Category Archives: Autobiographies

Zerah Pulsipher Autobiographical Sketch #1

There are three known manuscripts of autobiographies written by Zerah Pulsipher. The most famous autobiography is actually a combination of the second and third autobiography manuscripts. This earliest known draft of an autobiography seems to have been written by Zerah Pulsipher in the early 1850s. It recounts stories of Zerah’s ancestors as well as his conversion and early experiences in the Church in New York and Kirtland. It covers similar events to the ones in his more famous autobiography but in different ways, often going into greater depth. Unfortunately, only about eight pages, plus two inserts on smaller paper have been preserved, though it appears that the original document would have been longer, as it stops in the middle of a narrative.

Typescript prepared by Chad L. Nielsen, July 2014. Spelling, punctuation and paragraphs retained as presented in the original.

Zerah Pulsipher
Zerah Pulsipher


I was <born> June 24th AD 1789 the names of my Parents were John and Elizabeth Pulsipher My Grandfather Pulsipher removed from C.t. in New england in the year 1769 but a season Previous to that he came to Vt. To a Town afterwards <called> Rockingham near Bellows falls on Conneticut River an entirely new country five miles west of the falls before a blow was struck by a white inhabitant he saught a Location and Predicted where the site for Town business would be done and where the Meting house and bureing [burying] ground would be he then selected five hundred Acres of Land which to this day remains to be the inheritance of many of his posterity the Meting house Bureing [burying] ground and site of Town business has taken place to the Letter According to his prediction Eighty four years before My Great Grandfather is supposed to be a descendant from Ireland and as observed above he Grandsire established a settlement and constructed the b<u>ilding into a fruitful field Established a Large Publick house wich remained for many years[.] when <the> revelution commened [commenced] in the spring of =75 my father being [torn] years of of age one day being absent from <home> heard A [torn] Distruction of the Military stores at Concord [illegible] and Battle of Lexington saught for a recruting officer and enlisted for before he returnd home and informed his father what he had done the old man being about fifty years old  after deliberating upon it and being aquainted with the usages of war on account of his experience in the french war said to him John you ar[torn] [aren’t old] Enough to go alone I will go with you accordingly he [torn] [did, and they both went] together[.] in June following the Battle of Bun[torn] [Bunker Hill was] faught they stood and faught side and side [torn] time after the orders were given for retr[torn] [retreat, and] knowing it my father looking round an[torn] [and seeing them] selves nearly surrounded said father, Look [torn, ink splotch] tleman turning round and said to [torn] [p.[2]] there was but a small gap then left that was not surrounded by the Enemy and the ground in <that> was continualy with the plowing with Balls from the Britis shiping but as they were going out my grand father saw an american soldier wounded crawling away upon his hands & knees and a brittish soldier coming up pierced his Body with a bayonet my grandsire being fired with indignation at such ingratitude so contrary to the usuages of war s<t>oped amid all the dangers and Perrils which he was there surrounded and deliberately sounded his gun and shot him down before he left the ground and then attained a safe retreat I merely mention these things that my posterity may under stand that their ancesters had the Blood of Liberty and Judgement deliberately exercised in times of the most Emenent danger for the avenging of the Blood of the Inocent and putting [torn] [down] oppression but as I observed my grandsire procured a safe retreat and remained for some months till taken with [torn] cramp Rheumatism in the Breast and died but my father served the campaign out and then returned home to his friends[. He] soon married and raised seven sons and three daughters was always a firm promoter of the rights of the Constitution of the united states with an energetick for Liberty and Equal rights of man he was remarkably persevering in the things he engaged in but all with the most canded deliberation his government was absolute in his family kind and friendly to his Neighbors and especially to <the> poor at least once a year he would go to some expense to make a f[torn]vite [feast and invite] the poorest People there was in the Town and [torn] [received] them with the greatest pleasure. I always had great [torn] my father altho he was remarkably persevering [torn]ily authority I was allways taught to read the Bible [torn] [observe] the sabbath I recollect one circumstance when I w[torn] Probably not more than nine or ten years old [torn] [my father] was taken sick and remained dangerous [p.[3]] & for some months altho I was not appraised of it one day there  were a number of the neighbors in I heard them saying among them selves that Mr. Pulsipher must die It struck me with astonishment I wondered if my father must die then and leave a large family of <children> to the open world without a head I <thought> upon the dangerous circumstances we should be in and was very unwilling to have it so affter a little reflection a thought come into my mind that I must go immediately to the barn and pray for him to get well altho I had never prayed in my life except being taught to say the Lord’s prayer but I did not hesitate one moment but ran as fast as me legs could carry me and when I got to the place was about to kneel down something whispered in my ear that if I [illegible] [stayed] I should die in that place and should never rise again. I was so supprised that I ran back as fast as I came

from that I had many reflections relative to thing seen and unseen I became considerably acquainted <with the Bible> and generally knew when [torn] it repeated correct[.] as for the Doctrene of Eternal punishm[torn] [punishment] I did not comprehend as the sects taught it to me it [torn-seemed]  inconsistent to me with the attributes of god as it seem[torn] many thing that were taught by the <sects> after careful investigation I laid them aside for further consideration and desired more light I often thought upon the Blesed privilege that saints had in [torn] [p.[4]] and the glory of the Millenium  when light and truth would fill the Earth. At length the time came when god should bring to pass the things spoken by the Prophets Accordingly in the summer of 1830 I heard a Minister say in Public that a golden Bible on some ancient Peoples were found in Manches<ter> N.Y.[1] the sentence thriled through my sistem like a shock of Electricity I therefore watched the movement of things and in sept. <of> 1831 the Book of Mormon was brought into the Town I suceeded in Borrowing it I read it through then times and thought Posible it might be true in Jan.ry following Jared Carter came to town my<self, in company> with two other Preachers went to hear him preach. I watched him remarkably close and found he said nothing that would conflict with scripture he would frequently take up the book of Mormon and declare it a Revelation from heaven it had a very strong impression on my mind But I did not know it to be so myself I therefore arose before the Congregation and said we had been <hearing> strange things and if true was to us of the utmost importance and if not so it must be a great delusion And in as much as it purports to be a revelation from heaven I believed that I could learn from the same source whether it was or not so I gave them my determination that I would engage with all the energy of <my> soul till I <knew> whether it was from god or not I therefore continued praying mightily to god for a number of days. At length one [torn] [day] as I was threshing in my barn with the doors all closed a ray of light filed my mind remarkably upon the Principles of the gospel I nearly beheld that what I had heard was true but it soon left me to ponder upon it I assumed my labor again but of short duration. Another bright<er> light presented from above with such masterly rays of glory filled to the running over it came with such magestty and power from above that I looked up to see from whence it came and beheld as I thought the Angels of god with the Book of Mormon in their hands informing me that was the great work of god that was to commence in the Last days to fulfil all the all the Prophecies that had been spoken on on that subject. I At length felt such inexpresible Joy and gratitude to my heavenly <father> that he had Brought forth the preparation for that great glory in the day in which I lived that I walk through my barn <crying> glory Hallalujah to god and the lamb forever and ever And I will observed <here> that about twenty years have pased away since that time [p.[5]] and I <had> been through nearly all the wars and Persecution that the People called Latter day saints have past through and have not yet found any thing to shake my faith. But to return to <my> Record in the winter of =32, after receiving such a display of the mercy of of god [I] Informed Br. Carter that I believed in the Gospel that he Preached and [he] answered if I believed I should be baptised[.] I informed him that I was not ready that I was connected with a Large Church of very kind and friendly Breathren and that I wished to see them together and inform them of my calculation

Accordingly I caled a meeting and when they came together they wished to know the meaning of the same I informed <them> that I wished to withdraw form the Churc<h> they wanted to know my reasons I informed them that I had <found that> gospel that I had been ◊anting for many years and was now prepared to engage in it with many other remarks which I made to them they wished to know if I would still Preach [illegible] <to them> after I should with draw I informed <them> I would as much as I Could but wished <[illegible]> spread it all over the Earth and I thought that many would believe it they finally gave me a very handsome Letter of Commendation and I withdrew I then went home informed my family and neighbors of my resolution and my [torn] and only Child that was old enough to be Baptised with three of my Neighbors [torn] the Ordinance as a Church of Latter day saints Br Carter wished to ordain [torn] Elder but I at first refused but after he had Baptised 19 there Came up a [torn]tion and he said he must Leave and if I would not be ordained he must have [torn] were but there being no church that I knew of nearer <then> two hundred miles I consented and Continued in that place to Preach also in the regions surround from thereby to one hundred miles with some success Baptism and many in that place andd some in allmost every place where I preached with signs following them that believed in the spring O Heid [Orson Hyde] and S[amuel] Smith came throu<gh> that Country to my great Joy and satisfaction as I was much in need of instruction they preached a number of times Baptised some <gave me Presidency of the Branch> and went on to the East[2] But as I had for some years Previous to this been acquainted with <many> of People in various parts of the Country there Preachers of Baptist Methodist  Reformers Presbyterian preachers came to try to get me out of the delusion some of them would <manage> [illegible] others gave <me> up for lost while some believed Me and were baptized Among the rest was a Methodist Preacher thought by many to be of considerable importance Came to me saying he was sick and wished to be healed I saw the Church he was of and asked him if he believed that the Methodist were [p.[6]] of the body or Church of Christ he answered in the affirmative I next asked him why he had left <the body & Church of Christ> them and come to an imposter to be healed but was not troubled with his company any longer than while he could not answer and return but I understood the poor man could not preach at his [blurred-church ?] appointment. In the fall =33 there was some division in the Church in consequence of teaching from an Elder that went through there which Teaching I rejected. (the Teaching was that women should have the gift of seeing that they might be able to discover the Mistakes that the Elders might make from time to time and furthermore that they might actually see what was in <their> hearts and if <they> had <any> hypocrisy to declare it before the Church to <this> calling I understood he ordained a number of the sisters who made use of this power to the condemning some & satisfying others without any other testimony) This caused me a Journey to Kirtland Ohio 325 miles in <the> month Dec<ember> to get a council of high Priests that would be able to try the spirits to the satisfaction of all the honest in heart I went to Kirtland as quick as I could traveled in the mud by day and rode in the slay [sleigh?]  at night arrived at that place the Last of Dec<br>. they immediately Called a conference and sent R[eynolds] Cahoon and D[avid] Patten who came with Leonard Rich and set things in order. in March following I removed to Courtland Co [Cortland County, New York.] preached some and labored to support my family in March =35 removed to shanang Co. [Chenango County, New York.] Preached [torn] numerous parts of the Country in May =36 Took a company and moved [torn] Ohio there Labored to support my family and build the Temple which was [torn] the next winter Dedicated and I received my first Endowment in the Temple with about 300 others we also attended many feasts that winter of Bread and wine In the fall of =37 I went on a mission to Canada Broke new ground Baptized 29 Members returned home in the winter <and was ordained a president of the seventy> of =38 that winter a heavey time of persecution arose the first Presidency fled for their lives and went to [illegible] with Many to Missouri (The winter Previous to I was ordained to the first Council of the Seventies) Most of the Church that <could> to get away went of that winter when a large number of the Poor Class <was left> behind there were a number of the seventies that continued to Meet together and at one time when twenty or thirty of us were together we agreed to Put our Property together and all fare alike and move to Missouri helping each other with all we had till we got through and our agreement felt a great degree of the <◊◊◊◊◊t> of god other heard of it and flashed into our Meting desiring to be received into the company they continuously kept [p.[7]]coming and among them the poorst of the poor that had not even Clothing to their Backs suficient to leave home. But we soon found that we had got a Job on hand that was not so easily got along with becaus those poor were in as good felloship with the Church as those that had gone <and> probably got through. There were seven of us who were engaged as council of that Camp Pres. Joseph Young, Henry Heriman [Harriman], Z[erah] Pulsipher, Josiah Butterfield, James Foster, Elias Smith, & Benjamin Wilber.[3] This seven set themselves at work to remove the Poor from Kirtland to Missouri in time of the Kirtland persecution in =37 and =38 without means ourselves or knowing where it should come from there were at this time about six hundred that were of this <pact> to remove near one thousa<nd> <miles> and feeling ourselves as inadequate with<out> the assistance of some higher power that should interfere we therefore saught the Lord in Prayer in the Atick story of the Lords house from two to three times per week that the way might open for means to affect the purpose. At length at one time when we assembled in prayer a Bright Looking Mesenger stood before me drest in a white robe stood Before me while we were engaged in Prayer he was an old man but very tall and strait with long grey hair that hung over his shoulders [torn]th curld at the end with a grave penetrating countanance with grey eyes [torn]ed his eyes from me to the other breathren and then to me again [torn]t leaning his head and then spoke and said be one and you shall have Enough this gave great satisfaction to find that the Heavenly mesengers were interested on our behalf a short time from this a man sent word to us that he would lend us $300 Dollars and donate fifty more on our mission we therefore obtained all we could in addition to this and sent to Buffaloe and Bought Cloths at wholesale and Clothed the Peopple alittle better A little circumstance which took place about that <time> I will now relate the Mob <were> very hostile all the time while we were preparing for three months our constant practice was to meet in the Temple for prayer one evening after we had retired home late some persons set fire to a Methodist Meeting house which stood near our temple and burnt it down allso  threw a brand of fire attacht to straw in to the temple window but this went out[.] the next day the cry was made that the Council had burned the Meeting house this was done for a pretext to destroy us but we paid no attention to it but steadily pursued our way at length one of the strong leaders of the Mob had a Vision and saw [document ends here, but two small additions on smaller paper were attached] [p.[9]]

1st Addition

  1. Page Here, I had many Controversies with sectarian Priests in as much as I did believe in there manner of Preaching and Punishme<nt> Pronounced on the People that did receive their faith and they accordingly Pronounced on me Tracts of Infidelity which were some of the Principles of the Fulness of the Gospel which we now Practice and Believe

2nd Addition

As soon as I saw the Preacher again I informed him that I knew the work to be of god and that the Book of Mormon was True he then if you believe then be Baptised I said I was not quite Reaedy as I Belonged to a Large Church and wish<ed> to see them together & withdraw in a proper manner I Caled a Chruch meeting they wished to know the cause of their coming together I arose and informed them that it was on my account that they were Caled Together I said that I had many times informed that the True gospel was not on the Earth if so I had not heard it and if it should come in my day that I should [leave] the Baptist and go to them and that I had now found it I also in formed them of the Open Vision that I had and its effects on me and wished they would releas me that I might go free [p.[10]] The Deacon then ordered the Clark to write me a good Recommend which he did then Brother Older then myself arose and withdrew Accordingly six of us went forward and was Baptised I think in January 1832


Pulsipher, Zerah. “Zerah Pulsipher autobiographical sketch,” undated. MS 753.3. Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[1] Silas Hillman recalled that, “a man by the name of [Solomon] Chamberlain came there [Spafford] bringing the Book of Mormon. He gave a history of its origin, how it was obtained, and its translation.” (Journal of Silas Hillman, cited in Rhean Lenore M. Beck, Life Story of Sarah (King) Hillman and Her Husband, Mayhew Hillman [unpublished manuscript, 1968], 8.)

[2] The journal history of the Church records that:

Saturday, December 22, Elders Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith returned to Kirtland, Ohio, from their mission to the Eastern States: Elder Orson Hyde, in summing up his missionary labor in 1832 writes:

“I was sent on another mission in company with Brother Samuel H. Smith, a younger brother of the Prophet…. We journeyed early in the spring of 1832, eastward together, without “purse or script,” going from house to house, teaching and preaching in families, and also in the public congregations of the people….

“We hastened on to Spafford, NY where there was a small branch of the Church; and by our ministry added 14 members. We then hastened on to Boston, Mass.” (Journal History, 22 December 1832.)

[3] Elias Smith and Benjamin Wilber were only temporarily functioning as part of the council