Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Best Learning About the Old Days

Last week I read The Autobiography of Parley P Pratt. It was a real great adventure full of so much learning and information. I am definitely smarter now than I was when I started it. If I have any criticism for Elder Pratt it's that his book (and his life, I guess) has all the most interesting and funny stuff near the beginning . . . then it gets pretty much serious for the rest of the time.

For an example of the humorous stuff, consider the following incident from Chapter 16 and how lightly he treats his travails:

Taking an affectionate leave of my family and friends in New Portage, I repaired to Kirtland, ready to accompany my brethren. While they made ready I paid a visit to an adjoining township called Mentor; and visiting from house to house, I attempted to preach to them; but they were full of lying and prejudice, and would not hear the Word. I then appointed a meeting in the open air, on the steps of a meeting house owned by a people called "Campbellites," one Mr. Alexander Campbell being their leader; they having refused to open the house to me. Some came to hear, and some to disturb the meeting; and one Mr. Newel soon appeared at the head of a mob of some fifty men and a band of music. These formed in order of battle and marched round several times near where I stood, drowning my voice with the noise of their drums and other instruments. I suspended my discourse several times as they passed, and then resumed. At length, finding that no disturbance of this kind would prevent the attempt to discharge my duty, they rushed upon me with one accord at a given signal, every man throwing an egg at my person. My forehead, bosom, and most of my body was completely covered with broken eggs. At this I departed, and walked slowly away, being insulted and followed by this rabble for some distance. I soon arrived in Kirtland, and was assisted by my kind friends in cleansing myself and clothes from the effects of this Christian benevolence.

Another classic passage is Elder Pratt's proposal of marriage to his beloved Thankful:

With a quick step, a beating heart, and an intense, indescribable feeling of joy, sorrow, hope, despondency and happiness, I approached the door of Mr. Halsey, and knocked; it was opened by an aged female, a stranger to me; I entered and inquired for Miss Thankful Halsey-in a moment more she had me by the hand, with a look of welcome which showed she had not forgotten me.

I spent the day and evening with her; explained to her all my losses, my poverty and prospects, and the lone retreat where I had spent the previous winter; and the preparations I had made for a future home. I also opened my religious views to her, and my desire, which I sometimes had, to try and teach the red man.

"In view of all these things," said I to her, "If you still love me and desire to share my fortune you are worthy to be my wife. If not, we will agree to be friends forever; but part to meet no more in time." "I have loved you during three years' absence," said she, "and I never can be happy without you."

But what Parley doesn't tell you (it's in the footnotes, though) is that Thankful was 30 when this happened and he was 20.

Of course, the most famous bit of entertainment from the history is probably the story of the Sheriff and Stu Boy (this story takes place after Parley has been jailed for an evening):

In the morning the officer appeared and took me to breakfast; this over, we sat waiting in the inn for all things to be ready to conduct me to prison. In the meantime my fellow travellers came past on their journey, and called to see me. I told them in an undertone to pursue their journey and leave me to manage my own affairs, promising to overtake them soon. They did so. After sitting awhile by the fire in charge of the officer, I requested to step out. I walked out into the public square accompanied by him. Said I, "Mr. Peabody, are you good at a race?" "No," said he, "but my big bull dog is, and he has been trained to assist me in my office these several years; he will take any man down at my bidding. Well, Mr. Peabody, you compelled me to go a mile, I have gone with you two miles. You have given me an opportunity to preach, sing, and have also entertained me with lodging and breakfast. I must now go on my journey; if you are good at a race you can accompany me. I thank you for all your kindness--good day, sir."

I then started on my journey, while he stood amazed and not able to step one foot before the other. Seeing this, I halted, turned to him and again invited him to a race. He still stood amazed. I then renewed my exertions, and soon increased my speed to something like that of a deer. He did not awake from his astonishment sufficiently to start in pursuit till I had gained, perhaps, two hundred yards. I had already leaped a fence, and was making my way through a field to the forest on the right of the road. He now came hallowing after me, and shouting to his dog to seize me. The dog, being one of the largest I ever saw, came close on my footsteps with all his fury; the officer behind still in pursuit, clapping his hands and hallooing, "stu-boy, stu-boy--take him--watch--lay hold of him, I say--down with him," and pointing his finger in the direction I was running. The dog was fast overtaking me, and in the act of leaping upon me, when, quick as lightning, the thought struck me, to assist the officer, in sending the dog with all fury to the forest a little distance before me. I pointed my finger in that direction, clapped my hands, and shouted in imitation of the officer. The dog hastened past me with redoubled speed towards the forest; being urged by the officer and myself, and both of us running in the same direction.

Gaining the forest, I soon lost sight of the officer and dog, and have not seen them since.

If you're interested in reading this excellent history I encourage you to do so. Don't worry, there is more good stuff that I didn't excerpt.


miss b said...

Where did you find the text? The book is sitting in my lap right now!

Jessica said...

PPP did have an interesting life. Not interesting enough for the audio version of said autobiography to keep you awake on a long road trip alone, though. I almost died.

Cindy said...

I like how he told Thankful, "If you still love me and desire to share my fortune you are worthy to be my wife." I wish someone would say that to me so that I could punch them in the nose (but then agree to marry them, because, like Thankful, I'm way to old to be single and I probably would marry someone who says stuff like that to me).

I like how he likens his speed to that of a deer and how people used to throw eggs. If gangs would throw eggs instead of bullets, the world would be such a better place.