Biographical Sketch of Parley P. Pratt

by Orson Pratt

This great Apostle and Martyr of the nineteenth century, was born on the 12th day of April, 1807, in Burlington, Otsego County, state of New York.  He was the third son of Jared and Charity Pratt; Jared was the son of Obadiah and Jemima Pratt; Obadiah was the son of Christopher and Sarah Pratt; Christopher was the son of William and Hannah Pratt; William was the son of Joseph Pratt; Joseph was the son of Lieutenant William, and Elizabeth Pratt, who were found among the first settlers of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 1639.  They are supposed to have accompanied the Rev. Thomas Hooker and his congregation, about one hundred in number, from Newtown, now called Cambridge, Massachusetts, through a dense wilderness, inhabited only by savages and wild beasts, and became the first founders of the colony at Hartford, in June 1636.

This ancient pilgrim, William Pratt, was a member of the Legislature for some twenty-five or thirty sessions; and the General Court gave him one hundred acres of land in Say Brook, Connecticut, for service performed as Lieutenant, in the Pequot war; he was one of the judges of the first Court in New London County.  Parley P. Pratt is a lineal descendant, of the seventh generation, from that distinguished pilgrim and humble pioneer to the New World.

The youthful days of our Martyred brother were characterized by the soberness and thoughtfulness of manhood.  Though from adverse circumstances his education was extremely limited, yet he displayed, even in youth, an originality of mind, seldom exhibited.  In September, 1830, he, being led by the Spirit of the Lord from his home in the State of Ohio, came several hundred miles eastward, where he fortunately obtained a copy of one of the most remarkable works of modern times—the Book of Mormon.  He read the same, was convinced of its divine authenticity, and traveled in search of the highly favoured men of God who had seen angels and heard the voice of the Almighty.  He soon succeeded in finding some of them, from whom he learned that about five months previous, the first Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been organized.  He requested baptism, and was immediately after ordained an Elder.  The same month, he visited Canaan, Columbia County, New York—the country where he had spent many of his youthful days; and after preaching a few times in different neighborhoods, and baptizing Orson Pratt, his brother, he returned to Seneca County.

Receiving a revelation though Joseph the Prophet, he, in company with three or four others, performed a mission, some fifteen hundred miles, to the western boundaries of the State of Missouri; and was among the first of the Saints to stand upon that choice land where the city of zion is hereafter to be built, preparatory to the second Advent of our Saviour.

In the spring of 1831, he returned to the northern part of Ohio, where he met Joseph the Prophet.  In the summer he again performed a mission through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, preaching, baptizing, and building up the Church.

In the autumn of 1833, he and about twelve hundred men, women, and children were driven by a murderous, furious mob from their own houses and lands in Jackson County, Missouri.  Two hundred houses were burned, cattle shot, hay stacks and grain burned, many shipped until their bowels gushed out; others killed, and the afflicted remnant driven across the river into Clay County.

Soon after this, Elder Pratt performed a long journey of about fifteen hundred miles east, preaching repentance, and strengthening the Saints.

In 1834 he again returned to Clay County, Missouri, officiating in his holy calling wherever he went.

In 1835, having returned to the northern part of Ohio, he was chosen and ordained one of the Twelve Apostles of this last dispensation; and the same year performed a lengthy journey through Pennsylvania, New York, and several of the New England States, and returned again to Ohio.

In 1836 he visited Canada, and established a large Branch of the Church in Toronto, and other Branches in adjoining towns.

In 1837 he visited New York City, where he founded a large Branch of the Church.

In 1838 he removed to Caldwell County in the western boundaries of Missouri, and in the same year another dreadful persecution commenced against the Saints; and they were for the third time driven from their own houses and inheritances; and their property to the amount of millions was destroyed; some scores of defenseless men, women, and children were murdered; scores of others incarcerated in dungeons, among whom was the subject of this memoir; the balance, about fifteen thousand, were exterminated from the State, and found refuge in Illinois.  Elder Pratt was kept in prison, without trial, about eight months, when by the kind providence of God he made his escape.  An account of which is published in the Millennial Star, Vol VIII, pages 129, 145, and 161.  Immediately after gaining his liberty, he published a history of the Missouri persecution, written while in prison, the first edition appeared in Detroit, in 1839.

In 1840 he visited England, and in the town of Manchester, commenced the publication of a periodical, entitled the Millennial Star, which has continued until the present time; this being the XIX volume.

In 1841 he was appointed the president over all the British conferences, and remained in this high and honourable station, until the autumn of 1842, during which he edited the Star, superintended the Saints’ emigration, and published several small, but interesting works.  The following winter he returned to Illinois, where he continued, laboring in the ministry one or two years.

About the beginning of the year 1845, he was appointed the President over all the Churches in New England and Middle States, his headquarters being at New York City, where he published a periodical, entitled “The Prophet.”  In the summer he returned to Nauvoo.

In February, 1846, he was again driven from his home by a ruthless mob.  Some fifteen or twenty thousand Saints were also driven from the United States about the same time, with the loss of houses, and lands, and an immense amount of property, which the mob are in the unmolested possession of until the present day.  After wading through unparalleled sufferings with his family, he and the suffering Saints succeeded in reaching the Indian country, at Council Bluffs, and being called by the Holy Ghost, through the Prophet Brigham Young, to go to England, he left his family upon the broad prairie, without house, or scarcely any food, to comply with the word of the Lord.  He arrived in England, assisted in setting the Churches in order, and in strengthening the Saints throughout the British Islands.

In the spring of 1847, he returned to his family and brethren; and in the summer and autumn of that year he removed to Great Salt Lake Valley, and suffered incredible hardships until the harvest of 1848.

He assisted in forming a Constitution for the Provisional Government of Deseret, and was elected a member of the Senate of the General Assembly; and was afterwards elected to the Legislative Council when Utah became a Territory of the United States.

About the year 1850 or ’51, he was sent on a mission to the Pacific Islands, and to South America.

In the summer of 1855 he returned over the Sierra Nevada mountains to his home, and occupied a part of his time in preaching in the various settlements of Utah; and at other times labouring with his own hands in the cultivation of his farm.  The following winter he officiated as chaplain in the Legislative Council, at the State House in Fillmore City.

In the autumn of 1856 he accompanied about twenty missionaries across the plains to the States.  During the winter and part of the following spring, he visited the Saints in St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York, and other places, preaching, writing, and publishing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.

And finally, on the 14th of May, 1857, he fell a noble martyr for the cause of truth which he had advocated with such untiring perseverance for nearly twenty seven years.  His last great and magnanimous act, in trying to rescue helpless innocence from the fury of her savage persecutors, will be handed down to unborn generations, as an imperishable monument to his praise; while his wicked brutal murderers, and all that gave countenance to the diabolical deed shall gnaw their tongues for pain, and perish, and be forgotten.

Among the numerous writings of this Martyred Apostle, may be mentioned first, the “Voice of Warning,” printed in New York in 1838, and which has since passed through many editions, and been translated into several foreign languages; second, his “History of the Missouri Persecutions;” third, his “Poems;” fourth, his “Key to Theology,” a masterly production lately published.  The History of his Life, up to near the time of his martyrdom, was written by himself, and is now about ready for the press; this will doubtless prove to be one of the most interesting works proceeding from his pen.

A short time before his murder he wrote the following poetry on his “Fiftieth Year”—

  “I am fifty years old! I have lived to see
Seven times seven and a Jubilee.
That period famed in the days of yore
As a grand release for the humble poor;
When the pledg’d estate was again restor’d,
And the bondman free’d from his tyrant lord.
When man his fellow was bound to forgive,
And begin anew to think and to live.
The nations have hail’d the year of my birth
As a Jubilee to the groaning earth.
The triumphs of steam over land and sea1
Have stamp’d the age of my Jubilee.
I have mark’d its progress at ev’ry stride,
From the day it was launch’d on the Hudson’s tide
Till it conquer’d the ocean—grasp’d the land,
And join’d the world in a common band.
I have liv’d to behold the lightnings yield
To the mandate of man, and take the field,
As a servant-runner to bear the news
In an instant, where its lord might choose.
     And, scarce less strange, I have liv’d to behold
A Mormon Sage, with his wand of gold,
Overturn the world, and toss it up
As a teller of Fortunes would his cup.2
All these are facts; but of little worth,
Compared with a Prophet restored to earth.
I have seen his day and have heard his voice,
Which enraged a world, while the meek rejoice.
I have read the fate of all earthly things:
The end of thrones, and the end of kings.
I have learned that truth alone shall stand,
And the Kingdom of God fill every land.
I have seen that Kingdom rolling along,
And taking its seat ’mid the mountains strong;
While the nations wondered, but could not tell
To what these wondrous things would swell.
I have wandered far, over land and sea,
To proclaim to the world its destiny—
To cry to the nations, repent and live,
And be ready the bridegroom to receive.

     I have wandered far—I have wandered wide,
From Maine to the wild Missouri’s tide;
And over the Atlantic’s sea-girt isles
Full many a weary thousand miles.
I have trampled the desert’s burning sands
And the snow-clad mountains of unknown lands.
’Mid the crystal waters of Deseret
I have pulled the oar and cast the net.
I have climbed the steeps ’mid the golden ore,
And roamed o’er the lone Pacific shore.
I have ploughed its bosom many a day
To visit the nations far away.
I have stood on Chili’s distant shore,
Where the Polar Star is seen no more.
I have gazed on the Andes’ heights of snow,
And roamed ’mid the flowery plains below.

     I have toiled with the great in freedom’s cause,
And assisted to give to a State its laws.
I have lain in a dungeon, bound in chains,
And been honored in Courts where Justice reigns.
In a thousand joys, and a thousand fears
I have struggled on through my fifty years.
And now, by the law of God, I am free;
I will seek to enjoy my Jubilee.
I will hie me home, to my mountain dell,
And will say to the “Christian” world—farewell!
I have served ye long—; ’twas a thankless task;
To retire in peace is all I ask.

     Another fifty years will fully prove
Our message true, and all our motives love.
Then shall an humble world in reverence bow,
And hail the Prophets so rejected now.
Kings shall revere, and nations incense bring
To Zion’s temple and to Zion’s King.
I shall be there and celebrate the day
’Till twice ten fifties shall have passed away.”

O how pleasant is the death of a righteous person; he lays down his body with a sure and certain hope of coming forth from the tomb in the morning of the first resurrection, to reign as a mighty King and Priest of the Most High god, to sit enthroned in eternal glory, ruling with power and dominion forever and ever.

O kind-hearted, affectionate brother!  how dearly we loved thee in life!  how joyous to our soul were the words of life which flowed from thy mouth, by the pure spirit of inspiration!  how lovely still is our remembrance of thee!  We weep not for they death, for it was glorious!  Thou has left us, only for a short moment and we shall soon embrace thee again!  Thy fiftieth year had bust just rolled away and now thy Jubilee has come!  Rest in thy Father’s house with all the noble martyrs of the nineteenth century, until the Jubilee of the earth shall also come; then shall thou return and reign triumphantly with all the redeemed of Adam’s race.

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, May 13, 1857, 6-8]
[Millennial Star, 19:417]


The following was added to this biography in the book named below in 1923.

Aside from the great prophet of the latter days, few men are more widely known or more dearly loved than Parley P. Pratt.  At the funeral service of his son Alma in 19__, one of the Apostles said: “If all the works of the Church were destroyed save only the writings of Parley P. Pratt, we would still have the Gospel in its fulness.”

Among the numerous writings of this martyred Apostle may be mentioned the following:

1. The Voice of Warning
This wonderful missionary treatise was first printed in New York in 1838.  It has since been translated into several languages, and has passed through a large number of editions.  It has been said of this publication that it has had a wider circulation in numbers than any other publication in the Church except perhaps, some smaller commentaries such as the Plan of Salvation which have been extensively given away in the missionary field.  Even at the present time (1921) the Voice of Warning enjoys a place in the front ranks of effective missionary literature.  It is a store-house of knowledge for the seeker after truth, and will lead any sincere, honest hearted investigator into the way of Eternal life.

2. Key to Theology
This masterly production was not intended for missionary purposes but is an expose of doctrine for the edification of him who has espoused the cause of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  It can be read with profit by even advanced students of Theology, and is always useful as a book of reference either for edification of reference on Doctrine.  Because of its adaptability to theological study, it enjoys a continuous sale, even to this day, (1921).

3. His personal autobiography
He kept a faithful account of “all his doings” and left it as an inspiration to all who follow.  Being courageous, this work lends courage; being devote, it encourages devotion; being sincere in his convictions, the reader will be convinced of the truth of his words and his testimony concerning the Gospel of the Redeemer, and so one could go on and on in an array of characteristics that make up one of God’s noblemen, for he has bequeathed to his posterity an example that will bear the closest scrutiny, and the inspiration of that example will be an everlasting stay to all who read the account of his life as it was recorded by him day by day as he journeyed through the valley of probation.

Other writings worthy of mention are his “Poems” and “History of Missouri Persecutions.”

Should we ask whence the power and the marvelous appeal in nearly everything written by Parley P. Pratt, the reason is not far to seek.  In the summer of 1830 the Spirit of the Lord sought and found him in his wilderness home in the State of Ohio even before he had heard the Gospel or knew that the Lord had already commenced the great work of restoring the Priesthood to the earth.  This spirit so moved upon him and enlightened his mind upon the Gospel as taught in the New Testament, that he then and there resolved that the Lord was abundantly able to make His promise good, and that if he would forsake father or mother, brethren or sisters, houses or lands, wife or children for the Gospel’s sake he would receive in this life an hundred fold and in the world to come, life everlasting.  He resolved to put this promise to the test and immediately proceeded to sell all his earthly possessions and to prepare to enter the vineyard of the Lord little knowing what a marvelous work and a wonder he was destined to perform.  Starting east by boat with the proceeds of the sale of all his earthly possessions—insufficient in amount to carry them to their destination—he reached the City of Rochester, New York, when he was again moved upon by that unseen power and he was impelled to leave the boat saying to his wife, “We part for a season; go and visit our friends in our native place; I will come soon, but how soon I know not; for I have a work to do in this region of country, and what it is or how long it will take to perform it, I know not, but I will come when it is performed.”  Straight as a homing bee the Spirit led him to a home where he found entertainment, and there was placed in his hands the message borne by the Angel which John saw flying in the midst of Heaven, even the Book of Mormon.  Only a day or two of investigation and explanation was necessary for Parley P. Pratt to know the meaning of it all, and from the day until May 13, 1857 when on the plains of Arkansas he sealed his testimony with his blood, he never faltered; he loved the Lord with all his might, mind and strength, and Him only did he serve, hence nearly all he wrote was under the full flow of the Spirit of Truth and will ring true through all time.

What a debt of gratitude is due from every true Latter-day Saint to Parley P. Pratt for inspiration and guidance, and who is there that has reveled with him in the beauties of divine truth or has felt his soul stirred under the inspiring trains of such hymns as, “The Morning Breaks, The Shadows Flee,” but would appreciate an opportunity to pay some little tribute to his memory.

[The Pratt Family, or the Ancestors and Descendants of the Pratt Brothers, with their kindred lines…, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1921]

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