Orson Pratt Homesite
In 1874 Orson Pratt was appointed historian and general Church recorder, a position he held until the time of his death.
The original homesite of Elder Orson Pratt, a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve; over the years, other homes and businesses were built here. As the number of tourists visiting Salt Lake City increased in the early 1900s, additional lodging was needed. In 1930 the Inn at Temple Square was constructed across the street from the site it was named after. It was later renovated after Hotel Utah was closed. The inn offered a sense of 1930s grandeur, and its central location allowed easy access to Salt Lake City’s many sites. The structure was composed of ninety spacious rooms that offered comfort to the weary traveler. Guests were also offered access to the inn’s library and the Passages Restaurant. The inn closed in April 2006 to accommodate the Church development of the property.
Following the Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Orson came west with President Brigham Young and the Saints. As he journeyed, he took note of the latitude, longitude, and altitude of prominent points, as well as a description of the geological structure of the country in great detail. Years later, while assisting in the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, a small observatory was erected on Temple Square, where the South Visitors’ Center now stands. From this location Orson charted the heavens.
As the original pioneer company neared the Great Basin, Orson formed an advance party of twenty-three wagons and forty-two men. On July 21, 1847, Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow became the first Latter-day Saints to enter the Great Salt Lake Valley. Orson recorded, “We could not refrain from a shout of joy.” On July 23, he dedicated the camp and the land to the Lord. Perhaps B. H. Roberts said it best when he described Orson as “Pioneer of the Pioneers.” While laying the foundations for the new city in the West, President Brigham Young recognized Orson’s skills and requested his help to plat and survey the city of the Great Salt Lake. Elder Pratt filled at least eleven missions to the Eastern States and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain and the European continent sixteen times to preach the gospel. He was a tireless writer and defender of the faith. President Young paid this tribute to Orson Pratt: “If Brother Orson were chopped up in inch pieces, each piece would cry out Mormonism was true.”
In the late 1870s, he arranged the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon into chapters and verses with footnotes and references and prepared the first American edition of the Pearl of Great Price. In 1874 he was appointed historian and general Church recorder, a position he held until the time of his death. Orson also dedicated his time to civil service, presiding over the territorial legislature and serving as the regent of the University of Deseret.
After suffering severely from diabetes, Orson Pratt passed away on October 3, 1881. His dying words, spoken to President Joseph F. Smith and forming his epitaph, were: “My body sleeps for a moment, but my testimony lives and shall endure forever.”
Orson Pratt was one of the first converts to the restored gospel; he was also one of the most influential. He was baptized by his brother Parley on his nineteenth birthday, on September 19, 1830, almost six months after the organization of the Church. He was ordained an Apostle at the age of twenty-three and served in this capacity for over forty-five years.