Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Orson Pratt Orson Pratt

1811- 1881

  • Born 1811 Hartford, New York
  • Baptized 1830
  • Ordained Elder 1830
  • Mission to Colesville 1830
  • Ordained High Priest 1832
  • Mission to East 1832
  • Recruiter for and member of Zion's Camp 1834
  • Ordained Apostle and member of Twelve 1835
  • Mission to Eastern States 1835
  • Mission to England 1839
  • Rebelled against Joseph Smith; Excommunicated 1842
  • Baptized anew and reordained to Apostleship; assumed seat in Twelve 1843
  • Died 1881 Salt Lake City, Utah

    The younger brother of the powerful Parley P. Pratt, it would have been easy for Orson Pratt to stand in his brother's shadow, but he was a giant in his own right and stood in no man's shadow save it be possibly in Joseph's and Brigham's.

    Orson Pratt was born September 19, 1811 in Hartford, Washington County, New York, the son of Jared Pratt and his wife Charity Dickinson Pratt. Parley had a fairly extensive education for the day, studying arithmetic, bookkeeping, geography, grammar, and surveying. All of these would prove invaluable to him on various church assignments.

    Orson was introduced to the Church by his older brother, Parley P., who baptized him on his nineteenth birthday, September 19, 1830 in Canaan, Columbia County, New York. He was ordained an Elder three months later by the Prophet Joseph Smith and immediately set out for Colesville, New York, his first mission. This was the first of a number of short missions in which Orson visited New York, Ohio, Missouri, and the Eastern States.

    On February 2, 1832, he was ordained a High Priest by Sidney Rigdon and as a High Priest he continued his missions, preaching in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

    Orson added theology to his educational pursuits by attending the School of the Prophets in the spring of 1833, then left again on another series of short missions. Orson and his companions were quite sucessful in their missionary efforts, baptizing several hundred new converts.

    In 1834, Orson was appointed a recruiter for < HREF="zionscamp.htm">Zion's Camp and when the troop departed Kirtland, the young High Priest was with them. It was from Zion's Camp that the Twelve and the Seventy were selected, and Orson was ordained an Apostle and took his seat with the Twelve on April 26, 1835.

    On July 4, 1836, Orson married Sarah Marinda Bates by whom he would father twelve children. Later Orson would practice plural marriage. He had a total of forty-five children on record.

     From 1839 to 1841 Elder Pratt participated in the very successful mission of the Twelve to the British Isles, spending much of his time in Scotland. At Edinburgh in September 1840, he published his first missionary tract, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions. This pamphlet contained the first public recording of Joseph Smith's first vision and also summarized basic LDS beliefs. It contained a list somewhat resembling the "Articles of Faith" in the Wentworth Letter authored by Joseph Smith.

    His return to Nauvoo in 1841 came at an inopportune time for Orson personally. He was caught in the cross-currents of the controversy and rumors surrounding the recently revealed revelations concerning plural marriage. Unable to understand and accept, he found himself in a state of rebellion against Joseph Smith as a result of which he was excommunicated August 20th 1842. After several months of seeking the truth regarding both Joseph Smith's revelations and the newly introduced practice of plural marriage, Pratt accepted both with such assurance that he spent the rest of his life in their defense. He was reinstated in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles January 20,1843.

    Following the Martyrdom of the Prophet, Orson Pratt supported the Twelve and participated in their governance of the Church. Orson travelled with the Saints in the evacuation of Nauvoo. He moved ahead of the Pioneer Company and with Erastus Snow entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 21, 1847, three days ahead of the main body. But Orson was not long to live the pioneer's life of early Utah. The next year he was appointed to preside over all branches of Church in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. While in England, he authored fifteen pamphlets and edited the Millennial Star.

    Returning to America, he was elected to the Territorial Legislature of Utah, serving several times as Speaker. In 1852 he was appointed president of all branches of the Church in United States and Canada. When he returned to Salt Lake City, the man who was excommunicated because of his opposition to plural marriage was assigned by President Brigham Young to publicly preach a sermon announcing the doctrine of plural marriage at a special missionary conference in August 1852. Following the meetings he was assigned by Brigham Young to publish in Washington, D.C., a periodical in defense of plural marriage. The twelve-month run of The Seer in 1853 provides the most detailed defense of the doctrine in LDS literature.

    In April 1864, Elder Pratt was appointed to open up gospel in Austria, but the Mission proved unsucessful. He was sealed to Margaret Graham December 28, 1868, then published the Book of Mormon in the Deseret Alphabet in New York in 1869. He was appointed "Historian and General Church Recorder" in 1874. Under the direction of Brigham Young, Elder Pratt prepared the 1876 edition of Doctrine and Covenants and in 1878 at President John Taylor's direction edited and rearranged the Pearl of Great Price. In 1879 he divided the Book of Mormon for the first time into chapters and verses and added references.

    By June 1875, Elder Pratt had risen in seniority in the Twelve to number two behind Orson Hyde. President Brigham Young took note that this placed these two men ahead of the men who had replaced them during the time they were excommunicated. President Young then ruled and the Twelve ratified that the proper order was based on the date of their readmission, not the date of their original ordination. Thus it was that John Taylor and not Orson Hyde became the third President of the Church and Orson Pratt never served as President of the Quorum of the Twelve.

    Throughout his life Orson Pratt pursued his strong interest in mathematics and astronomy. In 1866 he published his major mathematical work, New and Easy Method of Solution of the Cubic and Biquadratic Equations, and in 1879 issued Key to the Universe. In these works and in various lectures to many early LDS audiences, he was a positive force in the scientific education of the American pioneers. By the time his last scientific work was published, he was suffering from diabetes. He preached his last public discourse on September 18, 1881, and died on October 3 in Salt Lake City. He had married seven wives and fathered forty-five children.

    Smith, History of the Church, numerous citations; see index
    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, PRATT, ORSON
    Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.87
    Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.49
    Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, p.371
    2005 Church Almanac, p.63

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