Visit the Delawares of Kansas — Interview with the chief and council — Speech and reply — Great excitement — Opposition from missionaries — Compelled to leave the Indian country — Ministry in Jackson County — Council in Independence — Return eastward — Disguise — Hospitality of a family of the Saints — Dialogue — Sickness — Reunion with President Joseph Smith — Mission to the Shakers — Ministry among the churches — False spirits — Inquire of the Lord — Mode of receiving revelations.

February 1831–May 1831

Two of our number now commenced work as tailors in the village of Independence, while the others crossed the frontier line and commenced a mission among the Lamanites, or Indians.

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Passing through the tribe of Shawnees we tarried one night with them, and the next day crossed the Kansas river and entered among the Delawares. We immediately inquired for the residence of the principal Chief, and were soon introduced to an aged and venerable looking man, who had long stood at the head of the Delawares, and been looked up to as the Great Grandfather, or Sachem [1] of ten nations or tribes.

He was seated on a sofa of furs, skins and blankets, before a fire in the center of his lodge; which was a comfortable cabin, consisting of two large rooms.

His wives were neatly dressed, partly in calicoes and partly in skins; and wore a vast amount of silver ornaments. As we entered his cabin he took us by the hand with a hearty welcome, and then motioned us to be seated on a pleasant seat of blankets, or robes. His wives, at his bidding, set before us a tin pan full of beans and corn boiled up together, which proved to be good eating; although three of us made use alternately of the same wooden spoon.

There was an interpreter present and through him we commenced to make known our errand, and to tell him of the Book of Mormon. [2] We asked him to call the council of his nation together and give us a hearing in full. He promised to consider on it till next day, in the meantime recommending us to a certain Mr. Pool for entertainment; this was their blacksmith, employed by government.

The man entertained us kindly and comfortably. Next morning we again called on Mr. Anderson, the old chief, and explained to him something of the Book. He was at first unwilling to call his council; made several excuses, and finally refused; as he had ever been opposed to the introduction of missionaries among his tribe.

We continued the conversation a little longer, till he at last began to understand the nature of the Book. He then changed his mind; became suddenly interested, and requested us to proceed no further with our conversation till he could call a council. He despatched a messenger, and in about an hour had some forty men collected around us in his lodge, who, after shaking us by the hand, were seated in silence; and in a grave and dignified manner awaited the announcement of what we had to offer. The chief then requested us to proceed; or rather, begin where we began before, and to complete our communication. Elder Cowdery then commenced as follows:

“Aged Chief and Venerable Council of the Delaware nation; we are glad of this opportunity to address you as our red brethren and friends. We have travelled a long distance from towards the rising sun to bring you glad news; we have travelled the wilderness, crossed the deep and wide rivers, and waded in the deep snows, and in the face of the storms of winter, to communicate to you great knowledge which has lately come to our ears and hearts; and which will do the red man good as well as the pale face.

“Once the red men were many; they occupied the country from sea to sea — from the rising to the setting sun; the whole land was theirs; the Great Spirit gave it to them, and no pale faces dwelt among them. But now they are few in numbers; their possessions are small, and the pale faces are many.

“Thousands of moons ago, when the red men’s forefathers dwelt in peace and possessed this whole land, the Great Spirit talked with them, and revealed His law and His will, and much knowledge to their wise men and prophets. This they wrote in a Book; together with their history, and the things which should befall their children in the latter days.

“This Book was written on plates of gold, and handed down from father to son for many ages and generations.

“It was then that the people prospered, and were strong and mighty; they cultivated the earth; built buildings and cities, and abounded in all good things, as the pale faces now do.

“But they became wicked; they killed one another and shed much blood; they killed their prophets and wise men, and sought to destroy the Book. The Great Spirit became angry, and would speak to them no more; they had no more good and wise dreams; no more visions; no more angels sent among them by the Great Spirit; and the Lord commanded Mormon and Moroni, their last wise men and prophets, to hide the Book in the earth, that it might be preserved in safety, and be found and made known in the latter day to the pale faces who should possess the land; that they might again make it known to the red man; in order to restore them to the knowledge of the will of the Great Spirit and to His favor. And if the red man would then receive this Book and learn the things written in it, and do according thereunto, they should cease to fight and kill one another; should become one people; cultivate the earth in peace, in common with the pale faces, who were willing to believe and obey the same Book, and be good men and live in peace.

“Then should the red men become great, and have plenty to eat and good clothes to wear, and should be in favor with the Great Spirit and be his children, while he would be their Great Father, and talk with them, and raise up prophets and wise and good men amongst them again, who should teach them many things.

“This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the State of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County.

“In that neighborhood there lived a young man named Joseph Smith, who prayed to the Great Spirit much, in order that he might know the truth; and the Great Spirit sent an angel to him, and told him where this Book was hid by Moroni; and commanded him to go and get it. He accordingly went to the place, and dug in the earth, and found the Book written on golden plates. [3]

“But it was written in the language of the forefathers of the red man; therefore this young man, being a pale face, could not understand it; but the angel told him and showed him, and gave him knowledge of the language, and how to interpret the Book.


So he interpreted it into the language of the pale faces, and wrote it on paper, and caused it to be printed, and published thousands of copies of among them; and then sent us to the red men to bring some copies of it to them, and to tell them this news. So we have now come from him, and here is a copy of the Book, which we now present to our red friend, the chief of the Delawares, and which we hope he will cause to be read and known among his tribe; it will do them good.”

We then presented him with a Book of Mormon.
There was a pause in the council, and some conversation in their own tongue, after which the chief made the following reply:

“We feel truly thankful to our white friends who have come so far, and been at such pains to tell us good news, and especially this new news concerning the Book of our forefathers; it makes us glad in here” — placing his hand on his heart.

“It is now winter, we are new settlers in this place; the snow is deep, our cattle and horses are dying, our wigwams are poor; we have much to do in the spring — to build houses, and fence and make farms; but we will build a council house, and meet together, and you shall read to us and teach us more concerning the Book of our fathers and the will of the Great Spirit.”

We again lodged at Mr. Pool’s, told him of the Book, had a very pleasant interview with him, and he became a believer and advocate for the Book, and served as an interpreter.

We continued for several days to instruct the old chief and many of his tribe. The interest became more and more intense on their part, from day to day, until at length nearly the whole tribe began to feel a spirit of inquiry and excitement on the subject.

We found several among them who could read, and to them we gave copies of the Book, explaining to them that it was the Book of their forefathers.
Some began to rejoice exceedingly, and took great pains to tell the news to others, in their own language.
The excitement now reached the frontier settlements in Missouri, and stirred up the jealousy and envy of the Indian agents and sectarian missionaries to that degree that we were soon ordered out of the Indian country as disturbers of the peace; and even threatened with the military in case of non-compliance.

We accordingly departed from the Indian country, and came over the line, and commenced laboring in Jackson County, Missouri, among the whites. We were well received, and listened to by many; and some were baptized and added to the Church.

Thus ended our first Indian Mission, in which we had preached the gospel in its fulness, and distributed the record of their forefathers among three tribes, viz: the Catteraugus Indians, near Buffalo, N.Y., the Wyandots of Ohio, and the Delawares west of Missouri.

We trust that at some future day, when the servants of God go forth in power to the remnant of Joseph, some precious seed will be found growing in their hearts, which was sown by us in that early day.

It was now the 14th of February, 1831. The cold north wind which had blown for several weeks, accompanied with very severe weather, had begun to give place to a milder breeze from the south; and the deep snows were fast settling down, with every prospect of returning spring.

Elders Cowdery, Whitmer, Peterson, myself, and F. G. Williams, who accompanied us from Kirtland, now assembled in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, and came to the conclusion that one of our number had better return to the church in Ohio, and perhaps to headquarters in New York, in order to communicate with the Presidency, report ourselves, pay a visit to the numerous churches we had organized on our outward journey, and also to procure more books.

For this laborious enterprise I was selected by the voice of my four brethren. I accordingly took leave of them, and of our friends in that country, and started on foot.

In nine days I arrived at St. Louis, distance three hundred miles. [4] It was now the latter part of February; the snow had disappeared, the rivers were breaking up, and the whole country inundated as it were with mud and water. I spent a few days with a friend in the country, at the same place we had tarried on the way out; and then took a steamer in St. Louis bound for Cincinnati, where I landed in safety after a passage of one week. [5] From Cincinnati I travelled on foot to Strongville, Ohio, forty miles from Kirtland.

This last walk consisted of some two hundred and fifty miles, over very bad, muddy road; and for some days I had found myself much fatigued, and quite out of health. Hearing of some brethren in Strongville, I determined to inquire them out, and try their hospitality to a sick and weary stranger without making myself known.

I accordingly approached the house of an old gentleman by the name of Coltrin, about sundown, and inquired if they could entertain a weary stranger who had no money. The old gentleman cast his eyes upon me, and beheld a weary, weather-beaten traveller; soiled with the toil of a long journey; besmeared with mud, eyes inflamed with pain, long beard, and a visage lengthened by sickness and extreme fatigue. After a moment’s hesitation he bade me welcome, and invited me into his house. Several ladies were at tea. I addressed them as a stranger who had come to partake of their hospitality for the night.

They received me with a smile of welcome, and immediately insisted on my sitting down to tea, during which something like the following conversation took place:

“Stranger, where are you from? you certainly look weary; you must have travelled a long distance!”
“Yes; I am from beyond the frontiers of Missouri; a distance of twelve hundred miles.”
“Ah, indeed! Did you hear anything of the four great prophets out that way?”
“Prophets! What prophets?”

“Why, four men — strange men — who came through this country and preached, and baptized hundreds of people; and, after ordaining Elders and organizing churches, they continued on westward, as we suppose, to the frontiers on a mission to the Indians; and we have never heard from them since. But the great work commenced by them still rolls on. It commenced last fall in Kirtland, and has spread for a hundred miles around; thousands have embraced it, and among others ourselves and many in this neighborhood.”

“But what did they preach? And why do you call them prophets?”
“Why they opened the Scriptures in a wonderful manner; showed the people plainly of many things to come; opened the doctrine of Christ, as we never understood it before; and, among other things, they introduced a very extraordinary Book, which, they said, was an ancient record of the forefathers of the Indian tribes.”

“How were they dressed, and in what style did they travel?”
“They were dressed plainly and comely, very neat in their persons, and each one wore a hat of a drab color, low round crown and broad brim, after the manner of the Shakers, so it is said; for we had not the privilege of seeing them ourselves.

“However, these fashioned hats were not a peculiarity of this people; but were given to each of them by the Shakers, at the time they passed through this country; so they wore them. As to their style of travelling, they sometimes go on foot, sometimes in a carriage, and sometimes, perhaps, by water; but they provide themselves with neither purse nor scrip for their journey, neither shoes nor two coats apiece.”

“Well, from your description of these four men I think I have seen them on the frontiers of Missouri. They had commenced a mission in the Indian territory; but were compelled by the United States agents, influenced, no doubt, by missionaries, to depart from the Indian country, although well received by the Indians themselves.”

“You saw them, then?”
“I did.”
“Were they well?”
“I believe they were all in good health and spirits.”
“Will they return soon? O, who would not give the world to see them!”
“Well, I am one of them, and the others you may, perhaps, see.”
“You one of them! God bless you. What is your name?”

“My name is Parley P. Pratt, one of the four men you have described, but not much of a prophet; and as to a sight of me in my present plight, I think it would not be worth half a world.”

The rest of the conversation I cannot write, for all spoke, all laughed, and all rejoiced at once.
The next morning I found myself unable to rise from my bed, being severely attacked with the measles.
I came near dying, and was confined for one or two weeks among them, being scarcely able to raise my head. [6] I was watched over night and day, and had all the care that a man could have in his father’s house.
As I recovered in part, being still very weak, I was provided with a horse, on which I arrived at Kirtland.
Hundreds of the saints now crowded around to welcome me, and to inquire after my brethren whom I had left in Missouri.
Here also I again met President Joseph Smith, who had, during our absence, come up from the State of New York.
I found the churches in Ohio had increased to more than a thousand members, and those in New York to several hundred.

I also heard from my wife, from whom I had been absent about six months. [7] The news was that the whole Church in the State of New York, including herself (for she had joined during my absence), was about to remove to Ohio in the opening spring. I, therefore, was advised to proceed no farther eastward, but to await their arrival. [8]

After visiting the saints a few days, I commenced to labor with my hands; but the Lord would not suffer me to continue long in this occupation.
Some time in March, [9] I was commanded of the Lord, in connection with S. Rigdon and L. Copley, [10] to visit a people called the Shakers, [11] and preach the gospel unto them. [12]

We fulfilled this mission, as we were commanded, in a settlement of this strange people, near Cleveland, Ohio; but they utterly refused to hear or obey the gospel. [13] After this I paid a visit to the churches round about Kirtland. [14]
As I went forth among the different branches, some very strange spiritual operations were manifested, which were disgusting, rather than edifying. Some persons would seem to swoon away, and make unseemly gestures, and be drawn or disfigured in their countenances. Others would fall into ecstasies, and be drawn into contortions, cramp, fits, etc. Others would seem to have visions and revelations, which were not edifying, and which were not congenial to the doctrine and spirit of the gospel. In short, a false and lying spirit seemed to be creeping into the Church.

All these things were new and strange to me, and had originated in the Church during our absence, and previous to the arrival of President Joseph Smith from New York. [15]

Feeling our weakness and inexperience, and lest we should err in judgment concerning these spiritual phenomena, myself, John Murdock, [16] and several other Elders, went to Joseph Smith, and asked him to inquire of the Lord concerning these spirits or manifestations.

After we had joined in prayer in his translating room, [17] he dictated in our presence the following revelation: — (Each sentence was uttered slowly and very distinctly, and with a pause between each, sufficiently long for it to be recorded, by an ordinary writer, in long hand.

This was the manner in which all his written revelations were dictated and written. There was never any hesitation, reviewing, or reading back, in order to keep the run of the subject; neither did any of these communications undergo revisions, interlinings, or corrections. As he dictated them so they stood, so far as I have witnessed; and I was present to witness the dictation of several communications of several pages each.

This inquiry was made and the answer given in May, 1831.) [18]

Notes


[1] “The supreme head or chief of some American Indian tribes” (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “sachem”).

[2] The Lord covenanted with Enos that he would bring forth a record to the Lamanites (see Enos 1:13, 15–18).

[3] See Joseph Smith — History 1:30–54.

[4] Parley traveled about thirty-three miles a day — most, if not all of it, on foot.

[5] It is 200 river miles from St. Louis to the mouth of the Ohio and approximately 750 river miles from there to Cincinnati. The first 200 miles were downstream, the last 750 upstream. Parley likely left St. Louis the end of February 1831.

[6] It is likely that Parley stayed with the Saints in Strongville, Ohio, the last two weeks in March 1831.

[7] Parley and Thankful had been absent from each other from October 1830 through March 1831.

[8] “It is worthy to note that there were three main groups making the exodus to Ohio, namely: the Waterloo/Fayette Saints (about eighty in number under the guidance of [Lucy Mack] Smith and Thomas B.

Marsh); the Palmyra Saints (about fifty in number under the leadership of Martin Harris); and the Colesville Branch (approximately seventy Saints under the direction of Newel Knight)” (Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 275, note 5).


Thankful Pratt had gone east to be with relatives or she would have likely come with the Martin Harris company, which left New York on May 2, 1831, and arrived at Kirtland around the middle of May (see chapter 9).

[9] Some sources place the date in May.

[10] Leman Copley (1781–1862), who owned 759 acres at Thompson, Ohio, at first agreed to allow the New York Saints to settle on his land as a form of consecration but afterward rescinded his agreement. Three years later, he testified against Joseph Smith at the Philastus Hurlbut trial. He was disfellowshipped from the Church but later reinstated. He never left Ohio (see Smith, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:480).

[11] See D&C 49.

[12] In Parley’s early days near his Aunt Lovina Van Cott’s farm, he interacted with the Shakers (see chapter 6). This mission was to the North Union Shaker Community, located in a southeastern region of the township of Cleveland, Ohio, about a dozen miles from Kirtland. Nineteen Shaker communities had been established in the United States, this one being one of the last. Jacob Russell, a Revolutionary War veteran, and his family formed the nucleus of this Cleveland community. When Parley, Sidney, and Leman Copley visited the Shakers, their land holdings exceeded 1,300 acres, and they were about two hundred people strong with sixty buildings, a dairy, woolen mill, sawmill, and grist mill. The Shakers were an industrious people respected for their honesty and ingenuity.

[13] Ann Lee, who founded the Shaker religion, originally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, came to America with some of her followers in 1774. The faith embraced communal living, celibacy, pacifism, confession, abstention from meat (specifically pork), and a belief that God was a dual personality (conceived as a masculine spirit embodied in Christ and manifested as a female in the spiritual presence and birth of Ann Lee). Shakers looked upon Ann Lee as the fulfillment of the Second Coming of the Savior. In D&C 49 the Lord refutes these beliefs and gives the Shakers an opportunity to repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.

[14] By this time branches existed not only in Kirtland but also in Hiram, Mayfield, Thompson, Perry, Madison, Orange, Warrensville, and New Portage (now Barberton) (see Historical Atlas of Mormonism, 20–21).

[15] The Prophet arrived in Kirtland about February 1, 1831.

[16] John Murdock had been one of Parley’s converts and had been baptized that past fall on November 5, 1830. Of his conversion, John said: “I… was soon introduced to those four men from New York, and presented with The Book of Mormon.
… I stayed alone, and read the Book of Mormon… I read till it was late… The Spirit of the Lord rested on me, witnessing to me of the TRUTH of the work… I told the servants of the Lord that I was ready to walk with them into the waters of baptism. Accordingly, Elder Parley P. Pratt baptised me in the Chagrin River and the Spirit of the Lord sensibly attended the ministration, and I came out of the water rejoicing and singing praises to God, and the Lamb! An impression sensibly rested on my mind that cannot, by me, be forgotten… This was the third time that I had been immersed, but I never before felt the authority of the Ordinance, but I felt it this time and felt as though my sins were forgiven!… On Sunday evening they confirmed about thirty; I was one of the number. Elder Oliver Cowdery was administrator. I was also Ordained an Elder and it was truly a time of the outpouring of the Spirit! I know the Spirit rested on me as it never did before and others said they saw the Lord, and had visions” (Anderson, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland, 6–7).

[17] This “translating room” was located at the Isaac Morley farm — either in the Prophet’s small residence there or in a small schoolhouse just northwest of the Morley home.

[18] The revelation referred to is D&C 50. Parley’s description of how the Prophet received revelation is one of the most detailed in the annals of Church history. Orson Pratt gave further insight: “At this conference, by the request of the priesthood, the Prophet inquired of the Lord, and a revelation was given written in the presence of the whole assembly, appointing many of the Elders to missions” (Pratt, Orson Pratt Journals, 11–12; emphasis added).