The Riches of Parley Parker Pratt

Franklin Thomas Pomeroy[1] an LDS missionary to the Southern States in the 1890s encountered one John A. Peel. Peel was an eyewitness to the death of Parley Parker Pratt. It’s this fortuitous encounter that led to the present account of Parley’s last words found in the “Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” It’s interesting things like this that you’ll find in two new books on LDS Apostle Parley P. Pratt.

The world of Mormon Studies boasts two new additions: Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (Oxford, 2011) and the essay collection Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism, edited by Gregory K. Armstrong, Matthew J. Grow and Dennis J. Siler. (Univ. Okla. P, 2011). The two books demonstrate the depth afforded by Pratt and the neglect in Mormon Studies of a pivotal character. In Apostle Paul we have a very personal look at the man. Making points us more to effect than cause perhaps. Since Apostle Paul has already seen some press in blogs and in print, I’d like to briefly mention a few highlights of Making here.

First, for the reasons already stated, this book is important. But there is another reason why I enjoyed Making: it has footnotes! No endless flipping between some intermediate page and the back of the book to consider sources and comments. This is pleasant reading. Thanks to UoOP, the editors and authors for this boon.

Making has eleven essays, plus an introduction by the editors. The contributor list is a fine one. Essays and authors:

1. Parley P. Pratt and the Coming of a New Religious Tradition to America by Jan Shipps.

2. The Family Life of Parley P. Pratt: A Case Study of Mormon Plural Marriage by R. Steven Pratt.

3. Parley P. Pratt and Early Mormon Print Culture by David J. Whittaker.

4. “‘Tis Not for Crimes That I Have Done”: Parley P. Pratt’s Missouri Imprisonment, 1838-1839 by Alexander L. Baugh.

5. “We Glory in Tribulations”: Parley P. Pratt, Martyrology, and the Memory of Persecution by David W. Grua.

6. “All of One Species”: Parley P. Pratt and the Dialectical Development of Early Mormon Conceptions of Theosis by Jordan Watkins.

7. Parley P. Pratt, Mormonism, and Latin America: A Mission’s Contribution to Latter-Day Saint Growth by David Clark Knowlton.

8. Honor, the Unwritten Law, and Extralegal Violence: Contexualizing Parley Pratt’s Murder by Patrick Q. Mason.

9. Martyred Apostle or Un-Saintly Seducer?: Narratives on the Death of Parley P. Pratt by Matthew J. Grow.

10. The Murder of Parley P. Pratt and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, by Richard E. Turley Jr.

11. Finding Parley: A Family’s Quest to Fulfill Parley P. Pratt’s Dying Wish by Robert J. Grow.

The genesis of Making was a 2007 conference held in Fort Smith, Arkansas, celebrating the bicentennial of Pratt’s birth and the sesquicentennial of his death at the hands of Hector McLean. Hence some of the content of the book has been available since then (for example, Shipps was the keynote speaker). Anyone who has been involved in the publishing of conference proceedings knows all the wonderful itches that need scratching there.

How do the two books compare? Apostle Paul obviously benefits from much of the content of Making and they share an author/editor in Matt Grow. On the other hand, each provides different emphases. For example, Making has Watkins’ chapter on Pratt’s theosis doctrine, (Apostle Paul scatters some of this through the book (but see 331-6) and a brief epilogue. Both generally get it right. Making places more emphasis on Pratt’s heaven than his protology. Distinctions are important here. Both books might have been more careful on this, but both give us interesting views of PPPs ontology/cosmology.

The contributors to Making give us a range of efforts from established scholars like Shipps and Whittaker to a new generation of thinkers like David Grua. Mason’s chapter is an important one, and should lead the reader to his recent volume The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South (Oxford, 2011).

Making devotes four chapters to Pratt’s murder and situates it in Mormon and American thought at the time. It’s been posited that Pratt’s murder was a major component behind Mountain Meadows. Turley considers this in his essay, looking at Bill Bagley’s work as a pivot point in his discussion. Latter-day Saints will surely benefit from this portion of Making and the exposition of Pratt’s death in the context of Mormon and anti-Mormon narratives. We also have Robert Grow’s essay on Pratt’s burial site and the recent attempt by Pratt’s descendants to locate his remains and transport them to Utah (a last request of Pratt).

And of course, there’s polygamy. Pratt was not on board at first, but became a convert to the system. His family life is treated in both books.

Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism
Edited and with contributions by
Gregory K. Armstrong, Matthew J. Grow and Dennis J. Siler
The Arthur H. Clark Co.
An Imprint of the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 2011
351 pages

If you are reading this, Making probably deserves a place on your bookshelf. While Apostle Paul has the advantage of cohesiveness in presentation, Making offers a nice way to focus on particular subjects. The fact that we have a volume (Making) by this university press is important too. It’s a marker of a maturing field.

I recommend both of these books. At some point I may say more about Apostle Paul. But for now, stretch your wallets a bit and grab these. You’ll find them engrossing reads.

[1] Pomeroy plays an interesting if minor role in the early 20th century discussions of the King Follett Discourse.

One Response to The Riches of Parley Parker Pratt

  1. ricke says:

    Thank you for the notice. I have just started reading the biography and have found the tracing of the Pratt’s genealogy somewhat disjointed. I’m hoping for better coherence in the rest of the book. I hadn’t even heard of Making, but I intend to my Amazon Wish List.

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