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David W. Patten

Q: David W. Patten is mentioned in D&C 114:1; 124:19, 130.  What kind of a man was David W. Patten and what wish did he have that was fulfilled at his death?

A: David W. Patten was born in November 1799 in New York, the eleventh of fourteen children.

He left home in his youth and traveled to Michigan, where he made himself a home in the woods.  He looked for a Church to attend. He was “looking for the Church of Christ to arise in is purity, according to the promise of Christ, and [believed] that I should live to see it.”

Patten first became acquainted with the Book of Mormon around 1830. In May 1832 he received a letter from his brother John, who was living in Green County, Indiana, noting that he had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patten journeyed to Indiana and was baptized by his brother on June 15, 1832. Two days later he was ordained an elder by Elisha H. Groves. On September 2, 1832, he was ordained a high priest by Hyrum Smith.

Until his death in 1838, Patten served almost continuously as a missionary for the Church. He established numerous branches of the Church on each of his proselytizing journeys and was renowned for his spiritual gift of healing.

In 1835, Patten was chosen as one of the Twelve Apostles and was ordained on April 26th by Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. On the 29th, he received a blessing under the hands of Joseph Smith, Sr.  During the latter part of 1836, Patten settled in Far West, Missouri. On April 6, 1838, Patten and Brigham Young were sustained as assistant presidents of the Church in Missouri, with Thomas B. Marsh as President pro tem. Only three of the original Twelve remained constantly true to the Church: David W. Patten (Who was killed at Crooked River), Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball.

On April 17, 1838, Joseph Smith received a revelation instructing Patten to prepare for a mission with the Twelve the following spring (D&C 114); however, Patten did not live to fulfill the assignment.   It is believed that David made known to the Prophet Joseph that he wished to die a martyr’s death. The Prophet responded, “When a man of your faith asks the Lord for anything, he generally gets it.”

      Battle of Crooked River

A group of seventy-five men, under his leadership, attempted to rescue three Latter-day Saints who had been taken prisoners by a company of Missourians. It was near Crooked River that a shot was fired, and the battle ensured. Patten died on October 25, 1838. “As he charged, David caught sight of a stray man and chased after him. The man spun around and, glimpsing David’s white coat, fired point-blank at the apostle. The ball tore through his abdomen and he fell.”  He was taken to the home of Stephen Winchester, where he died. Patten was thirty-eight years of age. He was buried in Far West, Missouri, two days later.

      David Patten's Gun
      Far West Burial Ground

Of his martyrdom the Prophet Joseph wrote, “Brother David W. Patten was a very worthy man, beloved by all good men who knew him. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and died as he lived, a man of God and strong in the faith of a glorious resurrection, in a world where mobs will have no power or place.”

At his funeral the Prophet Joseph stated, “There lies a man who has done just was he said he would–he has laid down his life for his friends.”  His remains were laid to rest with military honors at Far West, and his grave is now unmarked and unknown.

Of his noble spirit, the Lord stated in a revelation to the Prophet, “David Patten I have taken unto myself…” (D&C 124:130).  He assured the Prophet that  “My servant David Patten…is with me at this time” (D&C 124:19).

Source: Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by **Susan Easton Black; Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 76-80; Life of David W. Patten, the First Apostolic Martyr, Lycurgus A. Wilson; Saints: The Standard of Truth, p 343-345.

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