Baptized by Brigham Young. Articulate and persuasive missionary of striking appearance and demeanor. Trusted associate of the
prophet. Called of the Lord to be a General Authority. Accused adulterer,
wretched thief, and despicable apostate. This is the life journey of Warren
While much is not known about the life of Warren
Parrish, perhaps that which is known is too much. This man who later became
the leader of the first great apostasy from the Church is believed to have
been born about 1792 in New Hampshire. Neither his parentage nor the exact
date of his birth is known. The beauty of his penmanship and the eloquence
of his rhetoric and writing may allow us to infer that he was well educated
and thus that he came from an educated and well-to-do family as the poor
and destitute were generally more concerned with providing the necessities
of life, rather than pursuing higher learning.
What is known is that he married Elizabeth Patten,
sister of the highly esteemed and ever faithful David
W. Patten. While Patten himself did not baptize either Elizabeth or
Warren, he did perhaps plant the seeds which made them more willing to
listen to the teachings of Brigham Young
as Brigham passed through Theresa, Indiana on a missionary journey to Canada.
Warren Parrish and his wife Elizabeth along with other members of Patten's
family were baptized May 20, 1833.
Brother Hugh Nibley states that "the earliest known
and fullest account of Joseph Smith's First Vision [was] written in the
hand of Warren Parrish in the winter of 1831-32 at the dictation of the
Prophet." This would seem to be in error if the baptism date given by David
W. Patten is correct.
What is not disputed is that when the call came for
volunteers to provide succor for the suffering saints in Missouri, Warren
accompanied his brother-in-law and the Prophet on that arduous trek across
the wilderness beginning in early May of 1834. And apparently did so with
enthusiasm and good will.
Later the same year he undertook a Mission to Tennessee
during which he enjoyed singular success. Parrish's striking good looks
and eloquent tongue made him a sought after speaker and apparently he spoke
with the spirit. Shortly after his return to Kirtland, or possibly while
he was away, his wife Elizabeth died, the date being June 27, 1834. This
might have been the singular turning point in Parrish's life, for it would
have taken him out of the intimate influence of his brother-in-law David
W. Patten. In any event, the mission to Tennessee was only the first of
several short missions to the Southern States. Among his companions was
Wilford Woodruff, whom he ordained an Elder and
who would later become the fourth President of the Church.
On the 28th of February 1835 the Church, in council
assembled, commenced selecting certain individuals to be Seventies and
to organize the First Quorum of the Seventy. In view of his apparent faithfulness
and proven success as a missionary, Warren Parrish was selected to become
a General Authority with membership in the First Quorum.
On November 14, 1835, Elder Parrish became the subject
of the following revelation given to Joseph Smith and recorded in the History
of the Church, Volume 2, Chapter 23, page 311. "Verily thus saith the Lord
unto my servant Joseph, concerning my servant Warren Parrish. Behold his
sins are forgiven him, because of his desires to do the works of righteousness.
Therefore, inasmuch as he will continue to hearken unto my voice, he shall
be blessed with wisdom, and with a sound mind, even above his fellows.
Behold, it shall come to pass in his day, that he shall see great things
show forth themselves unto my people; he shall see much of my ancient records,
and shall know of hidden things, and shall be endowed with a knowledge
of hidden languages; and if he desire and shall seek it at my hands, he
shall be privileged with writing much of my word, as a scribe unto me for
the benefit of my people; therefore this shall be his calling until I shall
order it otherwise in my wisdom, and it shall be said of him in time to
come, Behold Warren, the Lord's scribe for the Lord's seer, whom He hath
appointed in Israel. Therefore, if he will keep my commandments, he shall
be lifted up at the last day. Even so. Amen."
As with most blessings of the Lord, the reader will
note that these are conditional and as we shall see, Parrish ultimately
failed to meet the conditions. Still, a month later, all appeared to be
well as the Prophet "Joind [sic] Warren Parrish and Martha H. Raymond in
Matrimony," this occurring On December 3, 1835. By this time, also, Elder
Parrish had been appointed to become a scribe to the Prophet. This seems
to have been a part-time avocation for he shortly left on another missionary
In view of his apparent honor and trustworthiness,
Warren Parrish was selected to become an officer in the Kirtland Banking
Safety Society... and it was here that his fall became obvious. We might
never know the seeds of temptation planted in his heart by Satan. Some
accused Parrish of adultery before his open fall. Others claimed that he
was upset about not having been called to the Twelve or to the Presidency
of the Seventy. Still, it is obvious that the seeds of temptation came
The Kirtland Banking Safety Society sought to establish
a bank in Kirtland that the saints might have the benefits of such an institution
in their midst. While it was a boom time, the major hindrance throughout
the frontier was a lack of liquidity. A bank authorized to issue notes
was thought a solution to that problem. The Prophet warned against a spirit
of speculation and insisted that the bank be established on a safe conservative
basis. The bank would likely have stood against the inevitable bust but
for dishonesty among some of its officers.
In the Journal of Discourses, Vol.11, p.11
- p.12, President George Albert Smith, said the following: "Some time after
the finishing of the Temple, the brethren under the direction of the Prophet
had established a bank in Kirtland, the paper to be redeemed by specie,
and secured by real estate. The directors of that bank were members of
the Church, and they were determined to sustain the credit of that money.
The question has some times been asked, how much has that bank failed for;
it did not fail for a single dollar, and yet when it failed there was perhaps
a hundred thousand dollars of the bank paper out in circulation. Warren
Parrish was the teller of the bank, and a number of other men who apostatized
were officers. They took out of its vault, unknown to the President or
cashier, a hundred thousand dollars, and sent their agents around among
the brethren to purchase their farms, wagons, cattle, horses and every
thing they could get hold of. The brethren would gather up this money and
put it into the bank, and those traitors would steal it and send it out
to buy again, and they continued to do so until the plot was discovered
and payment stopped. It was the cursed apostates--their stealing and robberies,
and their infernal villainies that prevented that bank being conducted
as the Prophet designed. If they had followed the counsel of Joseph, there
is not a doubt but that it would have been the leading bank in Ohio, probably
of the nation. It was founded upon safe principles, and would have been
a safe and lasting institution.
The bust came. The Kirtland Bank shared a similar
fate to many others, and went down in the whirlpool of financial ruin.
One of the causes alleged for its failure was the misfeasance of some of
those who were entrusted with the funds of the bank. Heber
[C. Kimball] said that Warren Parrish, one of the clerks, 'afterwards
acknowledged that he took $20,000, and there was strong evidence that he
took more. Some sources place Parrish's thefts in the neighborhood of $100,000.00.
Those of integrity in the Church replaced the stolen money at the expense
of all they had.'"
Warren Parrish was excommunicated for his role in
stealing the people's money. He became embittered against the Prophet and
sought to overthrow the Church.
We quote from Joseph Fielding Smith in his
Church History and Modern Revelation, Volume 3, page 107. "Presidents
Smith and Rigdon with some of the other brethren returned to Kirtland and
arrived there December 10, 1837. Before they left the spirit of disaffection
and bitterness was developing and with some of the members of the Priesthood
had reached alarming proportions. Now, however, they discovered that during
their absence, Warren Parrish who had been the Prophet's secretary
and close associate, John F. Boynton, Luke
S. Johnson, Joseph Coe, Sylvester Smith and
others out of the leading councils of the Church, had united in their opposition
and were endeavoring to overthrow the Church. Some of these men, earlier
in the year had shown a marked spirit of opposition and faultfinding, and
professing a spirit of repentance, however, they had not driven out the
evil that was in their hearts. Warren Parrish held the office of
a seventy. Attention has previously been called to his dishonest acts as
an officer in the Kirtland Safety Society. He manifested the most bitter
spirit and became the leader of the disgruntled group. It was the intention
of these men to depose the Prophet and support David Whitmer in his stead.
Private and secret meetings had been held even in the temple, which they
now claimed as their own and they showed a spirit of violence in maintaining
Eliza R. Snow in her Biography of Lorenzo
Snow, her brother, and the fifth president of the church in the
New Dispensation, gives a vivid description of one of these occasions:
"They [the dissenters] linked themselves together in an opposing party--pretended
that they constituted the church, and claimed that the temple belonged
to them, and even attempted to hold it. Warren Parrish, who had
been a humble, successful preacher of the gospel, was the ringleader of
this apostate party. One Sabbath morning, he, with several of his party,
came in to the temple armed with pistols and bowie-knives and seated themselves
together in the Aaronic pulpits, on the east end of the temple, while father
[Joseph] Smith [Sr.]and others, as usual, occupied
those of the Melchizedek priesthood on the west. Soon after the usual opening
services, one of the brethren on the west stand arose, and just after he
commenced to speak, one on the east interrupted him. Father Smith, presiding,
called for order--he told the apostate brother that he should have all
the time he wanted, but he must wait his turn--as the brother on the west
took the floor and commenced first to speak, he must not be interrupted.
A fearful scene ensued--the apostate speaker becoming so clamorous that
Father Smith called for the police to take that man out of the house, when
Parrish, John Boynton, and others, drew their pistols and bowie-knives,
and rushed down from the stand into the congregation; John Boynton saying
he would blow out the brains of the first man who dared to lay hands on
him. Many in the congregation, especially women and children, were terribly
frightened--some tried to escape from the confusion by jumping out of the
windows. Amid screams and shrieks, the policemen, in ejecting the belligerents,
knocked down a stove-pipe, which fell helter-skelter among the people;
but, although bowie-knives and pistols were wrested from their owners,
and thrown hither and thither to prevent disastrous results, no one was
hurt, and after a short, but terrible scene to be enacted in a temple of
God, order was restored, and the services of the day proceeded as usual."
Alleging that Joseph had fallen from his divine calling
as leader of the Church, Warren Parrish claimed the authority to lead it.
He gained the support of three members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,
some of the presidents of the Seventies, and several other influential
leaders who had become alienated from Smith during the 1837-1838 economic
crisis in Kirtland. That group broke up in less than a year. There seems
to have been dissension among the apostates almost from the beginning with
some claiming the Book of Mormon to be true but Joseph a fallen prophet
while others disclaimed the totality of the restoration. The aforementioned
Church of Christ fell apart in less than a year.
Wilford Woodruff wrote of the causes of Parrish's
apostasy: "The cause thereof he explained as follows: "It might be stated
here that Warren Parrish fell through disappointed ambition. He aspired
to the Quorum of the Twelve, or to be a leading spirit of the Church. He
was what is termed a smart man, and through his smartness, which was distorted
by ambition, envy, and bitterness, he turned against Joseph and the Church,
having fallen into darkness and given himself up to the power of Satan."
The last we read of Warren Parrish was a meeting with
Heber C. Kimball reported by George Albert Smith:
"What success did this great apostasy meet with? Brother Kimball, when
on a mission in 1844, (this apostasy took place in 1837-8,) while crossing
Fox River on the ferry, encountered Warren Parrish. He was a grave-looking
man--a straight-jacketed fellow, dressed in black, with a white handkerchief
around his neck. Says he, "Elder Kimball, will you have the goodness not
to say to the people here that I ever was a Mormon. I am a Baptist Minister.
I am preaching at that meetinghouse for a salary of $500 a year. If they
find out I have been a Mormon, it would hurt my influence very much indeed."
By 1870, this loathsome apostate had apparently lost his sanity and was living in Emporia, Kansas where he died in 1887.