Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism

by Matthew J. Grow, Terryl Givens

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After Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt was the most influential figure in early Mormon history and culture. Missionary, pamphleteer, theologian, historian, and martyr, Pratt was perennially stalked by controversy — regarded, he said, “almost as an Angel by thousands and counted an Imposter by tens of thousands.”

Tracing the life of this colorful figure from his hardscrabble origins in upstate New York to his murder in 1857, Terryl Givens and Matthew Grow explore the crucial role Pratt played in the formation and expansion of early Mormonism. One of countless ministers inspired by the antebellum revival movement known as the Second Great Awakening, Pratt joined the Mormons in 1830 at the age of twenty three and five years later became a member of the newly formed Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which vaulted him to the forefront of church leadership for the rest of his life. Pratt's missionary work — reaching from Canada to England, from Chile to California — won hundreds of followers, but even more important were his voluminous writings. Through books, newspaper articles, pamphlets, poetry, fiction, and autobiography, Pratt spread the Latter-day Saint message, battled the many who reviled it, and delineated its theology in ways that still shape Mormon thought.

Drawing on letters, journals, and other rich archival sources, Givens and Grow examine not only Pratt's writings but also his complex personal life. A polygamist who married a dozen times and fathered thirty children, Pratt took immense joy in his family circle even as his devotion to Mormonism led to long absences that put heavy strains on those he loved. It was during one such absence, a mission trip to the East, that the estranged husband of his twelfth wife shot and killed him — a shocking conclusion to a life that never lacked in drama.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Young Seeker
Chapter 2: Dreams of Zion
Chapter 3: The Archer of Paradise
Chapter 4: ''Strange and Novel Truths'' Chapter 5: Strong Dungeons and Gloomy Prisons
Chapter 6: Apostle to the British
Chapter 7: Triumph and Tragedy in Joseph's City
Chapter 8: Many Mormonisms: The East
Chapter 9: Many Mormonisms: Exodus and England
Chapter 10: Pioneering Westward
Chapter 11: Lamanites in the Pacific
Chapter 12: Parley and Mrs. Pratt(s)
Chapter 13: Prospecting for Souls in San Francisco
Chapter 14: Murder and Martyrdom
Appendix 1: Pamphlets and Books by Parley P. Pratt
Appendix 2: Pratt Family Chart

About the Authors

Matthew J. Grow

Matthew J. Grow is Director of Publications at the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers. He leads a team of forty historians, editors, and web specialists creating historical publications for academic and popular audiences. Grow was previously an assistant professor of history and director of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. He has received the Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association (twice) and the Evans Biography Award from the Mountain West Center at Utah State University. He received his PhD in American history from the University of Notre Dame in 2006.

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Terryl Givens

Terryl Givens holds the Jabez A. Bostwick chair of English and is Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. His several published works include his two-volume history of Mormon thought, Wrestling the Angel and Feeding the Flock, as well as When Souls Had Wings and By The Hand of Mormon, all published by Oxford University Press.

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