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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

Orson Pratt 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 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 losses. Pratt attended speeches that JS delivered during his stay in the area and accompanied him on a journey from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Monmouth, 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.
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Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

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.
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Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

Pratt, Parley P. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell Brothers, 1874.

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of phrasing, especially in describing JS’s rudimentary education, suggests that Pratt may have had access to JS’s unpublished circa summer 1832 history.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, “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.
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Smith, George Albert. Papers, 1834–1877. CHL.

Pratt 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 printed in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1834–1835.5

Cowdery’s letters were copied into JS History, 1834–1836, 46–103.
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JS History, 1834–1836 / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1834–1836. In Joseph Smith et al., History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, back of book (earliest numbering), 9–20, 46–187. CHL.

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 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 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.
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Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL.

Givens, Terryl L. By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Pratt’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 in 1841, and reprints appeared in Europe, Australia, and the United States.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.
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Pratt, Orson. Remarkable Visions. By Orson Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Liverpool: R. James, 1848.

Crawley, Peter. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. 2 vols. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997, 2005.

Pratt’s work was a principal source for Orson Hyde’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’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.
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Hyde, Orson. Ein Ruf aus der Wüste, eine Stimme aus dem Schoose der Erde: Kurzer Ueberblick des Ursprungs und der Lehre der Kirche “Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” in Amerika, gekannt von Manchen unter der Benennung: “Die Mormonen.” Frankfurt: Im Selbstverlage des Verfassers, 1842. Also available with English translation in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 1, Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 402–425.

Crawley, Peter. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. 2 vols. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997, 2005.

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.
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Crawley, Peter. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. 2 vols. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997, 2005.

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’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.10

See Pratt and Higbee, An Address . . . to the Citizens of Washington; compare Pratt, Late Persecution of the Church, iii–xiii.
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Pratt, Parley P., and Elias Higbee. An Address by Judge Higbee and Parley P. Pratt, Ministers of the Gospel, of the Church of Jesus Christ of “Latter-day Saints,” to the Citizens of Washington, and to the Public in General. N.p., 1840.

Pratt, Parley P. Late Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints. Ten Thousand American Citizens Robbed, Plundered, and Banished; Others Imprisoned, and Others Martyred for Their Religion. With a Sketch of Their Rise, Progress and Doctrine. By P. P. Pratt, Minister of the Gospel, Written in Prison. New York: J. W. Harrison, 1840.

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

Facts