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

Chapter 11

Attend conference – Instantaneous healing – Return eastward – Description of the inhabitants on the south side of the Missouri River – Strange manifestation – Arrive at St. Louis – Preaching and entertainment – Arrive at Vandalia – Reception – Exposure in crossing an over-flowed bottom – Dialogue – Hospitality of a preacher – Deaf landlord – Meet my wife.

February 1832-May 1832

Some time in February, 1832, a Conference was held by Bishop Partridge and the Elders remaining in this part of the country. To this Conference I was determined to go, though very feeble and almost unable to sit up. I was assisted on to a horse, and rode twelve miles. [1] I kept my bed during the Conference; but at the close, several Elders being about to take their journey to Ohio, I determined to go with them. I requested the Elders, therefore, to lay their hands on me and pray. They did so. I was instantly healed, and the next morning started in company with Elder Levi Hancock, [2] a journey of twelve hundred miles on foot.

I gained strength at every step, and the second evening, after wading through the snow about six inches deep for some ten miles, I was enabled to address a congregation for the first time in several months.

I now parted with Levi Hancock, and had John Murdock [3] for a fellow traveller. We passed down the south side of the Missouri river, among a thin settlement of people – mostly very ignorant but extremely hospitable. Some families were entirely dressed in skins, without any other clothing; including ladies young and old. Buildings were generally without glass windows, and the door open in winter for a light. We preached, and warned the people, and taught them as well as we could.

While ministering in these settlements, and exposed to a heavy snow storm, brother John Murdock was taken sick with a heavy fever; this caused us to stop early in the day among strangers, in a small log cabin consisting of one room; we held a meeting in the evening, and then had a bed made down on the floor, before the fire.

Before morning brother Murdock was much better, but I was seized with a most dreadful chill, followed by a heavy turn of fever; morning found me unable to rise or speak. As the bed was in the way, they lifted it by the four corners, with me on it, and placed it in the back part of the room, on another bed.

Here I lay, entirely helpless with a burning fever, during which I distinctly heard a dialogue between John Murdock and the lady of the house; she upbraiding us as imposters thrown upon them at this inclement season, while they were out of milling and of wood, and but illy prepared for such a burden; that one was sick the night before, and now the other was taken down; that it was six miles to the next house, deep snow and no road broke, and we would probably be on their hands for weeks.

To these inhospitable remarks brother Murdock mildly replied, trying to soothe the woman; reasoning with her, and telling her that brother Parley would soon be better, and then we would go our way.

This dialogue gave me such a sense of unwelcome, and I pitied brother Murdock to that degree for having to stay with such spirits on my account, that I felt I could endure it no longer. With the utmost effort I roused myself sufficiently to call brother Murdock to my bed, whispering to him to lay hands on me unobserved, so as not to be seen or overheard. He did so; I then asked him to give me a drink of water. The effort had been too much, I swooned away while he was gone for the water; he could hardly arouse me sufficiently to drink of it; it was like waking from the dead. I drank of it, bounded on my feet, dressed myself, put on my shoes and hat, and told him I was ready to start.

The family all marvelled; one exclaimed, “what a strange disease; it could not be fever, and then be cured in an instant.” We gave no explanations, but started on our journey up a steep hill, in the deep snow, in the midst of their urgings to stay to breakfast, or at least have a cup of coffee. I said nothing, but thought to myself: ye hypocrites, to murmur as you have, and then ask me to stay and eat.

We travelled on for some miles nearly in silence – I waiting all the while for brother Murdock to make some remarks referring to our inhospitable treatment, and the dialogue with the mistress of the house.

At last I broke silence. Said I, “Brother Murdock, how did you feel to be so talked to by that woman? I thought you bore it with great patience, and I pitied you from my heart, or I never should have had faith and courage to be thus healed and start my journey.”

He replied that no such conversation had occurred between him and the lady, nor had she uttered one word indicative of any such inhospitable feeling.

“Well,” said I, “I heard it articulated in plain English by some two persons, perfectly imitating her voice and yours; it was no imagination, or raging delirium of a fever. I can swear I heard a conversation to that effect for a length of time.

“If it was not the lady and yourself, then it was something from an invisible world, which clearly revealed to me the spirit of our hostess.”

We reached the next house; I was a well man; found good quarters, and we were kindly and hospitably entertained for some days.

Pursuing our journey, we arrived at St. Louis, were kindly received by some citizens of that place, and held meeting with them. They conveyed us over the Mississippi free of charge, and we continued our journey, preaching by the way. We arrived at length at Vandalia, the then capital of Illinois. Here we were invited to a hotel, where we sojourned free of charge, and preached to a good audience in the Presbyterian meeting house.

Next morning resuming our journey, we crossed the Okah river on a bridge, but the bottoms for two or three miles were overflowed to various depths, from six inches to three or four feet, and frozen over, except in the main channels, with a coat of ice, which we had to break by lifting our feet to the surface at every step. This occupied some hours and called into requisi­tion our utmost strength, and sometimes we were entirely covered with water. At length we got through in safety and came to a house where we warmed and dried our clothes and took some whiskey. Our legs and feet had lost all feeling, became benumbed, and were dreadfully bruised and cut with the ice.

On the next day we had to cross a plain fifteen miles in length, without a house, a tree, or any kind of shelter; a cold northwest wind was blowing, and the ground covered with snow and ice. We had made two or three miles into the plain when I was attacked with a severe return of my old complaint, which had confined me so many months in Jackson County, and from which I had recovered by a miracle at the outset of this journey – I mean the fever and ague.

I travelled and shook, and shook and travelled, till I could stand it no longer; I vomited severely several times, and finally fell down on the snow, overwhelmed with fever, and became helpless and nearly insensible. This was about seven or eight miles from the nearest house.

Brother John Murdock laid his hands on me and prayed in the name of Jesus; and, taking me by the hand, he commanded me with a loud voice, saying: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth arise and walk!” I attempted to arise, I staggered a few paces, and was about falling again when I found my fever suddenly depart and my strength come. I walked at the rate of about four miles per hour, arrived at a house, and was sick no more.

We continued our journey, preaching by the way, and crossing the Wabash at Vincennes, [4] we stopped in that vicinity for several days, drawing crowded houses. Here we met with Elders Dustin and Bebee, who left Jackson County, Missouri, when we did, and for the same purpose.

“Well, brethren, how do you do?” said we to them.

“Tolerably well; only we have spent ten dollars each which was given us by the Bishop when we started, and we have sold books and spent the avails of them; and besides this we have been compelled to borrow money in a certain branch of the Church, and have spent that also; and we think it hard to travel for the public good and this at our own charges.”

“Ah!” said I, “and how is this? we have not yet spent the first cent since we left the Church in Jackson County; nor shall we have any occasion for any spending money for weeks to come. Where did you stay last night?”

“In the large village of Washington.” [5]

“Did you preach to the people?”

“Yes; in the Court House.”

“Did they charge you for your keeping?”

“Yes. A dollar and a quarter.”

“Well, we are going there tonight, and, although entire strangers, we shall be well entertained free of charge, preach or no preach.”

“How do you do it?” said they.

“O, we hold up our heads like honest men; go to the best houses, call for the best they have, make known our calling, pray with, or preach to them, ask for their bill on taking leave, but they will take nothing from us; but always invite us to call again.”

“Well, they will not treat you so in Washington tonight; you will have to pay a good round sum.”

“Well, we shall see.”

We took leave of them and of the good people where we had been preaching, having first sent an appointment by the mail carrier, that if the inhabitants of Washington would get together we would address them that evening.

We entered the town at dark, stopped at a hotel, called for lodging and supper and a room for ourselves; and asked the landlord if a meeting had been got up for us. He said the mail carrier brought the news of our appointment, but he believed it had been neglected to be given out; was very sorry, made many apologies, and still offered to have the bell rung and the people assembled if we wished. We told him we were glad of an opportunity to rest, and did not wish a meeting at so late an hour.

We retired to our room and made no further acquaintance. Next morning on taking leave, we asked what was to pay. He answered, “not anything,” said we were welcome to his hospitality at any time, and bid us call again.

Leaving Washington, we were next entertained by a very hospitable preacher of the Christian order, whose name I have forgotten. We tarried at his house a week or two, and preached to crowded congregations in all the region; he frequently going with us to introduce us and open the way. While here, having a little leisure between appointments, I went alone and on foot to the town of Madison, [6] about nine miles from his house.

My design was to get out an appointment and preach, which came to pass the same evening in the following manner: I stepped into a hotel, they were all at dinner, I placed the Book of Mormon on a public table and sat down to read a newspaper; soon the boarders came out, and one by one looked at the Book, and inquired whose it was; soon the landlord came out, who I learned was so very deaf that one could only be heard by placing mouth to ear and shouting at the very top of the voice. He caught up the Book and inquired, “Whose is this?”

I arose, placed my arm round his neck, and my mouth close to his ear, and shouted, “IT IS MINE, AND I HAVE COME TO PREACH!!” This was so loud that it almost alarmed the town. He welcomed me to entertainment free of charge, had the Court House opened, the town notified, and evening found me in the judge’s seat, a reporter in the clerk’s desk, and a crowded audience. I had good liberty and all seemed much interested.

After a few days we resumed our journey, and in May arrived in Kirtland, where I again met my wife after an absence of one year and seven months. [7]


[1] Parley was living in the Kaw Township, which was about twelve miles west of the settlement of Independence, where Bishop Edward Partridge was living.

[2] Levi Hancock was a convert and friend of Parley from Ohio. In Levi’s history, he recorded that this journey together began in the middle of January 1832 (Hancock, Life of Levi Hancock, 47).

[3] John Murdock (1792-1871) was fifteen years Parley’s senior. The year previous to this mission, on April 30, 1831, John lost his wife, Julia Clapp Murdock, in childbirth with twins. The twins were adopted by the Prophet Joseph and his wife, Emma, and were named Julia Smith and Joseph Murdock Smith. Before John Murdock returned from this mission, little eleven-month-old Joseph Murdock Smith had died. His death occurred five days after he suffered exposure the night of March 24, 1832, when the Prophet was dragged from his bed and beaten in Hiram, Ohio.

[4] Vincennes is located on the border of Illinois and Indiana in Knox County, Indiana.

[5] Washington is located in Daviess County, Indiana, fifteen miles east of Vincennes.

[6] Madison is located a few miles east of Washington.

[7] Parley had not seen Thankful since he left on his mission with Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Ziba Peterson to the Lamanites from Fayette, New York, in October 1830.



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