Nor shall he be deprived of “life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.” And again, “No law shall be passed impairing the obligations of contracts.” Notwithstanding these plain declarations, unconstitutional laws are passed by Congress against our people; spies, spotters, attorneys and mission judges are sent among us, and under the present regime the rights, liberties, properties and lives of our leading and representative men, and of our entire people, are jeopardized. The wives, sons and daughters of our best men are spied out and brought before illegal and inquisitorial juries and courts, cross-questioned, vexed and aggrieved, and sometimes insulted, fined and imprisoned, because they will not betray their fathers, brothers or husbands into the hands of avaricious and unscrupulous men. One Miss Elizabeth A. Starkey, born of English parents, only eighteen years of age, has now been imprisoned here for some sixty days, because she refused to answer what she considered to be improper and indecent questions put to her by the commissioner and grand jury. While incarcerated here, quite recently, a drunken, lecherous U.S. Deputy Marshal entered her iron-barred room, and menaced and grossly insulted her. This young daughter of Zion, who has just been released, is entitled to much credit and praise for her unflinching integrity and heroic conduct.

Men who marry honorable wives whom they love and support, fathers who love and care for their innocent children, are hounded about the country by U.S. Marshals, being dragged before packed juries and mission judges, where, after being put to great expense for defense, etc., they are lectured and reprimanded by the judge, heavily fined and sent to prison, there to welter in the heat or cold for months or for years, while their wives and dear children are left without their natural protector and provider, to struggle alone in the battle of life. Not unfrequently spotters and apostates are offered sums of money, from $40 and upwards, to work up cases against our Elders, and they are often tried before these mock courts (some of the vilest men often sitting on the juries), and fined and committed to prison, on the slightest pretext or evidence. I am here forcibly reminded that our Savior was betrayed by the apostate Judas into the hands of wicked men for 30 pieces of silver. Holy Writ informs us that Judas, the arch traitor, went and hanged himself; a good example for all other apostates and traitors to follow.

While shut up in this miserable, tumble-down castile, many members of our families are not allowed to visit us, while other members are only permitted to visit us once a month for thirty minutes only, and other friends are shut out altogether. We have confined here at the present time about 100 prisoners of different nationalities, who are accused of all shades of crime. We are caged with, and have for our associates white men, Indians, Spaniards, Chinamen and Negroes; seducers, gamblers, blackbys, thieves and murderers. We also have here a few good men, some of whom are waiting trial, and others who are falsely imprisoned. Men of strong constitutions soon break down when confined here for any very great length of time, especially when kept exclusively on prison diet. Many parts of the prison swarm with vermin, and the air we are compelled to breathe is poisoned with foul gas arising from filthy outhouses and obnoxious inside dungeons. The food we have to eat is served up in the rudest manner on old tin plates, from old wooden tubs made by sawing an old barrel in two. Knives and forks not being allowed, we have to use our fingers in regular Indian style. Much of our food is badly cooked and unsavory, and often barely fit for dogs or ravenous wolves. The first Sunday in July there was served for dinner a small quantity of rice to each convict; twenty minutes later some thirty prisoners, myself included, were taken violently sick, either purging or vomiting. Prisoners are generally confined to prison diet, except in case of sickness, when they are then allowed a little milk in lieu of tea and coffee, which we have to buy, or which is furnished to us by friends. Some twenty-five convicts, two of our brethren being among the number, are called out under an armed guard, and compelled to work six days in the week, and often on Sundays, contrary to law, in the kitchen, on the farm, in the garden, and on the pump of the “Madame’s” flower garden, and also in the private pantry yards of the Warden. We are told that much of the revenue derived from the labor of these poor prisoners goes to enrich the Marshal and keeper of the prison. Complaints, both verbal and written, have been made from time to time to the Marshal and Warden and also the grand jury, respecting the condition of things here, but the logic brought to bear in reply has generally come in the shape of threats, the sweat-box, fetters and chains. While I write, a young man asked Marshal Irchand (?) when he was to be relieved of his chains, when he was seized and locked up in a tight sweat-box where he will probably remain for some days.

When I was sentenced by Judge Zane, he remarked with much emphasis, in an angry and excited speech, that fifty-five millions of people in the States were opposed to our principles, and that we should renounce them; and that in the case of “cohabitation,” he regretted that the Edmunds law did not impose a heavier fine and a longer term of imprisonment.

When the Lord undertakes to do a work, He does not take numbers into account. God, and a small band of earnest, true, valiant men and women, being more invincible than untold millions who may be arrayed against them. We are told by whining sycophants, that in all probability it will take “two or three terms of imprisonment to wean some of our leading men from their polygamic notions.” One of our good sisters was told by the Marshal only a short time ago, that in case the civil law is not sufficient to bing us to terms, the military will be called into requisition; or, in plain English, “In case you ‘Mormons’ will not give up your faith and principles, we will kill you!” Surely men who talk thus foolishly are poor students of history. The history of all past time proves that the stake, fiery furnace, lion’s jaws, dungeons, the sword and bayonet, with great armies, have never yet succeeded in crushing out the faith and religious sentiments of honest men and women. This being true of our ancestors, it will prove true to their posterity in all time to come.

The Patriarchal order of marriage, taught and practiced by many of the wisest and best men of past ages, being unpopular with the Gentiles, or, as the Danish have it, heathens, it is made a pretext by our enemies for high-handed persecution and oppression, the real object being not simply to suppress our marriage system, but to destroy the Priesthood, and to overthrow the Church and kingdom of our God.

During the day we have the freedom of the yard, being guarded by armed sentinels from the high walls. At night we are locked up behind iron bars, while the guard, with lantern and revolver in hand, pass around our bunk rooms every fifteen minutes during the dusk hours of night, to see that all is kept safe and secure. The armed guard, … walls, massive gates, close confinement—the oaths and vulgar language that salute our ears, and the clanking chains of some poor unfortunate convict constantly remind us that this is a veritable prison in the fullest sense of the word. Although we are shut out from the society of those who are dearer to us than life itself, and deprived of many privileges and blessings, still, like Paul and Silus of old, we can sing, pray, and hold sweet communion with our heavenly Father, and rejoice with the holy ones of Israel.

President Angus M. Canon and Elders A. M. Musser, H.A. Brown, James C. Watson, Jos. H. Evans, Rodger Clawson, Moroni Brown, Job Pingree and Miss Elizabeth Ann Starkey, are all well, and join me in kind love to yourself, Moroni L. Pratt, and all the brethren associated with you in the ministry, and to all the Saints under your watch-care.

Your brother in the New Covenant,
Parley P. Pratt

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Aug. 22, 1885, 11]
[Millennial Star, Oct. 5, 1885]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]


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