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Pratt symposium a success!

The LDS Church News published an article recounting the proceedings of the Parley P. Pratt Symposium presented by the SUP on May 9, 2015. The entire text of the article, minus photos, is shown below. The article itself, including photos, is here.

Our thanks to R. Scott Lloyd, the author, and to Matt Hartvigsen for permission to reprint.

Parley P. Pratt's life explored in symposium

By R. Scott Lloyd
LDS Church News
Published: Friday, May 15 2015 11:47 a.m. MDT

The life of Elder Parley P. Pratt, apostle, preacher, prolific poet and tireless champion of the kingdom of God on earth in the early years of the Restoration, was celebrated in speech and song May 9 by four of his descendants — including a General Authority — and one Church history scholar at the 2015 Historical Symposium presented in Salt Lake City by the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.

Elder Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy, a great-great-grandson of Elder Pratt, was the keynote speaker at an evening banquet for the symposium. Earlier in the day, attendees heard from the following presenters:

Matthew J. Grow, director of publications at the Church History Department, a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, great-great-grandson and co-author of a biography of Elder Pratt.

Alexander L. Baugh, professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU with a specialty in the Missouri period of Church History (1831-39).

Robert Steven Pratt, author of several books on Elder Pratt’s papers, a great-great-grandson of Elder Pratt and an author of a forthcoming book on Elder Pratt’s hymn texts. His presentation was accompanied by the Kaye Starr Singers.

Mitchell O. Pratt, a great-great-grandson of Elder Pratt, author of a forthcoming book on his life and death, and leader of the archaeological team that excavated Elder Pratt’s gravesite in Arkansas.

Elder Cardon, who referred to his ancestor affectionately as “Grandpa Parley,” extolled him as an ordained apostle and “prolific proclaimer of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, an indefatigable defender of truth, an uncompromising disciple of God’s divine will. He was an author, an editor, a husband and a father. He lived his life with complete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He died firmly rooted in that faith. Thanks be to God for this great son.”

Elder Cardon shared Elder Pratt’s 1839 testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and what he learned from him:

“He 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. …

“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.”

Brother Grow called Elder Pratt “the Apostle Paul of Mormonism,” an allusion to his extensive travels and tireless defense of the faith.

Brother Grow recounted that in conversation with a long-lost friend from his youth, Elder Pratt said he had “traveled widely throughout the United States and Canada, led Mormon pioneer companies past the ‘moving masses of wild buffalo on the boundless, treeless plains’ to Utah, preached in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, crossed the Atlantic Ocean six times and eaten ‘figs from the tree’ in Chile. His life had been one of extremes, of ‘poverty and riches, peace and war,’ sublime joys and devastating sorrows.”

Brother Baugh spoke of Elder Pratt’s imprisonment in connection with the confinement of the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders following three months of conflict between Mormons and Missouri mobs and militia members in 1838. The Prophet’s confinement would last five and a half months, and Elder Pratt would remain imprisoned three months beyond that.

It was during their three-week confinement with other Church leaders in a log house at Richmond, Missouri, that Joseph issued a scathing rebuke of the militia guards, who had been boasting of atrocities committed again the Mormon people, Brother Baugh recounted.

“Elder Pratt did not record the reprimand at that time or even soon after,” he said. “It was not until 1853 that he wrote the letter to Willard Richards, Church Historian, recounting the incident. The letter would be published in the Deseret News Nov. 12, ironically 15 years to the day that the Richmond hearing began. Still later, the portion of the letter that included the Prophet’s scathing rebuke of the militiamen was included in his autobiography. … To this day, perhaps no other writer has captured the prophet’s personal valor and courage quite like Elder Pratt.”

Robert Steven Pratt narrated a selection of hymns performed by the Kaye Starr Singers, the texts of which were written by Elder Pratt.

“Parley P. Pratt, primary author of several seminal verses of the Restoration, utilized his poetic gifts to give a voice to the revelatory and other experiences of the early Latter-day Saint movement,” he said. “He considered himself a wandering pilgrim set forth to preach to a fallen world. During his many missions he would render much of the experience in poetic form.

“Parley published two books of poems titled The Millennium. The books consist of a narrative poem of six chapters, plus of several hymns. These poems were utilized for various hymnals and other settings.

“Called ‘the poetic apostle,’ Parley had 65 of his poems present in various LDS hymnals. Three were in the first hymnal in 1835. With the publication of the 1840 Manchester hymnal, he added 48 hymns, which were primarily compiled by him. That became the major hymnal for the Latter-day Saints through 25 editions. For example, the 1927 hymnal contains 38 of Parley’s hymns; our present hymnal has only seven.”

Mitchell O. Pratt spoke of Elder Pratt’s assassination in May 1857, shortly after his 50th birthday, outside the small town of Van Buren, Arkansas. He also told of the excavation of his burial site in Arkansas in April 2008, carried on at the behest of the association of Elder Pratt’s descendants, who wanted to fulfill his dying request that he be buried among his family in Utah.

No identifiable human remains were found, probably due to the acidity of the soil and the passage of time, Brother Pratt said. But a change in texture of the soil during the digging gave evidence of where the grave was.

“The male descendants of Parley, who held the Melchizedek Priesthood, had an experience, and it was earth-shattering,” he said, adding that they strongly felt this was the grave of Elder Pratt, “and that this was a time of reconciliation, peace and oneness with the people of Arkansas.”

He added, “The whole experience was never about the physical, though we didn’t know that going in. It was all about the spiritual, because hearts were changed.”

Not long after that event, missionary work in Arkansas was at an all-time high, he said, a tribute to Elder Pratt, a great missionary of this gospel dispensation.

2015 Cedar City Symposium

St. George Utah Temple, From South, Michael Whiffen

St. George Utah Temple, From South, Michael Whiffen

On Saturday, April 11, I had the privilege of spending a day in Cedar City to participate in a regional symposium. Cedar City Chapter President, Harold Shirley and members of his chapter had organized a first rate program. It was an extraordinary spiritual and intellectual experience for all who attended.

The speakers offered us a feast in faithful history. The first speaker was Dr. Douglas Alder former president of Dixie State University, former member of the St. George Temple Presidency, and co-author of an excellent history of the St. George Temple. Doug spoke on the history of the St. George Temple. A second speaker was Dr. E. Leo Lyman, formerly a professor at Victor Valley College in California and currently an adjunct professor of history at Dixie State University. Leo spoke on mail and freight trails to Southern Utah. A third speaker was William Hartley, formerly a professor of history at Brigham Young University and editor of the Joseph Smith Papers. Bill cleared the air on trails and travel from Nauvoo to Utah. Many members of the church believe that most of the members came by handcart. Nothing can be further from the truth. Even during the years that handcarts were used, most members came in wagon trains. I spoke on the role that Wilford Woodruff played at the St. George Temple. He received a vision of the founding fathers, but he was also inspired to prepare a list of prominent men and women whose temple work he and the temple workers completed. He inaugurated temple work for persons unrelated to the proxy receiving the endowments for the individual.

Following a delicious Dutch oven dinner, we enjoyed a spiritual feast in talks by Elder Bruce Hafen and Sister Marie K. Hafen. They told us both about the spiritual experiences they and others enjoyed at the St. George Temple and during its construction. They also provided vignettes from the history of the temple. It was a particular joy for me to meet again with the two of them since I have known them for many years, and they served in the area presidency while Marilyn and I served as missionaries at the Institute of Religion in Berlin.

Several upcoming events deserve notice here. On Saturday, May 9, the national organization will sponsor a symposium on the life of Parley P. Pratt. We encourage all members to attend. All except one of the presenters are direct descendants of Elder Pratt. All of the presenters, Matt Grow, Mitch Pratt, Steve Pratt, and Alex Baugh are scholars who have researched aspects of Elder Pratt’s life and work. The keynote address at the dinner meeting will be given by Elder Craig Cardon of the Seventy.

We also encourage you to take an opportunity to attend the Major Howard Egan symposium on June 12. The SUP is a cosponsor along with a number of other organizations. You will find this a spiritually and intellectually uplifting event as well.

On July 24, the Sons of Utah Pioneers is sponsoring two events. We urge all to attend the Days of 47 Sunrise Service at the Tabernacle. It was organized by the Salt Lake Pioneer Chapter and will begin at 7:00 a.m. We also encourage all members and their families who wish to do so to participate in the Days of 47 Parade in downtown Salt Lake City. SUP members and their families will be pulling handcarts and walking from South Temple to Liberty Park. Both of these will be outstanding events.

Another event of interest is the annual SUP day at the This is the Place Heritage Park. It will take place on Monday, July 27. Members of the SUP are invited, but anyone who is interested may purchase tickets for themselves and their families. We encourage all to attend. Bring your friends and families.

SUP members also have another opportunity. On June 4 through 7, the Mormon History Association will hold its annual convention at the Utah Valley Conference Center on Center Street in Provo. The MHA was organized in 1965 in San Francisco. This year marks its 50th anniversary. I feel a particular affinity for the organization since I was one of the founders who attended that meeting fifty years ago. The Sons of Utah Pioneers will sponsor a table at the convention to attract those in attendance to our Family and Friends initiative and the Pioneer Magazine.

Tom Alexander,
National President, 2015

2014 Idaho Symposium

Idaho Falls, Dave Merrill

Idaho Falls, Dave Merrill

The second regional S.U.P. History Symposium of 2014 was held on October 18 in Idaho Falls. The symposium presented an interesting, thought provoking and inspirational panel of speakers.

The Afternoon Session included:

1:00 p.m. Jay A. Parry, a writer and editor in the LDS Church History Department, spoke on “Their Women Were Incredible,” a title taken from a description of the Pioneer women by Wallace Stegner, a non-LDS author of several books about the Mormon Pioneers and their settlements in the West. Jay previously worked as an editor for the Ensign magazine and Deseret Book Company. He has authored more than two dozen books in both the national and LDS markets, including the bestselling The Real George Washington. His latest book is “Back to First Principles”: A Conversation with George Washington. He also has contributed chapters to the first four volumes ofWomen of Faith in the Latter Days. He has taught classes at BYU Education Week since 1999.

2:00 p.m. Paula Harline lead a readers theatre presentation on the subject, “Running from the Law: Four Polygamous Wives on the 1880s Underground.” Paula is the author of “The Polygamous Wives Writing Club,” and an educator in Utah County.

3:00 p.m. Lisa Tait Olsen, historian and writer in the LDS Church History Department, spoke on “Susa Young Gates and the Young Woman’s Journal: Gender and Generations in 1890s Mormonism.”  Lisa Tait is a historian and writer in the Church History Department in Salt Lake City. She works on the web team, developing content for the Church history web site and lds.org. Lisa has a PhD in American Literature and women’s studies from the University of Houston. Her research focuses on late nineteenth/early twentieth century Mormon women’s history. She is working on a biography of Susa Young Gates.

4:00 p.m. Glenn Rawson, writer and narrator of the “History of the Saints: Gathering to the West”, spoke about the making of the popular and acclaimed television programs “History of the Saints” and “The Joseph Smith Papers.” In addition to being co-producer of these television series with Dennis Lyman, Glenn has written and told over 500 inspirational stories for many “Sounds of Sunday” radio programs broadcast far and wide. His Books “In The Midst Of Thee” volumes 1 and 2 are a collection of some of these stories. Glenn is a gifted teacher and speaker, contributing to “Especially For Youth” and “Best of EFY” programs, as well as at Education Week.

The Dinner Session featured a full dinner followed by keynote speaker Kim B. Clark, President of BYU Idaho.

6:00 p.m. BYU Idaho President Kim B. Clark. President Clark has been the president of Brigham Young University–Idaho since 2005. Before this appointment, Clark served as Dean of the Harvard Business School (HBS) from 1995 to 2005 and as a Professor of Administration at HBS. Pres. Clark has served in various leadership capacities in the LDS Church, including Bishop, scoutmaster, gospel doctrine teacher, and in a stake mission presidency. From May 2007 to May 2014, he served as an Area Seventy in the church’s Idaho Area.




Zion National Park's Kanab section in late afternoon, Frank Kovalchek

Zion National Park's Kanab section in late afternoon, Frank Kovalchek

The annual Sons of Utah Pioneers National Convention was held August 7-9, 2014, in Kanab, Utah. The Redrock S.U.P. Chapter, led by Brent Chamberlain, were outstanding hosts for this year’s Convention. Perhaps no other location in Utah could have offered so many nearby historic and scenic sites to visit and so many stories that could be told of the heroic early pioneer days of Southern Utah. Great event, enjoyed by all. Many thanks to the Redrock crew!

For a pictorial review of the 2014 Convention, please see the September 2014 Trail Marker.

2014 Salt Lake City Symposium

LDS Temple, Salt Lake City, Pedro Szekely

LDS Temple, Salt Lake City, Pedro Szekely

The 2014 S.U.P. Annual Historical Symposium was held at the S.U.P. Headquarters Building in Salt Lake City, Saturday, May 10, 2014. Presentations began at 1:00 p.m. and continued until 5:00 p.m. Dinner followed at 6:00 p.m. at the nearby East Mill Creek Stake Center.

This was another informative and inspirational program in our series of annual historical programs, with four excellent afternoon speakers, a fine dinner, and keynote speaker, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Speakers and Topics

The subject for the 2014 Historical Symposium was Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of the LDS Church, focusing on his life, challenges and accomplishments in Utah. Four speakers made their presentations during the afternoon session:

(1) Leo Lyman, who is the author of Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood, will speak on Wilford Woodruff and the Quest for Statehood in Utah;

(2) Richard N. Lambert, a great-grandson of Wilford Woodruff, will speak on the Wilford Woodruff family;

(3) James B. Allen, professor emeritus from Brigham Young University will speak on Wilford Woodruff as a Fisherman and Fisher of Men; and

(4) Thomas G. Alexander, author of Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, A Mormon Prophet, as well as many articles on the fourth LDS President, will speak on Wilford Woodruff and the revelation that produced the Manifesto.

2014 Saint George Symposium

Sunrise over SunRiver, Carl Berger

Sunrise over SunRiver, Carl Berger

Saturday, March 15, 2014 was the date and Dixie State U. in St. George was the location for the first regional History Symposium to be sponsored by the Sons of Utah Pioneers. The purpose of the regional Symposiums is to offer S.U.P. members and the interested public in areas more distant from the Salt Lake City headquarters an informative and inspiring program on LDS and Pioneer History, similar to the successful annual S.U.P. Historical Symposium held in Salt Lake City every May.

The St. George regional Symposium was a great success. The speakers were excellent in both the afternoon and dinner sessions. Attendees, S.U.P. members and leaders were universally excited by the experience and expressed appreciation for bringing the Symposium to southern Utah.

The Afternoon Session speakers and subjects were:

Brian Reeves, Researcher in the LDS Church History Department, “Suppression of Evidence in the Aftermath of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.”

Steven Craig Harper, Author, Historian in the LDS Church History Department, “First Vision Accounts: What They Say and Why.”

Ardis E. Parshall, Writer, Columnist and Historian with the LDS Church History Library, “Pioneer Stories You May Not Have Heard.”

Craig Harline, Professor of History at Brigham Young University: “What Happened to My Bell Bottoms? How Things That Were Never Going to Change Sometimes Change Anyway, and How History Can Help Us Make Sense of It All.”

We particularly appreciate author and Professor Leo Lyman, who moderated the program.

The Dinner Session featured Emeritus Elder Ronald T. Halverson on “What We Still Can Learn from the Pioneers.”

Thanks to all those who helped make the St. George Symposium successful.