Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt

By Parley P. Pratt

Synopsis: This book is the autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, an early missionary of the Church, a great writer and preacher, and one of the original Twelve Apostles of the Church. It was completed and handed off to John Taylor for safekeeping mere months prior to his assassination in Arkansas on May 13, 1857.

Strong Points: This book provides an intimate and exciting view into the amazing life of Parley P. Pratt. It is itself a great contribution to Church history, in addition to being an autobiography of a notable individual in the early history of the Church. It is the original source of several precious anecdotes of the Prophet Joseph Smith, including the time where the Prophet silenced the guards at Richmond jail (p. 210-211), and contains an interesting physical description of the Prophet Joseph Smith (p. 45). The reader will be astounded by Parley P. Pratt’s sheer zeal (which the modern critic would qualify as bordering on fanaticism), with his incessant missionary journeys and labors, his fearlessness and adeptness as a preacher, his profound understanding of the Restored Gospel, particularly so early on in the Restoration, and his tireless obedience to the cause of the Restored Gospel. Likewise the reader will marvel at his varied life experiences, his hardships endured, and how perfectly he was prepared by the Lord to act as a most important missionary in the early days of the Church. Humorous stories are to be found within the book as well. As an autobiography, the book does not encompass the entire life of Elder Pratt from birth to death, however a brief epilogue appears as an appendix to the book, explaining somewhat the circumstances of his murder. Wonderful illustrations and photographs are found throughout the 1970 edition. This book is a good and important read for Latter-day Saints that will give them a greater appreciation for this great and notable apostle.

Weak Points: Parley P. Pratt lived a profound life, there is no doubt. Humorously, the reader will note that he was not always very modest in his depiction of events or his actions. But if he were, we would be missing much of the story. One wonders if some embarrassing reflections were avoided. There is no mention of Parley’s plural marriages in context with the historical matters of the book; only a frank admission later that he was a polygamist, accompanied with a masterful Biblical defense of the doctrine of plural marriage. It would have been very good to have heard the circumstances and stories behind each plural marriage, as well as the feelings of those involved on each occasion, but the narrative is silent on these matters. Mention of Parley P. Pratt’s brief disaffection – a significant incident in his life – is covered in a mere two paragraphs. Not all of the book was riveting; some was quite monotonous with itinerary of travels. More detail as to the circumstances of his assassination would have been appreciated. And lastly, in the 1970 edition of the book that I read, there is no index, a severe handicap to any book.

Interesting: 3.9/5

Must Read: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

Pages: 471

Selected Quote: “During these interviews he [Joseph Smith] taught me many great and glorious principles concerning God and the heavenly order of eternity. It was at this time that I received from him the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness.

“Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which the heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.

“It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.

“It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore.

“It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his countless offspring. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband, and to reign for ever and ever as the queen mother of her numerous and still increasing offspring.

“I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved – with a pureness – an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean.” (p.297-298).



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