Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 22 November 1839

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Novr. 22nd. 1839
Pres.t J Smith Jr
Dear Brother
Health and peace be unto you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. We are well, and greatly prospered in the Lord, after all our tribulation. The Churches in these parts are prospering greatly and are firm in faith and increasing in numbers continually. the in and Brooklyn now numbers from 150 to 300 members and additions are being made every week. A general was held in this on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week present, were . . Elds , Layne, , Brown, Benidict and present were A[ddison] Everett Br Birge and Bro Van◊◊elver; many of the Church in the region round about, were represented, Several hundred members in all, and mostly increasing— great doors are open for preaching. and crowded houses are the order of the day. I have also received letters from and from , with joyful accounts of the spread of the work of the Lord. You would now find Churches of the Saints in , in , in Brooklyn in in , in , in . On and in various other places all around us.
The learned have frequently come forward for debate and have as frequently retired from the field confounded. the people are astonished and have given up that Mormanism as they call it will finally prevail.
Our meetings are now held Three times every Sabbath in Columbian Hall, Grand Street, a few doors East of the Bowery, it is very central and one of the best places in the city, it will hold nearly one thousand people and is well filled with attentive hearers; has a good Hall well fitted up in where stated meetings are held, several every week, and crowded audiences In short the truth is spreading more rapidly than ever before, in every direction, far and near. There is a great call for our Books. I am now reprinting the “Voice of Warning” [p. 77] “The History of the Persecution,[”] and my poems— there is a great call for Hymn Books, but none to be had, I wish , would add to the old collection such New ones as is best and republish them immediately: If means and facilities are lacking in the West, send it here, and it shall be nicely done for her, and at least one thousand would immediately sell in these parts wholesale and retail The Book of Mormon is not to be had in this part of the vineyard for love or money, hundreds are wanting in various parts here abouts but there is truly a famine in that respect: The took into consideration the pressing calls for this “Book, and have appointed a Committee to raise means for the publication of the same, and also to publish it if we can obtain leave from you, who hold the copy right. We realized that your press and materials &c in the west were not at present, sufficient for so large a work. We have a printer here who does most of our work, he is a fine man, and thorough in his business. he works very cheap and paper is also cheap we have also Book binder who does a thorough business is very reasonable, and a fine man to deal with. these men have worked so much for me, that I can get business done in their line upon accommodating terms, and in the neatest manner.
who is the in this place; of and myself are the Committee. We are instructed to write to you immediately requesting leave to publish the Book of Mormon say, two or three thousand copies. If you will write to us immediately and grant us this priviledge we hereby assure you that it shall be done exactly correct and with the utmost care and diligence and on any terms which will best suit you, and secure to you the proffits which may arise. Bro Irvin is a very wealthy man. is a very careful, prudent, honest man in business and one who will go all lengths for the spread of truth and he will carefully superintend and husband every thing pertaining to this matter that nothing shall go at loose ends, if intrusted to his charge, and as to myself I have [p. [78]] I have great zeal, boundless ambition for the spread of truth, and some acquaintance with publishing, but lack in many other respects, but be assured I will be faithful in this matter if committed to my charge and when I get able to cross the sea I shall feel perfectly safe in leaving the whole business with the residue of the committee. We will give you one hundred dollars on each thousand coppies for the right of publishing, or we will give you one hundred Books on each thousand. Or we will publish it on commision and return you all the profits after defraying the expences of the same together with a reasonable charge for our time. Or, we will publish it on any other conditions which you can reasonably propose.
Please write immediately and let us know and in the mean time we will be getting ready and seeking for means.
Any Hymn Book which or the will favor us with shall also be published on similar conditions. If you would appoint a periodical to be published in this it can be done immediately and thousand would circulate here, where one would circulate from the west, they are so slow and uncertain in coming from there to us. I would also suggest for your considerations that the publication of the Book of Mormon in Europe, in English, French, German, and other languages be committed to the ,[”] as a committee who shall take charge of the same and whose duty it shall be to secure to you the Copy rights in the several goverments, and to render strict account from time to time to the
Dear Br, you may think I am in good earnest indeed about speeding this matter, and so I am for it must go to all Nations, Kindred. Tongues. and People ere long. I sincerely hope the day is not far distant when a printing establishment will be reared in some of according to the word of the Lord and the pattern given. We remember you on the question of your afflictions. I remain your Brother in the Bonds of the Everlasting Covenant. My Love to all enquiring friends
J. Smith Junr
approves of this letter and sends his love to you [p. 79]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    Pratt alluded to the apostle Paul’s typical greeting. (See, for example, 1 Corinthians 1:3.)  

  2. 2

    The Times and Seasons provided a similar description of the general growth of the church in the eastern United States. (Editorial, Times and Seasons, Apr. 1840, 1:90.)  

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

  3. 3

    This New York conference took place on 19–20 November 1839. (Woodruff, Journal, 19–20 Nov. 1839.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  4. 4

    Pratt traveled through Michigan on his way to New York City. He traveled to Maine as a missionary in 1835. (Pratt, Autobiography, 139, 327.)  

    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.

  5. 5

    Pratt served a mission in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey in 1837 and may have maintained correspondence with various church members. (Pratt, Autobiography, 184, 188, 328.)  

    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.

  6. 6

    Columbian Hall was located at 263 Grand Street in New York City and was frequently used for temperance society meetings at this time. (See, for example, Hassert, Journal of the Proceedings of the Grand Division of the Sons of Temperance of the State of New-York, 268.)  

    Hassert, Luke. Journal of Proceedings of the Grand Division of the Sons of Temperance of the State of New-York, and Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging: From the Formation of the Order, September 29, 1842, to the Close of the Annual Session of October 1844. Together with Statistical Tables, Showing the Progress of the Order. New York City: Piercy and Reed, 1845.

  7. 7

    The Bowery is a street in Lower Manhattan. (Kenneth T. Jackson, “Bowery,” in Encyclopedia of New York City, 131–132.)  

    Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. Encyclopedia of New York City. 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.

  8. 8

    Benjamin Winchester identified this Philadelphia meeting hall as “one of the commissioner’s Hall[s].” In 1918 a historian described the hall as “a three-story brick building standing on the east of Third Street, about midway between Tammany (Buttonwood) and Green streets. It was the officers’ quarters of the military barracks, erected by the Provincial Government, in 1757.” (Benjamin Winchester, Philadelphia, PA, 10 Feb. 1840, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, May 1840, 1:104; Smith, “History of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Branch,” 361.)  

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

    Smith, Walter W. “History of Philadelphia Branch.” Journal of History 12 (Jan. 1919): 111–118.

  9. 9

    Parley P. Pratt, A Voice of Warning, and Instruction to All People; or, An Introduction to the Faith and Doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints, 2nd ed. (New York: J. W. Harrison, 1839). The reprinting Pratt mentioned here was the tract’s second edition. This work provided a succinct explanation of the faith and doctrine of the church, offered an account based largely on biblical prophecies of the church’s founding and growth, and warned of the apocalyptic destruction that would befall unprepared and impenitent men and women in the near future. Voice of Warning was one of the most widely circulated tracts used by the church in the nineteenth century. Pratt made several substantive changes in the second edition, apparently in response to criticism from JS on a few topics. (Givens and Grow, Parley P. Pratt, 103–120, 167–168.)  

    Pratt, Parley P. A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People, Containing a Declaration of the Faith and Doctrine of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Commonly Called Mormons. New York: W. Sanford, 1837.

    Givens, Terryl L., and Matthew J. Grow. Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

  10. 10

    Parley P. Pratt, History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons, in Which Ten Thousand American Citizens Were Robbed, Plundered, and Driven from the State, and Many Others Imprisoned, Martyred, &c. for Their Religion, and All This by Military Force, by Order of the Executive. By P. P. Pratt, Minister of the Gospel. Written during Eight Months Imprisonment (Detroit: Dawson and Bates, 1839). Pratt had this book reprinted twice in 1840: as History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons . . . (Mexico, NY: Oswego County Democrat, 1840) and as Late Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints . . . (New York: J. W. Harrison, 1840). Though Pratt wrote History of the Late Persecution on his own initiative, the book was part of the Saints’ larger effort to gather up “a knowledge of all the facts and suffering and abuses put upon them by the people of this state [Missouri]” as JS directed while he was incarcerated in the jail at Liberty, Missouri. (Letter to Edward Partridge and the Church, ca. 22 Mar. 1839; Givens and Grow, Parley P. Pratt, 150–152.)  

    Givens, Terryl L., and Matthew J. Grow. Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

  11. 11

    Parley P. Pratt, The Millennium, and Other Poems: To Which Is Annexed, a Treatise on the Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter (New York: W. Molineux, 1840). In this reprinting and expansion of Pratt’s pamphlet The Millennium, a Poem. To Which Is Added Hymns and Songs on Various Subjects, New and Interesting, Adapted to the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times (Boston: By the author, 1835), Pratt wrote with a strong sense of premillennialism, the belief that Christ’s imminent return would rescue humankind from a world that was rapidly deteriorating spiritually. Premillennialism also urged all men and women to repent and watch closely for portents signifying the approach of the second coming of Christ and the millennial era that would ensue. (Givens and Grow, Parley P. Pratt, 107–109; Underwood, Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 3–5.)  

    Parley P. Pratt, The Millennium, and Other Poems: To Which Is Annexed, a Treatise on the Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter (New York: W. Molineux, 1840)

    Givens, Terryl L., and Matthew J. Grow. Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    Underwood, Grant. The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

  12. 12

    The “old collection” to which Pratt referred is the first hymnal compiled by Emma Smith after she was directed to do so in a July 1830 revelation. (A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints [Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835]; Revelation, July 1830–C [D&C 25:11].)  

  13. 13

    In a January 1840 letter to his wife, Sarah Marinda Bates Pratt, Orson Pratt similarly commented on the lack of copies of the Book of Mormon in New York City. (Orson Pratt to Sarah Marinda Bates Pratt, 6 Jan. 1840, in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:61.)  

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

  14. 14

    The only printing press and type in Commerce were in the possession of Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith, who were using them to publish the Times and Seasons. The Saints in Far West, Missouri, had buried the press and type to protect them from assaults by the church’s enemies. By June 1839, the Saints had unearthed the press and type and transported them to Commerce. That summer, Robinson and Smith cleaned the printing apparatus, purchased a new font, and began publishing the monthly paper. The printing operation was small, however, and not equipped for printing a book as large as the Book of Mormon, since printing a book required much more type than did printing a sixteen-page periodical. There were no foundries in the area that could create stereotype plates for printing. (JS History, vol. C-1 Addenda Book, 17–18; Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return, Nov. 1889, 170; May 1890, 257.)  

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  15. 15

    Possibly W. Molineux, who had published Pratt’s collection of poems, or J. W. Harrison, who reprinted Pratt’s History of the Late Persecution.  

  16. 16

    During the 1820s and 1830s, when the public demand for books rapidly increased in the United States, the cost of book printing decreased only gradually and inconsistently from year to year and from place to place. For a general picture of printing prices in the eastern United States at this time, see, for example, the account books of Philadelphia publisher Carey & Lea in David Kaser, The Cost Book of Carey & Lea, 1825–1838 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963). (Green, “Rise of Book Publishing,” 110–127.)  

    Green, James N. “The Rise of Book Publishing.” In A History of the Book in America, vol. 2, An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790–1840, edited by Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley, 75–127. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

  17. 17

    Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Lucian R. Foster, New York City, NY, Jan. 1840, in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 82–84.  

  18. 18

    This is likely a reference to Charles Ivins, whom Pratt mentioned earlier in this letter.  

  19. 19

    In 1837 Pratt and his business partner, John Goodson, published the second edition of the Book of Mormon. (Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:66–68.)  

    Crawley, Peter. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. 3 vols. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997–2012.

  20. 20

    Pratt tarried in New York for a number of reasons, including the need to arrange housing for his family in New York while he served his mission overseas, as well as a keen interest in continuing to build up the church in the eastern United States. Hyrum Smith expressed displeasure that Pratt had delayed traveling to England and had induced other apostles appointed to serve the same mission to “tarry and assist” him in his undertakings. (Pratt, Autobiography, 328, 331; Givens and Grow, Parley P. Pratt, 176–177; Letter from Hyrum Smith, 2 Jan. 1840; Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Parley P. Pratt, New York City, NY, 22 Dec. 1839, in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 80–81.)  

    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.

    Givens, Terryl L., and Matthew J. Grow. Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

  21. 21

    A person wanting to publish books at this time had several options for financial arrangements. These arrangements included the author gathering subscriptions for the book in advance, consenting to take payment from the publisher in the form of books that the author could then sell, or agreeing to buy any unsold books from the publisher after a designated period of time. The arrangement accepted by the printer was often based on the book’s sales prospects. (See Green, “Rise of Book Publishing,” 101; and Historical Introduction to Copyright for Book of Mormon, 11 June 1829.)  

    Green, James N. “The Rise of Book Publishing.” In A History of the Book in America, vol. 2, An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790–1840, edited by Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley, 75–127. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

  22. 22

    During this period, only one church-authorized periodical, Times and Seasons, was circulating.  

  23. 23

    JS applied for copyright protection of the Book of Mormon in the United States in 1829. An 1830 revelation instructed him to “be dilligent in Securing the Copy right” of the Book of Mormon “upon all the face of the Earth.” Furthermore, a 23 April 1834 revelation addressed to the United Firm in Kirtland, Ohio, stated that copyrights to the church’s published works were essential so “that others may not take the blessings away from you which I have conferred upon you”—the “blessings” being control of JS’s revelations and the profits earned from publishing them. (Revelation, ca. Early 1830; Revelation, 23 Apr. 1834.)  

  24. 24

    In his response to this letter, Hyrum Smith informed Pratt, “As to publishing the Book of Mormon in Europe and other Nations I should entirely acquiesce to your proposition I do not know of any more suitable for attending to that business than the Twelve. If it should be deem’d wisdom to have the same publishd in England or elsewhere soon, You will be further advised on the subject and full powers given you immediately on the return of Joseph.” (Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Parley P. Pratt, New York City, NY, 22 Dec. 1839, in JS Letterbook 2, p. 81.)  

  25. 25

    See Revelation 10:11; and Book of Mormon, 1837 ed., 115 [2 Nephi 26:13].  

  26. 26

    In writing about “the pattern given,” Pratt may have been referring to an 1831 revelation that designated JS, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and Sidney Rigdon as “stewards over the revelations and commandments,” meaning that only the men listed in that revelation were permitted to approve and manage the church’s publication of revelations and commandments. Hyrum Smith referred to this revelation in a January 1840 letter to Lucian R. Foster describing why he had denied Pratt’s request in this letter to publish additional copies of the Book of Mormon and the hymnal. Hyrum explained to Foster that “the printing of the Book of Mormon Doctrine & Covenants, Hymn Book and new translation of the old Scriptures . . . must be printed under the immediate inspection of those into whose care they are especially committed.” (Revelation, 12 Nov. 1831 [D&C 70:1–6]; Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Lucian R. Foster, New York City, NY, Jan. 1840, in JS Letterbook 2, p. 83.)