Orson Pratt is something of a colorful character in church history, and his writings prove his color. If he had a blog, he’d probably be something like Matt Walsh and a BYU religion professor put together. Both of these pamphlets, published in Great Britain, address two moving themes that particularly concern Latter-day Saints: Joseph Smith’s authority, and where, exactly, is the kingdom of God, and what does it entail?
Using logical arguments, Orson Pratt explores what might stipulate that God has again called a prophet and is working to establish His kingdom on the earth, in “Divine Authority.” Citing Biblical examples, prophecies, and stipulations, he shows that Joseph Smith truly was called and ordained of God to be His prophet, and to work to establish His church on the earth. “Kingdom of God” expands on his thoughts about what the Kingdom of God is and why it’s been missing for a long time. Again, he uses logic and some powerful statements to make his arguments and to strengthen his proclamations:
“I will now tell you the reason why the King has kept silence so long. It is because he has had no subjects to converse with; all have turned away from him and advocated other governments as being the rightful and legal authority. . . . They have introduced a “God without BODY, PARTS or PASSIONS.” They have had the audacity to call this newly-invented god by the same name as the God of the ancient Saints, although there is not the least resemblance between them. . . . It is not to the true and living God that they send forth petitions, but it is to this imaginary being. No wonder that they have received no communication from him! no wonder he has not honored them with a visit. As he has no “PARTS,” he could neither be felt nor seen if he should visit them. Such a being could not speak, for he has no “parts” to speak with” (Kingdom of God)
These are the third and fourth Orson Pratt pamphlets we’ve made available (we released his “Interesting Account” and “Absurdities of Immaterialism” earlier this year), so a bit of biographical information about him is in order. Pratt was born in Hartford, Washington County, New York in 1811, descended from Anne Hutchinson, a famous woman of history for being religiously tolerant in very intolerant times. He went to school sporadically throughout his life, and at the age of 18 began to very earnestly pray about his salvation. Two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appeared in his neighborhood in September of 1830 and held meetings, which Orson and his older brother Parley P. Pratt attended. Orson was baptized on September 19, 1830, his nineteenth birthday. He then traveled independently to meet the prophet Joseph Smith. In a revelation given him by Joseph (D&C 34), he learned of his mission, to preach the gospel, and went on to serve several missions for the church. In 1836, Orson Pratt was called to the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the newly restored dispensation. In his words,
“From 1836 to 1844, I occupied much of my leisure time in study, and made myself thoroughly acquainted with algebra, geometry, trigonometry, conic sections, differential and integral calculus, astronomy, and most of the physicial sciences. These studies I pursued without the assistance of a teacher.”
He became responsible for surveying land as the saints traveled west, measuring altitude and latitude, and is credited with helping to invent the odometer. He was also among the first to enter Salt Lake Valley. He made repeated trips across the country, using his travels to perform scientific research on the land the companies passed through. He continued his service as a member of the quorum of the Twelve, working for the kingdom and in his scientific pursuits, serving missions, presiding over branches of the church, and presenting in front of presidents and legislatures.
He was the last surviving member of the original quorum of the Twelve when he died in 1881, leaving behind a large family, a great body of mathematical research work, and a legacy of tireless service to the Kingdom of God. These pamphlets are part of his larger body of work, using logic and reasoning to discuss Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet, what the Kingdom of God really entails, and what people can do to find the truth.
Both pamphlets and this blog post were produced by Heidi Billy, MTP Intern.
A prior version of this article incorrectly stated that Orson Pratt was born in Hartford, Washington, and was a native of Great Britain. He was actually born in Hartford, Washington County, New York. Apologies, and thanks for the comment that identified this.