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Parley P. Pratt-Account of Joseph Smith in Philadelphia


Being once more at liberty, and in the enjoyment of the society of family and friends, I spent a few days in rest and refreshment, and in receiving the congratulations of my friends and fellow citizens. My house was thronged from day to day, not only with my old acquaintances and fellow exiles, but with strangers of every sect and party, all anxious to see a martyr, as it were, who had been so wonderfully and miraculously delivered from bondage and death in their most terrible forms.

After a few days spent in this way, we removed to Nauvoo, a new town, about fifty miles above Quincy. Here lived President Joseph Smith and many of the refugees who had survived the storm of persecution in Missouri. It had been already appointed as a gathering place for the scattered Saints, and many families were on the ground, living in the open air, or under the shade of trees, tents, wagons, etc, while others occupied a few old buildings, which they had purchased or rented. Others, again, were living in some old log buildings on the opposite side of the Mississippi, at a place called Montrose, and which had formerly served the purpose of barracks for soldiers.

The hardships and exposures consequent on the persecutions, caused a general sickness. Here and there, and in every place, a majority of the people were prostrated with malignant fevers, agues, etc.

When we first arrived we lived in the open air, without any other shelter whatever. Here I met brother Joseph Smith, from whom I had been separated since the close of the mock trial in Richmond the year previous. Neither of us could refrain from tears as we embraced each other once more as free men. We felt like shouting hosannah in the highest, and giving glory to that God who had delivered us in fulfilment of His word to His servant Joseph the previous autumn, when we were being carried into captivity in Jackson County, Missouri. He blessed me with a warmth of sympathy and brotherly kindness which I shall never forget. Here also I met with Hyrum Smith and many others of my fellow prisoners with a glow of mutual joy and satisfaction which language will never reveal. Father and Mother Smith, the parents of our Prophet and President, were also overwhelmed with tears of joy and congratulation; they wept like children as they took me by the hand; but, O, how different from the tears of bitter sorrow which were pouring down their cheeks as they gave us the parting hand in Far West, and saw us dragged away by fiends in human form.

After the gush of feelings consequent on our happy meeting had subsided, I accompanied Joseph Smith over the Mississippi in a skiff to visit some friends in Montrose. Here many were lying sick and at the point of death. Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham, who had been with me in that extraordinary work in New York City in 1837. He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever. He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, with his feet poulticed; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was weeping over him, and preparing clothes for his burial.

Brother Joseph took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would seemingly have raised the dead, he cried: "BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK." It was a voice which could be heard from house to house and nearly through the neighborhood. It was like the roaring of a lion, or the heavy thunderbolt. Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him, and taking a cup of tea and a little refreshment, he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds, and joining in prayer and ministrations for them, while the people followed us, and with joy and amazement gave glory to God. Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.

Brother Joseph, while in the Spirit, rebuked the Elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: "It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power."

City of Nauvoo, lllinois

Nauvoo and the temple, from a daguerreotype, 1846

After these things I joined with brother Kimball in purchasing some land in the contemplated city of Nauvoo, which was then a wilderness, and both of us went to work together with our own hands to build us a log house each. After toiling a few days in this manner I sold out my improvement and prepared for a mission to England, as our quorum were now appointed to visit that country.

On the 29th of August, 1839, I took leave of my friends in Nauvoo and started for a foreign land. I was accompanied by my wife and three children (having obtained my son Parley from his nurse, Mrs. Allen), and Elders Orson Pratt and Hiram Clark. We journeyed in our own private carriage, drawn by two horses. Our route lay through the wild and but partially inhabited countries of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, for about five hundred and eighty miles, to Detroit, the capital of the State of Michigan, situated at the head of Lake Erie.

The first day we rode seventeen miles through a beautiful plain, or prairie. Our route was a most delightful one.

On all sides, as we turned our eyes, we beheld a boundless field of grass and flowers, with here and there a small grove of timber; the landscape was level or diversified with gentle swells; the surface smooth as a garden; the soil extremely rich; and, although there was no road marked by art, yet our carriage rolled as smoothly and easily as if it had been on a railway. Most of this delightful prairie was without inhabitants, and could, probably, have been purchased for one dollar and a quarter per acre.

It is well calculated for the purposes of agriculture, producing in richest profusion, when cultivated, almost every kind of grain and grass, and every vegetable suited for the climate.

After travelling seventeen miles through this delightful scenery, we arrived in Carthage, a flourishing village. Here we stopped for the night with a member of our Society, who received us kindly; and at evening preached in a large court room to an attentive audience. Next day we rode some twenty-five miles through a similar country, and at evening arrived at a fine village called Macomb. Here we were kindly entertained over Sabbath by a brother Miller. We preached in the court house.

My brother Orson and brother Clark went still ahead about thirty miles, where they preached on Sunday. On Monday morning we started and rode thirty miles through a delightful country.

Sometimes we were in the midst of flourishing farms and villas, and sometimes the wild deer would startle from their grazing at our approach, and go bounding over the wild expanse till lost in the distance.

In the evening we arrived at the house of my brother, Wm. Pratt, where we found brothers Orson Pratt and Clark. We preached at a neighboring house, which was crowded by an attentive congregation. Next morning we rode eight miles to Canton, and found some Saints who persuaded us to stay till morning. We consented; and in the evening preached to the people who crowded the house and yard, and who seemed very anxious to hear more.

Continuing our journey we came next day to Peoria, thirty miles; a flourishing town on the Illinois River. Here we tarried with one of the members of the Church, and were kindly entertained. Next day made thirty miles, and, providentially, stopped for the night at the house of the only member of our Society in that region. When he learned who we were he welcomed us, and finally prevailed upon us to stay two or three days, after which we blessed him and his household and departed.

We then journeyed about thirty-three miles every day for four weeks, and at length found ourselves within part of a day's journey of Detroit. Here we found several small branches of the Church; and being worn down with our journey, we tarried with them six days, during which we ministered the gospel. Brother O. Pratt, in particular, preached in several towns to large and attentive audiences. Taking leave of the brethren, we rode to Detroit, where I found my brother Anson Pratt and family; whom I had not seen for many years, and also my aged father and mother, who were now living with him. My father was now about seventy years of age, and was on his death bed with a heavy fever. We tarried with them two weeks; during which I preached in the City Hall at Detroit, and superintended some printing and publishing matters.

While here we sold our horses and carriage, and at length took leave of our kindred and a last farewell of our sick father, and took passage on a steamboat down Lake Erie to Buffalo; distance three hundred miles.

Previous to our departure from Detroit brothers O. Pratt and Clark took leave of us, and passed down the lake into Ohio; intending to meet us again at New York.

After landing safe in Buffalo, we took the Erie Canal and railroad to Albany—distance three hundred and fifty miles; thence to New York by steamer down the Hudson River—distance one hundred and fifty miles. Here we arrived in safety after a journey of about one thousand four hundred miles. We were received by the Saints in New York almost as one of the old saints risen from the dead. I had been absent nearly two years, during which time I had lain eight months in prison. Brother Adison Everett, a High Priest of the Church in that city and one of the first members I had baptized there, related to me that the Church in that city were assembled in prayer for me on the evening of the 4th of July previous, that I might be delivered from prison and from my enemies in Missouri. When, on a sudden, the spirit of prophecy fell on him, and he arose and declared to the Church that they might cease their prayers on that subject; "For," said he, "on this moment brother Parley goes at liberty."

We found the Church in New York strong in the faith, and rejoicing in the truth. They had become numerous in the city and in several parts of the country around.

In this city I resided with my family some six months, during which I preached most of the time in the city, and also superintended the printing and publishing of several of our books. I also performed occasional missions in the country; I visited Long Island, New Jersey, Philadelphia and the City of Washington. In this latter place I published an address in a printed circular to each member of Congress, and to the President of the United States and his Cabinet, setting forth our principles in plainness, and bearing testimony of the truth; while, at the same time, our petitions for redress were pending before them—President Joseph Smith and others having visited them in person, with an earnest appeal for investigation and redress of our grievances in Missouri. In Philadelphia I had the happiness of once more meeting with President Smith, and of spending several days with him and others, and with the Saints in that city and vicinity.

During these interviews he taught me many great and glorious principles concerning God and the heavenly order of eternity. It was at this time that I received from him the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness.

Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which the heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.

It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.

It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore.

It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his countless offspring. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband, and to reign for ever and ever as the queen mother of her numerous and still increasing offspring.

I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever. In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also.

Yet, at that time, my dearly beloved brother, Joseph Smith, had barely touched a single key; had merely lifted a corner of the veil and given me a single glance into eternity.

While visiting with brother Joseph in Philadelphia, a very large church was opened for him to preach in, and about three thousand people assembled to hear him. Brother Rigdon spoke first, and dwelt on the Gospel, illustrating his doctrine by the Bible. When he was through, brother Joseph arose like a lion about to roar; and being full of the Holy Ghost, spoke in great power, bearing testimony of the visions he had seen, the ministering of angels which he had enjoyed; and how he had found the plates of the Book of Mormon, and translated them by the gift and power of God. He commenced by saying: "If nobody else had the courage to testify of so glorious a message from Heaven, and of the finding of so glorious a record, he felt to do it in justice to the people, and leave the event with God."

The entire congregation were astounded; electrified, as it were, and overwhelmed with the sense of the truth and power by which he spoke, and the wonders which he related. A lasting impression was made; many souls were gathered into the fold. And I bear witness, that he, by his faithful and powerful testimony, cleared his garments of their blood. Multitudes were baptized in Philadelphia and in the regions around; while, at the same time, branches were springing up in Pennsylvania, in Jersey, and in various directions.

Among the Elders who were instrumental in doing a good work in those regions, I would make honorable mention of Benjamin Winchester, of Philadelphia, since fallen from the faith; and Lorenzo Barnes, who labored and did a great work in Chester County, Penn., and afterwards laid down his life while on a mission in England.

Soon after my arrival in New York City, Elders O. Pratt and Clark, who left us at Detroit, arrived, having performed a mission through some parts of Ohio and New York. Elders Turley, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff, had also arrived from the West on their way to England.

Autobiography of Parley Pratt pp. 253-260