Helaman Pratt Correspondence 1897

The First Presidency
of the
Church of Jesus Christ
Latter-day Saints

Salt Lake City, Utah
Nov 20, 1897

Dear Brethren:-

We have been pained quite frequently of late, when perusing the reports of the Presidents of the various missions, to find so low an average of ability and efficiency among the brethren who have labored under them. This condition unfortunately is not confined to one missionary field, for the reports of all the Presidents make the same showing. And further, the truthfulness of their representations is emphasized by the fact that so many of the brethren return home without having fully filled an honorable mission. Indeed, occasionally some of the elders have scarcely left before they are home again.

These facts have led us to fear that in some cases brethren have been recommended for missions with the desire to get rid of them, or at best to do them good personally, or as the expression is sometimes used “to save them.” Now we do not object to men being called who is earlier years may have done wrong, if in later years they have lived a Godly life and brought forth the fruits of repentance. But we do not want men of bad moral character, habitual users of tobacco, or those whose conduct in any way would render them unworthy of this high calling recommended for missions, under the impression or with the hope that they will repent and change their lives when they get in the mission field. Let them repent of their sins at home and reform their lives here, and then perhaps they may be called as ambassadors for Christ to the nations of the earth. We desire it to be esteemed as a high honor to be thus called, as a stamp of the approval of the Lord. Nor do we wish those selected to regard the call in the light of conscription that they must meet whether willing or not, as men are compelled to serve in the German or other armies of the continent of Europe.

Henceforth a rule will be observed (through of course we ourselves may occasionally depart therefrom) that no brother will be called on a mission unless he is suggested, or if not suggested, endorsed by his Bishop and Stake President. These officers will be held responsible for his standing in the church and worthiness at the time he is called. Should a man be suggested by other officers of the church his name will be first submitted to the Bishops and President—for the same examination and endorsement as though suggested originally by them.

It would be much more satisfactory to us if every person who is called to go on a mission could be examined before he is called by, one of the Apostles, but this may not always be practicable. In such a case it is highly important that his fitness, financial condition, &c., shall be ascertained by his Bishop and President of Stake, before anything definite is said to him on the subject; so that he may not be placed in the humiliating position of being excused after being called, quite possibly for no fault for which he is himself responsible. It is very probable that from time to time requisitions will be made by the Missionary Committee of the Apostles or by ourselves on the Stakes for a certain number of missionaries; and when this is done, forms with the particulars required to guide in assigning them to the various fields of labor, will be sent to the Stake President. These forms will have to be signed by the Bishops against the name of each Elder they suggest or endorse and the whole will have to be countersigned by the President of the Stake.

In adopting this course it will, of course, be understood that where we, the First Presidency, desires a man to fill any special calling, as for instance to be president of a mission, or where we are personally acquainted with any brethren, that we do not relinquish our prerogative to consult with and call such brethren as the Spirit of the Lord in us may suggest.

Your Brethren
Wilford Woodruff
Geo. Q. Cannon
Jos, F. Smith

Return to histories of Helaman Pratt