About Parley P. Pratt
Parley Parker Pratt was born on April 12, 1807 in Burlington, New York to Jared and Charity Pratt. On September 9, 1827, he married Thankful Halsey, who was several years older than he. Shortly after their marriage they settled a plot of land in Cleveland, Ohio, which was then on the frontier of the United States. He joined a local church where Sidney was preacher. Pratt decided to also become a preacher and sold his property.
While traveling in New York, Pratt came across a copy of the Book of Mormon. He read virtually the entire book in one night and was convinced that it was true. He immediately made his way to Palmyra, New York and met Hyrum Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, Jr.
On September 1, 1830, just five months after the Church was founded, Pratt was baptized as a member by Oliver Cowdery. He was soon ordained an Elder, then left to visit family. His younger brother Orson Pratt became interested in the Church and was baptized just a short time later on September 19, 1830. Orson too later became an apostle.
In October of 1830, Pratt met the Prophet Joseph Smith and was asked to join a missionary group that was going to teach the Native Americans. On their way west, Pratt visited his old minister, Sidney Rigdon and was essential in converting Rigdon and 130 members of his congregation to the Church in just three weeks. Parley P. Pratt served many missions: to the Eastern United States, Southern United States, England, the Pacific Islands, and South America. He taught many people that would later become leaders of the Church including his brother Orson Pratt, Frederick G. Williams, John Taylor, Joseph Fielding and his sisters Mary and Mercy. Mary later married Hyrum Smith and was the mother of future Mormon Church President Joseph F. Smith.
Along with his missionary service Pratt was a printer, writer, and editor of the Church’s publication of The ”Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star” starting in 1839. Pratt also wrote the lyrics to three popular Mormon hymns: “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth,” “The Morning Breaks,” and “Come, O Thou King of Kings.” He was also the first person to write a book about Mormonism, entitled ”A Voice of Warning.” It was very popular among Mormons in the nineteenth century and is still available today.
After Joseph Smith was martyred, Pratt and his family moved to Utah with the body of the Church. Pratt was essential in establishing camps along the Mormon Trail including Garden City and Mt. Pisguh, Nebraska. He also led a company of pioneers across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.
In the 1850’s, with the help of George D. Watt, Pratt developed the Deseret Alphabet, which was designed to help the many immigrants from Europe learn English. In the 1850s he lived in California, presiding over missionary work there and in the Pacific. In 1856, Pratt was called on another mission.
While on this mission he was tracked by a man named Hector McLean who was upset with Pratt for marrying his former wife Eleanor McLean. He pressed charges against Pratt, but Pratt was released. A short time later, on May 13, 1857, Pratt was ambushed and killed by McLean and two other men near Van Buren, Arkansas. A monument marks his grave.