Let me begin by saying that Parley P. Pratt is my great-great-great grandfather. He is a man that my family and I honor very much, arguably one of the most consequential pioneers of the Restored Gospel. His Autobiography is one of my favorite books, and I feel somewhat of a close kinship with the man.
So, I’ve been casually following the story about the possibility of disinterring Pratt’s remains from Arkansas — and moving them to Utah. Just a run down for those who aren’t familiar: A group of Pratt’s descendants — led by great-great-great grandson Robert J. Grow, who is an attorney and the president of the Jared Pratt Family Association (Jared is Parley’s father) — have obtained permission to move Pratt’s remains from Arkansas (where he was murdered) to Salt Lake City (where Pratt allegedly wished to be buried), to be buried next to four of his wives. (Note: I am officially banning comments to this post regarding polygamy.) The disinterment was expected to be complicated, to ensure the remains were Pratt’s and to be certain that no one else was disinterred with him. This turned out to be true, and the latest development is that they are unable to find his remains (see this Deseret Morning News article for the latest). And, I’m not certain, but it looks like the group is not going to keep trying…?
Anyway, this interesting little story raises at least three (interesting? or perhaps totally trivial?) questions for me:
- Disinterment permission would not have been granted to anyone who is not a direct descendant. But Pratt has thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of direct descendants. What happens if descendant opinions differ? Now, I really don’t have any problem about the disinterment — living in Provo, it actually would be kind of nice to visit his grave; I have no plans of making a special trip to Arkansas in order to do so. I do understand that the request was part of an organized group, and apparently reflects Pratt’s own desire — but this issue got me thinking about this question anyway. It would be interesting to hear someone with some legal expertise comment on the issue of descendant rights. I’m suspicious that current laws might not be equipped to handle a controversial issue regarding someone with such an enormous host of descendants.
- You can probably guess what some of the commenters on the Deseret Morning News site are saying about the failure to find Pratt’s body. Could it be … he was resurrected? (Get ready to handle legends in Sunday School on this one, for years to come…!) Now, I think this speculation is rather silly, especially considering that not even the coffin was found. But regardless, it raises an interesting question for me that I realized I am not confident about. I have long had the assumption that no one in our generation (really, no one since perhaps certain church members in Jesus’ time) would be resurrected until the Second Coming. I think this assumption makes good sense to me, but can anyone speak more authoritatively on this?
- There is a biblical precedence for the disinterment of bones. I’m thinking particularly of Joseph’s bones being buried with his fathers. This makes good sense to me, but perhaps only on a superficial level (it’s a nice thought to be buried with loved ones, and it would be nice to be resurrected among them). Can anyone speak more on this tradition, perhaps from a Hebrew perspective?
Filed under: Folk Theologies Tagged: | Arkansas, bones, descendant rights, disinterment, exhumation, Folk Theologies, Jared Pratt Family Association, Law, Mormons, Parley P. Pratt, Resurrection, Robert J. Grow, Theology