From trying to capture a photo of the inside of a church in Philadelphia through a small hole in a stained-glass window to handling the precious original letters Parley wrote from the dungeon of a jail at Richmond, Missouri, these are the personal notes and behind the scenes experiences of editors Scot and Maurine Proctor as they worked to bring forth the Revised and Enhanced edition of the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.
From the beginning, Parley P. Pratt had eternal stirrings in him, a sense of the spiritual and the holy that he seemed to carry with him from another world. At seven, he already loved Jesus and the ancient apostles. At twelve, he was extremely intrigued by the doctrine of the resurrection. By eighteen he constantly wondered where in the modern world were the Lord’s apostles. He remembered, “I said to my father one day while we were laboring together in the forest, ‘Father, how is it there is so manifest a difference between the ancient and modern disciples of Jesus Christ and their doctrines? If, for instance, I had lived in the days of the Apostles, and believed in Jesus Christ, and had manifested a wish to become his disciple, Peter or his brethren would have said to me, ‘Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ I should then have known definitely and precisely what to do to be saved…’
“Now, father, how is this? I believe in Jesus; I wish to serve him and keep his commandments; I love him: He has commanded all men to repent and be baptized, and has promised to remit the sins of all those who obey the gospel ordinances, and to pour out the Holy Spirit upon them…” (1)
These thoughts nagged at him daily. Parley longed for the ancient teachings of the Savior. He sought after the precepts of the apostles. He was compelled to find these pure doctrines and the authority of the apostleship. Why? From this vantage with the sweep of his life before us, the answer seems clear. He wondered about the apostles, because he was one of them, chosen for this stewardship, as Jeremiah or Moses of old, before the foundations of this world. The seed of his mission had been planted in his eternal soul, and with the same urgency he felt to find out about apostles, he also felt to witness of the truth.. Eloquent Parley could not travel far enough or address enough people to satisfy the burning he had to share the truth. He was like Alma that way who had said, “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare to every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.” (2)
Since Parley’s greatest desire was to let the whole world know that the gospel of Jesus Christ, in its fulness, with all the keys of the Priesthood, had been restored to the earth in these latter days, and that Joseph Smith was the mighty Prophet of the Restoration, he was given the trump to do that. His trump was the spoken and printed word, and this work, the Autobiography, is his way of continuing to call to the earth and to speak to every people. Here Parley can share his testimony with broader audiences, to new generations, to let the stories of the restoration become as real to the reader as they were to him. “Should the author be called to sacrifice his life for the cause of truth,” Parley wrote, “yet he will have the consolation that it will be said of him as it was said of Abel:… “He, being dead, yet speaketh.” (3)
The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, and Lucy Mack Smith’s history of her son Joseph are the two most essential primary source, biographical accounts given to us from the earliest days of the Restoration. Both are invaluable in the study of the first thirty years of the history of the Church. Both come to us from passionate writers in the spirit of truth and love. Both come to us from bold individuals who knew and loved the Prophet Joseph. They are like a double testimony, a fulfillment of the law of witnesses. Parley was killed and then buried one year to the day from when Lucy Mack Smith passed away. (4)
Formation of the Original Autobiography
From his earliest days, Parley had a desire to record his history as he experienced it. He knew that he was a player on the stage of the early scenes of the restoration and he wanted to record his lines. He had a sense that his voice would be carried well beyond his life and that his personal witness and testimony would bless millions yet unborn. He was full of faith. He was gifted in communications, both in writing and in speaking. He was a visionary. He had a sense of legacy and heritage. His desires, whether he lived or died, were to continue to bear testimony on this side of the veil through his words. Parley understood the power of a written record.
As most writers, he had a constant sense that he was working under a deadline. But this deadline was literally that he somehow knew that he would be taken early, and that he must hurry to complete his history, knowing that it would not be published in his lifetime. Parley once wrote of the Prophet Joseph: “Had he been spared a martyr’s fate till mature manhood and age, he was certainly endued with powers and ability to have revolutionized the world in many respects, and to have transmitted to posterity a name associated with more brilliant and glorious acts than has yet fallen to the lot of mortal. As it is, his works will live to endless ages, and unnumbered millions yet unborn will mention his name with honor, as a noble instrument in the hands of God, who, during his short and youthful career, laid the foundation of that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever.” (5) It seems that Parley was not only extolling the virtues of power of Joseph, he was humbly looking in the mirror. Parley’s Autobiography has been in print six score and seven years and will continue to bless untold generations, both in and out of the Church, both speakers in Parley’s native tongue and in the tongues of many nations.
A Deeper Look
Parley walked, rode horses, took ships, always making his way another few hundred miles to the next destination to preach the gospel. He lived so close to the Spirit that he would, at times, be awakened from his rest by a voice from the unseen world: “Parley, it is time to be up and on your journey.
In the twinkling of an eye I was perfectly aroused; I sprang to my feet so suddenly that I could not at first recollect where I was, or what was before me to perform.” (6) It didn’t matter exactly where he was going, what mattered is that he was always willing to move his feet. He spent the vast majority of his twenty-seven years in the Church on missions.
Parley was swift as a deer physically, and quick as lightning in thought. Each of these traits had to be used often in various settings in his life. He had to escape a captor at one time in Ohio, and Parley was nearly 200 hundred yards ahead of the officer before the man could respond. The officer sent a large bull dog after Parley, methodically clapping his hands and yelling loudly, “stu-boy, stu-boy–take him–watch–lay hold of him, I say–down with him,” and pointed in the direction of Parley. Parley was running faster and faster but now with an enormous bull dog in swift pursuit. “Quick as lightning, the thought struck me,” Parley recorded, “to assist the officer, in sending the dog with all fury to the forest a little distance before me. I pointed my finger in that direction, clapped my hands, and shouted in imitation of the officer. The dog hastened past me with redoubled speed towards the forest; being urged by the officer and myself, and both of us running in the same direction.” (7) Such clever thoughts were often Parley’s gift and helped him in debate, preaching, humor, and writing.
Parley recorded many things that otherwise would be lost to history. Through his eyes we see the Prophet Joseph in chains in the Richmond, Missouri jail. “In one of those tedious nights,” he said, “we had lain as if in sleep till the hour of midnight had passed, and our ears and hearts had been pained, while we had listened for hours to the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies and filthy language of our guards, Colonel Price at their head, as they recounted to each other their deeds of rapine, murder, robbery, etc., which they had committed among the ‘Mormons’ while at Far West and vicinity. They even boasted of defiling by force wives, daughters and virgins, and of shooting or dashing out the brains of men, women and children.
“I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but had said nothing to Joseph, or any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:
“‘SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and bear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!’
“He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards.
“I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath, in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.”
Parley’s words and writings ring with the Spirit. His gifted description of experiences are undergirded by a desire to testify of the truth of the restoration. He never took for granted that he was one of the holders of the keys. Many times he would call upon God, being alone, in pure faith that he might be healed from a terrible ailment or siege of sickness that had swept over him. He was never without answers from the Lord, and if he was, he knew that the answer was he was to learn more patience.
His wife Ann Agatha Walker said, “His confidence in God was unbounded and he would go to Him and ask Him for what he needed, as a child would go to the father, with the same childlike simplicity. I have seen his prayers answered almost before he had finished his supplication.”
Why this New Version
We live in an age of visual stimulation. Books compete with video, television, digital sound recordings, movies, and even more so with the Internet. Yet, books are the staple of the ages. Books capture the feelings and experiences of generations now dead and gone. Books are the intimate companion of the learning and the learned. Books were Parley’s best friends. In this volume are photographs capturing the life and times of Parley P. Pratt as never before seen. Many of his journeys were to obscure locations. Many of his trampings were in the wilds of early America. Here, now, for the first time, a generation of Saints can see the places Parley knew, and rekindle their love for the awesome miracles and stories surrounding the Restoration. Now we can see the very farm and land where Parley was born. We can come along the Erie Canal with him as the Spirit moves him to get off the boat. We can go to England and see the gospel expand in a new nation. We can traverse the plains and mountains of the west to come to a new place of gathering. And yes, we can see the very place where this apostle was tried, hunted down, murdered, and buried.
But herein, too, are captured the intimate feelings of Parley’s life, taken from his personal correspondence to his brothers, his family, and to the General Authorities of the Church. Most of the footnotes are from unpublished materials and personal communications. Parley’s intimate soul is revealed in the footnotes. His absolute devotion and loyalty to the Lord and His chosen servants are seen most clearly. His pain and suffering and struggles are revealed more honestly. As he was once taking another voyage across the Atlantic, leaving his family behind again, he lamented in a never-before-published letter to his wife: “I am Alone!-Alone!-Alone! O Horrible!-Yes-Alone-the punishment-the Hell I always dread-and the one to which I am often doomed. How oft has it been my lot to spend wearisome days, weeks and even months, confined to the society of those who spirits, ways, manners, tastes, pursuits, hopes and jesting are so different from mine, that not a single chord, or nerve beats in unison.
This is hell to me.” (8)
In the footnotes, too, we see his exultant joy in his family and the desires he has for all of them to have the blessings of abundance and happiness in their lives. In a letter from San Francisco to his wife, Hannahette, he wrote: “I want to see you all very much. I remember your kindness to me and feel to love and bless you. Be faithful and diligent, and take good care of the children, and learn them to read and spell, and write and work; and I will bless you…The days are fleeting, the months are passing, the years will roll around, and lo, I shall be in your midst again to bless and comfort you.” (9)
Adventures in Creating the New Version
Our lives as writers and photographers appear to be glamorous at times, chasing storms and racing against the fleeting light, trying to capture scenes of the past, in the present, on cellulose and silver. Our biggest challenges usually are natural ones, weather and time. The weather, no matter how it is, usually plays to our advantage, or at least we strive to make it so. The time is often a different story.
In May of 1997, on our first shoot for Parley, we had raced from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, trying to get there with plenty of afternoon light to shoot a picture of the interior of the church where Joseph preached on January 14, 1840. Parley had been there to record the power of that event. “Joseph arose like a lion about to roar; and being full of the Holy Ghost, spoke in great power, bearing testimony of the visions he had seen, the ministering of angels which he had enjoyed; and how he had found the plates of the Book of Mormon, and translated them by the gift and power of God…The entire congregation were astounded; electrified, as it were, and overwhelmed with the sense of the truth and power by which he spoke, and the wonders which he related.” (10)
We found the Church, behind a black iron fence, on 412 Lombard Street in downtown Philadelphia. With the fence, the exterior was difficult to shoot, but we hoped to photograph the interior. Since it was a Jewish synagogue now, and Friday afternoon near the beginning of their Sabbath, we hoped it would be open at any moment. We went to the large doors. They were locked solid. We tried the adjoining doors that opened to offices connected to the church. They too were tightly closed. We looked up and down the street, trying to find a clue to getting in. We found another synagogue about two blocks away. There on the doors were two or three phone numbers. We tried them all, finally reaching one of the Rabbis. He knew nothing of the congregation down the street.
We finally located an obscure sign on the first church, found a number, and went to a near-by video store to call. The Rabbi was home but lived about an hour or more away and could not come to help us. He said by the time he got there, it would be time for the Jewish Sabbath, anyway, and then we couldn’t shoot. We asked, “Is there anybody else with a key?” We begged and pleaded. He kindly said that if we could arrange to come back in three or four days, he would try to help us. He was happy for us to shoot the picture. Unfortunately, we didn’t have three or four days; we only had about half an hour before we would lose the light and have to be on our way to the next location. It had taken us three hours of precious time to find out that we were truly up against locked doors in every way.
Quite dejected, we walked from the video store toward our parked car. This had never happened to us before. We had been all over the world shooting sacred or significant places, and the way had always been opened for us. As we walked back past the old church, Scot paraphrased the Reverend Mother in The Sound of Music, saying, “in all of our past shoots, whenever a door has been closed, the Lord has always opened a window.” He glanced up at the large stained-glass windows as we were nearly to the car. There, quite high above the sidewalk, was one small chunk of glass that had fallen out of the enormous window. It was just the size of the circumference of a camera lens. Looking both ways, we climbed over the iron fence, and with Maurine pushing from behind to help, Scot got up on the tiny ledge, went to his tip toes and looked inside the church. It was a perfect view of the front of the sanctuary and some of the first few rows of pews, the very place where Joseph had preached from the pulpit. Scot carefully balanced himself, with constant support from behind, and jostled the camera in place, not being able to see through the lens and hold himself safely at the same time. He had to estimate the exposure and he hoped that the Nikon’s autofocus would be centering on the right object. He triggered the drive and shot about sixteen exposures. By this time, Scot was beginning to lose balance, and Maurine’s muscles were shaking from trying to brace him up there. We got down and figured we were done. Two weeks later the film came back. All of the shots were unusable-except for one. It is published in this book, and we knew the Reverend Mother was right.
We wish that everyone could spend a few weeks in the Church Archives just going through whatever their heart desired. It is an awesome experience to carefully handle some of the original documents of the Restoration. One of the most powerful in this block of research for us was finding a series of letters Parley had written from the Richmond, Missouri Jail. Here was our brother, Parley, in chains in the dead of winter in a dreadful dungeon in Missouri. In our white-gloved hands were the very letters, the very parchment that Parley held in that dimly lit hell hole as he expressed in quill and ink the deepest feelings of his heart to his persecuted and suffering family who had fled to Illinois. We felt the power of the Spirit during those brief moments. We felt humbled. We felt grateful that Parley persevered through that terrible ordeal.
Why Read This Book
If you have read the Autobiography before, you will love this book all the more. As you come upon stories and events you remember, the new insights will deepen your feelings for Parley and his family. If you have not read Parley’s work, you will be captivated and drawn into his inner circle in a matter of pages. If you already know the early details of the Restoration, you will add even more to your knowledge base than before. Here, as in The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother that we worked on in 1996, Church history comes alive. The places, the scenes, the stories, the moments, they all are real.
This is our heritage. It is the legacy that has been given to us as a gift.
The chapter endnotes are numerous, detailed, and have been designed to add context, color, and texture to Parley’s story. They will add so much to the reader’s experience to carefully read each one. It is tempting to add a small alarm at the end of each chapter which plays a tune that says, “Please read me.” The endnotes are the raison d’etre for this new version.
The photographs in this edition, for the most part are taken of the places as they appear today. As always, we have avoided people, power lines, jet streams, and cars. We are trying to recreate things as close to how they were as we can.
The maps are to give the reader a sense of Parley’s many journeys, his wanderings, his missions, his travels for the work of the Lord. Parley was intrepid, in every season, in every clime. He probably traveled as far and wide as any of the early missionaries of the Church.
One Last Moment
After we had completed the manuscript and turned in all of our materials to be published we had a most inspiring and powerful experience. We had given a fireside on the Prophet Joseph in a Bountiful, Utah stake. At some point during the introduction something had been mentioned about our work on the enhanced version of Parley’s autobiography. After the fireside one brother came up to us and said, “I guess you’ve had a chance to meet Parley’s grandson who lives here in Bountiful?” Feeling like this brother must use the term “grandson” quite liberally I said, “You mean great grandson, or great-great grandson?” “No,” he replied positively, “I mean GRANDSON.” I was shocked and said I had not met him. A small piece of paper was created from a program and the name and number of Claron Ure Pratt was written down.
Within a short time I gave Claron a call and arranged to meet with him and his wife and daughter on Parley’s 193rd birthday, April 12, 2000. Claron is the youngest son of Mathoni Wood Pratt who was the last of Parley’s children to pass away (died in 1937). Mathoni was the youngest son of Parley and Mary Wood Pratt and the second to the youngest of Parley’s 31 children. I looked forward to our meeting with joyful anticipation. I love to clasp hands with those who have touched the hands of those who knew the Prophet Joseph and the early heroes of the Restoration. It thrills me to no end.
The meeting was no less wonderful than I had hoped. I immediately fell in love with this wonderful and dear man-then 90 years old. Who could have thought I would meet a grandson of this amazing apostle Parley Parker Pratt? I photographed Claron on that special birth date and added that photograph into an appendix of the Autobiography. The meeting and interview I had with Claron and his precious wife, Virginia, and dear daughter, Sharon, left a powerful and grateful feeling that stayed with me for weeks.
Parley had 254 grandchildren but was killed before he would meet any of them. I felt like this meeting with Claron was a gift from Parley himself as if he whispered softly, “As a final part of this work, I want you to meet one of my grandchildren.”
1. See chapter 2 herein.
2. Alma 29:1,2.
3. Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 5 (January 1, 1842), p. 648.
4. Lucy Mack Smith died May 14, 1856. Parley was killed on May 13 and was buried on May 14, 1857.
5. See Chapter 6 herein.
6. See chapter 15
7. See chapter 7
8. Letter from Parley to Belinda Pratt, LDS Archives, MS 2877-2, October 1, 1846.)
9. Letter to Hannahette Snively Pratt, dated June 26, 1852, Mary Jean Freebairn Collection, LDS Archives, MS 4337, 1831-1972.)
10. See chapter 36 herein.