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

Chapter 16

Return to New Portage – Fire – Return to Kirtland – Mob – Journey eastward, as far as Maine – Return to Boston – Removal to Kirtland – A temple – School, endowments, prophesyings – Visions, etc. – Visit from Brother H. C. Kimball and others – My wife healed and blessed – A remarkable prophecy and its fulfillment – Mission to Canada -Falls of Niagara – Reflections.

February 21, 1835-April 22, 1836

After this solemn ordinance was completed, together with the blessings, charges and instructions connected therewith, I was instructed to prepare for a mission in the coming spring, in connection with my brethren of the quorum.

I now returned home to New Portage, and began to make preparations for my mission, but the state of my affairs was such that it seemed almost impossible for me to leave home; my wife was sick, my aged mother had come to live with me, and looked to me for support – age and infirmity having rendered my father unable to do for himself or family. [1] I was also engaged in building a house, and in other business, while at the same time I was somewhat in debt, and in want of most of the necessaries of life.

Under these embarrassed circumstances, I hesitated for a while whether to attempt to perform the mission assigned me, or stay at home and finish my building and mechanical work. While I pondered these things, with my mind unsettled, and continued my work, with a feeling of hesitation whether it was a duty to sacrifice all the labor and expense to which I had been in my preparations and unfinished work, or whether it was a duty to stay and complete it, I was called very suddenly to administer to a brother by the name of Matthews, who was taken suddenly and dangerously ill.

I found him writhing and groaning in the utmost agony, being cramped and convulsed in a horrible manner, while the family were in great consternation, and weeping around him. I kneeled down to pray, but in the midst of my prayer we were interrupted by the cry of fire! fire!! fire!!! We sprang from our knees, and ran towards my house, which was all in a blaze, being an unfinished, two story frame building, open to the fresh breeze and full of shavings, lumber, shingles, etc., while a family occupied a small apartment of the same, and no water near.

Our utmost exertions barely accomplished the removal of the family and their goods; the building, tools, boards, shingles, building materials, all were consumed in a few moments. Thus closed all my hesitation; my works of that nature were now all completed, and myself ready to fill my mission. One gave me a coat; another a hat; a third, house room; a fourth, provisions; while a fifth forgave me the debts due to them; and a sixth bade me God speed to hasten on my mission.

Taking an affectionate leave of my family [2] and friends in New Portage, I repaired to Kirtland, ready to accompany my brethren. While they made ready I paid a visit to an adjoining township called Mentor; and visiting from house to house, I attempted to preach to them; but they were full of lying and prejudice, and would not hear the Word. I then appointed a meeting in the open air, on the steps of a meeting house owned by a people called “Campbellites,” one Mr. Alexander Campbell being their leader; they having refused to open the house to me.

Some came to hear, and some to disturb the meeting; and one Mr. Newel soon appeared at the head of a mob of some fifty men and a band of music. These formed in order of battle and marched round several times near where I stood, drowning my voice with the noise of their drums and other instruments. I suspended my discourse several times as they passed, and then resumed. At length, finding that no disturbance of this kind would prevent the attempt to discharge my duty, they rushed upon me with one accord at a given signal, every man throwing an egg at my person. My forehead, bosom, and most of my body was completely covered with broken eggs. At this I departed, and walked slowly away, being insulted and followed by this rabble for some distance. I soon arrived in Kirtland, and was assisted by my kind friends in cleansing myself and clothes from the effects of this Christian benevolence.

All things being in readiness, and the spring fairly opened, the Twelve took their journey down Lake Erie, and landed at Dunkirk, [4] in the neighborhood of which we had appointed to hold a conference. [5] The members of the Church assembled from the region round, and the people turned out in great numbers. We addressed them in several interesting discourses, and had a good time; many seemed to receive the Word with joy, and some were baptized and added to the Church.

From thence we continued our journey through the Eastern States, holding conferences in every place where branches of the Church had been organized, ordaining and instructing Elders and other officers; exhorting the members to continue in prayer and in well doing; ministering to the sick and instructing the ignorant. [6] We also preached the Word, and baptized such as desired to be obedient to the faith; confirming them by the laying on of hands and prayer in the name of Jesus Christ; thus the Holy Ghost and the gifts thereof were shed forth among the people, and they had great joy. The month of August 1835, found us in the State of Maine, and the mission completed. [7]

We now returned to Boston, and from thence home to Kirtland, where we arrived sometime in October. After spending a few days in the society of the Saints in Kirtland, I repaired to New Portage, where I found my wife and mother in usual health, and was received with joy by them and the Saints. I now made preparation and removed to Kirtland, in order to be with the body of the Church at headquarters; and to improve every opportunity of obtaining instruction.

A portion of the Temple at Kirtland was now finished, and schools were opened in several apartments. The Presidency of the Church, the Twelve, and many others were organized into a school for the purpose of studying the Hebrew language. This study, and the meetings of the several quorums for instruction and endowment, occupied most of the winter. [8]

The ordinances of the priesthood were revealed to a greater extent than had been known among men since the prophets and Apostles of old fell asleep; and many were anointed to their holy calling, and were instructed in principles which were great and glorious in themselves, and calculated to enlarge the mind and prepare the chosen servants of God for the great work before them. [9] Many great and marvelous things were prophesied, which I am not at liberty to record, and many of which have since been fulfilled to the very letter. Many persons were carried away in the visions of the Spirit, and saw and heard unspeakable things; and many enjoyed the ministering of angels, and the gift of healing and of speaking in tongues. [10]

Spring at length returned, and the Elders prepared to take leave of each other, and to go on their several missions. As to myself, I was deeply in debt for the expenses of life during the winter, and on account of purchasing a lot, and building thereon. I, therefore, knew not what to do, whether to go on a mission or stay at home, and endeavor by industry to sustain my family and pay my debts.

It was now April; I had retired to rest one evening at an early hour, and was pondering my future course, when there came a knock at the door. I arose and opened it, when Elder Heber C. Kimball and others entered my house, and being filled with the spirit of prophecy, they blessed me and my wife, and prophesied as follows: [11]

“Brother Parley, thy wife shall be healed from this hour, and shall bear a son, and his name shall be Parley; and he shall be a chosen instrument in the hands of the Lord to inherit the priesthood and to walk in the steps of his father. He shall do a great work in the earth in ministering the Word and teaching the children of men. [12] Arise, therefore, and go forth in the ministry, nothing doubting. Take no thoughts for your debts, nor the necessaries of life, for the Lord will supply you with abundant means for all things.

“Thou shalt go to Upper Canada, even to the city of Toronto, the capital, and there thou shalt find a people prepared for the fulness of the gospel, and they shall receive thee, and thou shalt organize the Church among them, and it shall spread thence into the regions round about, and many shall be brought to the knowledge of the truth and shall be filled with joy; and 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. [13]

“You shall not only have means to deliver you from your present embarrassments, but you shall yet have riches, silver and gold, till you will loath the counting thereof.”

This prophecy was the more marvelous, because being married near ten years we had never had any children; and for near six years my wife had been consumptive, and had been considered incurable. However, we called to mind the faith of Abraham of old, and judging Him faithful who had promised, we took courage. [14]

I now began in earnest to prepare for the mission, and in a few days all was ready. I took an affectionate leave of my wife, mother and friends, and started for Canada in company with a brother Nickerson, [15] who kindly offered to bear my expenses. After a long and tedious passage in a public coach (the roads being very bad and the lake not open), we arrived at the Falls of Niagara sometime in the month of April, 1836. [16]

As this was my first visit to this place it made a deep and awful impression on my mind. We halted a short time to view this wonder of nature, and to adore that God who had formed a world so sublimely grand. The leaping of a mighty river of waters over a perpendicular fall of one hundred and sixty feet, the foaming and dashing of its white spray upon the rocks beneath; the rising cloud of mist with its glittering rainbow, the yawning gulf with its thousand whirlpools; all conspired to fill the contemplative mind with wonder and admiration, and with reverence to the Great Author of all the wonders of creation; while its everlasting roar which may be heard for many miles distant, seemed a lively emblem of eternity.

While musing on this spot, I fell into the following train of reflection: O, Niagara! Generations may pass in long succession; ages may roll away and others still succeed; empires may rise and flourish, and pass away and be forgotten; but still thy deafening, thy solemn and awful voice is heard in one eternal roar. The temples of marble may moulder to dust, the monuments of the great may crumble to decay, the palaces of kings fall to ruin and their very place become unknown, their history forgotten in the almost countless ages of antiquity; and still thy sound is heard in everlasting moan, as if mourning over the ruins of by-gone years.

With deepest eloquence thou seemest to speak in awful pride, saying: “Before Abraham was, I am;” and with mingled feelings of pity and contempt thou seemest to inquire:-

Where now is Nimrod’s mighty tower? Where the
Majestic walls, the warlike battlements,
The splendid palaces, the hanging gardens
Of Babylon?
Where the proud Nebuchadnezzar, who, with
Golden sceptre, swayed the world, and made
The nations tremble? Where the proud Nineveh,-
The strong Thebes, with its hundred gates?
The golden Tyre, the splendid Athens, the
Majestic Rome, with all their works of art-
Their monuments of fame, once the pride
And glory of the world?
Where the mighty Pharaohs, the terrible
Alexanders, the invincible Caesars,
The warlike Hannibal? Tyrants in turn.
Where now the gifted poets, the splendid
Orators, the profound philosophers
Of Greece and Rome, whose mighty genius
Hurled royal tyrants headlong from their thrones,-
Made senates weep or laugh at will, and ruled
The nations? They are swept away by time;
Their beauty, like the morning flower, is withered
Their pride and glory gone like leaves of autumn;-
Their grandest works are fast decaying,
   But still my store house is unexhausted,
Mouldering to ruin, soon to be forgotten.
My fountain full and overflowing-my
Solid munitions of rocks stand secure.-
My voice as mighty as when the beauteous
Colors of the rainbow first sported in
The sunbeams:-
As when the intelligences of olden worlds
First gazed with admiration upon my
Expanded waters; or, animated at
The music of my voice joined in the chorus,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy.
   But, boast not, O proud Niagara! Though
Thou mayest withstand the ravages of time,-
While countless millions, swept away with all
Their mighty works, are lost in following years.-
Yet there is a voice to speak, long and loud;
‘Tis Michael’s trump, whose mighty blast shall rend
Thy rocks, and bow thy lofty mountains in the dust,
Before whose awful presence thy waters
Blush in retiring modesty; and in
Respectful silence thou shalt stand in listening
Wonder, and admire, while thunders roll
Majestic round the sky, the lightnings play,-
The mountains sink-the valleys rise-till Earth,
Restored to its original, receives
Its final rest, and groans and sighs no more.
   Till then, weep on, and let thy voice ascend
In solemn music to the skies,-’tis like
A funeral dirge,-’tis fit to weep o’er the miseries
Of a fallen world in anguish deep.



[1] Charity, Parley’s mother, was now fifty-nine, while Jared Pratt, Parley’s father, was sixty-six.

[2] Parley had no children at this time, but he frequently referred to his wife as his “family.” His parents often stayed in his home, and on this occasion he bade farewell to his wife and mother.

[3] Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) was the same man who had preached with Sidney Rigdon in Mentor. Campbell formed the Disciples of Christ, an independent society based on Baptist views that used the Bible as its standard. For forty years he edited The Christian Baptist, an early religious magazine (1823-63). He also founded Bethany College in West Virginia. Many of Campbell’s earliest proselytes converted to the Church (Smith, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:478).

[4] Dunkirk is located 110 miles northeast of Fairport Harbor (from whence the Brethren would have left Ohio), in Chautauqua County, New York. This is not far from where Parley had tried to make it on his own as a teenager in Oswego, New York.

[5] The Brethren met in Dunkirk on May 5, 1835, and the conference was held in Westfield, Chautauqua County, on May 9, 1835 (see Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 79).

[6] While at Sackett’s Harbor, where Parley had preached before, Heber C. Kimball “received a letter from his wife, apprising him of the birth of his son, Heber P., at Kirtland, on the 1st of June. His joy found vent in a characteristic burst of humor. He propounded the following riddle to the brethren: ‘I have three children now, and have not seen one of them.’ This was quite a puzzle to them, until he explained that the one he referred to was the infant born since he left home” (Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 81).

[7] The mission ended in Farmington, Maine (about seventy miles north of Portland), on August 28, 1835.

[8] This session of the School of the Prophets commenced on November 2, 1835. On January 18, 1836, the school moved into the upper rooms of the Kirtland Temple. Joshua Seixas, an instructor at a seminary in Hudson, Ohio, taught Hebrew at the school. Forty-five students initially enrolled for a series of one-hour lectures (Anderson, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland, 118).

[9] Heber C. Kimball recorded: “We had been commanded to prepare ourselves for a solemn assembly. At length the time arrived for this assembly to meet; previous to which the Prophet Joseph exhorted the Elders to solemnize their minds, by casting away every evil from them, in thought, word, and deed, and to let their hearts become sanctified, because they need not expect a blessing from God without being duly prepared for it, for the Holy Ghost would not dwell in unholy temples… When the Prophet Joseph had finished the endowments… the whole of the quorums responded to it with a loud shout of Hosanna! Hosanna! etc.

“While these things were being attended to the beloved disciple John was seen in our midst by the Prophet Joseph, Oliver Cowdery and others… [On April 6] the meeting continued on through the night; the spirit of prophecy was poured out upon the assembly, and cloven tongues of fire sat upon them; for they were seen by many of the congregation. Also angels administered to many, for they were also seen by many” (Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 91-93).

[10] Although it is clear from his records that Parley did not attend the dedication of the Kirtland Temple on Sunday, March 27, 1836, it is evident that he either participated in or was informed of the marvelous workings of the Spirit that for approximately five months were prevalent among the Saints in Kirtland. Orson Pratt described those days: “God was there, his angels were there, the Holy Ghost was in the midst of the people, the visions of the Almighty were opened to the minds of the servants of the living God; the vail was taken off from the minds of many; they saw the heavens opened; they beheld the angels of God; they heard the voice of the Lord; and they were filled from the crown of their heads to the soles of their feet with the power and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and uttered forth prophecies in the midst of that congregation, which have been fulfilling from that day to the present time” (Journal of Discourses, 18:132). The Prophet Joseph recorded: “Elder Roger Orton saw a mighty angel riding upon a horse of fire, with a flaming sword in his hand, followed by five others, encircle the house, and protect the Saints… President William Smith, one of the Twelve, saw the heavens opened, and the Lord’s host protecting the Lord’s anointed. President Zebedee Coltrin… saw the Savior extended before him, as upon the cross, and a little after, crowned with glory upon his head above the brightness of the sun” (Smith, History of the Church, 2:386-87). During this same season, Harrison Burgess testified: “The Lord blessed His people abundantly in that Temple with the Spirit of prophecy, the ministering of angels, visions, etc. I will here relate a vision which was shown to me. It was near the close of the endowments. I was in a meeting for instruction in the upper part of the Temple, with about a hundred of the High Priests, Seventies, and Elders. The Saints felt to shout ‘Hosannah!’ and the Spirit of God rested upon me in mighty power and I beheld the room lighted up with a peculiar light such as I had never seen before. It was soft and clear and the room looked to me as though it had neither roof nor floor to the building and I beheld the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum Smith and Roger Orton enveloped in the light: Joseph exclaimed aloud, ‘I behold the Savior, the Son of God.’ Hyrum said, ‘I behold the angels of heaven.’ Brother Orton exclaimed, ‘I behold the chariots of Israel.’ All who were in the room felt the power of God to that degree that many prophesied, and the power of God was made manifest, the remembrance of which will remain with me while I live upon the earth” (Anderson, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland, 175-76).

[11] The spirit of prophecy was poured out upon the Saints in rich abundance at this time. Heber C. Kimball was especially susceptible to the Spirit.

[12] Parley and Thankful had been married for nearly nine years and had not been able to have any children due primarily to Thankful’s poor health and tuberculosis. Parley P. Pratt Jr. was born less than a year after this prophecy on March 25, 1837. In December 1873, he published his martyred father’s autobiography – a work that has touched the lives of thousands of Saints throughout the world.

[13] The fulfillment of this prophecy is almost incalculable in its effect upon the history of the Church. Parley’s mission to upper Canada yielded key contacts that opened missionary work in Preston, England, and then throughout the entire British Isles. From this contact, scores of thousands of converts came into the fold of Christ.

[14] See Romans 4:16-22.

[15] This was likely Moses Nickerson (1804-71), son of Freeman and Huldah Chapman Nickerson. Moses, an early convert along with his family, had a mercantile business in Ontario, Canada, at this time (Smith, Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:575).

[16] Parley was likely at the falls on April 22, 1836.


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