Why this Edition?
We live in an age of visual stimulation. Books compete with videos, CDs, television, and the internet. Yet books are the staple of the ages. Books capture the feelings and experiences of generations dead and gone. Books are the intimate companion of the learning and the learned. Books were Parley’s best friends.
This book contains photographs capturing the life and times of Parley P. Pratt. Many of his journeys took him to obscure locations in the wilds of early America. In this volume, a new generation of Saints can see the places Parley knew, and they can rekindle their love for the miracles and stories of the Restoration. They can see the farm and land where Parley was born.
They can join him on the Erie Canal as the Spirit moves him to get off the boat. They can go to England and see the gospel expand in a new nation. They can traverse the plains and mountains of the West to come to a new place of gathering. And they can see the place where this dedicated apostle was tried, hunted down, murdered, and buried.
This work captures the intimate feelings of Parley’s life taken from personal correspondence to his loved ones and his brethren in the leadership of the Church. Many of the endnotes illuminating the chapters come from unpublished materials and personal communications. These endnotes clearly reveal Parley’s absolute devotion and loyalty to the Lord and to his chosen servants. They show Parley’s acute pain, suffering, and struggles.
On one voyage across the Atlantic, leaving his family behind again, he lamented in a letter to one of his wives: “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 whose 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.”i
The endnotes also reveal Parley’s exultant joy in his family and his desires that each member receive an abundance of blessings and happiness in their lives. In a letter from San Francisco written June 26, 1852, 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. ii
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 on cellulose and silver. Our biggest challenges usually are natural ones: weather and time. The weather, no matter what it is, usually plays to our advantage; at least we strive to make it so. Time is often a different story.
In May 1997 while on our first shoot for this work, we raced from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, trying to arrive with plenty of afternoon light to shoot a picture of the interior of the church where the Prophet preached on January 14, 1840. Parley recorded 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. iii
We found the church, which had become a Jewish synagogue, behind a black iron fence on 412 Lombard Street in downtown Philadelphia. The fence made the exterior difficult to shoot, but we hoped to photograph the interior. Since it was Friday afternoon near the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, we hoped it would 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. On its doors were two or three phone numbers. We tried them all until we reached a rabbi. He knew nothing of the congregation down the street.
We finally located an obscure sign on the first church, found a phone number, and went to a nearby video store to call. The rabbi was home but lived about an hour away. He said that by the time he arrived we would not be allowed to shoot because the Jewish Sabbath would have begun.
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. 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 pictures of sacred or significant places, and the way had always been opened for us.
As we walked 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, high above the sidewalk, a small chunk of glass had fallen out of an enormous window. It was just the size of the circumference of a camera lens.
Looking both ways, we climbed over the iron fence. With Maurine pushing from behind, Scot stepped to a tiny ledge, stood on his tiptoes, and looked inside the church. He had a perfect view of the front of the sanctuary, including some of the first few rows of pews — the very place 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 estimated the exposure, hoping his camera’s autofocus was centered on the right object.