The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt – Revised and Enhanced Edition
Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor
Labors in Clay County – Conference – Appointment to a tedious journey – A case of healing – Arrive at Kirtland – Revelation – Travel eastward, in company with President Joseph Smith – Conference in Geneseo – Pleasing reminiscence – President Smith and others return home – Visit Sackett’s Harbor – Crowded meeting – Requested to visit the sick – A little boy healed – Baptisms, etc. – Miraculous gifts – Lying priests and rabble – Visit my parents in Canaan, N.Y. – Return to Kirtland.
November 8, 1833-Late April 1834
As the history of this horrible persecution of the Church was interwoven with my own, I have traced it for a few years in connection; in which I have of necessity digressed from the main thread of my own personal narrative, to which I must return.
After making our escape into the county of Clay – being reduced to the lowest poverty – I made a living by day labor, jobbing, building, or wood cutting, till some time in the winter of 1834, when a general Conference was held at my house, in which it was decided that two of the Elders should be sent to Ohio, in order to counsel with President Smith and the Church at Kirtland, and take some measures for the relief or restoration of the people thus plundered and driven from their homes. The question was put to the Conference: “Who would volunteer to perform so great a journey?”
The poverty of all, and the inclement season of the year made all hesitate. At length Lyman Wight and myself offered our services, which were readily accepted. I was at this time entirely destitute of proper clothing for the journey; and I had neither horse, saddle, bridle, money nor provisions to take with me; or to leave with my wife, who lay sick and helpless most of the time.
Under these circumstances I knew not what to do. Nearly all had been robbed and plundered, and all were poor. As we had to start without delay, I almost trembled at the undertaking; it seemed to be all but an impossibility; but “to him that believeth all things are possible.”
I started out of my house to do something towards making preparation; I hardly knew which way to go, but I found myself in the house of brother John Lowry, and was intending to ask him for money; but as I entered his miserable cottage in the swamp, amid the low, timbered bottoms of the Missouri river, I found him sick in bed with a heavy fever, and two or three others of his family down with the same complaint, on different beds in the same room. He was vomiting severely, and was hardly sensible of my presence.
I thought to myself, “well, this is a poor place to come for money, and yet I must have it; I know of no one else that has got it; what shall I do?” I sat a little while confounded and amazed. At length another Elder happened in; at that instant faith sprung up in my heart; the Spirit whispered to me, “is there anything too hard for the Lord?” I said to the Elder that came in: “Brother, I am glad you have come; these people must be healed, for I want some money of them, and must have it.”
We laid hands on them and rebuked the disease; brother Lowry rose up well; I did my errand, and readily obtained all I asked. This provided in part for my family’s sustenance while I should leave them.
I went a little further into the woods of the Missouri bottoms, and came to a camp of some brethren, by the name of Higbee, who owned some horses; they saw me coming, and, moved by the Spirit, one of them said to the other, “there comes brother Parley; he’s in want of a horse for his journey – I must let him have old Dick;” this being the name of the best horse he had. “Yes,” said I, “brother, you have guessed right; but what will I do for a saddle?” “Well,” says the other, “I believe I’ll have to let you have mine.” I blessed them and went on my way rejoicing.
I next called on Sidney A. Gilbert,1 a merchant, then sojourning in the village of Liberty – his store in Jackson County having been broken up, and his goods plundered and destroyed by the mob. “Well,” says he, “brother Parley, you certainly look too shabby to start a journey; you must have a new suit; I have got some remnants left that will make you a coat,” etc. A neighboring tailoress and two or three other sisters happened to be present on a visit, and hearing the conversation, exclaimed, “Yes, brother Gilbert, you find the stuff and we’ll make it up for him.” This arranged, I now lacked only a cloak; this was also furnished by brother Gilbert.
Brother Wight was also prospered in a similar manner in his preparations. Thus faith and the blessings of God had cleared up our way to accomplish what seemed impossible. We were soon ready, and on the first of February we mounted our horses, and started in good cheer to ride one thousand or fifteen hundred miles through a wilderness country. We had not one cent of money in our pockets on starting.
We travelled every day, whether through storm or sunshine, mud, rain or snow; except when our public duties called us to tarry. We arrived in Kirtland early in the spring,2 all safe and sound; we had lacked for nothing on the road, and now had plenty of funds in hand. President Joseph Smith and the Church in Kirtland received us with a hospitality and joy unknown except among the Saints; and much interest was felt there, as well as elsewhere, on the subject of our persecution.
The President inquired of the Lord concerning the matter, and a further mission was appointed us.3 In fulfilment of which we continued our journey eastward, in connection with President Joseph Smith, S. Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Frederick G. Williams, Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt.
We journeyed two and two in different routes, visiting the churches and instructing the people as we travelled. President Joseph Smith and myself journeyed together. We had a pleasant and prosperous mission among the churches, and some very interesting times in preaching to the public.
We visited Freedom, Catteraugus County, N.Y.; tarried over Sunday,4 and preached several discourses, to which the people listened with great interest; we were kindly and hospitably entertained among them. We baptized a young man named Heman Hyde;5 his parents were Presbyterians, and his mother, on account of the strength of her traditions, thought that we were wrong, and told me afterwards that she would much rather have followed him to an earthly grave than to have seen him baptized.
Soon afterwards, however, herself, her husband, and the rest of the family, with some thirty or forty others, were all baptized and organized into a branch of the Church – called the Freedom branch – from which nucleus the light spread and souls were gathered into the fold in all the regions round. Thus mightily grew the word of God, or the seed sown by that extraordinary personage, the Prophet and Seer of the nineteenth century.
As we journeyed day after day, and generally lodged together, we had much sweet communion concerning the things of God and the mysteries of His kingdom, and I received many admonitions and instructions which I shall never forget.
Arriving in Geneseo, we met with the other Elders who had started from Kirtland on the same mission, and with others who were local, and held a general Conference. Among those whose hospitality we shared in that vicinity was old father Beeman and his amiable and interesting family. He was a good singer, and so were his three daughters; we were much edified and comforted in their society, and were deeply interested in hearing the old gentleman and brother Joseph converse on their early acquaintance and history.6 He had been intimate with Joseph long before the first organization of the Church; had assisted him to preserve the plates of the Book of Mormon from the enemy, and had at one time had them concealed under his own hearth.
At this Conference we had an interesting time; public meetings were convened; multitudes assembled to hear, and Presidents Joseph Smith and S. Rigdon addressed the crowds in great plainness of speech with mighty power. At the close of this Conference we again parted company, President Smith and most of the Elders returned home to Kirtland.7
I then journeyed in connection with a young Elder, named H. Brown, as far as Henderson County, in northern New York, where lived Elder Brown’s father, and where there was quite a branch of the Church. I visited with them for a few days, resting from my toils and ministering among them.
Taking leave of these friends, I went to Sackett’s Harbor, where all were yet strangers to the fulness of the gospel. Leaving an appointment at a hotel that I would return in a few days thence, and address the people wherever they saw fit to assemble, I crossed over the bay to a country neighborhood, called Pillar Point. In this neighborhood there had been some preaching by our Elders; but no branch of the Church organized, though there had been one or two instances of healing, and some few were believing. Here I appointed a meeting for evening in a school house; it was crowded full of people; indeed, all could not get in.
As the meeting closed a man named William Cory stepped forward, and earnestly begged of me to go home with him and minister to his wife, as she was lying at the point of death in consequence of a lingering sickness, not having risen up in her bed for six days without swooning or going into fits. He further said that he was worn out by being up with her every night, and that his neighbors were weary with watching, and it was doubted whether she could survive through the night without relief.
The Spirit would not suffer me to go with him that night, but I promised to call in the morning. At this many voices were heard, saying: “Yes, yes, there’s a case in hand; let him heal her and we’ll all believe.” Others exclaimed: “I wonder if she’ll be at his meeting tomorrow! We shall see, and if so, we’ll all believe.” Expressions like these, joined with my own weakness, only tended to dampen my courage and confidence in the case.
I went home with a friend who invited me to partake of his hospitality for the night. As we entered his house, we found one of his children very sick with a violent pain in the head, to which it had been subject from its birth, and which came at regular periods, and was never relieved till it gathered and broke at his ear – so said his parents. The little fellow was rolling from side to side in his bed, and screeching and screaming with pain. I stepped to the bedside, and laid my hands upon his head in the name of Jesus Christ; he was instantly made whole and went to sleep. Next morning he got up well, and continued so; he said that the pain all left him as soon as my hands touched his head.
In the morning, before I arose, I had a vision, as follows: I saw a log house, and entered it through a door at the northwest corner; in the northeast corner lay a woman sick in bed; in the southeast corner was a small door opening into an adjoining room, and near it a stairway, where stood a ladder; the fireplace being in the south end. As I entered the house and laid my hands on the woman, she rose up and was made whole; the house being crowded, she took her seat near the fire and under the ladder, or near by it, and she praised God with a shout of glory, clapping her hands for joy, and exclaimed: “Thank God, I’m every whit whole.” I awoke from my vision and related the same to the family where I stayed.
The man harnessed his horses, and with seven or eight persons in the wagon, including myself, we started for meeting, intending to call and see Mrs. Cory on our way, as I had appointed the previous evening. On alighting at her house I saw it was the same that I had seen in the vision; there were the doors, the stairway, ladder, fireplace, bed, and sick woman, just as I had seen and described.
I laid my hands upon the woman, and said: “In the name of Jesus Christ, be thou made whole this instant.” I then commanded her to arise and walk. Her husband burst into tears; the people looked surprised; but the woman arose and walked to the fire, and happened to take her seat near the ladder, as I had related in the vision before I saw her. She then clapped her hands for joy, gave a shout of “Glory to God in the highest,” and testified that she was every whit whole.
We invited her to accompany us to the meeting; she immediately made ready, walked out, helped herself into the wagon, and rode some two miles over a very rough road. She then got out of the wagon, and walked with a strong and quick step into the meeting, where she sat till the discourse was over; when she arose and testified what the Lord had done for her. She then rode home, and was baptized in connection with several others, who came forward and obeyed the fulness of the gospel. We afterwards laid our hands on them for the gift of the Holy Ghost, when it fell upon them in great power, insomuch that all in the room felt its power and influence and glorified God; some spake in tongues, others prophesied and bore testimony to the truth.
The next evening I went over to Sackett’s Harbor in order to preach; many of the people from Pillar Point, who had witnessed these things, went with me, and, among others, Mr. Cory with his wife, who had been so miraculously healed. A great rabble came out to hear, or rather to disturb the meeting; and among others, some half dozen clergymen of different orders, who were loud in their challenges and calls for miracles; “give us a miracle – we want a miracle – heal the sick – raise the dead, and then we’ll believe.” The lying, rage, and confusion excited by these wicked spirits, broke up the meeting, and I had much ado to get out of the crowd without being stoned or torn to pieces.
After tarrying a few days in this region, I took leave and continued my journey as far as Columbia County, east of the Hudson. I arrived at my Aunt Van Cott’s, and found them all well; paid a visit to my father and mother; gave them money sufficient to enable them to remove to Kirtland, Ohio, and then commenced my return.8 I had started from the frontiers of Missouri and ridden on horseback fifteen hundred miles.
As I returned towards the West, I came to the town of Freedom, Catteraugus County, N.Y., where President Joseph Smith and myself had preached on our outward journey, a few weeks previously, and where we had baptized a young man by the name of Heman Hyde, as the first fruits in that place. As I called for the night, I found that a large church had been gathered during my absence, consisting of some forty members or more, principally through the labors of my brother Orson. The new members, and the people in general, rejoiced to see me, and aided me on my journey; and Heman Hyde accompanied me to Kirtland, where we arrived the latter part of April,9 and were kindly and hospitably entertained by President Joseph Smith.
1. Algernon Sidney Gilbert, who had been called by revelation (see D&C 53) to set up a store in western Missouri, had been a partner with Newel K. Whitney in the store at Kirtland, Ohio.
2. Sometime before February 24, 1834.
3. See D&C 103. This revelation was given on February 24, 1834, in Joseph Smith’s home, located just north of the Kirtland Temple.
4. March 2, 1834.
5. Heman Hyde was baptized on March 11, 1834 (Smith, History of the Church, 2:43).
6. This conference was held March 17, 1834, at Alva Beaman’s home in Avon, New York. Alva Beaman was Joseph’s old friend from Palmyra. He was later called to the Missouri High Council. One of Alva’s daughters, Louisa Beaman, became the Prophet’s first plural wife (Smith, Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:xvi).
7. Of this conference, the Prophet said: “I stated that the object of the Conference was to obtain young and middle-aged men to go and assist in the redemption of Zion, according to the commandment; and for the Church to gather up their riches, and send them to purchase lands according to the commandment of the Lord; also to devise means, or obtain money for the relief of the brethren in Kirtland, say two thousand dollars, which sum would deliver the Church in Kirtland from debt; and also determine the course which the several companies shall pursue, or the manner they shall journey when they shall leave this place” (Smith, History of the Church, 2:44).
8. Parley’s father, Jared, was sixty-four years old. The life expectancy of a male at this time in the United States was fifty.
9. Parley likely arrived in Kirtland the end of April 1834.
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