Warren F. Parrish was an early convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was born on January 10, 1803, in New York. He married Elizabeth (Betsey) Patten, a sister to David W. Patten sometime in 1822. He was baptized by Brigham Young in Jefferson County, New York, in May 1833.
In the beginning, Parrish was devoted to the Church and served in positions of responsibility. Parrish served as a missionary throughout Missouri with his brother-in-law David Patten. Later that same year he went on another mission to Tennessee and Kentucky with Patten and Wilford Woodruff. During their mission, they were arrested by a local sheriff at the request of a local Methodist minister, who claimed they were making false prophecies. After a mock trial, they were found guilty and were released on the stipulation that they pay a fine and leave the area within ten days (Millennial Star 26:439).
Parrish also served as a scribe and secretary to Joseph Smith from 1835 to 1837. In the fall of 1835, he and Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, and Frederick G. Williams attempted to make translations of characters from the Book of Abraham papyri. Although they failed in their attempt, Parrish and Phelps eventually compiled the “Grammar & Alphabet of the Egyptian Language.”
The History of the Church, volume 2, chapter 23, page 311, records a revelation given to Joseph Smith regarding Parrish:
- ”Verily thus saith the Lord unto my servant Joseph, concerning my servant Warren Parrish. Behold his sins are forgiven him, because of his desires to do the works of righteousness. Therefore, inasmuch as he will continue to hearken unto my voice, he shall be blessed with wisdom, and with a sound mind, even above his fellows. Behold, it shall come to pass in his day, that he shall see great things show forth themselves unto my people; he shall see much of my ancient records, and shall know of hidden things, and shall be endowed with a knowledge of hidden languages; and if he desire and shall seek it at my hands, he shall be privileged with writing much of my word, as a scribe unto me for the benefit of my people; therefore this shall be his calling until I shall order it otherwise in my wisdom, and it shall be said of him in time to come, Behold Warren, the Lord's scribe for the Lord's seer, whom He hath appointed in Israel. Therefore, if he will keep my commandments, he shall be lifted up at the last day. Even so. Amen."
When the Church organized the Quorum of the Seventy in February 1835, Parrish was selected to serve.
With the creation of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company in 1836, Parrish was appointed clerk. After the Kirtland Safety Society opened its door on January 2, 1837, Parrish was given more responsibility as an officer. During the next few months, Parrish began embezzling money. He later acknowledged that he took $20,000. He was also accused of counterfeiting. The society had to close its doors in November and Parrish was excommunicated in December.
In addition, those who opposed Joseph initiated a “run on the bank” by collecting as many of its notes as possible, then presenting them at the Society to redeem them for specie, intending to drain the reserves of the Society.
Joseph was falsely accused of starting the Society for personal gain and persecution was so intense by July 26, 1837, he and Sidney Rigdon were forced to leave Kirtland.
Parrish led a movement of dissenters who opposed Joseph Smith. This group met secretly in the Kirtland Temple, claimed it as their own, and used violence to keep their position. Eliza R. Snow describes one occasion:
- "They [the dissenters] linked themselves together in an opposing party--pretended that they constituted the church, and claimed that the temple belonged to them, and even attempted to hold it. Warren Parrish, who had been a humble, successful preacher of the gospel, was the ringleader of this apostate party. One Sabbath morning, he, with several of his party, came in to the temple armed with pistols and bowie-knives and seated themselves together in the Aaronic pulpits, on the east end of the temple, while father Joseph Smith, Sr. and others, as usual, occupied those of the Melchizedek priesthood on the west. Soon after the usual opening services, one of the brethren on the west stand arose, and just after he commenced to speak, one on the east interrupted him. Father Smith, presiding, called for order—he told the apostate brother that he should have all the time he wanted, but he must wait his turn—as the brother on the west took the floor and commenced first to speak, he must not be interrupted. A fearful scene ensued--the apostate speaker becoming so clamorous that Father Smith called for the police to take that man out of the house, when Parrish, John Boynton, and others, drew their pistols and bowie-knives, and rushed down from the stand into the congregation; John Boynton saying he would blow out the brains of the first man who dared to lay hands on him. Many in the congregation, especially women and children, were terribly frightened--some tried to escape from the confusion by jumping out of the windows. Amid screams and shrieks, the policemen, in ejecting the belligerents, knocked down a stove-pipe, which fell helter-skelter among the people; but, although bowie-knives and pistols were wrested from their owners, and thrown hither and thither to prevent disastrous results, no one was hurt, and after a short, but terrible scene to be enacted in a temple of God, order was restored, and the services of the day proceeded as usual.”
Parrish wrote letters to several newspapers wherein he called Church leaders infidels and slandered Joseph Smith. Parrish eventually formed a new church called the Church of Christ and asserted that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet. Parrish’s church dissolved over a division on the validity of the Book of Mormon. He soon after left Kirtland and moved to New York where he became a clergyman.
George Albert Smith reported that Heber C. Kimball had met Parrish on a ferry crossing the Fox River while serving a mission in 1844. “Parrish was a grave-looking man—a straight-jacketed fellow, dressed in black, with a white handkerchief around his neck. Says he, ‘Elder Kimball, will you have the goodness not to say to the people here that I ever was a Mormon. I am a Baptist Minister. I am preaching at that meetinghouse for a salary of $500 a year. If they find out I have been a Mormon, it would hurt my influence very much indeed.’”
Parrish’s first wife had died of cholera at Rush Creek, Missouri, in 1834. He married Martha H. Raymond on December 1835. She died in 1875. He was living in Emporia, Kansas, at the time of his death in January 1877. It is said that he had lost his mind.