Parley P. Pratt (Original Member of the Quorum of Twelve)
Delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, Sunday, September 7, 1856.
Journal of Discourses: Vol. 5, p.193
Beloved brethren and sisters,—Being about to depart from this Territory and from the "home mission" to which I was appointed among you, and to journey to the States on a mission, I rise to express my feelings and my faith, and to leave my testimony with you.
There are some, I presume, in this congregation, who personally have been strangers to me, and who have not heard my testimony. I have been acquainted in this Church and connected with it from the first year of its organization in the wilderness of western New York. It was organized on the 6th day of April, 1830, and I was baptised into it about the 1st of the September following.
When I first became a member of this Church, one small room could have contained all the members there then were in the world, and that, too, without being crowded; for at times, I presume, there were not fifty.
The first thing that attracted my attention towards this work was the Book of Mormon. I happened to see a copy of it. Some man, nearly a stranger to it, and not particularly a believer in it, happened to get hold of a copy: he made mention of it to me, and gave me the privilege of coming to his house and reading it. This was at a place about a day's journey from the residence of Joseph Smith the Prophet and his father, and while I was returning to the work of my ministry; for I was then travelling and preaching, being connected with a society of people sometimes called Campbellites or Reformed Baptists.
I had diligently searched the Scriptures, and prayed to God to open my mind that I might understand them; and he had poured his Spirit and understanding into my heart, so that I did understand the Scriptures in a good degree, the letter of the Gospel, its forms and first principles in their truth, as they are written in the Bible. These things were opened to my mind; but the power, the gifts, and the authority of the Gospel I knew were lacking, and did really expect that they would be restored, because I knew that the things that were predicted could never be fulfilled until that power and that authority were restored.
I also had an understanding of the literal fulfilment of the prophecies in the Bible, so that I really did believe in and hope for the literal restoration of Israel, the cutting off of wickedness, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the triumph of his kingdom on the earth. All this I was looking for; and the Spirit seemed to whisper to my mind that I should see it in my day.
Under these circumstances, I was travelling to impart the light which I had to others; and while doing this, I found, as I before stated, the Book of Mormon. I read it carefully and diligently, a great share of it, without knowing that the Priesthood had been restored—without ever having heard of anything called "Mormonism," or having any idea of such a Church and people.
There were the witnesses and their testimony to the book, to its translation, and to the ministration of angels; and there was the testimony of the translator; but I had not seen them, I had not heard of them, and hence I had no idea of their organization or of their Priesthood. All I knew about the matter was what, as a stranger, I could gather from the book: but as I read, I was convinced that it was true; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, while I read, and enlightened my mind, convinced my judgment, and rivetted the truth upon my understanding, so that I knew that the book was true, just as well as a man knows the daylight from the dark night, or any other thing that can be implanted in his understanding.
I did not know it by any audible voice from heaven, by any ministration of an angel, by any open vision; but I knew it by the spirit of understanding in my heart—by the light that was in me. I knew it was true, because it was light, and had come in fulfilment of the Scriptures; and I here testimony of its truth to the neighbours that came in during the first day that I sat reading it, at the house of an old Baptist deacon, named Hamblin.
This same spirit led me to enquire after and search out the translator, Joseph Smith; and I travelled on foot during the whole of a very hot day in August, blistering my feet, in order to go where I heard he lived; and at night I arrived in the neighbourhood of the little village of Manchester, then in Ontario County, New York. On the way, I overtook a man driving some cows, and enquired for Joseph Smith, the finder and translator of the Book of Mormon. He told me that he lived away off, something more than an hundred miles from there, in the State of Pennsylvania. I then enquired for the father of the Prophet, and he pointed to the house, but said that the old gentleman had gone a journey to some distant place. After awhile, in conversation, the man told me that his name was Hyrum Smith, and that he was a brother to the Prophet Joseph. This was the first Latter-day Saint that I had ever seen.
He invited me to his home, where I saw mother Smith and Hyrum Smith's wife, and sister Rockwell, the mother of Orin Porter Rockwell. We sat up talking nearly all night; for I had not much spare time, having two appointments out, and a long day's journey for a man to walk. I had to return the next morning, and we conversed during most of the night without being either sleep or weary.
During that conversation, I learned something of the rights of the Church, its organization, the restoration of the Priesthood, and many important truths. I felt to go back and fill the two appointments given out, and that closed my ministry, as I felt that I had no authority, and that I would go back and obey the Priesthood which was again upon the earth.
I attended to my appointments, and was back again the next morning to brother Hyrum's. He made me a present of the Book of Mormon, and I felt richer in the possession of that book, or the knowledge contained in it, than I would, could I have had a warantee deed of all the farms and buildings in that country, and it was one of the finest regions in the world. I walked awhile, and then sat down and read awhile; for it was not my mind to read the book through at once. I would read, and then read the same portion over again, and then walk on.
I was filled with joy and gladness, my spirit was made rich, and I was made to realize, almost as vividly as if I had seen it myself, that the Lord Jesus Christ did appear in his own proper person, in his resurrected body, and minister to the people in America in ancient times. He had surely risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, and did come down on the American continent, in the land Bountiful, on the northern part of South America, and did minister to the remnants of Joseph, called the Nephites, and did show his resurrected body unto them.
They did handle him, see him, and examine the wounds that were pierced in his hands, his side, and his feet; and they bathed them with their tears and kissed them, and thousands of them did bear record of these facts. He did deliver to them his Gospel in its fulness and plainness, in the presence of thousands, and did command them to write it in a book; and he promised that that book should come to light in latter days, in time for the great restoration of all Israel, and the fulfilment of the prophecies relating to the great work of the last days.
I was made to realize this and to bring it home to my faith, my senses, and my knowledge, with a warmth, love, and assurance that I could scarcely contain for I had either studied and seen him in my reflections, or I had heard his voice whispering to me. Do you not think that I rejoice?
As before stated, I fulfilled my two appointments; crowds heard me and were interested, and solicited me to make more appointments. I told them that I would not—that I had a duty to perform for myself. I bid them farewell, and returned to Hyrum Smith, who took me to a place, about twenty-five miles off, in Seneca county, New York. He there introduced me to the three witnesses whose names appear at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, also to the eight witnesses. I conversed with Oliver Cowdery, one of the three witnesses, and on the next day we repaired to Seneca lake, there I was baptised by Oliver Cowdery, then the second Apostle in this Church, and a man who had received the ministration of an angel, as you can learn by reading his testimony.
After being baptised, I was confirmed in a little meeting during the same day, was full of the Holy Ghost, and was ordained an Elder. This transpired on the 1st day of September, 1830; and from that day to this, I have endeavoured to magnify my calling and to honour the Priesthood which God has given me, by testifying to both small and great of the things that he has revealed in these last days.
I have testified and do still testify of the truth of the Book of Mormon—that it is an inspired record, the history of a branch of the house of Israel that live in America; that it does contain the fulness of the Gospel as revealed to them by a crucified and risen Redeemer; and that wherever it goes and its light is permitted to shine, the Spirit of the Lord will bear testimony of its truth to every honest heart in all the world.
Wherever that book is candidly perused, the Spirit will bear record of its truth: and I bear this testimony this day, that Joseph Smith was and is a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator—an Apostle holding the keys of this last dispensation and of the kingdom of God, under Peter, James, and John. And not only that he was a Prophet and Apostle of Jesus Christ, and lived and died one, but that he now lives in the spirit world, and holds those same keys to usward and to this whole generation.
Also that he will hold those keys to all eternity; and no power in heaven or on the earth will ever take them from him; for he will continue holding those keys through all eternity, and will stand—yes, again in the flesh upon this earth, as the head of the Latter-day Saints under Jesus Christ. and under Peter, James, and John. He will hold the keys to judge the generation to whom he was sent, and will judge my brethren that preside over me; and will judge me, together with the Apostles ordained by the word of the Lord through him and under his administration.
When this is done, those Apostles will judge this generation and the Latter. day. Saints; and they will judge them with that judgment which. Jesus Christ will give unto them; and they will have the same spirit and the same mind as Jesus Christ, and their judgment will be his judgment, for they will be one.