Section 114: David W. Patten
In the spring of 1838 while many, including several General Authorities, were leaving the Church, a stabilizing influence was provided by the three senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve—Thomas B. Marsh, David W. Patten, and Brigham Young.
In February 1838 the Church in Missouri had rejected the leadership of the presidency of the Church in Missouri, David Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, and John Whitmer. On March 10, 1838, the latter two men had been excommunicated. The Prophet Joseph and Sidney Rigdon arrived in Far West on March 14, 1838. About a month thereafter, on April 12 and 13 respectively, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were also excommunicated. About the same time, three more Apostles, Luke Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and John Boynton, were cut off, and less than a month later a similar fate befell William E. McLellin. This was a time in which the Prophet could no longer be entirely certain on whom he could rely. Men he counted as brothers, both in Kirtland and in Missouri, had betrayed him or had simply lost their conviction that he was still a prophet. In such a time, the example of Elder David W. Patten, to whom section 114 is addressed, and who would literally lay down his life for his friends in this same year, stood like a rock and an anchor.
David W. Patten was born in 1799 in Vermont and was therefore about six years older then the Prophet. He was baptized into the Church on June 15, 1832. He served several missions for the Church, and in December 1833 he was sent to Clay County bearing dispatches to church leaders in Missouri. He remained in Missouri until the arrival of Zion’s Camp in June 1834. He was ordained one of the original twelve Apostles of this dispensation on February 15, 1835. In 1836, he and his wife, Phoebe Ann were called to settle in Far West, Missouri, to strengthen the Church there. “Elder Patten has become almost legendary in the history of the Church for his courage and personal power in the face of adversity. He was a fearless defender of the faith and also of the Prophet Joseph. Elder Patten stood six feet, one inch tall and weighed over two hundred pounds; he was a man of great physical strength” (Boone, “Instructions and Assurance from Far West,” 439). A biographer recorded that on one occasion he picked up a man bodily and threw him out of the house for continually disturbing a preaching meeting. On another occasion, he went outside to meet a mob bent on doing bodily harm to him and his fellow missionaries. Upon hearing of their intentions, he bared his chest and invited them to shoot him if it would satisfy them. Instead of shooting, they began to fear and ran as if in peril of their own lives.
According to Elder Wilford Woodruff’s account of still another situation, he and other elders, including Elder Patten, were asked to appear before a judge on charges of “testifying that Christ would come in this generation and that we promised the Holy Ghost to those whom we baptized.” Elder Patten spoke in the missionaries’ defense and “delivered a speech of about twenty minutes, holding the audience spell bound while he told them of their wickedness and the abominations that they were guilty of, also, of the curse of God that awaited them if they did not repent, for taking up harmless, inoffensive men for preaching the gospel of Christ.” At the conclusion of his remarks, the judge indicated that Elder Patten must have been armed with weapons to speak so boldly when all else was against him. To this Elder Patten remarked, “I have weapons that you know not of, and they were given me of God, for he gave me all the power I have.” This became a lifelong theme or motto for Elder Patten.
Another story of interest is reported by Lycurgus A. Wilson in his book, Life of David W. Patten, 50. He reports a recollection of David W. Patten while the latter was serving a mission in Tennessee in 1834: “As I was riding along the road on my mule I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me . . . His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt, and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the holy priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight . . ..” This man was later “identified” as Cain who was cursed to be a “fugitive and a vagabond in the earth” (Moses 5:37). This story has given rise to the unlikely “doctrine” that Cain is still upon the earth.
On April 6, 1838, Thomas B. Marsh was sustained as president of the Church in Missouri with Brigham Young and David W. Patten as assistant presidents.
According to the prophet Joseph Smith, David Patten had confided to him sometime in the early summer of 1838 that he, Patten, had been praying and “had asked the Lord to let him die the death of a martyr.” The Prophet expressed sorrow at such a request, “for,” according to Wilson, the Prophet stated, “when a man of your faith asks the Lord for anything, he generally gets it.” David defended the rights of the saints—their lands and property—as if he really believed he could achieve such an honor [become a martyr].
At the Battle of Crooked River in October of 1838, Elder David Patten’s unusual desire to die as a martyr was to be granted. A mob of some thirty or forty men had taken three of the saints prisoners. The vocalized intent of the mob was to kill their captives and then return to burn others of the saints out of their homes in the Far West area. The Prophet directed Elder Patten, who was characterized as “Captain Fear Not,” to take a group of brethren, about seventy-five in number, and in a show of force disperse the mob and free the captives. In both of these objectives the saints were successful, but in the process of the charge, one of the mobbers, hiding behind a tree, shot Elder Patten in the stomach. Two other Latter-day Saints were killed, and several others were wounded. David was taken back toward Far West where he was met by his wife, the Prophet, and other leading brethren of the Church. Of his sad reunion and parting, Heber C. Kimball reported: “During this removal, his sufferings were so excruciating that he frequently desired us to lay him down that he might die; but being desirous to get him out of the reach of the mob, we prevailed upon him to let us carry him among his friends.. . . Although he had medical assistance, his wound was such that there was no hope entertained of his recovery, and of this he was perfectly aware.” To his wife, Phoebe Ann, he issued a challenge: “Whatever you do else, oh, do not deny the faith!” To the brethren who no doubt desired the faith to heal such a willing and capable leader in the cause of truth, he asked: “Brethren you have held me by your faith, but do give me up, and let me go, I beseech you.” And then to the Lord he prayed, “I feel that I have kept the faith, I have finished my course, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown, which the Lord the righteous Judge will give me.. . . Father, I ask thee in the name of Jesus Christ, that thou wouldst release my spirit and receive it unto Thyself.” According to his request, the elders “committed him to God, and he soon breathed his last, and slept in Jesus without a groan, his noble wish to die as a martyr being fulfilled” (Studies in Scripture, Volume One, The Doctrine and Covenants, 43941). Two days later Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued his infamous extermination order.
Speaking in his funeral, the Prophet Joseph said of him, “There lies a man that has done just as he said he would—he has laid down his life for his friends” (HC, 3:175).
Elder Patten was thus the first Apostle martyred in this dispensation. The Lord would later say of Brother Patten, “[He] is with me at this time” (D&C 124:19).
On April 17, 1838, a personal revelation was given to David W. Patten. Actually section 114 is one of the two similar revelations received by the Prophet Joseph on April 17, 1838. It is measure of the respect he felt for Elder Patten that President Brigham Young later directed that the first of these two revelations, the one addressed Elder Patten, be included in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, leaving the second, addressed to President Young himself, uncanonized (Woodford, “Historical Development,” 2:1500-03).
1 Verily thus saith the Lord: It is wisdom in my servant David W. Patten, that he settle up all his business as soon as he possibly can, and make a disposition of his merchandise, that he may perform a mission unto me next spring, in company with others, even twelve including himself, to testify of my name and bear glad tidings unto all the world.
verse 1 Brother Patten is called to prepare to fulfill a mission with the rest of the Twelve in England in the spring of 1839. He obviously did not have the opportunity to serve this mission since he was killed in October 1838.
At the time of this revelation, Elders Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve had already opened the British Mission and were in England. We will learn in section 118 that the Lord will call the Twelve to go, as a Quorum, to Britain in the spring of 1839. Although this call had been the desire of President Thomas B. Marsh, he also did not have the opportunity to go to England, as by the end of 1838, he had left the Church. The Quorum of the Twelve began their mission to the British Isles in the spring of 1839, departing according to commandment from the temple site at Far West on April 26, 1839, under the leadership of Quorum president Brigham Young.
2 For verily thus saith the Lord, that inasmuch as there are those among you who deny my name, others shall be planted in their stead and receive their bishopric. Amen.
verse 2 “there are those among you who deny my name” Of the original Quorum of the Twelve, six left the Church and one, David Patten, was killed in Missouri. Those excommunicated were Thomas Marsh, William E. McLellin, Lyman Johnson, Luke Johnson, and John F. Boynton. Thomas B. Marsh and Luke Johnson eventually returned to the Church. Orson Hyde was dropped from the quorum at about this same time. In addition to these apostles, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and
W. W. Phelps were also excommunicated, although Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps returned to the Church. Of the original Twelve, according to Joseph Smith in May 1843, “there have been but two but what have [not] lifted their heal against me—namely Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.”
“others shall be planted in their stead” See the commentary for D&C 118:6. In 1838 and 1839, John E. Page, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith were called to fill vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. Willard Richards was called into the quorum in 1838 and was ordained in April 1840 after serving in Britain for three years.
“and receive their bishopric” The Greek word translated “bishop” in the King James Bible is episcopos, which means, literally, an overseer or a supervisor. The word bishopric is used here in the broader sense of a manager, rather than the specific sense of an Aaronic Priesthood bishop. Actually, the word “bishopric” is used here, essentially as a synonym for “stewardship” but more precisely indicating a stewardship as a supervisor.
- Michael J. Preece