Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism

Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism
Edited with Contributions by Gregory K. Armstrong, Matthew J. Grow, and Dennis J. Siler

Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism seeks to use the events and accomplishments of Pratt as a “window” into early Mormonism and American religious and cultural history.(11) This edited volume from Gregory Armstrong, Matthew Grow, and Dennis Siler joins the recent biography by Teryl Givens and Matthew Grow and succeeds in its goal.

The essays are good quality. Several of them, such as Jan Shipp’s introductory article, and the last article by Robert Grow represent preliminary remarks or a narrative more than an academic article. But each represents an important part of Pratt’s life and reveals his impact on Mormonism. R. Steven Pratt examines the family life of Parley Pratt and his plural marriages. The article was somewhat long in details and short in analysis. Several others examine his writings and death and place it in a tradition of extra legal violence and contested narratives. And Richard Turley’s article had a very specific rebuttal of Pratt’s influence on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Some of the articles drift more into fan mail category as they seem more laudatory than exploratory. But Pratt did make a big impact on Mormon history and as a polygamist he had many children with several contributing to the volume. Some other articles are somewhat dense for the non specialist. David Grua’s article on martyrdom and Turley’s rebuttal offer a great deal of jargon or detail that may make it hard for a non specialist audience to follow. Thus the book contains a good mix of articles that work together to illuminate his life and make his achievements a window in early Mormonism.

Historians studying American religious history, biographers of Pratt, and lay members of the LDS church will appreciate and enjoy this entry in Mormon history.