The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt – Revised and Enhanced Edition
Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor

Chapter 38

General conference at Manchester – Ordinations and appointments – Return to New York – Meet with my family – Visit to the state of Maine – A dream and its fulfillment – Embark again for England – Consequence of looking back – Safe arrival in England -Resume the editorial duties – Reflections.

July 6, 1840-December 31, 1840

On the 6th of July, 1840, a General Conference was convened at Manchester, in the “Carpenter’s Hall,” a building which would seat near five thousand people.

There were present of the Twelve Apostles: Brigham Young, H. C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Willard Richards, George A. Smith, and myself. Of other officers: High Priests, 5; Elders, 19; Priests, 15; Teachers, 11; and Deacons, 3.

At this Conference Parley P. Pratt was unanimously chosen President; and William Clayton, Clerk.

Two thousand seven hundred and sixty-seven members were represented, including 254 officers. [1]

The publishing committee had just completed the new Hymn Book, which was presented to the Conference, and accepted by them by unanimous vote.

Three persons were then ordained to the high Priesthood, viz.: Thomas Kington, Alfred Cordon and Thomas Smith; also John Albertson, John Blezord, William Berry, John Sanders, John Parkinson, James Worsley, and John Allen were ordained Elders; seven individuals were ordained to the lesser Priesthood.

Many Elders were also selected and appointed to labor in the ministry in various parts. There was a variety of business transacted, and much instruction given by Brigham Young and others, after which, Conference was adjourned to the 6th of October, at the same place.

During this Conference I received a letter from my family in New York, informing me that they were dangerously ill of scarlet fever. [2] I, therefore, by advice of the other members of the quorum, concluded to cross the ocean once more and bring them to England, where I was likely to remain for several years rather in a stationary position as an editor and publisher. I accordingly repaired immediately to Liverpool and embarked for New York. I was thirty-seven days confined on this dreary passage, without any friends or associates who cared for me or the cause of truth.

I then landed in New York, found my wife and children recovered from their sickness, for which I felt truly thankful. They were agreeably surprised at seeing me so soon and so unexpectedly, and so were the Saints in that city and vicinity. After several joyful meetings among them, I went to the State of Maine on a visit with my wife and children to her parents and kindred. They lived in Bethel, Oxford County, about sixty miles from Portland, the seaport where we landed. The day before our arrival my wife’s sister, a Mrs. Bean, prophesied to her husband that Brother Pratt and family would arrive there the next evening, and she actually changed the bedding and prepared the best room for our reception, as if she had received notice of our coming. At this her husband and friends laughed in derision; “for,” said they, “our brother-in-law is in England and his family in New York; how, then, will he be here tonight?” But she still persisted, and made ready the room and all things for our reception, assuring them that I would arrive that night with my family.

Night came, the deep shades of evening gathered around, a dark and gloomy night set in, and still no signs of us. They still laughed her to scorn for her superstition, and she still persisted in her anticipations of our momentary arrival. At length, as they were about to retire to rest, we knocked at the door and were joyfully received – it being the first time that any of my wife’s kindred there had seen my face.

Mrs. Bean had a dream a few days previous to our arrival, in which she dreamed that I came to her and gave her a key to the Bible. As she related the dream to me, I presented her with my “Voice of Warning.” It seemed to her and her husband as they read it as if it was indeed a key to the doctrine and prophecies of the Holy Scriptures. They rejoiced with exceeding joy, and promised to be baptized, and to gather to Nauvoo if God would only open their way to sell their farm.

My father-in-law, Aaron Frost, and household, and all our kindred and many others in that region, received me with joy and hospitality, and I preached several times in their churches.

I finally took leave of them and returned to New York, accompanied by my wife’s sister, Olive Frost, a young lady of some twenty years of age, who accompanied us to England to help us in the family. [3]

We soon embarked, and after a long and tedious passage we arrived again in England in October, 1840. My family then consisted of my wife and wife’s sister, and my wife’s daughter, Mary Ann Stearns, and my sons, Parley and Nathan.

I now again resumed the editorial duties in Manchester, and assisted in the publishing department and in the presidency of the Manchester Conference, and the general Presidency of the work in that country. The Star had, during my absence, been edited and published by Elders Young and Richards.

My brother-in-law, Samuel Bean, soon sold out, according to his desires, and started with his family to remove to Nauvoo.

He arrived in Portland, ready to embark, when he heard some lying tales about the “Mormons,” as is usual, and being darkened in mind he turned back and bought a farm in Maine, and soon afterwards died without ever obeying the Gospel or gathering with the Saints. His wife and children were left as a widow and orphans to drag out a lonely existence on a farm which was not saleable, and without means to gather with the Saints, and without opportunity to obey the Gospel – a solemn warning to all persons not to delay or neglect a strict and punctual obedience to their convictions.

On the 6th of October, a general Conference convened at Manchester, according to adjournment.

I had hoped to land from America in time to attend it, but was disappointed by contrary winds.

The following members of my quorum were present, viz: Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Willard Richards, H. C. Kimball and G. A. Smith; other officers, viz.: High Priests, 5; Elders, 19; Priests, 28; Teachers, 4; and Deacons, 2.

In this Conference, Elder Orson Pratt was called to the chair, and Elder George Walker chosen clerk.

A general representation showed a great increase since the July Conference, and a spread of the work into many parts.

Many ordinations took place; much instruction was given; and many additional missionaries were sent out.

In a few days after this Conference, I landed in safety with my family, and again repaired to Manchester, and resumed the editorial duties; and, in connection with Elder Young, superintended the publishing department.

The October number of the Star contains much cheering news of the spread of the work in various parts of the United States, England, Scotland and Isle of Man, and an interesting account of Elder Orson Hyde’s appointment on a mission to Jerusalem, in connection with Elder John E. Page. [4]

May the Almighty speed His work, and bless the believers with signs following, and with grace and wisdom to escape all the judgments which await the wicked, and to stand before the coming of the Son of Man; for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Thus closed the year 1840 with us and our labors. An eventful year it had been to us, and to the Church of the Saints. It was the first mission of the Twelve modern Apostles, as a quorum, to a foreign country. It had been undertaken under circumstances which would have deterred men of a less holy and sacred calling and responsibility. It had overcome chains and dungeons, and gloomy cells, and perils of robbers and of death. It had triumphed over poverty and sickness, and perils by sea and land. And it had triumphed and been crowned with a success unparalleled, even by the history of the ancient Apostles.

It was the hand of God that performed it, and to his name be ascribed honor and majesty, and power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.


[1] Concerning Parley’s mission in 1836 to the people of upper Canada, Heber C. Kimball had predicted that “from the things growing out of this mission, shall the fulness of the gospel spread into England, and cause a great work to be done in that land” (see chapter 16, endnote 13). Just a few years after this prophecy was made, the work was growing in England at a phenomenal rate. The work there started with contact being made through one of Parley’s converts, Joseph Fielding, whose brother, James Fielding, was a preacher in Preston. Nearly all of James Fielding’s congregation joined the Church, and from there the work spread to England.

[2] Parley’s reply to this letter was poignant, touching, and immediate: “Seated in the presidential chair of a general conference, held in this place, this day, in a hall which will hold about 3,000 persons; with the Quorum of the 12 and some 50 officers, and many hundred members present; received your letter; the first lisp I had heard from you, or from N. York for 4 months, (that is since we sailed). You can judge of my feelings, having to put the letter in my pocket unopened till intermission, when we (the quorum) were all invited to one place to dine. I took private room, removed from them all, and read the letter. You may be sure I did not taste of dinner, but went fasting to the conference at 2 o’clock which held till near seven of eve. I then dismissed and came home 2 miles and have not yet tasted food or drink since early in the morning.
… I cannot yet taste food. My feelings are such that my stomach will not bear it … The sad news of your sickness, and that you were not coming – this is more than I can bear … O Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, let thy mercy be manifested speedily to my poor, sick family and heal their bodies and comfort their hearts. I can say no more … Please accept this from one who would gladly lay down his life for you and the ­little ones” (Parley P. Pratt to Mary Ann Pratt, July 6, 1840).

[3] Parley and Mary Ann had three little children, ages seven, three, and two. Before the journey back to England, Mary Ann became pregnant with their next child, Olivia Thankful Pratt, who was born June 1, 1841.

[4] Elder Orson Hyde had felt a special call to the Jews and stated at a general conference of the Church on April 6, 1840, that “it had been prophesied, some years ago, that he had a great work to perform among the Jews; and that he had recently been moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord to visit that people, and gather up all the information he could respecting their movements, expectations, etc., and communicate the same to this Church, and to the nation at large” (Smith, History of the Church, 4:106). Elder John Page, also of the Twelve, accompanied Orson for part of the mission but then rejected it. Elder Hyde left Nauvoo on April 15, 1840, for points east and finally Palestine, where, upon the Mount of Olives, he dedicated the land on Sunday morning, October 24, 1841, for the return of the Jews (see Smith, History of the Church, 4:456-59).