David Wyman Patten

Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 351–53.

No known photograph in existence

Born: 14 November 1799, Theresa, New York

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 15 February 1835 (age 35)

Died: 25 October 1838 (age 38), Crooked River, Missouri

A member of the Quorum of the Twelve has been slain!” This was the tragic news carried to Far West on 25 October 1838. David W. Patten, one of the original Twelve Apostles, had given his life at the same age and for the same cause as Joseph Smith would a few years later. David’s six years in the Church had been filled with marvelous manifestations showing his love for the Lord and the Lord’s love for him. Two days after his baptism, 15 June 1832, he left on the first of a dozen short-term missions. He baptized scores of people and like numbers were healed of physical maladies at his command. His remarkable faith and gift of healing were manifested wherever he went. On a mission in Tennessee, Elder Patten blessed a Mrs. Lane, who had been ill for eight years, commanding her to arise and be baptized, which she immediately did. He then prophesied that the child she had longed for during twelve years of marriage would be born within a year and would be a son. This child of promise was given the name David Patten Lane.

Elder Patten exhibited great courage in defense of the truth. During a missionary meeting a crude and boisterous intruder disrupted the preaching and challenged anyone to evict him. Brother Patten vowed, “In the name of the Lord I will do it,” and, grabbing the heckler, he carried him to the door and threw him out onto a pile of wood. Some who witnessed the episode reported that “Patten had cast out one devil, soul and body.” [1] On another occasion this powerful servant of the Lord, with only a walking stick, warded off an angry mob. Once a violent enemy approached him with a drawn bowie knife, threatening to cut his throat. Looking him squarely in the eye, David said, “My friend, do nothing rashly.” At the same time he reached slowly into his empty breast pocket. The assailant ran away, screaming, “Don’t shoot!” [2] One night the Lord sent an angel to wake Elder Patten and his companion and warn them to flee from an approaching mob.

David Patten’s life ended while he was commanding a rescue party of seventy-five men seeking the freedom of some Saints who had been kidnapped by a mob. The two groups battled at Crooked River near Far West. The mob was put to flight, and the prisoners were freed, but one prisoner and many of the rescuers were wounded. Three men, including David Patten, died as a result of their wounds.

After being shot, Elder Patten lived long enough to be carried to the home of a member of the Church about three miles south of Far West, where Joseph, Hyrum, and Sister Patten hurried to see him. He exhorted his grieving wife to continue faithful in the gospel and expressed his dying testimony that Joseph Smith was called of God. The sorrowing Prophet declared, “There lies a man who has done just as he said he would—he has laid down his life for his friends.” [3] David’s last words were a prayer asking God to “release my spirit and receive it unto Thyself.” [4] Moments later he died. In a revelation given two years later, the Lord used as an example of faithfulness, “My servant David Patten, who is with me at this time” (D&C 124:19).


[1] Andrew Jenson, “The Twelve Apostles,” The Historical Records, no. 2 (February, 1886): 20.

[2] Matthias F. Cowley, Prophets and Patriarchs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Chattanooga, TN: Ben E. Rich, 1902), 179.

[3] History of the Church, 3:175.

[4] Cowley, Prophets and Patriarchs, 182.