Reading the Book of Mormon in a quiet, former store in Argentina was a deeply spiritual experience for Elder Carl Barton Pratt, one that bound him to the gospel.
Elder Pratt, a descendant of early Church leader Parley P. Pratt and a fifth-generation missionary to Spanish-speaking people, was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy April 5, 1997.He and his family have been expatriates for the past 22 years while he worked for the Church as an attorney in South America - with a three-year hiatus as president of the Spain Seville Mission. The 5-foot-10 leader, with gray hair and blue-gray eyes, is soft-spoken, has a wry wit and enjoys being with people.
Although he'd been reared in the Church and had the rudiments of a testimony all his life, it was in the mission field where things of the Spirit became important to him.
"My first assignment on my mission was in a little branch in the city of San Nicolas in the province of Buenos Aires. We lived in a little rented place where the members also met, a former store.
"Our mission president told us to read the Book of Mormon in Spanish and when we got through, we would be able to speak Spanish," he said. "I remember sitting in a little storefront area. Each day I went in there to study the Book of Mormon. It was a very spiritual experience; the beginning of my conversion."
He said that because of his background, learning Spanish came very easily to him. He was born in Monterrey, Mexico, while his father and namesake was working for American Smelting and Refining. He was reared in a bilingual home where both his parents had grown up in the Mormon colonies and were former missionaries to Mexico.
The Pratts have long been associated with Latin America. The first to travel to a Spanish-speaking nation was Elder Pratt's great-great-grandfather, Parley P., who as president of the Church's Pacific Mission traveled to Chile in 1851. Although he neither learned Spanish nor won converts, the first Elder Pratt began a tradition that continues to echo through the family five generations later. Elder Parley P. Pratt's son Helaman was among the first missionaries to Mexico. He and Meliton Trejo baptized five converts in Hermosillo, Sonora, in 1876, the first recorded baptisms in the nation. Helaman Pratt traveled to Mexico with other colonists in 1887 and settled there. Helaman Pratt's son Rey L., (Elder Carl Pratt's great-uncle) was among the prominent presidents of the Mexican Mission, who served from 1907-31 and was a member of the First Council of the Seventy. Carl Barton Pratt Sr., colonist, missionary, branch president and longtime worker among Spanish-speaking people, was Elder Pratt's father.
"I must have been about 2 years old when we moved back to the colonies from Monterrey," said Elder Pratt. "We lived in the colonies until I was about 6, and then we moved to Arizona."
The Pratt family lived in a Mormon settlement called Lehi near Mesa.
"When the time came for me to go on a mission, it was something I just did. I think the decision to go on a mission was one of the turning points of my life. The years of service on a mission really can't be equaled in any other way in growth of testimony, in growth of knowledge. You learn what it is like to serve unselfishly and with love; love is really the key to it."
He returned from his mission in 1963 and attended the University of Arizona. One day he went to a hospital to visit his roommate seriously ill with a ruptured appendix. Coincidentally, at the same time, one of his roomate's cousins and her friend came to visit the young man. The friend was Karen Ann Yeoman. Her father was the young man's family doctor.
Carl and Karen became acquainted. Somewhere down the line as they began dating, Carl commented, "You know, when I do get married, I am going to be married in a Mormon Temple."
Sister Pratt recalled, "I had heard something about Mormon temples. At that point I began to investigate the Church. I was very intrigued about what I was learning," she said.
She said her conversion was a combination of observing "what kind of a young man" Carl was, and "attending institute. I had a wonderful institute instructor named Rhett James." She said a testimony "was incorporated into my life little by little . . . just by the living of it."
Her parents were devout members of a Protestant denomination and were at first not pleased with their daughter's choice. However, the relationship continued. After graduating from the University of Arizona, she became a stewardess and was based in Florida.
"By the time I left home to become a stewardess, I knew the Church was true."
Carl flew to Florida and baptized her. Then he returned to Tempe, Ariz., and entered law school at Arizona State University. A year later, they were married in the Arizona Temple.
After graduating from law school he became a law clerk and then practiced law in Tucson. In 1974, someone at the Salt Lake law firm of Kirton and McConkie, which is associated with the Church, went through a stack of resumes looking for a Spanish-speaking attorney. They came across one of Brother Pratt's from several years earlier.
They called Brother Pratt and offered him a job in South America. He accepted a three-year term of service in Montevideo, Uruguay.
"I was never quite able to get the job done, so they left me down there for 22 years," he said jokingly.
"When we arrived there in 1975, there were only about three or four stakes in South America and no temples. Now there probably are some 450 stakes and four operating temples." Sister Pratt noted that the family went to South America with three little children, the oldest one 3. The other five children were born in South America.
"Once I learned to speak the language, I had no desire to come back," she said. She said that living out of the United States has exposed their children to "all levels of society." The children have seen people across the full range of economic status. They have learned that people can be happy when they accept the gospel, regardless of their economic position."
The calling to the First Quorum of the Seventy will receive the total devotion of Elder Pratt and his wife, they said.
"There really isn't anything in this life, except family, that brings as much joy as service in the kingdom," said Elder Pratt. "When love and service are connected, that is when we gain so much joy."
Elder Carl B. Pratt
Family: Born in Monterrey, Mexico, on Oct. 30, 1941, to Carl Barton and LaVern Whetten Pratt. Married Karen Ann Yeoman, daughter of Elmer E. and Dorothy Johnson Yeoman, in the Arizona Temple on June 26, 1969. Parents of eight children: Kristin Pratt (Mathew) Rawlins; Rebecca Pratt (Michael) Rasmussen; John W. Pratt; Stephen Y. (Brandy Oveson) Pratt; and David J., Elizabeth M., Laura A. and Deborah L. Pratt. One grandchild.
Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Arizona, 1968; Juris doctorate, Arizona State University, 1971.
Employment: Law clerk to Judge David Lewis, U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1971-72; attorney in private practice in Tucson, Ariz., 1972-75; attorney for Church in various areas of South America, Kirton & McConkie, 1975-1997.
Church service: Area authority and counselor in the South America North Area, 1995-97; president of the Spain Seville Mission 1988-91; regional representative, 1985-88; temple sealer, stake president's counselor, bishop's counselor, elders quorum president.