Orson Pratt was an early Apostle of the church. He believed and proclaims that the Book of Mormon is inspired and true. He has some pointed criticisms of the book though if it turns out not to be true.
If false, [The Book of Mormon] is one of most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are with their families into hopeless despair.Orson Pratt
Originating Member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles
If after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published as such; the evidence and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived may perceive the nature of the deception and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be silenced.Orson Pratt
Originating Member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles
Elder Pratt states that “If false, it is one of most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God”. He calls everyone to examine the evidence and if they find it not true, it “should be published to the world as such”! This is a far cry from current leaders who attempt to divert members from research and then when members find the dominant narrative is not true, the leaders want members who leave to simply “leave the church alone“. We certainly have more evidence today than was available to him at the time with DNA, anachronisms, biblical and 19th-century plagiarism, and translation issues among the easiest evidence to point at the Book of Mormon not being true. So what should we do? Should we leave quietly? This would leave remaining believers in the clutches of one of the “most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God.”
This is not something Elder Pratt would have done. Had he found that the church’s truth claims are not true, he would have left. He would have left and published to the world that the truth claims are not true. He wouldn’t leave quietly or leave the church alone. He would have done what many do today, which causes the church to play the victim card and cry persecution. It’s all a matter of perspective and really we should all be looking for the truth and following where it leads. If the church’s truth claims can be destroyed by the truth, that means they are not true, and these claims as well as the church deserve to be destroyed by the truth. Light has a cleansing effect. Exposing lies to the world helps others to not be fooled when they are in turn lied to.
Orson Pratt was a faithful member and leader in the early Mormon church. He joined the church thanks to his older brother Parley P. Pratt on his 19th birthday. He was an early missionary and went on many missions for the church. At the time missionaries would create their own material and he became skilled at publishing pamphlets. His is the first publicly shared account of the first vision and an early pamphlet on the article of faith. In 1835 he was in the original quorum of twelve apostles. When returning from a mission in Scotland, Orson had a falling out with Joseph Smith because Joseph had allegedly proposed to his wife Sarah Pratt while he was serving his mission. This was a pattern of Joseph, as we know he did the same to William Law and his wife, who published the Nauvoo Expositor as a result, which ends in Joseph’s assassination. Joseph denied the proposal and the matter escalated until Orson was excommunicated. He made amends somehow and rejoined the church (and the quorum of the twelve apostles) just 5 months later.
Having left and rejoining the quorum affected his seniority in the quorum, which affected the succession. In other words, had he not been excommunicated, Orson would have been much earlier in line to become the president of the church. He later would join in the practice of polygamy and was the first to openly preach about it in 1852 when he preached the blessings of it. His pamphlets and publications have now been collected and here is one that bears attention that is a stark contrast to current church leaders.
Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon
This is the quoted pamphlet from Orson Pratt in its entirety for full transparency and archival purposes:
The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record written by a succession of prophets who inhabited Ancient America. It professes to be revealed to the present generation for the salvation of all who will receive it, and for the overthrow and damnation of all nations who reject it.
This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man, affecting both the temporal and eternal interests of every people under heaven to the same extent and in the same degree that message of Noah affected the inhabitants of the old world. If false, it is one of most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are with their families into hopeless despair.
The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it. Therefore, every soul in all the world is equally interested in ascertaining its truth or falsity. In a matter of such infinite importance no person should rest satisfied with the conjectures or opinions of others: he should use every exertion himself to become acquainted with the nature of the message: he should carefully examine the evidences on which it is offered to the world: he should, with all patience and perseverance, seek to acquire a certain knowledge as to whether it be of God or not. Without such an investigation in the most careful, candid, and impartial manner, he cannot safely judge without greatly hazarding his future and eternal welfare.
If after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments on which the was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by and powerful arguments – by evidences adduced from scripture and reason. Such, and such only, should be the weapons employed to detect and overthrow false doctrines – to reclaim mankind from their errors – to expose religious enthusiasm – and to put to silence base and wicked impostors.Full text of “Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon” by Orson Pratt