Great accomplishment on detour
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One of the major accomplishments of the mission by Parley P. Pratt and his companions that began Oct. 17, 1830, to preach the gospel to the Lamanites is that it provided their first contact with Kirtland, Ohio, which one day would become headquarters of the Church.
After the missionaries spent some time among the Catteraugus tribe near Buffalo, N.Y., they continued their journey west, taking a slight detour to the Kirtland area. What must have been thought to be a diversion from their mission turned out to be a major accomplishment.It was in Kirtland that the missionaries visited one of Elder Pratt's friends, Sidney Rigdon, a Reformed Baptist minister. In 1827, Rigdon had traveled about the countryside preaching the doctrines of a movement called "Disciples," also commonly known as "Campbellites."
Rigdon stopped at the home of Pratt, a native of New York who had in 1826 built a home near Cleveland, about 20 miles west of Kirtland. Feeling Rigdon's preachings conformed closely to the Bible, Pratt joined Rigdon's church. Desiring to preach the doctrines of the "Disciples" to relatives in New York, Pratt returned to his home state, where, sometime in the summer of 1830, he heard of the Book of Mormon. Wanting to learn more of the book, he went to Palmyra, where he met Hyrum Smith, who accompanied him to Fayette.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was in Harmony, Pa. Hyrum introduced Pratt to Oliver Cowdery, Joseph's scribe during most of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Being convinced of the book's truthfulness, Pratt was baptized and ordained an elder about the first of September 1830.
Elder Pratt resumed his journey to preach to his relatives. However, instead of carrying the doctrines of the "Disciples," he carried the message of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. His 19-year-old brother, Orson, was among the first he baptized.
Elder Pratt returned to Fayette in time to attend the second conference of the Church, held Sept. 26, 1830. At that conference he was called on a mission to the Lamanites, the mission that took him and his companions to Kirtland.
At Mentor, a settlement just outside Kirtland, they stopped at the home of Sidney Rigdon, Elder Pratt's former preacher. The minister was then taught of the Restoration by one of his former converts.
After learning of the Book of Mormon and the doctrines of the restored gospel, Rigdon allowed the missionaries to preach to his congregation in Kirtland.
Within a short period of time, 130 people were baptized into the Church in the Kirtland area, making it the largest single group of Latter-day Saints at the time. Kirtland later would become headquarters for the Church.
After spending some time in Kirtland, the missionaries continued their journey west toward the more populous Lamanite tribes. The missionaries were joined by a fifth elder, Frederick G. Williams, a convert from Kirtland.
On March 18, 1833, Sidney Rigdon was set apart as first counselor to Joseph Smith, and Frederick G. Williams was set apart as second counselor.