Parley P. Pratt’s call to the Apostleship

Jan 2, 2011
16 min read

In accordance with one of the early revelations to the Church concerning the calling and ordination of Twelve Apostles, this quorum was now being filled. Among those chosen for this high and holy calling was my brother Orson and myself. He being still absent, and the other members having been already ordained, a meeting was convened at Kirtland, and very numerously attended, in which, on the 21st day of February, 1835, I took the oath and covenant of apostleship, and was solemnly set apart and ordained to that office; and as a member of that quorum under the hands of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer; the minutes of which in the Church History are as follows:

“Kirtland, February 21st, 1835. Pursuant to adjournment, a meeting of the Church was held, and, after prayer by President David Whitmer, and a short address by President Oliver Cowdery to the congregation, Elder Parley P. Pratt was called to the stand, and ordained one of the Twelve by President Joseph Smith, Jr., David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery. ‘O, Lord, smile from heaven upon this thy servant; forgive his sins, sanctify his heart, and prepare him to receive the blessing. Increase his love for thee and for thy cause; increase his intelligence, communicate to him all that wisdom, that prudence and that understanding which he needs as a minister of righteousness, and to magnify the apostleship whereunto he is called.

“May a double portion of that Spirit which was communicated to the disciples of our Lord and Saviour, to lead them to all truth, rest down upon him, and go with him where he goes, that nothing shall prevail against him; that he may be delivered from prisons, from the power of his enemies, and from the adversary of all righteousness.

“May he be able to mount up on wings as an eagle; to run and not be weary, to walk and not to faint; may he have great wisdom and intelligence, and be able to lead thine elect through this thorny maze. Let sickness and death have no power over him; let him be equal with his brethren in bringing many sons and daughters to glory, and many nations to a knowledge of the truth. Great blessings shall rest upon thee; thy faith shall increase, thou shalt have great power to prevail. The veil of the heavens shall be rolled up, thou shalt be permitted to gaze within it, and receive instructions from on high.

“No arm that is formed and lifted against thee shall prosper, no power shall prevail, for thou shalt have power with God, and shalt proclaim His gospel. Thou wilt be afflicted, but thou shalt be delivered, and conquer all thy foes. Thine office shall never be taken from thee, thou shalt be called great, angels shall carry thee from place to place. Thy sins are forgiven, and thy name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; even so. Amen.’

Charge Given by Oliver Cowdery to P. P. Pratt

“I am aware, dear brother, that the mind naturally claims something new; but the same thing rehearsed frequently profits us. You will have the same difficulties to encounter in fulfilling this ministry that the ancient Apostles had. You have enlisted in a cause that requires your whole attention; you ought, therefore, to count the cost; and to become a polished shaft, you must be sensible, requires the labor of years, and your station requires a perfect polish.

“It is required not merely to travel a few miles in the country, but in distant countries; you must endure much toil, much labor, and many privations to become perfectly polished. Your calling is not like that of the husbandman, to cultivate a stinted portion of the planet on which we dwell, and when Heaven has given the former and the latter rain, and mellow autumn ripened his fruits, gather it in, and congratulate himself for a season in the remission of his toils, while he anticipates his winter evenings of relaxation and fireside enjoyments. But, dear brother, it is far otherwise with you.

“Your labor must be incessant, and your toil great; you must go forth and labor till the great work is done. It will require a series of years to accomplish it; but you will have this pleasing consolation, that your Heavenly Father requires it; the field is His; the work is His; and He will not only cheer you, animate you, and buoy you up in your pilgrimage, in your arduous toils; but when your work is done and your labor o’er, he will take you to himself.

“But before this consummation of your felicity, bring your mind to bear upon what will be imperiously required of you to accomplish the great work that lies before you. Count well the cost. You have read of the persecutions and trials of ancient days. Has not bitter experience taught you that they are the same now? You will be dragged before the authorities for the religion you profess; and it were better not to set out than to start, look back, or shrink when dangers thicken upon, or appalling death stares you in the face. I have spoken these things, dear brother, because I have seen them in visions. There are strong dungeons and gloomy prisons for you.

“These should not appall you. You must be called a good or bad man. The ancients passed through the same. They had this testimony, that they had seen the Saviour after he rose from the dead. You must bear some testimony, or your mission, your labor, your toil will be in vain. You must bear the same testimony that there is but one God, one Mediator; he that has seen Him will know Him, and testify of Him.

“Beware of pride; beware of evil; shun the very appearance of it; for the time is coming when, if you do not give heed to these things, you will have a fall. Among your many afflictions you will have many blessings also; but you must pass through many afflictions in order to receive the glory that is in reserve for you. You will see thousands who, when they first see you, will know nothing about salvation by Jesus Christ; you shall see a nation born in a day. A great work lies before you, and the time is near when you must bid farewell to your native land, cross the mighty deep, and sound the tocsin of alarm to other nations, kindreds, tongues and people.

“Remember, that all your hopes of deliverance from danger and from death will rest upon your faithfulness to God; in His cause you must necessarily serve Him with a perfect heart and a willing mind. Avoid strife and vain glory; think not yourself better than your brethren, but pray for them as well as for yourself; and if you are faithful, great will be your blessings; but if you are not, your stewardship will be taken from you and another appointed in your stead.

“Elder Pratt gave his hand to President O. Cowdery, and said he had received ordination, and should fulfil the ministry according to the grace given him; to which the President replied: ‘Go forth, and angels shall bear thee up, and thou shalt come forth at the last day, bringing many with thee.’” Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Pratt were absent on a mission. Elder Marsh returned to Kirtland on the 25th of April, and Elder Pratt on the 26th, and received their ordinations and blessings.

The following charge was given to the Twelve by President O. Cowdery:

“Dear Brethren: Previous to delivering the charge, I shall read a part of a revelation. It is known to you that, previous to the organization of this Church, in 1830, the Lord gave revelations, or the Church could not have been organized. The people of this Church were weak in faith compared with the ancients. Those who embarked in this cause were desirous to know how the work was to be conducted. They read many things in the Book of Mormon concerning their duty, and the way the great work ought to be done; but the minds of men are so constructed that they will not believe without a testimony of seeing or hearing. The Lord gave us a revelation that, in process of time, there should be twelve men chosen to preach His gospel to Jew and Gentile.

“Our minds have been on a constant stretch to find who these twelve were, when the time should come we could not tell; but we sought the Lord by fasting and prayer to have our lives prolonged to see this day; to see you; and to take a retrospect of the difficulties through which we have passed; but, having seen the day, it becomes my duty to deliver to you a charge; and first, a few remarks respecting your ministry. You have many revelations put into your hands; revelations to make you acquainted with the nature of your mission; you will have difficulties by reason of your visiting all the nations of the world. You will need wisdom in a ten-fold proportion to what you have ever had; you will have to combat all the prejudices of all nations.”

He then read the revelation and said: “Have you desired this ministry with all your hearts? If you have desired it, you are called of God, not of man, to go into all the world.”

“He then read again from the revelation what the Lord said to the Twelve. “Brethren, you have your duty presented in this revelation. You have been ordained to the holy priesthood; you have received it from those who have their power and authority from an angel; you are to preach the gospel to every nation. Should you in the least degree come short of your duty, great will be your condemnation; for the greater the calling the greater the transgression.

“I, therefore, warn you to cultivate great humility, for I know the pride of the human heart. Beware, lest the flatterers of the world lift you up; beware, lest your affections are captivated by worldly objects. Let your ministry be first. Remember, the souls of men are committed to your charge, and, if you mind your calling, you shall always prosper.

“You have been indebted to other men in the first instance for evidence; on that you have acted; but it is necessary that you receive a testimony from Heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will, therefore, see the necessity of getting this testimony from Heaven.

Never cease striving till you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief, and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hands upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Saviour in former days laid his hands on his disciples, why not in latter days?

I wonder if this gives us insight as to possible experiences that our modern apostles might participate in.

“With regard to superiority I must make a few remarks. The ancient Apostles sought to be great; but lest the seeds of discord be sown in this matter, understand particularly the voice of the Spirit on this occasion. God does not love you better or more than others. You are to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

“Jacob, you know, wrestled till he obtained. It was by fervent prayer and diligent search that you have obtained the testimony you are now able to bear. You are as one; you are equal in bearing the keys of the kingdom to all nations. You are called to preach the gospel of the Son of God to the nations of the earth; it is the will of your Heavenly Father that you proclaim His gospel to the ends of the earth, and the islands of the sea.

“Be zealous to save souls. The soul of one man is as precious as the soul of another. You are to bear this message to those who consider themselves wise; and such may persecute you; they may seek your life. The adversary has always sought the life of the servants of God; you are, therefore, to be prepared at all times to make a sacrifice of your lives, should God require them in the advancement and building up of His cause. Murmur not at God. Be always prayerful; be always watchful. You will bear with me while I relieve the feelings of my heart. We shall not see another day like this; the time has fully come; the voice of the Spirit has come to set these men apart.

“You will see the time when you will desire to see such a day as this, and you will not see it. Every heart wishes you peace and prosperity; but the scene with you will inevitably change. Let no man take your bishopric; and beware that you lose not your crowns. It will require your whole souls; it will require courage like Enoch’s.

“The time is near when you will be in the midst of congregations who will gnash their teeth upon you. This gospel must roll, and will roll until it fills the whole earth. Did I say congregations would gnash upon you? Yea, I say nations will gnash upon you; you will be considered the worst of men. Be not discouraged at this. When God pours out His Spirit the enemy will rage; but God, remember, is on your right hand and on your left. A man, though he be considered the worst, has joy, who is conscious that he pleases God.

The lives of those who proclaim the true gospel will be in danger; this has been the case ever since the days of righteous Abel. The same opposition has been manifest whenever men came forward to publish the gospel. The time is coming when you will be considered the worst by many, and by some the best of men. The time is coming when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. This testimony will make those who do not believe your testimony seek your lives; but there are whole nations who will receive your testimony. They will call you good men.

“Be not lifted up when you are called good men. Remember you are young men, and you shall be spared. I include the other three. Bear them in mind in your prayers; carry their cases to a throne of grace; although they are not present, yet you and they are equal. This appointment is calculated to create an affection in you for each other stronger than death. You will travel to other nations; bear each other in mind. If one or more is cast into prison, let the others pray for him, and deliver him by their prayers. Your lives shall be in great jeopardy; but the promise of God is, that you shall be delivered.

“Remember you are not to go to other nations till you receive your endowment. Tarry at Kirtland until you are endowed with power from on high. You need a fountain of wisdom, knowledge and intelligence, such as you never had.

“Relative to the endowment, I make a remark or two, that there be no mistake. The world cannot receive the things of God. He can endow you without worldly pomp or great parade. He can give you that wisdom, that intelligence and that power which characterized the ancient saints, and now characterizes the inhabitants of the upper world. The greatness of your commission consists in this: You are to hold the keys of this ministry; you are to go to the nations afar off; nations that sit in darkness.

“The day is coming when the work of God must be done. Israel shall be gathered. The seed of Jacob shall be gathered from their long dispersion. There will be a feast to Israel, the elect of God. It is a sorrowful tale, but the gospel must be preached, and God’s ministers rejected; but where can Israel be found and receive your testimony and not rejoice? Nowhere! The prophecies are full of great things that are to take place in the last days. After the elect are gathered out, destruction shall come on the inhabitants of the earth; all nations shall feel the wrath of God, after they have been warned by the saints of the Most High. If you will not warn them others will, and you will lose your crowns.

“You must prepare your minds to bid a long farewell to Kirtland, even till the great day come. You will see what you never expected to see; you will need the mind of Enoch or Elijah, and the faith of the brother of Jared; you must be prepared to walk by faith, however appalling the prospect to human view; you, and each of you, should feel the force of the imperious mandate, ‘Son, go labor in my vineyard,’ and cheerfully receive what comes; but in the end you will stand while others will fall. You have read in the revelation concerning ordination: ‘Beware how you ordain, for all nations are not like this nation; they will willingly receive the ordinances at your hands to put you out of the way. There will be times when nothing but the angels of God can deliver you out of their hands.’

“We appeal to your intelligence, we appeal to your understanding, that we have so far discharged our duty to you. We consider it one of the greatest condescensions of our Heavenly Father in pointing you out to us; you will be stewards over this ministry; you have a work to do that no other men can do; you must proclaim the gospel in its simplicity and purity, and we commend you to God and the word of His grace.

“You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, — that you have seen the face of God. Therefore, call upon Him in faith and mighty prayer, till you prevail; for it is your duty and privilege to bear such testimony for yourselves. We now exhort you to be faithful to fulfil your calling, — there must be no lack here; you must fulfil in all things, and permit us to repeat, all nations have a claim on you; you are bound together as the three witnesses were; you, notwithstanding, can part and meet, and meet and part again, till your heads are silvered o’er with age.”

He then took them separately by the hand, and said, “Do you with full purpose of heart take part in this ministry, to proclaim the gospel with all diligence, with these your brethren, according to the tenor and intent of the charge you have received?” Each of whom answered in the affirmative.

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