“A True and Perfect System of Civil and Religious Government, Revealed from on High.”

By January 17, 2008

In the fall and winter of 1843, Parley P. Pratt wrote a small pamphlet entitled “The Angel of the Prairies,” a work that was similar to his “One Hundred Years Hence. 1945.”“The Angel of the Prairies” purports to be based on a dream in which Pratt is transported one hundred years into the future, where an angel shows him that the U.S. government was destroyed from corruption within (shades of Book of Mormon stories of Gadianton Robbers), and the “sons of noble sires” had erected an empire of liberty in the American West. The angel also showed Pratt a thin volume entitled “A true and perfect system of Civil and Religious Government, revealed from on High,” the preface of which is reproduced here.

“There is a God in heaven who revealeth secrets. Wisdom and might are His. He changeth the times and the seasons. He removeth kings and setteth up kings. He giveth wisdom unto the wise and knowledge unto them that know understanding. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. He doth according to His will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. And none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, `What doeth thou?’ All His works are truth, and His ways are judgment, and those that walk in pride He is able to abase. His kingdom is that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end. As the Maker of the earth and the Father of the people, all power and authority of civil and religious government is vested in Him. He holds the prerogative of electing the officers and making the laws; He holds the right of reproving and admonishing the officers or of removing them at pleasure. Therefore all the forms of civil and religious government which are not appointed, organized and directed by divine revelation, are more or less imperfect and erroneous, and the administration thereof extremely liable to corruption and abuse. The only perfect system of government, then, is a Theocracy; that is, a government under the immediate, constant and direct superintendency of the Almighty. This order of government commenced in Eden, when God chose Adam for a ruler and gave him laws. It was perpetuated in his defendants, such as Seth, Enoch, Noah, Melchisedec, and so on, till it came down to Abraham, and was made hereditary in his seed [p.22] forever. As it is written, `Kings shall be of thee, and princes shall come out of thy loins.’

“It was manifested clearly in Egypt–Pharaoh himself being instructed and governed by Joseph, as a revelator. Moses also delivered a nation from slavery, dethroned a tyrant, and governed in all things by these same principles. By these Joshua conquered, and by these the Judges of Israel ruled. By this authority Samuel reproved and displaced a corrupted priesthood, in the case of Eli and his sons. By it he annoints King Saul to reign in Israel, and by it he afterwards rejected him for transgression and anointed David in his stead. By virtue of this authority Elijah reproved and rejected Ahab and the priests of Baal, and then proceeded to anoint Jehu king and Elisha for prophet, and by this means remodeled the civil and religious administration of affairs, and saved a nation from the lowest depths of corruption and ruin. By this power, Daniel, the prophet, reproved and instructed Nebuchadnezzar, displaced Belteshazzar, and directed Cyrus; continually impressing upon kings and nations this one important principle, viz: `That God is a revealer of secrets, and claims the right of government over kings and potentates of the earth.” To convince Nebuchadnezzar of this one fact, he was driven out from his throne and from the society of men, to dwell among the beasts of the field and to eat grass as the ox, and afterwards restored to his kingdom again. And to convince all nations of this fact, King Nebuchadnezzar wrote his epistle to all nations and languages, in which he bore testimony to the same.

“By this authority Jesus Christ received all power in heaven and on earth, and was therefore seen by the prophet Daniel, coming in the clouds of heaven, to reign over all the earth. By this authority His Apostles governed those who would receive His kingdom in their day–being themselves chosen by the Lord, and not by the people. By this same authority the Gentile [p.23] Church and people would have been governed from that day to the present, without a schism or division of church or state, were it not for corruption and wickedness, which made war with the Saints, and overcame them, and changed times and laws, as was foretold by the prophet Daniel.

“By this authority the God of heaven promised, by all the holy prophets, that He would set up a kingdom that should destroy and break in pieces all these kingdoms, become universal, and stand forever. And that He would do this by the sitting of the Ancient of Days, whose raiment was white as snow, and whose hair was like the pure wool; while thousands of thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him, and judgment was given to the Saints, and the time came that the Saints possessed the kingdom.

“By this authority the God of heaven has fulfilled that which He spoke by the mouths of His ancient prophets, by revealing from heaven and appointing and establishing a glorious kingdom which shall stand forever.

“Therefore sing, O Heavens!
And be joyful, O Earth!
For truth has triumphed;
Wisdom and knowledge rule;
Righteousness reigns;
And earth rests in lasting peace.”

Pratt was forbidden to read more, but the angel then told him this:

“Son of mortal, you now understand the nature of [p.24] the government you have beheld. You see it is not a human monarchy, for man-made kings are tyrant. It is not an aristocracy, for in that case the few trample upon the rights of the many. It is not a democracy, for mobs composed of the mass, with no stronger power to check them, are the greatest tyrants and oppressors in the world. But it is a theocracy, where the great Eloheim, Jehovah, holds the superior honor. He selects the officers. He reveals and appoints the laws, and He counsels, reproves, directs, guides and holds the reins of government. The venerable Council which you beheld enthroned in majesty and clad in robes of white, with crowns upon their heads, is the order of the Ancient of Days, before whose august presence thrones have been cast down, and tyrants have ceased to rule. You have understood the secret purposes of Providence in relation to the prairies and the West, and of the earth and its destiny. Go forth on your journey, and wander no more; but tell the world of things to come.”
 

Pratt in his Autobiography describes “The Angel of the Prairies” as “a curious and extraordinary composition, in the similitude of a dream. It was designed as a reproof of the corruptions and degeneracy of our Government, in suffering mobs to murder, plunder, rob and drive their fellow citizens with impunity, etc. It also suggested some reforms” (1874, p. 367).

Somehow I doubt that Mitt is going to use this for his suggested reforms.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. This is great stuff, David. Thanks. And I imagine you’re right that Mitt won’t be pushing any of Pratt’s suggested reforms.

    Comment by Christopher — January 18, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  2. Great post, David.

    Is it me, or are you heavily into P. Pratt nowadays? 😉

    Comment by Ben — January 18, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

  3. Ben, tis true. I’m writing an article on Pratt’s construction of persecution memory, so JI readers get to suffer a bit as I post things that I come across.

    Comment by David Grua — January 18, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

  4. Nice, David. NB: matt b and I are starting to argue that persecution narratives were also about claiming the identity of primitive christianity. if you want, i can show you the paper when we’re ready to send it out. how close are you to done with your paper?
    email me–i’m pretty spotty with remembering to check blogs.

    Comment by smb — January 20, 2008 @ 6:05 pm


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