Section 34: Orson Pratt
Shortly after Parley Pratt was baptized in Palmyra in early September 1830, he traveled to his family home in Canaan, Columbia County, New York, where some of his immediate family were sympathetic to the gospel message, though most were not. He did, however convert and baptize his younger brother, Orson Pratt, on September 19, 1830, which was Orson’s nineteenth birthday. Parley then hurried back to Fayette for the church conference there on September 26, at which conference he was called to the Lamanite mission.
About six weeks after being baptized, Orson Pratt settled his affairs in Canaan and also traveled to Fayette to meet the Prophet Joseph and to be with the main body of the Church and to inquire of the Lord what his duties were to be. Orson wrote the following concerning his meeting with the Prophet on that occasion:
In October, 1830, I traveled westward over two hundred miles to see Joseph Smith the prophet. I found him in Fayette, Seneca Country, New York, residing at the home of Mr. Whitmer. I soon became intimately acquainted with this good man, and also with the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. By my request, on the 4th of November, the Prophet Joseph inquired of the Lord for me and received the revelation published in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 34 (Journal History, November 1830, 1).
Orson was one of the more capable and faithful men in the early history of the Church. This revelation foreshadows his faithfulness and his life of service in the Church.
1 My son Orson, hearken and hear and behold what I, the Lord God, shall say unto you, even Jesus Christ your Redeemer;
verse 1 “My son Orson” The Lord has taught many times that all mankind may come unto him and become his sons and daughters (see D&C 25:1; Mosiah 5:7-8; 15:10-16; 3 Nephi 9:17-22; Moses 1:4-6; 6:68; Romans 8:14-18; 1 John 3:1-3). As spiritual sons and daughters of the Savior eternally, we have the promise that if we remain faithful, we will grow up to be like our heavenly parents, to be what they are and have what they have.
2 The light and the life of the world, a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not;
verse 2 Jesus Christ is the “light and the life of the world” (John 8:12). For a thorough discussion of the concept of light in the scriptures, see The Concept of Light in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15.
3 Who so loved the world that he gave his own life, that as many as would believe might become the sons of God. Wherefore you are my son;
verse 3 “Who so loved the world” Jesus speaks of himself in the third person. This is a paraphrase of John 3:16-17.
“Wherefore you are my son” See the commentary for verse 1.
4 And blessed are you because you have believed;
5 And more blessed are you because you are called of me to preach my gospel—
verses 4-5 Believing is good, but preaching what we believe to others is even better.
6 To lift up your voice as with the sound of a trump, both long and loud, and cry repentance unto a crooked and perverse generation, preparing the way of the Lord for his second coming.
verse 6 “lift up your voice . . . both long and loud” The phrase “long and loud” is a perfect description of Orson Pratt’s ministry. He was a powerful and vigorous apologist for the Church to the time of his death in 1881.
“cry repentance unto a crooked and perverse generation” President Brigham Young said, “I wish we had more Elders to go and preach . . . ‘I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, and this is the gospel of salvation, and if you do not believe it you will be damned, every one of you.’ When a man teaches that doctrine . . . it is one of the loudest sermons that was ever preached . . . because the Spirit bears testimony to it” (JD, 4:298-99).
In the Church, we are often embarrassed to teach the hard truth of the gospel straight on, fearing that it is offensive or untactful. We think we will have better success if we “soften” the truth a little and teach it obliquely. The Holy Ghost will testify to the straight and undiluted truth with greater power and greater motivation for change than he will to modified truths taught “tactfully.” The pure and undiluted gospel is offensive to the world. It always has been, but if we don’t sometimes risk offending others with the hard, straight truth, we won’t convert them either. These “offensive” proclamations include: Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. All must repent and be baptized in Christ or they cannot be saved. Baptism by proper priesthood authority is the only gate into the kingdom of God. Only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enjoys the fulness of the gospel and priesthood authority in these latter days.
7 For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, the time is soon at hand that I shall come in a cloud with power and great glory.
8 And it shall be a great day at the time of my coming, for all nations shall tremble.
9 But before that great day shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood; and the stars shall refuse their shining, and some shall fall, and great destructions await the wicked.
verse 9 If the reader wishes to read a thorough discussion of the signs of the times, please study three chapters in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3. They are chapter 24, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Introduction, chapter 25, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Warn, and chapter 26, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Punish and Cleanse.
10 Wherefore, lift up your voice and spare not, for the Lord God hath spoken; therefore prophesy, and it shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
verse 10 Orson Pratt would later remark that this command of the Lord to prophesy seemed to him at the time “almost too great for a person of as humble origin as myself ever to attain to” (JD, 17:290-91). Orson Pratt possessed the gift of prophecy to an extraordinary degree.
11 And if you are faithful, behold, I am with you until I come—
12 And verily, verily, I say unto you, I come quickly. I am your Lord and your Redeemer. Even so. Amen.
verse 12 “I come quickly” See the commentary for D&C 33:18.
- Michael J. Preece