This past week, the long-overdue biography of Parley P. Pratt was finally delivered. And boy was it delivered. Authored by two of the top stars in Mormon history, Terryl Givens (personal website here) and Matthew Grow (bio found on this page), Parley Parker Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (New York: Oxford University Press) weighs in at 500 pages—and it could not have been one page less. In their introduction, Givens and Grow write that “the narrative of [Pratt’s] life could have formed the basis of a page-turning novel. By 1853, he had already become, after Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the most influential figure in shaping early Mormon history, culture, and theology. Pratt exerted that influence across an astounding spectrum, excelling as a missionary, explorer, hymnist, pamphleteer, autobiographer, historian, and theologian” (3-4). It would be difficult to keep a narrative of such a life to any page count!
Givens and Grow give three reasons for calling Pratt the “Apostle Paul of Mormonism.” First is the fact that Pratt’s writings “served the same function in early Mormonism” as Paul’s (or the author of Paul’s) did in early Christianity: it helped systematize and popularize the movement’s ideas (5). Second is Pratt’s Paul-like missionary career, travelling all across America, the Atlantic, and even South America. And third, “like Paul, Pratt reveled in opposition and Persecution, and in his own eyes and the beliefs of the Latter-day Saints, met a martyr’s death” (8). In total, it is a phenomenal volume, and should not only garner much praise but encourage even more dialogue. (Personally, I found chapter 12, Parley and Mrs. Pratt(s), and examination of Pratt’s family dynamics, to be one of the most compelling chapters of recent Mormon historiography.)
We’ll eventually have a full review of the book. In the meantime, we are pleased to announce that both of the book’s authors have agreed to do a Q&A post with Juvenile Instructor. Thus, we solicit your help: please provide below the questions you would like Givens and Grow to answer about their newly-released biography.