The Murder of Parley P. Pratt

by Sharon

Over the weekend (April 14) Deseret Morning News reported that a group of interested people will be gathering in Arkansas on April 21st for a conference looking at the life and ministry of LDS Apostle Parley Pratt. I don’t know what the conference will be like, but if the report in Deseret News is any indication, it may be a frustrating event for those who prefer accurate history above revisionist history.

Deseret News explained,

An early apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pratt was killed near Van Buren, Ark., in May 1857, by a small Arkansas band antagonistic toward his teachings. 

In truth, Parley Pratt was murdered by an outraged husband and father by the name of Hector McLean, with the misguided support of McLean’s friends. Pratt was not killed so much because these men were “antagonistic” toward his teachings, but because Pratt was living those teachings with McLean’s legal wife.

McLean’s wife, Eleanor, had abandoned her family to become Pratt’s 12th plural wife. Soon thereafter, in 1857, McLean learned that Eleanor and Pratt were intending to abduct the McLean children and spirit them away to Utah. After finding no help in this situation from the legal system, McLean and his friends took matters into their own hands — tracking, attacking, and brutally killing Parley Pratt, the Mormon Apostle.

Many Mormons consider Parley Pratt a martyr for his faith. Was he really killed because a few men in Arkansas opposed Mormon teachings?

Pratt was murdered not only because he practiced polygamy according to the teachings of the LDS religion, but because he engaged in “spiritual wifery” with another man’s wife, and sought to steal McLean’s children as well.

Was Pratt’s murder wrong? Of course; no doubt about it. But where is the virtue in reporting, as LDS Church-owned Deseret News has done, that Pratt was killed by some men who just didn’t like Mormonism? There is none.

On 17 April 2007 Deseret News published a correction regarding their erroneous reporting on the motive for the murder of Parley P. Pratt. You can read the correction here or here.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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2 Responses to The Murder of Parley P. Pratt

  1. Mike says:


    Don’t you feel it is deceiving to say that “McLean’s wife, Eleanor, had abandoned her family to become Pratt’s 12th plural wife?” Where did you get the information that she abandoned her family? Hector McLean sent the McLean children alone to New Orleans behind Eleanor McLean’s back. She left Hector to find the McLean children AND to get away from her abusive, drunk of a husband. Hector McLean found no help from the legal system because he had no legal ground to stand on. Do you feel there is virtue in the way you have reported this event?


  2. Sharon says:

    My source for stating Eleanor McLean abandoned her family is Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker, A Book of Mormons, 222. It is true that the McLeans had a troubled marriage. Hector McLean struggled with alcoholism, and Will Bagley (in Blood of the Prophets, 8-9) recounts an incident when McLean physically assaulted his wife. According to Bagley, Eleanor eventually decided to leave her husband and take the children to Salt Lake City. However, neither Eleanor’s husband nor parents believed this to be in the best interest of the children and would not allow it. Eleanor chose to leave the children behind and go to Utah alone.

    The whole affair is sordid and tragic, and while we may feel sorry for Eleanor’s plight, there is no getting around the facts. Parley Pratt was not killed because Hector McLean and his friends were antagonistic toward Mormon teachings (as Deseret News originally reported). Pratt was killed by a jealous and enraged husband who blamed Pratt for destroying his family.

    Today (April 17), Deseret News printed a correction regarding errors in their April 14th story.

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