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definition - Parley_P._Pratt

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Parley P. Pratt

Parley P. Pratt

Pratt, ca. 1845
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
February 21, 1835 (1835-02-21) – May 13, 1857 (1857-05-13)
Called by Three Witnesses
End reason Death
LDS Church Apostle
February 21, 1835 (1835-02-21) – May 13, 1857 (1857-05-13)
Called by Three Witnesses
Reason Initial organization of Quorum of the Twelve
End reason Death
Reorganization at end of term George Q. Cannon ordained
Personal details
Born Parley Parker Pratt
(1807-04-12)April 12, 1807
Burlington, New York, United States
Died May 13, 1857(1857-05-13) (aged 50)
Alma, Arkansas, United States

Parley Parker Pratt, Sr. (April 12, 1807 – May 13, 1857) was an early leader of the Latter Day Saint movement whose writings became a significant early nineteenth-century exposition of the Latter Day Saint faith. Named a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835, Pratt was part of the Quorum's successful British mission of 1839 to 1841. Pratt has been called "the Apostle Paul of Mormonism" for his promotion of distinctive Mormon doctrines. Pratt practiced polygamy, and was murdered in 1857 by the estranged husband of his twelfth wife. He explored, surveyed, and built and maintained the first road for public transportation in Parley's Canyon in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is named in his honor.




Pratt was born in Burlington, New York, the son of Jared Pratt (Canaan, New York, 25 November 1769 – Detroit, Michigan, 5 November 1839) and wife (m. 7 July 1799) Charity Dickinson (Bolton, New York, 24 February 1776 – St. Joseph, Missouri, 20 May 1849), a descendant of Anne Hutchinson.[1] He married Thankful Halsey in Canaan, New York on 9 September 1827. The young couple settled near Cleveland, Ohio on a plot of "wilderness" where Parley had constructed a crude home. In Ohio, Pratt became a member of the Reformed Baptist Society, also called "Disciples of Christ", through the preaching of Sidney Rigdon. Pratt soon decided to take up the Disciples ministry as a profession, and sold his property.

  LDS Church service

While traveling to visit family in western New York, Pratt had the opportunity to read a copy of the Book of Mormon owned by a Baptist deacon. Convinced of its authenticity, he traveled to Palmyra, New York and spoke to Hyrum Smith at the Smith home. He was baptized in Seneca Lake by Oliver Cowdery on or about September 1, 1830, formally joining the Latter Day Saint church (Mormons). He was also ordained to the office of an elder in the church. Continuing on to his family's home, he introduced his younger brother, Orson Pratt, to Mormonism and baptized him on September 19, 1830.

Pratt then returned to Fayette, New York in October 1830, where he met Joseph Smith and was asked to join a missionary group assigned to preach to the Native American (Lamanite) tribes on the Missouri frontier. During the trip west, he and his companions stopped to visit Sidney Rigdon, and were instrumental in converting Rigdon and approximately 130 members of his congregation within two to three weeks.

Pratt was later assigned additional missions to Canada, the Eastern United States, the Southern United States, England, the Pacific islands, and to South America. He moved to Valparaíso, Chile to begin the missionary work there. They left after not much success and the death of his child Omner in 1852. In addition to his brother, Orson Pratt and Sidney Rigdon, he was instrumental in introducing the Mormon faith to a number of future LDS leaders, including Frederick G. Williams, John Taylor and his wife Leonora, Isaac Morley and Joseph Fielding and his sisters, Mary and Mercy Fielding.

In addition to serving as an active missionary, Pratt entered the leadership of the early Latter Day Saint movement acting as an original member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. While on a mission to the British Isles in 1839, Pratt was editor of a newly created periodical, The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star. While presiding over the church's branches and interests in New England and the mid-Atlantic states, Pratt published a periodical entitled The Prophet from his headquarters in New York City. He was also a noted religious writer and poet. He produced an autobiography, as well as some poems which have become staple LDS hymns, some of which are included in the current LDS Church hymnal. Givens & Grow note that Pratt may have “propounded his highly unorthodox notions to Smith, who later embraced them and confirmed them,” rather than the other way around.[2]

After the death of Joseph Smith, Pratt and his family were among the Latter Day Saints who emigrated to Utah Territory and continued on as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) under the direction of Brigham Young. Pratt was involved in establishing the refugee settlements and fields at both Garden Grove and Mt. Pisgah, Iowa and personally led a pioneer company along the Mormon Trail to the Salt Lake Valley. Sometime in the mid 1850s, working with George D. Watt, he helped develop the Deseret alphabet. In 1854, Pratt went to California to preside over the Pacific Mission of the LDS Church headquartered in San Francisco.

  Death and legacy

  Parley P. Pratt's grave

While returning from a horseback missionary trip to the southern United States in 1857, Pratt was being tracked by Hector McLean. McLean was the legal husband of one of Pratt's plural wives, Eleanor McLean. Pratt had met Eleanor McLean in San Francisco, California, where Pratt was presiding over a church mission. In San Francisco, Eleanor had joined the LDS Church and had also had her oldest sons baptized. Hector rejected Mormonism and opposed his wife's membership in the church. The dispute over the church led to the collapse of the marriage.[3] Fearing that Eleanor would abscond to Utah Territory with their children, Hector sent his sons and his daughter to New Orleans to live with their grandparents.[4] Eleanor followed the children to New Orleans, where she lived with them for three months at her parents' house. Eventually, she and the children left for Utah Territory; she arrived in Salt Lake City on September 11, 1855.[4] Eleanor McLean was employed in Pratt's home as a schoolteacher, and on November 14, 1855, she and Pratt underwent a "celestial marriage" sealing ceremony in the Endowment House.[4] She was the twelfth woman to be sealed to Pratt. Though for religious reasons Eleanor considered herself "unmarried", she was not legally divorced from Hector at the time of her "celestial marriage" to Pratt.[5][6][7]

Upon learning of his wife's actions, Hector McLean pressed criminal charges, accusing Pratt of assisting in the kidnapping of his children.[8] Pratt managed to evade him and the legal charges, but was finally arrested in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in May 1857.[9] Pratt and Eleanor were charged with theft of the clothing of McLean's children.[10] (The laws of that time did not recognize the kidnapping of children by a parent as a crime.) Tried before Judge John B. Ogden, Pratt was acquitted of the charges because of a lack of evidence.[10] However, shortly after being secretly released, on May 13, 1857, Pratt was shot and stabbed by Hector McLean on a farm northeast of Van Buren, Arkansas.[10] As a result of the attack, Pratt died two and a half hours later from loss of blood.[10] As he was bleeding to death, a farmer asked what he had done to provoke the attack. Pratt responded, "He accused me of taking his wife and children. I did not do it. They were oppressed, and I did for them what I would do for the oppressed any where."[10] Pratt was buried near Alma, Arkansas, despite his personal desire to be buried in Utah.

Some historians view Pratt's death as simply the act of a jealous husband who was deeply angered by a man who had "run off" with his wife.[11] A 2008 Provo Daily Herald newspaper article characterized McLean as a man who had "hunted down" Pratt in retribution for "ruining his marriage".[12] A 2008 Deseret News article described McLean as a man who had "pursued Pratt across Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas, angry that his estranged wife, Eleanor, had become Pratt's 12th wife."[13] But many Mormons viewed Pratt's death as a martyrdom, a view first expressed in Pratt's dying words.[14] (But according to LDS church records, his dying words were not recorded until 38 years after his death.)[15] In the present day, Pratt's defenders still characterize the circumstances of Pratt's death as religious martyrdom. For example, a 2007 article in the Deseret Morning News stated that "Pratt was killed near Van Buren, Ark., in May 1857, by a small Arkansas band antagonistic toward his teachings".[16] Historian Will Bagley reports that McLean and two friends tracked Pratt after he was secretly released by Van Buren's magistrate.[17] Brigham Young compared Pratt's death with those of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,[18] and many Mormons blamed the death on the state of Arkansas, or its people.[19]

Due to his personal popularity and his position in the Council of the Twelve, Pratt's murder in Arkansas was a significant blow to the Latter-day Saint community in the Rocky Mountains, when they began hearing about it in June 1857.[20] The violent death of Pratt may also have played a part in events leading up to the Mountain Meadows massacre a few months later.[21] This massacre resulted in the deaths of 120 people from the Baker–Fancher party travelling to Southern California along the Mormon Road (a portion of the Old Spanish Trail). After the massacre, some Mormons circulated rumors throughout the southern Utah Territory that one or more members of the party had murdered Pratt,[22] poisoned creek water which subsequently sickened Paiute children,[23] and allowed their cattle to graze on private property.[24]

In 2008, Pratt's family received permission from an Arkansas judge to rebury his remains in the Salt Lake City Cemetery,[25] but no human remains were found.[26] No further search efforts for Pratt's burial site have been planned.[27]


Pratt practiced plural marriage and had twelve wives, thirty children, and 266 grandchildren. In 2011, Pratt's living descendants were estimated at between thirty and fifty thousand.[28] His first wife, Thankful Halsey Pratt, died following childbirth in March 1837. Pratt married his second wife, a widow, Mary Ann Frost Sterns, within two months of his first wife's death, perhaps causing Joseph Smith to condemn "marrying in five or six weeks, or even in two or three months, after the death of their companion."[29] Pratt persuaded Mary Ann to share his bed during his imprisonment in a Richmond, Missouri, jail; but after Pratt began practicing polygamy they became estranged, and Mary Ann finally divorced him in 1853.[30] According to authors Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, Pratt was often “dour and humorless,” with an “antisocial bent," and he could be remarkably insensitive in his relationships with his wives.[31]

One of Pratt's great-great-grandsons is Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and candidate for the 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential nomination.[32] One of his great-great-great-grandsons is Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and Ambassador to China, and a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.[33] Pratt's grandson, William King Driggs, was the father of the King Sisters.


Pratt explored, surveyed, and built the first public road in Parley's Canyon, Salt Lake City, which is named in his honor. Parley P. Pratt's escape from the Columbia Jail on July 4, 1839, has been commemorated in Columbia, Missouri,[34] with a "freedom run"[35] each Independence day since the 1970s. There is a 4 mile run and a 1 mile fun run/walk. At the 2010 fun run/walk, children chased someone playing the part of Parley.[36]


  See also


  1. ^ Reitwiesner, William Addams. "The Ancestors of Mitt Romney". William Addams Reitwiesner Genealogical Services (wargs.com). http://www.wargs.com/political/romney.html. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  2. ^ Givens & Grow 2011, p. 172.
  3. ^ Bagley 2002, p. 8.
  4. ^ a b c Bagley 2002, p. 9.
  5. ^ Millennial Star 19:432.
  6. ^ New York World, 23 November 1869, p.2
  7. ^ Pratt 1975, pp. 6, 9, 24.
  8. ^ Pratt 1975, p. 241
  9. ^ Bagley 2002, p. 69.
  10. ^ a b c d e Bagley 2002, p. 70.
  11. ^ Capurro, Wayne Atilio (2007). White Flag: America's First 9/11. AuthorHouse. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-4259-9565-2. OCLC 169899686. 
  12. ^ "No remains found in dig for Parley P. Pratt". Daily Herald (Utah). 23 April 2008. http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/article_ca8110b7-dd43-5d09-9a9d-a41914b8f604.html. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  13. ^ Smith, Robert J. (4 April 2008). "Relatives get OK to disinter, move Parley P. Pratt". Deseret News. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695267318/Relatives-get-OK-to-disinter-move-Parley-P-Pratt.html/. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  14. ^ Pratt 1975, p. 248 ("I am dying a martyr to the faith").
  15. ^ John A. Peel, "Dying Remarks of Parley P. Pratt," Church Archives. "Peel was in Van Buren at the time of the murder, but his statement was not taken down by Frank Poneroy until 1895."
  16. ^ Moore, Carrie A. (14 April 2007). "LDS-tied events to bisect in Arkansas". Deseret Morning News. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,660211702,00.html?pg=1. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  17. ^ Bagley, Will. "Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows."Norman:University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. p 70.
  18. ^ "Reminiscences of Mrs. A. Agatha Pratt", January 7, F564, #16, LDS Church Archives (stating that Young said, "Nothing has happened so hard to reconcile my mind to since the death of Joseph.").
  19. ^ Brooks 1950, pp. 36–37; Linn 1902, pp. 519–20 ("It was in accordance with Mormon policy to hold every Arkansan accountable for Pratt's death, just as every Missourian was hated because of the expulsion of the church from that state.").
  20. ^ Church leaders learned about the death on June 23, 1857 (Wilford Woodruff Journal). The murder was first reported in the Deseret News on July 1, 1857.
  21. ^ Bagley 2002.
  22. ^ Bagley 2002, p. 98 (identification by the widow Pratt)
  23. ^ Bagley 2002, pp. 105–110
  24. ^ Bagley 2002, p. 102
  25. ^ "Ark. judge: Remains of early LDS leader can be moved to Utah". KSL-TV (AP). 3 April 2008. http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=2998382. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  26. ^ "No remains found in dig for Parley P. Pratt". Daily Herald (AP). 23 April 2008. http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/263897/. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  27. ^ "Search for Parley Pratt's remains yields nothing but Arkansas clay". The Salt Lake Tribune (AP). 25 April 2008. Article archive ID: 9050460. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=SLTB&p_theme=sltb&p_action=search&d_sltb=&s_dispstring=headline%28Search%20for%20Parley%20Pratt%27s%20remains%20yields%20nothing%20but%20Arkansas%20clay%29. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  28. ^ Givens 2011, p. 342.
  29. ^ Givens & Grow 2011, pp. 91–95.
  30. ^ Givens & Grow 2011, pp. 317–18.
  31. ^ Givens & Grow 2011, pp. 396, 237, 276.
  32. ^ Romney is descended from Pratt's fourth of twelve wives, Mary Wood (Glasgow, 18 June 1818 – Salt Lake City, Utah, 5 March 1898), daughter of Samuel Wood (baptized Dumfries, 8 July 1798) and wife (m. Mungo, Dumfriesshire, 18 July 1816) Margaret Orr (baptized Inverchaolin, Argyllshire, 15 August 1793 – 1852), by whom he had Helaman Pratt. Dobner, Jennifer; Johnson, Glen (25 February 2007). "Polygamy was prominent in Romney's family tree". Deseret News (AP). http://www.deseretnews.com/article/660198565/Polygamy-was-prominent-in-Romneys-family-tree.html. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  33. ^ Dobner, Jennifer (June 23, 2011). "Romney, Huntsman compete in Mormon primary". Associated Press. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hLYi93loZD6ZkffdtX7eFTfKVl9A. 
  34. ^ The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, Chapter 32, pp. 274-289
  35. ^ Israelson, Craig (17 July 1999). "Freedom run commemorates Parley P. Pratt's escape from jail". LDS Church News. http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/36077/Freedom-run-commemorates-Parley-P-Pratts-escape-from-jail.html. Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  36. ^ Stroup, Megan (6 July 2010). "Parley P. Pratt memorial run". Columbia Missourian. http://comoneighborhoods.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/parley-p-pratt-memorial-run/. 


  External links

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
William E. M'Lellin
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
February 21, 1835–May 13, 1857
Succeeded by
Luke S. Johnson


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