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

Chapter 20

Two items of ­prophecy – Death of my ­wife – An open vision forewarning her of her death – Burial – Description of her person and character – Reflections – Return to Canada – Selection for an English mission – Jarrings in the ­Church – Apostasy – Temptation -Deliverance – Mission to New York ­City –The Voice of ­Warning – Its success – English ­mission – Remarkable ­prophecy – Several instances of ­healing – Spread of the work in the city and country.

March 25, 1837-May 9, 1837

There were but two points in this extraordinary prophecy which now remained unfulfilled. One of these was that from the results of this Canada Mission the work should spread into England, and a great work there would be the consequence. The other was that I should eventually be so rich and have so much money that I would loath the counting thereof.

My dear wife had now lived to accomplish her destiny; and when the child was dressed, and she had looked upon it and embraced it, she ceased to live in the flesh. Her death happened about three hours after the birth of this child of promise.

A few days previous to her death she had a vision in open day while sitting in her room. She was overwhelmed or immersed in a pillar of fire, which seemed to fill the whole room, as if it would consume it and all things therein; and the Spirit whispered to her mind, saying: “Thou art baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost.” It also intimated to her that she should have the privilege of departing from this world of sorrow and pain, and of going to the Paradise of rest as soon as she had fulfilled the prophecy in relation to the promised son. This vision was repeated on the next day at the same hour, viz: – twelve o’clock.

She was overwhelmed with a joy and peace indescribable, and seemed changed in her whole nature from that time forth. She longed to be gone, and anticipated the time as a hireling counts the days of his servitude, or the prisoner the term of his imprisonment.

She was buried in the churchyard near the Temple in Kirtland, Ohio. Many hundreds attended the funeral and wept sorely, for she was extensively known. Her trials, for the gospel’s sake, while her husband had been absent from time to time on distant missions, her lingering sickness of years, her barrenness, her miraculous cure, her conception of the promised child, were all matters of note in the Church far and near. But she had gone behind the veil to rest, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest; while I was left to toil and struggle alone. My grief, and sorrow, and loneliness I shall not attempt to describe.

My son was put to nurse on the breast of a sister Allen, who had just then lost an infant. For the satisfaction of our posterity I will here attempt some description of my wife’s person and qualities. [1]

She was tall, of a slender frame, her face of an oval form, eyes large and of a dark color, her forehead lofty, clear complexion, hair black, smooth and glossy. She was of a mild and affectionate disposition and full of energy, perseverance, industry and cheerfulness when not borne down with sickness. In order, neatness and refinement of taste and habit she might be said to excel. She was an affectionate and dutiful wife, an exemplary Saint, and, through much tribulation, she has gone to the world of spirits to meet a glorious resurrection and an immortal crown and kingdom.

Farewell, my dear Thankful, thou wife of my youth, and mother of my first born; the beginning of my strength – farewell. Yet a few more lingering years of sorrow, pain and toil, and I shall be with thee, and clasp thee to my bosom, and thou shalt sit down on my throne, as a queen and priestess unto thy lord, arrayed in white robes of dazzling splendor, and decked with precious stones and gold, while thy queen sisters shall minister before thee and bless thee, and thy sons and daughters innumerable shall call thee blessed, and hold thy name in everlasting remembrance. [2]

In the spring of 1837, soon after the death of my wife, I returned to Canada, to visit the Saints, and to confer on the subject of a mission to England. Several of the Saints in Canada were English, who had friends in England. Letters had already been sent to them with information of the rise of the Church, and of its principles. Several of the Canadian Elders felt a desire to go on a mission to their friends in that country.

At length, Joseph Fielding, Isaac Russell, John Goodson and John Snider, [3] of the Canada Elders, were selected for a mission to England. Elders H. C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, of the quorum of the Twelve, were selected to go at the head of the mission, and Elder Willard Richards was appointed to accompany them. [4]

About this time, after I had returned from Canada, there were jarrings and discords in the Church at Kirtland, and many fell away and became enemies and apostates. There were also envyings, lyings, strifes and divisions, which caused much trouble and sorrow.[5] By such spirits I was also accused, misrepresented and abused. And at one time, I also was overcome by the same spirit in a great measure, and it seemed as if the very powers of darkness which war against the Saints were let loose upon me. But the Lord knew my faith, my zeal, my integrity of purpose, and he gave me the victory.

I went to brother Joseph Smith in tears, and, with a broken heart and contrite spirit, confessed wherein I had erred in spirit, murmured, or done or said amiss. He frankly forgave me, prayed for me and blessed me. Thus, by experience, I learned more fully to discern and to contrast the two spirits, and to resist the one and cleave to the other. And, being tempted in all points, even as others, I learned how to bear with, and excuse, and succor those who are tempted.[6]

Late in July I arrived in the City of New York, on a mission, took lodgings, and commenced to preach and write. My first production in that city was a book of upwards of two hundred pages, entitled the Voice of Warning.[7] The first edition of this work consisted of four thousand copies; it has since been published and re-published in America and Europe, till some forty or fifty thousand copies have not been sufficient to supply the demand. Thousands date their conversion to the fulness of the gospel to the reading of that book. [8]

While I was thus engaged, the English mission, under brothers Kimball and Hyde, began to prosper exceedingly. It first commenced in Preston, where some of the friends of the Canada Elders had already had some information of it by letters from Canada. From this beginning it spread, till now, 1854, it shows for itself whether brother Kimball’s prophecy was fulfilled, which said to me the year before, that a great work should be done in Canada under my hand, and that from thence it should spread into England, and a great work should be done there.

Thus is completed, all but one item, a chain of prophecy, which may, perhaps, be set down as one among the most extraordinary in the annals of history. It is extraordinary, whether we look at the varied scenery, the wide and complicated field of action, the clearness and precision of its numerous items and specifications, the lack of natural probability of its fulfilment, or the precision and exactness with which it was progressively fulfilled in every item. Having thus proved the merits of brother Kimball as a prophet, I look for the time when I shall possess great riches, and even handle money till the counting thereof will be a burthen. I look for this with all the certainty with which any person can anticipate anything in the future.

But to return to my own narrative. Of all the places in which the English language is spoken, I found the City of New York to be the most difficult as to access to the minds or attention of the people. From July to January we preached, advertised, printed, published, testified, visited, talked, prayed, and wept in vain. To all appearance there was no interest or impression on the minds of the people in regard to the fulness of the gospel.

There was one member of the Church of the Saints living there, whose name was Elijah Fordham; he was an Elder, and assisted me.[9] We had baptized about six members, and organized a little branch, who were accustomed to meet in a small upper room in Goerck street; sometimes two or three others met with us. We had hired chapels and advertised, but the people would not hear, and the few who came went away without being interested. So we had been forced to give them up, after spending our money and strength in vain.

We had retired to our private room up stairs with the few members we had, to hold a last prayer meeting, as I was about taking leave for New Orleans. We had prayed all round in turn, when, on a sudden, the room was filled with the Holy Spirit, and so was each one present. We began to speak in tongues and prophesy. Many marvelous things were manifested which I cannot write; but the principal burthen of the prophesyings was concerning New York City, and our mission there.

The Lord said that He had heard our prayers, beheld our labors, diligence, and long suffering towards that city; and that He had seen our tears. Our prayers were heard, and our labors and sacrifices were accepted. We should tarry in the city, and go not thence as yet; for the Lord had many people in that city, and He had now come by the power of His Holy Spirit to gather them into His fold. His angels should go before us and cooperate with us. His Holy Spirit should give the people visions and dreams concerning us and the work of the Lord; and He would make bare his arm to heal the sick and confirm the Word by signs following; and from that very day forward we should have plenty of friends, money to pay our debts with the publishers; means to live, and crowds to hear us.

And there should be more doors open for preaching than we could fill; crowds, who could not get in, should stand in the streets and about the entrance to try to hear us; and we should know that the Almighty could open a door and no man could shut it.

As these things were manifested in power and the demonstration of the Spirit, we could not doubt them. So we gave up going to New Orleans, and concluded to stay; but we were almost ready to say in our hearts, like one of old: “If the Lord should make windows in Heaven could these things be?”

Now there was in this little meeting a man named David Rogers, whose heart was touched. He, being a chairmaker, fitted up a large room, and seated it with the chairs of his ware house, and invited us to preach in the same. This room was crowded. He then joined with one of our members, who was a joiner, and rented a small place, and seated it for a regular place of meeting; this was generally crowded.

In the meantime, a Methodist clergyman came to hear me, whose name was Cox. He invited me to his house to preach, near East River; he and household were obedient to the faith, with many of the members of his society. While preaching, a lady solicited me to preach in her house in Willett street; “for,” said she, “I had a dream of you and of the new Church the other night.” [10] Another lady wished me to preach in her house, in Grant street.

In the meantime I was invited by the Free Thinkers to preach, or give a course of lectures, in Tammany Hall. In short, it was not three weeks from the delivery of the prophecies in the upper room till we had fifteen preaching places in the city, all of which were filled to overflowing. We preached about eleven times a week, besides visiting from house to house. We soon commenced baptizing, and continued doing so almost daily during the winter and spring.

One lady, who had been four years under the doctor’s care with a crippled leg, arose and walked, with her leg instantly restored whole, even as the other. Her physician was immediately dismissed, and was very angry, because we had spoiled his patronage. He even threatened to sue us. Another lady, who had lain in her bed four years with the dumb palsy, arose and walked. She had not, previous to our laying hands on her, been able to stir a finger, or a toe, on her right side for about four years; so said the family, and so she herself testified. In this case her physician, and also some religious ministers, who called to see her, glorified God, acknowledged His hand, and exhorted her to persevere in the faith.

A child of Mr. Wandle Mace, of No. 13 Bedford street, was healed of brain fever in the last stage, when the doctors had given it over, and the kindred and neighbors had gathered in to see it die. I laid my hands on it, in the presence of them all, and it was healed, and in a few hours took nourishment, and commenced to play and run about the floor. In the same house, in an upper chamber, lay a woman, by the name of Dexter, sick, who had not left her room, nor scarcely her bed, for some six months; she was at the point of death, and her babe also, who had taken the disease from her. Her mother, who had the care of her, was present when the child was healed, and she ran up stairs and told the woman that there were men below who healed the sick, as in days of old, by the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus.

The woman exclaimed: “Thank God, then I can be healed.” She sent for us, and was from that hour restored to health, and the child also. She walked about two miles to the East River and was baptized, and then walked home again – it being a very wet day with snow and rain, and the sidewalks about shoe deep in snow and mud. After these three miracles of healing had been witnessed in that house in Bedford street, six persons who witnessed them were baptized, viz: Wandle Mace and wife, Theodore Curtis and wife, and the sick woman and her mother, before named.

During our stay in New York I made frequent visits to the country, and to other towns. Branches of the Church were formed at Sing Sing, and in Jersey, and also in Brooklyn and various other parts of Long Island. Some members were also baptized in Holiston, Mass.

On May 9th I received the hand of Mary Ann Frost, daughter of Aaron Frost, of Bethel, Oxford County, Maine, in marriage. [11] She was the widow of Nathan Stearns, and had one daughter, about four years of age. [12]


[1] The daguerreotype, an early form of photograph, was not generally used until 1839; thus, no photographic reproduction was ever taken of Thankful Halsey Pratt. Without Parley’s description of her, we would have no idea of her appearance.

[2] Parley joined Thankful just three years after writing this part of his history.

[3] Joseph Fielding was one of Parley’s early Canadian converts, as were Russell, Goodson, and Snider (also spelled Snyder). Joseph Fielding’s brother, James Fielding, later played a key role in opening the gospel to England.

[4] Heber C. Kimball recorded: “On Sunday, the 4th day of June, 1837, the Prophet Joseph came to me, while I was seated in front of the stand, above the sacrament table, on the Melchizedek side of the Temple, in Kirtland, and whispering to me, said, ‘Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me: “Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my Gospel, and open the door of salvation to that nation.”‘
. . . Feeling my weakness to go upon such an errand, I asked the Prophet if Brother Brigham might go with me. He replied that he wanted Brother Brigham to stay with him, for he had something else for him to do. The idea of such a mission was almost more than I could bear up under. I was almost ready to sink under the burden which was placed upon me. However, all these considerations did not deter me from the path of duty; the moment I understood the will of my Heavenly Father, I felt a determination to go at all hazards, believing that He would support me by His almighty power, and endow me with every qualification that I needed; and although my family was dear to me, and I should have to leave them almost destitute, I felt that the cause of truth, the Gospel of Christ, outweighed every other consideration” (Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 103-4).

[5] Heber Kimball wrote: “At this time many faltered in their faith; even some of the Twelve were in rebellion against the Prophet of God. John F. Boynton said to me, ‘If you are such a fool as to go at the call of the fallen prophet, Joseph Smith, I will not help you a dime” (Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 104-5).

[6] Benjamin F. Johnson recalled these days in Kirtland: “The spirit of charity was not invoked, and brethren who had borne the highest priesthood and who had for years labored, traveled, ministered and suffered together, and even placed their lives upon the same altar, now were governed by a feeling of hate and a spirit to accuse each other, and all for the love of Accursed Mammon. All their former companionship in the holy anointing in the Temple of the Lord, were filled with the Holy Ghost, the heavens were opened, and in view of the glories before them they had together shouted ‘Hosanna to God and the Lamb,’ all was now forgotten by many, who were like Judas, ready to sell or destroy the Prophet Joseph and his followers. And it almost seemed to me that the brightest stars in our firmament had fallen. Many to whom I had in the past most loved to listen, their voices seemed now the most discordant and hateful to me. From the Quorum of the Twelve fell four of the brightest: Wm. E. McLellin, Luke and Lyman Johnson and John Boynton; of the First Presidency, F. G. Williams; the three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris … I was then nineteen years of age, and as I now look back through more than fifty years of subsequent experience, to that first great Apostasy, I regard it as the greatest sorrow, disappointment and test through which I have ever passed; the first real experience among false brethren, the greatest sorrow and test for the faithful.” (Johnson, My Life’s Review, 28-29).

[7] Voice of Warning was first printed in 1837 by W. Sanford of New York.

[8] The last two sentences of this paragraph were likely added by Parley P. Pratt Jr., original editor of his father’s autobiographical manuscript.

[9] Elijah Fordham, who often helped the missionaries on their way to and from the various European missions, later played an interesting role in the history of the Church. He was one of the many who were healed July 22-23, 1839. Parley witnessed his healing (see chapter 36).

[10] In a letter from Parley to his wife Mary Ann, dated November 25, 1837, at New York, he wrote: “I have also been to visit _____ and his lady who believes. And the Lord had shown them in a dream concerning me. They saw me in a dream. She had been seeking to find God’s people … As soon as she heard me preach and read the Book of Mormon she said she believed it all true and of God. Thus you see that God is able to do his own work” (Pratt, Parley P. Pratt Papers).

[11] In the family record Parley records this event: “Mary Ann Frost, daughter of Aaron and Susan Frost, born at Bethel, in the state of Maine, January 14, 1809. United in Matrimony to P.P. Pratt at Kirtland, Ohio on the 14th Day of May 1837 by the hand of Elder Frederick G. Williams” (Pratt, Family Record). Parley and Mary Ann eventually had two sons and two daughters together (see Appendix C).

[12] This daughter, Mary Ann Stearns, was born April 6, 1833. Her father, Nathan Stearns, died August 25, 1833. She married Oscar Winters on August 16, 1852. The couple’s second child, Hulda Augusta Winters, became President Heber J. Grant’s second wife.



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