50 years ago today - Aug 3, 1973-Friday

[Leonard Arrington]
Ron Esplin showed to me the suicide note which Orson Pratt wrote in 1842. This was shortly after his return from his mission to England. He had heard about the flirting and sexual immorality of his wife Sarah. [Sarah Marinda Bates] In confronting her with it, she had told him that Joseph Smith had made advances toward her and that she had attempted to evade him. This had made him so despondent that he could not see any reason for living. On the one hand, could he believe Joseph Smith in whom he had had faith for twelve years? On the other hand, could he doubt his wife whom he loved very much and was devoted to? Apparently a number of people in Nauvoo had heard of his despondency and were concerned about him. Missing him, they looked all over for him and finally located him down at the edge of the river as if he were about to jump in. We have in our archives a number of signed statements by individuals in a position to know, testifying as to Sarah's immorality and questionable behavior with John C. Bennett while Orson Pratt was on his mission in England. These were some people like Daniel H. Wells and others who were not members of the Church but who had seen Bennett and Sarah in a compromising position and had observed Bennett's comings and goings to her apartment. They deported themselves as man and wife. Apparently this evidence and the integrity of those giving it finally persuaded Pratt that his wife was not trustworthy. This led him to come back into the church and to become reconciled with the brethren. On the other hand, he may have felt guilty leaving his wife behind as he went on his mission to England and may have forgiven his wife Sarah. That explains his remaining with her and bringing her with him to Utah. Sarah, of course, later became divorced from Orson and she continually told as if true the story of the Joseph Smith importunities. In this she was, of course, encouraged by the apostates and anti-Mormons. [[Later historians would wonder if these statements against Sarah were reliable. An attempt to discredit her and other women who had talked about polygamy is evident in a circular issued by the Times and Seasons titled Affidavits and Certificates, Aug. 31, 1842, a replica typescript by H. Michael Marquardt available at Internet Archive, archive.org; for details about the Sarah Pratt incident, see Bergera, Conflict in the Quorum, 7-51.]]

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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