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Orson Pratt: A Pioneer of the Spirit and the Stars

Q: Orson Pratt is mentioned in D&C 34; 52:26; 75:14; 124:129; 136:13. How old was Orson Pratt when he was ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles? How did he use his mathematical skills on the trip West? How many times did he cross the Atlantic Ocean to share the gospel with those in the British Isles?

A: Orson Pratt was born in September 1811 in New York. “It was the Book of Mormon that brought stability to Orson’s life.” He was baptized on his nineteenth birthday by his brother Parley and was soon called to preach the gospel. After his mission, Orson became the first man in this dispensation to serve as an elders quorum president.

After serving another mission, Orson returned to Kirtland and worked on the temple before joining Zion’s Camp. In April 1833, at the age of twenty-three, Orson was ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. During the time of his service in the Quorum, he became proficient in Hebrew and taught English grammar.

Religious persecution drove the Saints from Ohio to Missouri and then to Illinois. Orson faltered for a few months but repented and was received back into the Church. After the Martyrdom, Orson followed Brigham Young to the temporary encampments of the Iowa Territory and on to the Rockies. Orson kept a meticulous log of the miles traveled, and astronomical and other scientific observations, and he calculated the latitude and longitude of prominent sites.

      This is the Place Monument - Orson is portrayed on the horse.

This is the Place Monument
Orson is portrayed on the horse.

He was one of two Latter-day Saints to first enter the Salt Lake Valley on July 21, 1847, three days before Brigham Young.

Several days later he preached the first sermon in the Salt Lake Valley and formally dedicated the valley to the Lord. He also helped plat the city that was to become Salt Lake City.

Orson then returned to Iowa and there journeyed east to England. Orson crossed the Atlantic Ocean sixteen times to share the gospel with those in the British Isles. (Partial journal of Orson from 1832-1835 in “History of Orson Pratt,” Deseret News, 9 June 1858)

The good that Orson accomplished in his life bears testimony of his desire to do something that “shall be considered great in the sight of God.” Orson presided over the territorial legislature and served as a regent of the University of Deseret. Orson was known as an accomplished mathematician, and had a strong interest in astronomy. He and his family were baptized over twenty-six hundred times for deceased kindred dead. In 1874 he was appointed historian and general Church recorder, which position he held at the time of his death.

Orson was the last surviving member of the original Council of the Twelve Apostles. He died October 3, 1881, at age seventy and is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

He told Joseph F. Smith the inscription he wanted his tombstone to read: “My body sleeps for a moment, but my testimony lives and shall endure forever.”

Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black

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