Doctrine or Heresy: Orson Pratt on “Noble Parentage”

Doctrine or Heresy: Orson Pratt on “Noble Parentage”
Apostle Orson Pratt

Apostle Orson Pratt

Heaven knows that it is difficult to get a firm answer on what constitutes actual official church doctrine. Sometimes when you can’t figure out what something is – it is useful to figure out what it is not. I am introducing a new feature on Thoughts on Things and Stuff – an interactive discussion which pits the statements of the Prophets, Seers and Revelators of old with the current views of the Church.

I will provide a quote and reference and I invite the readers to briefly state whether the  statement is Doctrine or Heresy and a brief explanation as to why.

This discussion is open to active true believing Mormons as well as former mormons.

For the first entry I have a little gem delivered over the pulpit of the Tabernacle in August of 1852 by then Apostle Orson Pratt. His discourse was on the subject of “Celestial Marriage” and in making a case for why plurality of wives was essential for bringing the great and noble spirits to the right families, he stated the following:

” I have already told you that the spirits of men and women, all had a previous existence, thousands of years ago, in the heavens, in the presence of God; and I have already told you that among them are many spirits that are more noble, more intelligent than others, that were called the great and mighty ones, reserved until the dispensation of the fullness of times, to come forth upon the face of the earth, through a noble parentage that shall train their young and tender minds in the truths of eternity, that they may grow up in the Lord, and be strong in the power of His might, be clothed upon with His glory, be filled with exceeding great faith; that the visions of eternity may be opened to their minds; that they may be Prophets, Priests, and Kings to the Most High God.

Do you believe, says one, that they are reserved until the last dispensation, for such a noble purpose? Yes; and among the Saints is the most likely place for these spirits to take their tabernacles, through a just and righteous parentage. They are to be sent to that people that are the most righteous of any other people upon the earth; there to be trained up properly, according to their nobility and intelligence, and according to the laws which the Lord ordained before they were born. This is the reason why the Lord is sending them here, brethren and sisters; they are appointed to come and take their bodies here, that in their generations they may be raised up among the righteous.

The Lord has not kept them in store for five or six thousand years past, and kept them waiting for their bodies all this time to send them among the Hottentots, the African negroes, the idolatrous Hindoos, or any other of the fallen nations that dwell upon the face of this earth. They are not kept in reserve in order to come forth to receive such a degraded parentage upon the earth; no, the Lord is not such a being; His justice, goodness, and mercy will be magnified towards those who were chosen before they were born; and they long to come, and they will come among the Saints of the living God; this would be their highest pleasure and joy, to know that they could have the privilege of being born of such noble parentage.”
(“Celestial Marriage” Journal of Discourses, Vol 1, pg. 62-3, Elder Orson Pratt, August 29, 1852)

So please decide whether this statement is Doctrine or Heresy and back it up – with links to official church publications if possible!

If you use the Facebook comments at the bottom of this page, then people can ‘like’ your comment and the one with the most likes wins!

  • Lasvegasrichard

    Orson and Parley were both cowards and men of moral bankruptcy . Joe Smith should have met his demise when he chased after Orson’s wife while he was absent . Gutless as a real man .

  • Thomas

    Really… Tell me your religion and give me a couple co-conspirators and I will have solid documented facts that will hold up in court to destroy your faith. Even if it comes straight from mark Hoffmans jail cell. A real Coward slanders those unable to defend themselves.

  • LDSDPer

    the only logical answer I can make about this comes straight from the Book of Mormon:

    Alma 51: 17, 18, 21–

    and thus he put an end to the stubbornness and the pride of those people who professed the blood of nobility;

    The idea of the people he mentioned being inferior is outrageous, of course, since many of them are probably more humble than those of northern European extraction, but I suppose we must forgive Pratt for his ignorance. When I think of the effort these men had to make to justify polygamy I almost feel sorry for them.

  • Parker

    He wasn’t preaching doctrine, he was just expressing his “well thought out opinion.”

  • Rob

    As a former member whose family is all LDS, I can say that the most educated members will never concede that any static set of teachings are doctrine.
    My own father, a very well-read mormon, wanted to have a debate with me. I agreed on the stipulation that he would define the parameters of what was doctrine so that I could restrict my references to those sources. He selected canonized scripture & any prophet/apostle who was explicitly speaking for the Lord (i.e. “thus saith the Lord”).
    I inquired, “So if scriptures contradict each other, or different prophets disagree when speaking for the Lord, what then?”
    He recanted and said, “Scriptures where the Lord is speaking, and multiple prophets who said the same thing when speaking for the Lord.”
    I inquired further, “So basically 3rd Nephi, the 4 gospels, & repeated prophetic counsel where they were explicitly speaking for the Lord? And you don’t think I will find any contradictions in that very niche subset?”
    “Hmm…” he said, “You probably still can. I’m not sure what I would consider official doctrine.”
    Again, my father is a well-read mormon. He is the go-to individual for questions and references in his ward (as I was previously in mine). If he can’t come up with any static-subset of teachings that constitute doctrine, I don’t think any mormon can (other than ignorantly claiming it’s all true, only to be rapidly disproven).

  • Jennifer

    Don’t you know the Journal of Discourses is anti-Mormon?!?

  • LDSDPer

    I didn’t do as you asked.

    Heresy. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Book of Mormon, which is the only thing “Mormons” can count on.

    Plural marriage was not encouraged in the Book of Mormon; rather it was discouraged, and there was never any revelation (proven as revelation) that required it, section 132 being buried in controversy.

    Definitely heresy. Why not?

    Can righteous men/women receive revelation? I believe so, but I believe it has to be stated as revelation, and most of the things taught are not stated as revelation. If something is stated as revelation, then those who hear can decide, according to the Spirit, whether or not they are hearing true doctrine.

    • Jennifer

      If we define doctrine as The Book of Mormon – period – then are priesthood “keys”, temple ordinances, and the structure of the LDS church all easily discounted as built on heresy? If you reduce doctrine down to solely the contents of the Book of Mormon you make most of the LDS church essentially a heretical – or even an apostate – structure.

  • LDSDPer

    oh, and he also wasn’t reading another portion of the Book of Mormon:

    33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he ainviteth them ball to ccome unto him and partake of his goodness; and he ddenieth none that come unto him, black and white, ebond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the fheathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

    2 Nephi 26:33

    I find it intriguing that these men established themselves based upon Joseph Smith’s revelations (he who brought forth the Book of Mormon, albeit with assistance of other Godly men and women)–

    and then ignored the book.

    None of the men who led the trek west and established the church in Utah had anything to do with the translation of the Book of Mormon, but they magnified polygamy into a religion of its own and ignored the truths in the Book of Mormon, thereby becoming white supremacists.

    • Jennifer

      The Book of Mormon has nothing in it regarding what goes on in temples today or any sort of complex priesthood hierarchy (with references to “keys”) either.

      • NG

        King Noah’s court was a complex priesthood hierarchy (this in support of your assertion Jennifer)

        • Jennifer

          Good point.

          • NG

            However a couple of examples come immediately to mind about the temple and B of Mormon: 1st is the Brother of Jared seeing the finger of the Lord through the veil. Another is the covenant language with all praying in unison and new name employed by King Benjamin in Chapter 5. Finally (and there are other examples) 3rd Nephi Chapter 11 the Father speaks 3 times before they recognize his voice is symbolized in the 3 knocks at the veil- The Father descending 3 levels to address them in mortality

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