Historical Context and Background of D&C 32

Video Overview

Brief Synopsis by Steven C. Harper

Inspired by the Spirit, Parley Pratt left his Ohio homestead in the summer of 1830 and learned of the Book of Mormon while preaching in western New York. He devoured it, became converted, and went in search of Joseph Smith. He first met Joseph around the time of the September 1830 Church conference. During that conference, several of the elders desired very much to know how they could best take the Book of Mormon to the Lamanites. They agreed to ask the Lord whether some of them should go to the Native Americans, whom they assumed were descendants of Lehi.[1]

Oliver Cowdery had already been called to lead such a mission, and Peter Whitmer was assigned to join him (sections 28, 30). Parley remembered that Joseph “inquired of the Lord, and received a revelation appointing me a mission to the west, in company with Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Ziba Peterson. We started this mission in October, 1830.”[2]

Parley and Ziba took this revelation seriously and worked hard to obey it. On October 17, 1830, they signed a statement that said,

Being called and commanded by the Lord God, to accompany our brother Oliver Cowdery to go the Lamanites and to assist in the . . . glorious work and business, we do, therefore, most solemnly covenant before God, that we will assist him faithfully in this thing, by giving heed to all his words and advise, which is, or shall be given him by the spirit of truth, ever praying with all prayer and supplication, for his and our prosperity, and our deliverance from bonds, and imprisonments and whatsoever may come upon us, with all patience and faith.[3]

Joseph’s mother Lucy remembered that “Emma Smith, and several other sisters, began to make arrangements to furnish those who were set apart for this mission, with the necessary clothing, which was no easy task, as the most of it had to be manufactured out of the raw material.”[4] Lucy said that “as soon as those men designated in the revelation were prepared to leave home, they started on their mission, preaching and baptizing on their way, wherever an opportunity afforded.”[5]

[1]History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 60, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September  25, 2020.

[2] “History of Parley P. Pratt,” Deseret News, May 19, 1858.

[3] Ezra Booth to Rev. Ira Eddy, November 24, 1831, Nelson, Ohio, in Ohio Star (Ravenna, Ohio), December 8, 1831.

[4] Lavina Fielding Anderson, editor, Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir (Salt Lake City: Signature, 2001), 502–3.

[5] Anderson, Lucy’s Book, 503.

Additional Context, by Casey Paul Griffiths

From Doctrine and Covenants Minute

As excitement surrounding the mission to the Lamanites grew, several new converts expressed interest in accompanying Oliver Cowdery as he led a group to the U.S. border. Among those anxious volunteers were Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson. Several years earlier, before he joined the Church and when he was only nineteen years old, Parley had set out from New York for Ohio with a plan to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the American Indians. Parley later wrote of his desires at this time: “I will win the confidence of the red man; I will learn his language; I will tell him of Jesus; I will read to him the Scriptures; I will teach him the arts of peace; to hate war, to love his neighbor, to fear and love God, and to cultivate the earth. Such were my resolutions” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 2000, 14).

During his travels, Parley became familiar with Sidney Rigdon, a minister associated with the restorationist movement of Alexander Campbell. Campbell’s movement sought to bring back the church of the New Testament in its original purity. Parley became a preacher on behalf of the movement and began to travel and teach others, often accompanied by his wife, Thankful Halsey. In the summer of 1830 Parley and Thankful were traveling on a canal boat near Palmyra when Parley felt a prompting to disembark and travel through the area alone. Soon after, he met with a Baptist deacon who loaned him a copy of the Book of Mormon.

Parley read the book and gained a witness that it was true. He then traveled to Palmyra, enquiring after Joseph Smith; instead he met Hyrum Smith. “We conversed most of the night, during which I unfolded to him much of my experience in seeking after the truth,” Parley later wrote. Hyrum told Parley about the coming forth and translation of the sacred record. As they parted, Hyrum gave Parley a copy of the Book of Mormon to keep for himself. Shortly after speaking with Hyrum, Parley traveled to Fayette, New York, where he met with Oliver Cowdery and other Church members. He was soon baptized and ordained an elder (Autobiography, 2000, 30–39).

A few weeks later, Parley met Joseph Smith, who received this revelation on behalf of him and Ziba Peterson. Parley later wrote, “A revelation had been given through the mouth of this Prophet, Seer, and Translator, in which Elders Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., Ziba Peterson, and myself were appointed to go into the wilderness, through the western States, and to the Indian territory. 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 out on foot” (Autobiography, 2000, 49).

Historical Introduction, Revelation, October 1830-A [D&C 32]