Warren Parrish

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Warren F. Parrish
Warren F. Parrish

(1803-01-10)January 10, 1803
Mendon, New York, United States
DiedJanuary 3, 1877(1877-01-03) (aged 73)
Emporia, Kansas, United States
Resting placeMaplewood Memorial Lawn Cemetery
38°25′12″N 96°12′22″W / 38.420°N 96.206°W / 38.420; -96.206 (Maplewood Memorial Lawn Cemetery)
Spouse(s)Martha H. Raymond

Warren F. Parrish (also Warren Parish) (January 10, 1803 – January 3, 1877)[1] was a leader in the early Latter Day Saint movement. Parrish held a number of positions of responsibility, including that of scribe to church president Joseph Smith. Parrish and other leaders became disillusioned with Smith after the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society and left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Parrish remained in Kirtland, Ohio, with other disaffected former church leaders and formed a short-lived church which they called the Church of Christ, after the original name of the church organized by Smith. This church disintegrated as the result of disagreement between church leaders, and Parrish later left Kirtland and became a Baptist minister.

Activity in Latter Day Saint church[edit]

Baptism by Brigham Young[edit]

Parrish married Elizabeth Patten, the sister of David W. Patten, one of the original Latter Day Saint apostles. Patten records that on "May 20, 1833, brother Brigham Young came to Theresa, Indian River Falls, where I had been bearing testimony to my relatives; and after preaching several discourses, he baptized my brothers Archibald and Ira Patten, Warren Parrish, Cheeseman and my mother and my sister, Polly."[2]

Mission to Missouri[edit]

In September 1834, Parrish and Patten traveled throughout upper Missouri together "to preach the Gospel." Patten reports that "we baptized twenty, during which time several instances of the healing power of God were made manifest."[2]

Participation in Zion's Camp[edit]

In 1834, Joseph Smith said he received a revelation from God, calling for a militia to be raised in Kirtland which would then march to Missouri and "redeem Zion." Parrish volunteered to join a group of about 200 men to form the militia, which became known as "Zion's Camp."

In 1835, Parrish joined the leadership of the church as a member of the First Quorum of Seventy.

Attempts at translation[edit]

Joseph Smith recorded in his journal that Parrish had been promised the ability to "know of hidden things" and be "endowed with a knowledge of hidden languages."[3] During the fall of 1835, Parrish, along with Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps and Frederick G. Williams, attempted unsuccessfully to make translations of characters from the Book of Abraham papyrii by matching them with English sentences that Smith had already produced.[4] Parrish and Phelps eventually produced a set of documents called the "Grammar & A[l]phabet of the Egyptian Language."[5]

Preaching in Tennessee[edit]

In May 1836, Parrish traveled from Kirtland to Tennessee to join Patten and Wilford Woodruff. According to Woodruff, they traveled through Kentucky and Tennessee "preaching the word of God, healing the sick, and the Spirit of God was with us and attended our ministrations."[2] During this time, Parrish, Woodruff and Patten were arrested by a local sheriff at the urging of Matthew Williams, a Methodist minister, who claimed that they were making false prophecies. The group was accused of preaching "that Christ would come the second time before this generation passed away" and that "four individuals should received the Holy Ghost within twenty-four hours." A mock trial was held in which they were not allowed to speak, at the end of which they were pronounced guilty.[6] They were later released unharmed on the condition that they pay court costs and leave the area within ten days.[7]

Scribe to Joseph Smith[edit]

Parrish was scribe and secretary to church founder and president Joseph Smith, primarily in Kirtland, Ohio, from 1835 to 1837.

Dissent and conflict with Smith[edit]

Failure of the Kirtland Safety Society[edit]

In 1836, Joseph Smith organized the Kirtland Safety Society Antibanking Company, a joint-stock company with note issuing powers. Parrish later became the company's treasurer. Smith encouraged church members to invest in the Kirtland Safety Society.[8] By 1837, the "bank" had failed, partly as the result of Parrish and other bank officers stealing funds.[9] As a result of Parrish's role in this, he was excommunicated from the church. From this time forward, Parrish sought to destroy Joseph Smith and the church, and as a result Smith was forced to leave Kirtland.[10] Soon after Smith and Sidney Rigdon left on July 26, 1837 a crisis formed within the church at Kirtland during their absence.[11]

Armed confrontation in the Kirtland Temple[edit]

In addition to Parrish, the failure of the bank caused a major rift among some other church leaders as well, who concluded that Smith could not be a true prophet if he could not foresee that the "bank" would be unsuccessful.[12]

Parrish and those supporting him soon claimed ownership of the Kirtland Temple. Eliza R. Snow relates that Parrish and a group of others came into the temple during Sunday services "armed with pistols and bowie-knives and seated themselves together in the Aaronic pulpits, on the east end of the temple, while father Smith [Joseph Smith, Sr.] and others, as usual, occupied those of the Melchizedek priesthood on the west."[13] Parrish's group interrupted the services and, according to Snow "a fearful scene ensued—the apostate speaker becoming so clamorous that Father Smith called for the police to take that man out of the house, when Parrish, John Boynton, and others, drew their pistols and bowie-knives, and rushed down from the stand into the congregation; John Boynton saying he would blow out the brains of the first man who dared to lay hands on him." Police arrived and ejected the troublemakers, after which the services continued.[13]

Public statements[edit]

Parrish wrote letters to several newspapers expressing his anger with church leaders, referring to them as "infidels."[14] In one such letter, Parrish claims that "Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses; has come out at last, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in vision; and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph not excepted; – see new edition, Book of Covenants, page 170, which agrees with Harris's testimony."[15] Wilford Woodruff recorded his reaction to some of Parrish's writings in his journal entry of April 4, 1838, stating that they were "full of slander and falsehoods against Joseph Smith Jr."[16]

Parrish's Church of Christ[edit]

Parrish eventually led a group of dissenters that formed a new church based in Kirtland, which they called the Church of Christ, after the original name of the church organized by Joseph Smith.[17] George A. Smith wrote that the group intended "to renounce the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and take the 'Mormon' doctrines to overthrow all the religions in the world, and unite all the Christian churches in one general band, and they to be its great leaders."[18] Among those who associated themselves with this church was Martin Harris.[19] Parrish's group believed that Joseph Smith had become a fallen prophet. By the beginning of 1838, Parrish's church had taken control of the Kirtland Temple as Smith and those loyal to him left Kirtland to gather in Far West, Missouri.[17]

A debate arose among Parrish's group regarding the validity of the Book of Mormon and the existing revelations, with Parrish, John F. Boynton, Luke S. Johnson, and several others claiming that it was all nonsense. George A. Smith reported: "One of them told me that Moses was a rascal and the Prophets were tyrants, and that Jesus Christ was a despot, Paul a base liar and all religion a fudge. And Parrish said he agreed with him in principle."[20] This resulted in a permanent division between Parrish's supporters and other leaders, including Martin Harris, who cautioned them not to reject the book. Cyrus Smalling, Joseph Coe and several others "declared [Harris's] testimony was true."[21] Parrish's church dissolved soon after this division.

Later life[edit]

After the dissolution of his church, Parrish left Kirtland altogether. In 1844, Parrish was working as a Baptist minister for a salary of $500 per year.[22] In 1850 Parrish was living in Mendon, New York, where he was listed as a "clergyman" by the census. By 1870, he had apparently lost his sanity[23] and was living in Emporia, Kansas, where he died in 1877.


  1. ^ Warren Parrish at Find a Grave
  2. ^ a b c Patten 1864
  3. ^ Jessee 1998, p. 79
  4. ^ Bushman 2005, p. 290
  5. ^ "Grammar & A[l]phabet of the Egyptian Language," Kirtland Egyptian Manuscripts
  6. ^ McConkie & Ostler 2000, pp. 869–70
  7. ^ Millennial Star, 26:439
  8. ^ Partridge 1972, pp. 2–3
  9. ^ Smith 1864, p. 11"Warren Parrish was the teller of the bank, and a number of other men who apostatized were officers. They took out of its vault, unknown to the President or cashier, a hundred thousand dollars, and sent their agents around among the brethren to purchase their farms, wagons, cattle, horses and every thing they could get hold of. The brethren would gather up this money and put it into the bank, and those traitors would steal it and send it out to buy again, and they continued to do so until the plot was discovered and payment stopped."
  10. ^ Angell, Truman O (1967), "Truman O. Angell, 1810-1887, Autobiography (1810-1856)", Our Pioneer Heritage (10): 195–213. "Also Parish, the clerk and cashier, robbed the bank of about $20,000. These things crippled the bank and caused it to suspend business soon after; and false brethren in consequence forced President Smith to Missouri, seemingly to save himself."
  11. ^ Bushman 2005, p. 339
  12. ^ Caroline Barnes Crosby, 1807-1883, Journal (1807-1882). Holograph. Utah State Historical Society. "Warren Parish was a sort of leader of a party of some 30 or 40 persons, among them was John Boynton and wife, Luke and Lyman Johnson, Harpen Riggs, and others whose names I do not recollect. These were some of our nighest neighbors and friends. We had taken sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God as friends. They came out boldly against the prophet, and signed an instrument which as I understand by W Parish and others, renouncing all their allience [sic] with the church."
  13. ^ a b Snow 1884, p. 21
  14. ^ Parrish, Warren (February 5, 1838). "Letter from M. (sic, W.) PARRISH, Kirtland, February 5, 1838". 2 (14–15). Painesville Republican. Retrieved 2007-02-06. Angry over the failure of the bank, Parrish wrote of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon: "I believe them to be confirmed Infidels, who have not the fear of God before their eyes, notwithstanding their high pretensions to holiness."
  15. ^ Parrish, W (October 1, 1838). "Letter from W. Parrish, Kirtland, August 11, 1838". The Evangelist. Retrieved 2007-02-06. In this letter, Parrish also claims that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon "are notorious infidels."
  16. ^ Woodruff, Wilford (1865). "History of Wilford Woodruff (From his own pen)". Millennial Star. Woodruff records that "Mr. Kent, the postmaster, showed me a letter containing two sheets of foolscap, signed by Warren Parrish and several of the Twelve, who had apostatized and been cut off from the Church. The communication was full of slander and falsehoods against Joseph Smith and all that stood by him."
  17. ^ a b Bushman 2005, p. 340
  18. ^ Smith 1858, p. 115
  19. ^ Roper 1993 Harris was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1837 and had remained in Kirtland.
  20. ^ Smith 1838
  21. ^ Smith 1838 Smith wrote: "Last Sabbath a division arose among the Parrish party about the Book of Mormon; John F. Boynton, Warren Parrish, Luke Johnson and others said it was nonsense. Martin Harris then bore testimony of its truth and said all would be damned if they rejected it."
  22. ^ Smith 1858, p. 115 Smith relates the words of Heber C. Kimball upon an encounter he had with Warren Parrish at Fox River in 1844: "He was a grave-looking man-a straight-jacketed fellow, dressed in black, with a white handkerchief around his neck. Says he, 'Elder Kimball, will you have the goodness not to say to the people here that I ever was a Mormon. I am a Baptist minister. I am preaching at that meetinghouse for a salary of $500 a year. If they find out I have been a Mormon, it would hurt my influence very much indeed.'"
  23. ^ "W F Parish", United States Census, 1870; Emporia, Lyon, Kansas; page 8, line 9, Family History film 545937, National Archives film number M593. Retrieved on 2017-01-19.


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