Against this conservative Christian background, Parley Pratt’s major work stands in sharp relief. No Mormon thinker, Pratt included, would exceed Smith’s own audacity as a Christian iconoclast. Speculating on heavenly councils, Gods that were once human, and humans that could attain to Godhood—these and other doctrines blasted asunder the creedal conceptions of God and Man alike. But it fell to Pratt to assemble these ideas for the first time in something like a systematic form—in some cases apparently giving public expression to them before Smith. Here is perhaps the prime instance of Pratt playing Paul to Joseph’s Jesus. If Smith was the instigator of Mormonism’s essential beliefs, Pratt organized them, elaborated them, and defended them in a manner that gave them the enduring life and the complexion they had in the early church. Pratt was, in this sense, the first theologian of Mormonism.

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Copyright © 2012, Greg Kofford Books, Inc. This chapter first appeared in Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision.

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