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Appendix: Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 1840

Appendix: Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 1840

way, it would be impossible to walk in it, except by chance; and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon chance, or uncertainties, was more than he could endure. If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its particular tenets, saying—“This is the way, walk ye in it;”2

See Isaiah 30:21.  


while, at the same time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in direct opposition to one another. It, also, occurred to his mind, that God was not the author of but one doctrine, and therefore could not acknowledge but one denomination as his church; and that such denomination must be a people, who believe, and teach, that one doctrine, (whatever it may be,) and build upon the same. He then reflected upon the immense number of doctrines, now, in the world, which had given rise to many hundreds of different denominations. The great question to be decided in his mind, was—if any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it? Until he could become satisfied, in relation to this question, he could not rest contented. To trust to the decisions of fallible man, and build his hopes upon the same, without any certainty, and knowledge, of his own, would not satisfy the anxious desires that pervaded his breast. To decide, without any positive and definite evidence, on which he could rely, upon a subject involving the future welfare of his soul, was revolting to his feelings. The only alternative, that seemed to be left him, was to read the Scriptures, and endeavour to follow their directions. He, accordingly, commenced perusing the sacred pages of the Bible, with sincerity, believing the things that he read. His mind soon caught hold of the following passage:—“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”—James i. 5. From this promise he learned, that it was the privilege of all men to ask God for wisdom, with the sure and certain expectation of receiving, liberally; without being upbraided for so doing. This was cheering information to him: tidings that gave him great joy. It was like a light shining forth in a dark place, to guide him to the path in which he should walk. He, now, saw that if he inquired of God, there was, not only, a possibility, but a probability; yea, more, a certainty, that he should [p. 4]
way, it would be impossible to walk in it, except by chance;  and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon  chance, or uncertainties, was more than he could endure.  If he went to the religious denominations to seek infor mation, each one pointed to its particular tenets, saying— “This is the way, walk ye in it;”2

See Isaiah 30:21.  


while, at the same  time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in  direct opposition to one another. It, also, occurred to his  mind, that God was not the author of but one doctrine,  and therefore could not acknowledge but one denomina tion as his church; and that such denomination must be  a people, who believe, and teach, that one doctrine, (what ever it may be,) and build upon the same. He then re flected upon the immense number of doctrines, now, in  the world, which had given rise to many hundreds of  different denominations. The great question to be decid ed in his mind, was—if any one of these denominations be  the Church of Christ, which one is it? Until he could  become satisfied, in relation to this question, he could not  rest contented. To trust to the decisions of fallible man,  and build his hopes upon the same, without any certainty,  and knowledge, of his own, would not satisfy the anxious  desires that pervaded his breast. To decide, without any  positive and definite evidence, on which he could rely,  upon a subject involving the future welfare of his soul,  was revolting to his feelings. The only alternative, that  seemed to be left him, was to read the Scriptures, and  endeavour to follow their directions. He, accordingly,  commenced perusing the sacred pages of the Bible, with  sincerity, believing the things that he read. His mind  soon caught hold of the following passage:—“If any of  you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all  men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given  him.”—James i. 5. From this promise he learned, that it  was the privilege of all men to ask God for wisdom, with  the sure and certain expectation of receiving, liberally;  without being upbraided for so doing. This was cheering  information to him: tidings that gave him great joy. It  was like a light shining forth in a dark place, to guide him  to the path in which he should walk. He, now, saw that  if he inquired of God, there was, not only, a possibility,  but a probability; yea, more, a certainty, that he should [p. 4]
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Orson Pratt

19 Sept. 1811–3 Oct. 1881. Farmer, writer, teacher, merchant, surveyor, editor, publisher. Born at Hartford, Washington Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Moved to New Lebanon, Columbia Co., New York, 1814; to Canaan, Columbia Co., fall...

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was twenty-three years old when he was appointed to the newly organized Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835, and along with others of the Twelve, he served as a proselytizing missionary to the British Isles from 1840 to 1841. While traveling to his mission, he stopped for a number of weeks in the eastern United States

North American constitutional republic. Constitution ratified, 17 Sept. 1787. Population in 1805 about 6,000,000; in 1830 about 13,000,000; and in 1844 about 20,000,000. Louisiana Purchase, 1803, doubled size of U.S. Consisted of seventeen states at time ...

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and spent time in the company of JS, who was in the East petitioning the federal government for redress for the Latter-day Saints’ Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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losses. Pratt attended speeches that JS delivered during his stay in the area and accompanied him on a journey from Philadelphia

Port city founded as Quaker settlement by William Penn, 1681. Site of signing of Declaration of Independence and drafting of U.S. Constitution. Nation’s capital city, 1790–1800. Population in 1830 about 170,000; in 1840 about 260,000; and in 1850 about 410...

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, Pennsylvania, to Monmouth

Area claimed by Dutch, 1609. English rule established, 1665. County formed, 1675. County government organized, 1714. Battle of Monmouth fought in county, 28 June 1778. First LDS missionary, Benjamin Winchester, preached in county, summer 1838. First branch...

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, New Jersey, in December 1839.1

Orson Pratt, New York City, NY, to Sarah Bates Pratt, Nauvoo, IL, 6 Jan. 1840, Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:61.  


He likely heard JS recount his early visions, a subject JS publicly addressed while in the eastern states.2

See Benjamin Winchester, Philadelphia, PA, to “Dear Brother in the Lord,” 10 Feb. 1840, Times and Seasons, May 1840, 1:104; and Pratt, Autobiography, 330.  


As a member of one of the Latter-day Saints’ governing bodies, Pratt had earlier opportunities to hear JS speak of his early visionary experiences, but JS’s lectures on the East Coast may have left those visions fresh in Pratt’s mind as he journeyed across the Atlantic. The next year he published the pamphlet A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records, which focused on JS’s personal history and included the earliest printed account of his first vision of Deity.3

Similarity of phrasing, especially in describing JS’s rudimentary education, suggests that Pratt may have had access to JS’s unpublished circa summer 1832 history.  


Pratt published the pamphlet in Edinburgh, Scotland, in late September 1840, and he informed fellow apostle George A. Smith

26 June 1817–1 Sept. 1875. Born at Potsdam, St. Lawrence Co., New York. Son of John Smith and Clarissa Lyman. Baptized into LDS church by Joseph H. Wakefield, 10 Sept. 1832, at Potsdam. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, 1833. Labored on Kirtland temple...

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, “I shall be at conference [in Manchester, England] on the 6th of Oct. if the Lord will. I shall bring about 2000 pamphlets with me which are now in the press.”4

Orson Pratt, Edinburgh, Scotland, to George A. Smith, London, England, 24 Sept. 1840, George Albert Smith, Papers, CHL.  


Pratt

19 Sept. 1811–3 Oct. 1881. Farmer, writer, teacher, merchant, surveyor, editor, publisher. Born at Hartford, Washington Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Moved to New Lebanon, Columbia Co., New York, 1814; to Canaan, Columbia Co., fall...

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began his thirty-one-page pamphlet by describing JS’s first vision of Deity and the later visit JS received from “the angel of the Lord.” In relating how JS obtained the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, Pratt quoted extensively from the historical letters by Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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printed in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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, Ohio, in 1834–1835.5

Cowdery’s letters were copied into JS History, 1834–1836, 46–103.  


He summarized the contents of the Book of Mormon, reprinted the statements of two groups of witnesses who saw the gold plates, and concluded with a fifteen-point “sketch of the faith and doctrine of this Church.”
In his description of the Book of Mormon, Orson Pratt

19 Sept. 1811–3 Oct. 1881. Farmer, writer, teacher, merchant, surveyor, editor, publisher. Born at Hartford, Washington Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Moved to New Lebanon, Columbia Co., New York, 1814; to Canaan, Columbia Co., fall...

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superimposed his understanding of Book of Mormon geography onto the Western Hemisphere by placing the Nephites in South America and the Jaredites in North America. Pratt’s association of Book of Mormon peoples with the history of all of North and South America matched common understanding of early Latter-day Saints. Shortly thereafter, when John Lloyd Stephens’s Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan became available in Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

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in about 1842, JS greeted it enthusiastically and church members used it to map Book of Mormon sites in a Central American setting.6

John L. Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, 2 vols. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1841); see also “Facts Are Stubborn Things,” Times and Seasons, 15 Sept. 1842, 3:921–922; “Zarahemla,” Times and Seasons, 1 Oct. 1842, 3:927–928; JS, Nauvoo, IL, to John Bernhisel, New York City, NY, 16 Nov. 1841, JS Collection, CHL; and Givens, By the Hand of Mormon, chaps. 4–5.  


Pratt

19 Sept. 1811–3 Oct. 1881. Farmer, writer, teacher, merchant, surveyor, editor, publisher. Born at Hartford, Washington Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Moved to New Lebanon, Columbia Co., New York, 1814; to Canaan, Columbia Co., fall...

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’s Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions proved to be one of the more influential Mormon tracts to come out of this period. The first American edition was printed in New York

Dutch founded New Netherland colony, 1625. Incorporated under British control and renamed New York, 1664. Harbor contributed to economic and population growth of city; became largest city in American colonies. British troops defeated Continental Army under...

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in 1841, and reprints appeared in Europe, Australia, and the United States

North American constitutional republic. Constitution ratified, 17 Sept. 1787. Population in 1805 about 6,000,000; in 1830 about 13,000,000; and in 1844 about 20,000,000. Louisiana Purchase, 1803, doubled size of U.S. Consisted of seventeen states at time ...

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.7

Orson Pratt, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records, 1st American ed. (New York: Joseph W. Harrison, 1841); Orson Pratt, Remarkable Visions (Liverpool: R. James, [1848]); Orson Pratt, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records (Sydney: Albert Mason, 1851); Orson Pratt, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records, 2nd American ed. (New York: Joseph W. Harrison, 1841); see also Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:160–161; 2:63–64, 262–265.  


Pratt’s work was a principal source for Orson Hyde

8 Jan. 1805–28 Nov. 1878. Laborer, clerk, storekeeper, teacher, editor, businessman, lawyer, judge. Born at Oxford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Nathan Hyde and Sally Thorpe. Moved to Derby, New Haven Co., 1812. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, ...

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’s German-language pamphlet Ein Ruf aus der Wüste [A cry out of the wilderness], the earliest church publication in a language other than English, and for the first French-language pamphlet, John Taylor

1 Nov. 1808–25 July 1887. Preacher, editor, publisher, politician. Born at Milnthorpe, Westmoreland Co., England. Son of James Taylor and Agnes Taylor, members of Church of England. Around age sixteen, joined Methodists and was local preacher. Migrated from...

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’s Aux amis de la vérité religieuse [To friends of religious truth].8

Orson Hyde, Ein Ruf aus der Wüste, eine Stimme aus dem Schoose der Erde (Frankfurt: Im Selbstverlage des Verfassers [by the author], 1842); John Taylor, Aux amis de la vérité religieuse. Récit abrégé du commencement, des progrès, de l’établissement, des persécutions, de la foi et de la doctrine de l’Église de Jésus-Christ des Saints des Derniers Jours (Paris: Marc Ducloux et Compagnie, 1850); see also Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:205–208; 2:166–167.  


Pratt’s pamphlet was later translated into Danish, Swedish, and Dutch.9

Orson Pratt, Mærkværdige syner (Copenhagen: F. E. Bording, 1851); Orson Pratt, Märkwärdiga syner (Copenhagen: F. E. Bording, 1860); Orson Pratt, Merkwaardige verschijningen (Amsterdam?, [ca. 1865]); see also Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 2:240.  


Interesting Account is not a JS document, because JS did not write it, assign it, or supervise its creation. However, two JS documents in this volume, “Church History” and “Latter Day Saints” (a later version of “Church History”), quote extensively from Pratt

19 Sept. 1811–3 Oct. 1881. Farmer, writer, teacher, merchant, surveyor, editor, publisher. Born at Hartford, Washington Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Moved to New Lebanon, Columbia Co., New York, 1814; to Canaan, Columbia Co., fall...

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’s pamphlet. These documents made use of Pratt’s language to describe JS’s early visionary experiences and built on Pratt’s summary of the church’s “faith and doctrine” for the thirteen-point statement of church beliefs that came to be known as the Articles of Faith. (The summary of beliefs in Interesting Account was in turn based on an earlier statement composed by Orson Pratt’s brother, Parley P. Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

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.10

See Pratt and Higbee, An Address . . . to the Citizens of Washington; compare Pratt, Late Persecution of the Church, iii–xiii.  


) Interesting Account is therefore included as an appendix to allow convenient comparison with JS’s histories.

Facts