DC 32 Historical Background
At this time a great desire was manifested by several of the Elders respecting the remnants of the house of Joseph, the Lamanites, residing in the west-knowing that the purposes of God were great respecting that people, and hoping that the time had come when the promises of the Almighty in regard to them were about to be accomplished, and that they would receive the Gospel, and enjoy its blessings. The desire being so great, it was agreed that we should inquire of the Lord respecting the propriety of sending some of the Elders among them, which we accordingly did, and received the following: (D&C 32)
Immediately on receiving this revelation, preparations were made for the journey of the brethren therein designated, to the borders of the Lamanites, and a copy of the revelation was given them. They bade adieu to their brethren and friends, and commenced their journey, preaching by the way, and leaving a sealing testimony behind them, lifting up their voice like a trump in the different villages through which they passed. (History of the Church, 1:118-220)
DC 32 Biographical Sketch and Conversion of Parley P. Pratt
The conversion story of Parley P. Pratt is one of the great stories of the Restoration. The way the Spirit guided him to the truth and the effect that the Book of Mormon had upon him were particularly remarkable. This story is beautifully told in the Church video entitled, "How Rare A Possession: The Book of Mormon."
B. H. Roberts
Parley Parker Pratt was born on the 12th day of April, 1807, in Burlington, Otsego county, state of New York. He was the third son of Jared and Charity Pratt. ...Parley P. Pratt was reared to hard work on a farm and though his opportunities for acquiring an education were extremely limited, he was brought up in the strictest school of morals. Even in early youth he gave evidence of a profoundly religious nature, and while yet in his teens became identified with the Baptist church. In 1826 he left New York state and settled some thirty miles west of the town of Cleveland, in the state of Ohio, and laid the foundation of a wilderness home. The next year, 1827, he returned to Canaan, Columbia county, New York,-the county where much of his boyhood was spent, the home, too, of his parents-and there married Thankful Halsey, on the 9th of September, 1827. The same month the newly married couple returned to the wilderness home west of Cleveland. About eighteen months later Sidney Rigdon, who was connected with Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott and others in that aggressive reform movement among the Christian sects, which resulted in the founding of the sect of the "Disciples" or "Campbellites," came into Mr. Pratt's neighborhood preaching the doctrines of faith, repentance and baptism. As his doctrine more nearly conformed to the scriptures than any other Mr. Pratt had heard, he accepted Sydney Rigdon's teachings, joined the "Disciples," and became a minister in that church. He determined to take up the ministry as his life's labor, sold his possessions and started first of all to call upon his relatives in New York. En route, however, he was moved upon by the spirit to stop off at Newark, in New York, while his wife continued her journey to her father's home. At Newark, Mr. Pratt first heard of and saw the Book of Mormon, and, without delay, hastened to Palmyra to investigate the story of its coming forth. (History of the Church, 1:119, footnote)
Parley P. Pratt
[In Newark] we visited an old Baptist deacon by the name of Hamlin. After hearing of our appointment for evening, he began to tell of a book, a strange book, a VERY STRANGE BOOK! in his possession, which had been just published... I inquired of him how or where the book was to be obtained. He promised me the perusal of it, at his house the next day, if I would call. I felt a strange interest in the book... Next morning I called at his house, where, for the first time, my eyes beheld the "BOOK OF MORMON"-that book of books-that record which reveals the antiquities of the "New World" back to the remotest ages...
I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.
As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life. I soon determined to see the young man who had been the instrument of its discovery and translation.
I accordingly visited the village of Palmyra, and inquired for the residence of Mr. Joseph Smith. I found it some two or three miles from the village. As I approached the house at the close of the day I overtook a man who [turned out to be Hyrum Smith]... He welcomed me to his house, and we spent the night together; for neither of us felt disposed to sleep. We conversed most of the night, during which I unfolded to him much of my experience in my search after truth, and my success so far; together with that which I felt was lacking, viz: a commissioned priesthood, or apostleship to minister in the ordinances of God.
He also unfolded to me the particulars of the discovery of the Book; its translation; the rise of the Church of Latter-day Saints, and the commission of his brother Joseph, and others, by revelation and the ministering of angels, by which the apostleship and authority had been again restored to the earth. After duly weighing the whole matter in my mind I saw clearly that these things were true...
In the morning I was compelled to take leave of this worthy man and his family-as I had to hasten back a distance of thirty miles, on foot, to fulfil an appointment in the evening. As we parted he kindly presented me with a copy of the Book of Mormon. I had not yet completed its perusal, and was glad indeed to possess a copy of my own. I travelled on a few miles, and, stopping to rest, I commenced again to read the book. To my great joy I found that Jesus Christ, in his glorified resurrected body, had appeared to the remnant of Joseph on the continent of America, soon after his resurrection and ascension into heaven...
This discovery greatly enlarged my heart, and filled my soul with joy and gladness. I esteemed the Book, or the information contained in it, more than all the riches of the world. Yes; I verily believe that I would not at that time have exchanged the knowledge I then possessed, for a legal title to all the beautiful farms, houses, villages and property which passed in review before me, on my journey through one of the most flourishing settlements of western New York. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 36-39)
DC 32:1-2 declare my gospel...among the Lamanites
Spencer W. Kimball
The development and growth and progress of the Lamanite people are of prime importance to all Mormondom, to the whole Church program, to Christianity.
In 1963, 23 percent of all the baptisms in the Church were Lamanite baptisms. There were twenty-five thousand in one year. In 1970 there were even more. All this indicates the responsiveness of the Lamanites to the truth. It is like one of the Lamanites said: "This gospel, which is sometimes called Mormonism, is something we have been trying all our lives to remember; now all at once it comes back." Have you ever tried to recover something that you have lost in your memory, and all at once, as you strain and struggle, here it comes back? That is the way the gospel is to the Lamanites. One good Navajo man said to me: "All our lives we knew that we were off the line. We used to be with you folks in the long ago; then we came to a division in the road with a great stone in the middle. We went one way and you went the other, but now we are around it and we are all coming back together." ("Of Royal Blood," Ensign, July 1971, 9)
DC 32:2 go with my servants, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jun., into the wilderness among the Lamanites
Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer, Jr. had already been called to preach among the Lamanites (see D&C 28:8; 30:5-6). The purpose of section 32 is to call Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson. While called to the Lamanites, the greatest contribution of this early mission was the conversion of Sidney Rigdon and many of his congregation. Elder Pratt preserved a complete and interesting account of this mission in his autobiography.
Parley P. Pratt
Making arrangements for my wife in the family of the Whitmers, we took leave of our friends and the church late in October, and started on foot.
After travelling for some days we called on an Indian nation at or near Buffalo; and spent part of a day with them, instructing them in the knowledge of the record of their forefathers. We were kindly received, and much interest was manifested by them on hearing this news. We made a present of two copies of the Book of Mormon to certain of them who could read, and repaired to Buffalo. Thence we continued our journey, for about two hundred miles, and at length called on Mr. Rigdon, my former friend and instructor, in the Reformed Baptist Society. He received us cordially and entertained us with hospitality.
We soon presented him with a Book of Mormon, and related to him the history of the same. He was much interested, and promised a thorough perusal of the book.
We tarried in this region for some time, and devoted our time to the ministry, and visiting from house to house.
At length Mr. Rigdon and many others became convinced that they had no authority to minister in the ordinances of God; and that they had not been legally baptized and ordained. They, therefore, came forward and were baptized by us, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.
The news of our coming was soon noised abroad, and the news of the discovery of the Book of Mormon and the marvelous events connected with it. The interest and excitement now became general in Kirtland, and in all the region round about. The people thronged us night and day, insomuch that we had no time for rest and retirement. Meetings were convened in different neighborhoods, and multitudes came together soliciting our attendance; while thousands flocked about us daily; some to be taught, some for curiosity, some to obey the gospel, and some to dispute or resist it.
In two or three weeks from our arrival in the neighborhood with the news, we had baptized one hundred and twenty-seven souls, and this number soon increased to one thousand. The disciples were filled with joy and gladness; while rage and lying was abundantly manifested by gainsayers; faith was strong, joy was great, and persecution heavy.
We proceeded to ordain Sidney Rigdon, Isaac Morley, John Murdock, Lyman Wight, Edward Partridge and many others to the ministry; and, leaving them to take care of the churches and to minister the gospel, we took leave of the saints and continued our journey...
We now pursued our journey for some days, and at length arrived in Sandusky, in the western part of Ohio. Here resided a tribe, or nation of Indians, called Wyandots, on whom we called, and with whom we spent several days. We were well received, and had an opportunity of laying before them the record of their forefathers, which we did. They rejoiced in the tidings, bid us God speed, and desired us to write to them in relation to our success among the tribes further west, who had already removed to the Indian territory, where these expected soon to go....
In the beginning of 1831 we renewed our journey; and, passing through St. Louis and St. Charles, we travelled on foot for three hundred miles through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow-no beaten road; houses few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces with a keenness which would almost take the skin off the face. We travelled for whole days, from morning till night, without a house or fire, wading in snow to the knees at every step, and the cold so intense that the snow did not melt on the south side of the houses, even in the mid-day sun, for nearly six weeks. We carried on our backs our changes of clothing, several books, and corn bread and raw pork. We often ate our frozen bread and pork by the way, when the bread would be so frozen that we could not bite or penetrate any part of it but the outside crust.
After much fatigue and some suffering we all arrived in Independence, in the county of Jackson, on the extreme western frontiers of Missouri, and of the United States.
This was about fifteen hundred miles from where we started, and we had performed most of the journey on foot, through a wilderness country, in the worst season of the year....
...Two of our number now commenced work as tailors in the village of Independence, while the others crossed the frontier line and commenced a mission among the Lamanites, or Indians.
Passing through the tribe of Shawnees we tarried one night with them, and the next day crossed the Kansas river and entered among the Delawares. We immediately inquired for the residence of the principal Chief, and were soon introduced to an aged and venerable looking man, who had long stood at the head of the Delawares, and been looked up to as the Great Grandfather, or Sachem of ten nations or tribes.
He was seated on a sofa of furs, skins and blankets, before a fire in the center of his lodge; which was a comfortable cabin, consisting of two large rooms.
His wives were neatly dressed, partly in calicoes and partly in skins; and wore a vast amount of silver ornaments. As we entered his cabin he took us by the hand with a hearty welcome, and then motioned us to be seated on a pleasant seat of blankets, or robes. His wives, at his bidding, set before us a tin pan full of beans and corn boiled up together, which proved to be good eating; although three of us made use alternately of the same wooden spoon.
There was an interpreter present and through him we commenced to make known our errand, and to tell him of the Book of Mormon. We asked him to call the council of his nation together and give us a hearing in full... He was at first unwilling to call his council; made several excuses, and finally refused; as he had ever been opposed to the introduction of missionaries among his tribe.
We continued the conversation a little longer, till he at last began to understand the nature of the Book. He then changed his mind; became suddenly interested, and requested us to proceed no further with our conversation till he could call a council. He despatched a messenger, and in about an hour had some forty men collected around us in his lodge, who, after shaking us by the hand, were seated in silence; and in a grave and dignified manner awaited the announcement of what we had to offer. The chief then requested us to proceed; or rather, begin where we began before, and to complete our communication. Elder Cowdery then commenced as follows:
"Aged Chief and Venerable Council of the Delaware nation; we are glad of this opportunity to address you as our red brethren and friends. We have travelled a long distance from towards the rising sun to bring you glad news; we have travelled the wildemess, crossed the deep and wide rivers, and waded in the deep snows, and in the face of the storms of winter, to communicate to you great knowledge which has lately come to our ears and hearts; and which will do the red man good as well as the pale face...
"(In language suited to his audience, Elder Cowdery then recounts the history of the American Indian and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon) ...here is a copy of the Book, which we now present to our red friend, the chief of the Delawares, and which we hope he will cause to be read and known among his tribe; it will do them good."
We then presented him with a Book of Mormon.
There was a pause in the council, and some conversation in their own tongue, after which the chief made the following reply:
"We feel truly thankful to our white friends who have come so far, and been at such pains to tell us good news, and especially this new news concerning the Book of our forefathers; it makes us glad in here"-placing his hand on his heart.
"It is now winter, we are new settlers in this place; the snow is deep, our cattle and horses are dying, our wigwams are poor; we have much to do in the spring-to build houses, and fence and make farms; but we will build a council house, and meet together, and you shall read to us and teach us more concerning the Book of our fathers and the will of the Great Spirit."
...We continued for several days to instruct the old chief and many of his tribe. The interest became more and more intense on their part, from day to day, until at length nearly the whole tribe began to feel a spirit of inquiry and excitement on the subject.
We found several among them who could read, and to them we gave copies of the Book, explaining to them that it was the Book of their forefathers.
Some began to rejoice exceedingly, and took great pains to tell the news to others, in their own language.
The excitement now reached the frontier settlements in Missouri, and stirred up the jealousy and envy of the Indian agents and sectarian missionaries to that degree that we were soon ordered out of the Indian country as disturbers of the peace; and even threatened with the military in case of non-compliance.
We accordingly departed from the Indian country, and came over the line, and commenced laboring in Jackson County, Missouri, among the whites. We were well received, and listened to by many; and some were baptized and added to the Church.
Thus ended our first Indian Mission, in which we had preached the gospel in its fulness, and distributed the record of their forefathers among three tribes, viz: the Catteraugus Indians, near Buffalo, N. Y., the Wyandots of Ohio, and the Delawares west of Missouri. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 47-57)
DC 32:3 Ziba Peterson also shall go with them
"The fact is that the...Saints in nineteenth-century New York-were not typical. They faced unique opportunities and challenges as the first members of the Church and the first citizens of the restored kingdom of God on the earth. But a study of nineteenth century journals and diaries for that period does show us that many of those early Saints were 'regular, ordinary people' who were given a challenge to greatness. Some of them, like Newell Knight, met that challenge with extraordinary Commitment and we remember his name today. Others met the challenge with the same commitment but are unknown outside their family circle. Others took up the challenge for a moment, but dropped it again and turned away. And still others accepted, rejected, and then came back with increased determination.
"The faithful Saints were extraordinarily blessed, but they were also extraordinarily tested, chastized, and refined. Spiritual manifestations were poured out in abundance, but these Saints exercised mighty faith to receive them. Ziba Peterson, for instance, could have accepted that challenge to greatness. He probably was baptized within a few months of the Church's organization, since the Lord, through Joseph Smith in October 1830 singled Ziba Peterson out to go on a mission to the Lamanites with Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, and Peter Whitmer. (D&C 32:1-3.) We know the other three names. We should know Ziba Peterson's, for on that mission he helped convert Sidney Rigdon in Mentor, Ohio, the same month. In November, he was in Painsville, Ohio, talking with Edward Partridge. (HC, 1:129n.) The next spring he was Oliver Cowdery's missionary companion. (HC, 1:182.) But in August 1831, another revelation rebuked Ziba for wanting to hide his sins (D&C 58:60), and ten years later, his former missionary companion, Parley P. Pratt, said he had 'turned away from fellowship with the Church.' (Times and Seasons 3:624.) And that's what we know of Ziba Peterson. The challenge to greatness was before him, but he turned from it.
"Saints then, like Saints now, came in all sorts. Some knew from the beginning the dimension of the commitment that they were making, others recognized only the sweet, strong taste of the truth and, hungering for more, followed where the search led them, step by step." (Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Challenge to Greatness: The Nineteenth-Century Saints in New York," Ensign, Sept. 1978, 25-26)
DC 32:3 I myself will go with them and be in their midst
"In an early revelation to Joseph Smith the Lord said: 'Mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me.' (D&C 38:7.) Again, to those of our dispensation the Lord said, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them-even so am I in the midst of you' (D&C 6:32). To some of the early missionaries of our dispensation the Lord said, 'I myself will go with them and be in their midst; and I am their advocate with the Father, and nothing shall prevail against them' (D&C 32:3). Such are not idle promises. In a general conference of the Church, Harold B. Lee said: 'There has been here an overwhelming spiritual endowment, attesting, no doubt, that in all likelihood we are in the presence of personages, seen and unseen, who are in attendance. Who knows but that even our Lord and Master would be near us on such an occasion as this, for we and the world, must never forget that this is his church, and under his almighty direction we are to serve!' At the conclusion of the same conference President Lee said: 'I can't leave this conference without saying to you that I have a conviction that the Master hasn't been absent from us on these occasions. This is his church. Where else would he rather be than right here at the headquarters of his church? He isn't an absentee master; he is concerned about us. He wants us to follow where he leads. I know that he is a living reality, as is our Heavenly Father. I know it.'" (Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Life Beyond [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986], 86-87.)
I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth, who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. The Savior looked upon them and wept. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 107.)
DC 32:4 pretend to no other revelation
The church conference of one month prior settled the dispute about Hiram Page and his seer stone. The brethren are now counseled not to make the same mistake again.
"These were all reminders to look to the Lord and his prophet for guidance and direction in order to avoid confusion and deception. Later missionaries were cautioned to preach 'none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written' (D&C 52:9, 36). Can you imagine how the Lord could bless this Church and the lives of its members if we could follow that counsel?
"The Church was slow to learn this lesson concerning revelation for the Church coming only to the Prophet. Less than six months after Hiram Page and his seer stone revelation, the following events occurred in Kirtland, as recorded by Ezra Booth: 'A female [Mrs. Hubble], professing to be a prophetess, made her appearance in Kirtland, and so ingratiated herself into the esteem and favor of some of the Elders that they received her as a person commissioned to act a conspicuous part in Mormonizing the world. Rigdon, and some others, gave her the right hand of fellowship, and literally saluted her with what they called the kiss of charity. But [Joseph] Smith . . . declared her an imposter, and she returned to the place from whence she came. Her visit, however, made a deep impression on the minds of many, and the barbed arrow which she left in the hearts of some, is not as yet eradicated.'" (A. Gary Anderson, The Heavens Are Open: The 1992 Sperry Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 40.)
DC 32:4 they shall give heed to that which is written...pray always that I may unfold the same to their understanding
Gene R. Cook
According to that verse, what will happen if you fail to pray about the scriptures? The Lord will not unfold their meaning to you. If you want to unlock the secrets of the scriptures, you have to pray about them as you read. I recommend that each day, before you open your book and start reading, you first pray for understanding. (Searching the Scriptures: Bringing Power to Your Personal and Family Study [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 49.)