Elder Nephi Pratt

Brethren and Sisters: I feel grateful indeed for the privilege of attending this great conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I feel like I had dropped from my shoulders the cares and responsibilities of the mission field, and had come to Father’s house, to be blessed and strengthened in my faith and feelings, and have my heart enlarged, my faith increased, and be prepared to go back to my mission enjoying an increased portion of the Spirit of God, to continue my labors in that field. We have in the Northwestern States mission a membership of about 800 souls. We have labored for three years, and more, in the large cities, traveling in the summer, spring and fall through the lanes, string-towns and country places, and have disseminated the Gospel as far as we could to about 2,500,000 of our fellow citizens. We have oftentimes felt appalled at the indifference manifested in the larger cities of that section of country, and we have some times thought that all had been done there that ought to be done to inform the people concerning the Gospel which has been restored to the earth again to bring man to the knowledge of the truth; but I am glad that we did not abandon these fields. Always we had a doubt whether we ought to shake off the dust from our feet against some of the cities in the northwest. When we have felt discouraged, and almost shed tears because of their indifference, something has with-held us from taking away the Elders from these districts, except in some few cases for a short time. Anti now the wisdom of the continuation of our labors has manifested itself, and the Lord has poured out His power upon that people, in towns and cities where we formerly could get no hearing, and has brought to pass many marvelous things, and we are gathering in here one and there one noble, independent spirit.

In Portland, on Feb. 4, we baptized seven souls, and last Sunday we baptized three others. We went around the mission baptizing people everywhere. We made an opening in the city of Vancouver, B.C., where about 18 people applied for baptism, whereas two years ago we could not get a hearing there at all. In one city where for a time we withdrew the Elders because of the indifference manifested, viz., Spokane, in Washington, the Lord has poured out His Spirit upon the people since the Elders have gone back there, and His providence has been manifested until the spirit that is leading some of the people indicates that we shall reap a harvest in that town.

One man who had a Latter-day Saint wife, and had prevented her from making her membership known to the Elders, lost her by death. He had in his family six children, partly grown. His wife’s last request was that he would hunt up the "Mormon" Elders that they might perform the funeral services, and preach the discourses. He hunted up two of our boys that had not been in the mission but a few months. They were bashful young men, with stammering tongues, uneloquent, and he asked them if they would come and perform the duties of the funeral services over his wife. They were so frightened when they promised to do it that they fasted and prayed for two days, and then when they went to the funeral their tongues were loosed, and the Spirit and power rested upon them until the hearts of the people in the congregation were melted. The husband came seeking forgiveness that he had manifested such a spirit of bitterness against the Saints, and invited his children to come with him. They became investigators of "Mormonism," and the last I heard, a week ago, they had given in their names for baptism.

A lady twelve miles out of that city, whose husband we have baptized, sent him to find the elders, as she had discovered something with which she could overturn "Mormonism," and she wanted first to show the elders the error of their ways, and then she intended to go about and influence the neighborhood against the work that the elders had been doing. When they had engaged in a conversation about four hours her oldest son arose and said, "Mother, instead of your proving that Mormonism is wrong, by your conversation you have proved to my brother and I that it is divine, and if the water is not too cold for Elder Holliday, he can baptize me tomorrow morning." Elder Holliday led the young man into the water the next day, and confirmed him a member of the Church in the presence of his mother.

We have a few disgruntled ministers of various churches that feel hard towards us for the work that we are doing in Vancouver, and other places; but we do not mind the opposition, and feel always that God has some good people where opposition arises in its strength and attempts to block up the way of this work.

The newspapers in my district are very kind to us, except a few. They publish for us many good things, and seldom publish anything against us. They seem to be ashamed of some things that are published against us in one place and another, and they are generally friendly towards us. Our mission is more prosperous and there is a greater degree of the good spirit from the unseen word operating upon the people than at any time since I have been laboring there. The Elders and Saints feel it, and we all feel that the Lord is working there, and that we shall lead many good people into the waters of regeneration.

I thank my brethren and this people for this privilege of speaking to you, and I pray the Lord that He will bless this people and all those who bless them. I want to say to you that the missionaries of this Church are hunting the world over with all the might and strength and discernment that we have, because souls are Precious to us. How do you take care or the converts and show forth an example unto them when they come here? There are missionary societies here that hold reunions or Elders from the various mission fields in the United States and Europe. When I send converts here, if the Northwestern States Missionary association will take them and introduce them to the Bishop of the Ward where they will live, so that they may be known here and be given the hand of fellowship by the Saints of God, and not stray around these streets like sheep without a shepherd, it will be one of the best things that you can do, and will help us very materially.

God bless the People or Zion in all their abiding places. I ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen.

[Conference Report, Apr. 1906]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]


Elder Nephi Pratt

It is very gratifying to me, my brethren and sisters, to be with you at this conference. It is also a pleasure to speak on conditions in California. We have about 600 members in that mission; at least that number are enrolled as members, but a few of them we can not place. Some are not as faithful as they might be, but on the whole they are a select set of people. It is most gratifying to note month after month and sometimes week after week, the faith fulness and stability of the Saints in tithes and offerings. The tithing records of the mission show that there are scores who have their names enrolled, and a person can tell at a glance the wages they receive from month to month, because of the accuracy and strictness with which they pay their tithes and offerings.

During the past winter we have been doing a little missionary work in that part of Arizona which lies outside the organized stakes of Zion, principally in the mining camps, and over the border into one or two mining camps of Old Mexico. Great joy has come to us in our missionary labors there in meeting with sons and daughters of Latter-day Saints, who work in those camps, and who have not had the Privilege of meeting with the Saints in Sabbath meetings. I feel that a great deal of good has been done to our children in this way, which will help them to fight the good fight and keep the faith, while they are isolated from the body of the Church.

Recently we have endeavored to make the Saints who are visiting at the seaside resorts in California feel at home, by holding meetings in their cottages. At Ocean Park we have rented a hall, and meetings are held there each Sabbath.

A great deal of the work which we do is as much in the interest of the eastern missions as our own; for California, during the winter season, is frequented by thousands of visitors from the east. We meet them in our tracting, they hear us upon the streets when we hold meetings, and they carry back to the eastern states our tracts, and in many instances ascertain the addresses of the mission houses in various cities of the east. They fellowship us, and treat us in a fraternal manner, which they would not do at home, so they frequently say themselves, for fear perhaps of losing caste, or arousing the criticism of their friends because of their friendliness to the "Mormon" Elders. But they come out west for health or for recreation, and they are willing to see all that is to be seen, and to hear all that is to be heard. While in some cases it is an abnormal curiosity that brings them to our gatherings, yet in the end they are robbed of prejudices, and return home with friendly feelings towards us and our people. I do not believe that an instance can be named where they have given us a hearing, and have noted the good spirit that our young men possess, but they have gone away more friendly, if not to the whole body of the Church, at least to those they have come in contact with.

It is thought by some that we are held in contempt by all the people of the world, but my testimony is that, in nearly six years of experience upon the Pacific coast, only in one instance can I say that I have been discriminated against because I was a Latter-day Saint. So far as I am concerned, it has been the reverse; honors have been given to me, and people have interested themselves in me, because of mY position in the Church, and the people whom I represent. I have had extended to me, on various occasions, marks of respect and esteem that have been helpful and gracious indeed. Recently I had the privilege of conversing with a very prominent man, who is looked upon as a rising light in his political party. My soul was made to rejoice when parting with him, for he kindly grasped my hand and put his arm upon my shoulder and said: "When you see John Henry Smith give him my love, and tell him that I just think the world of him." Tuesday last I was talking with another influential gentleman. He bore unwitting testimony to the fact that Isaiah was a prophet, for in reviewing the work which our people had done he said: "I want to tell you, Elder Robinson, that it is a marvelous work and a wonder." Yet he is not a religious man, but he is conversant with what our people have done. and particularly with the economic side of "Mormonism." I might also mention Honorable W. E. Smythe, who has written many friendly articles in relation to our people and their work. I might refer to Benjamin Fay Mills, the pastor of the Fellowship League club of Los Angeles, which numbers among its members some of the leading lights of the literary and scientific world. They are building up a so-called church, based upon the sermon delivered upon the Mount, but do not recognize Christ as the Messiah. Mr. Mills, in talking to me, said: "We are laboring for the same end, but along different lines, and I must say that I can not but respect your people for their integrity and stability, and that which they have wrought in this western country: although there are some of the tenets which they teach in common with other churches, both orthodox and unorthodox, that I do not agree with, or at least do not understand." Recently, a circumstance made me acquainted with a gentleman from England who is lecturing at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco, and is of no small note in Germany and England, from whose schools he graduated, and where he taught for some years. He said to me: "I am not an American, Mr. Robinson, but I have viewed with considerable interest, as a scholar, the work of your people and the problems they are working out, and I feel as an anthropologist, as a student of social conditions, deep interest in i he social problem that your people have raised, and we shall note its progress, and I feel that you should have been left alone to solve it. Conditions are such," said he "that we do not know what confronts us as an Anglo-Saxon people. Look about you in this state and you will find that the people here have a problem in hand, and it is this: Will the native son of the Golden West live to be a great grandfather or not? While the peoples from southern Europe, and some from northern Europe, are flourishing and growing numerous in the warmer districts of California, the native son, the Anglo-Saxon, is being crowded out." He attributed this to the effect, not of the climate, so far as heat is concerned, but that it was so much sunshine that was detrimental to the Angle-Saxon and the Teutonic races, and that they flourished best in the north. "Because of this," said he. "we will view with considerable interest and attention the progress of your Mexican colonies." He wanted to know if I was conversant with conditions there and whether there were great-grandchildren to be found among that people.

I might go on and cite others of the honorable of the earth, who have talked to me. One of them, an eminent surgeon, who is going to lecture for three months in England, by invitation of one of the scientific societies of the land, has been one of our best friends and supporters. When any accident or serious illness has occurred to members of our Church in the immediate neighborhood of San Francisco, or when any of the Elders have developed organic trouble that could not be overcome by mild nursing or friendly Physicians, whenever it was evident that a special, ist’s attention was required, we have gone to this man’s hospital and he has treated our brethren free of charge. He has written to me that if there is anything he can do for our People, whether they have any money or not, we can command his services, and the services of his hospital.

I think it is good to know that all men do not hold us in contempt, but that those who are liberal minded, rinse who are watching the Progress of events, recognize in the Gospel we teach an uplifting and saving force; that there is something in it that does not come from man’s wisdom, but from the Spirit of our Father who is in Heaven. In various ways these friends of ours acknowledge this by their testimonies and their actions toward us. One of the pension examining board of the state, who is a physician, told me that he had seen a coterie of Elders upon the streets of the capital city at various times speaking in Public, but did not know who they were; but he said that he never went by them without feeling that he would like to take then in his arms and bless them, because of the cleanliness of their lives, which was exemplified in their dress and could be read in their countenances. After he became acquainted with us he made his office a rendezvous for our Elders, and has treated them for any ailment without charging anything at all for his services.

In this connection I would like to say kindly, to the Bishops and Presidents of stakes, that I do not want You to think California is a cure-all for all kinds of disease. Out of 30 elders we have had during the past year nearly 50 percent of them have been ill when they came there, with lung trouble, threat trouble, or heart trouble; for that reason the efforts and labors of some of the able-bodied men have been embarrassed. Only last week a brother came to the mission and said: "I guess you know I was called to the Northern States." into, I said I do not know. "Well," he said, "I was, but they thought I had better come here for my health." Three weeks before, another man came for his health because he had rheumatics, and they thought it would be better for him to go to California. On this account our labors have been handicapped more or less. Not withstanding this, however, we have had better success in baptisms, and in meeting People in their homes and in public halls, than we have had for 18 or 20 months past. We have had the privilege of baptizing some very good men and women this spring; and I have been surprised at the knowledge they have displayed of the laws of the Gospel. One man said to me: "Now, Brother Robinson, I want to enjoy all the gifts of the Church and I want to pay my tithes." I knew he did not work and I said to him, "You are not laboring now, are you?" He said, "No, but I have saved a little, and I want to pay tithes on my surplus, for so reads the Word of the Lord." I blessed him for his faith and he paid tithing on his surplus. One of our sisters who had beer converted also paid tithing on had surplus. She was a Young girl just baptized into the Church, but in this way she showed her faith in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I feel that though the converts may be few, when they evidence such faith as this it is worth all the effort we put forth. Some feel that it is uphill work to hold meetings on the streets. On one of the favored streets of San Francisco—Grant Avenue—you will find in one short block nearly every evening in the week from ten to fifteen different meetings being held, orthodox and unorthodox, infidel, socialist, Citizens’ Alliance, Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, the Penial Mission, and independent lecturers, colored and white, and among the rest you will find the "Mormon Elders. We usually hold two corners. Some of my brethren who visited there said to me: "Brother Robinson, this locks like hawking the Gospel on the street corner; it seems to me you might just as well talk against the wind." Well, every once in a while some one will come up, grasp us by the hand, and say, "That is just the kind of talk I want; it is what I have been looking for." One man told us that three weeks before, he had heard us on the streets and had come to out meetings, and, said he, "you will pardon me, Elder Robinson, but I cannot keep away from you; you teach just what I want." So I feel that we are blessed if only occasionally one shall come to us with this testimony, and then become identified with the Church I want to say for the Pioneer Society of San Bernardino (that old town which was founded by our brethren and sisters in early days,) their hearts as they grow older, reach out to the people of Utah. For some years we have gone to their meetings, we have sung for them, we have prayed for them, we have helped them bury their dead; and last fall we organized for them an old folks’ day, the first of the kind in that state. It seemed to find favor with all the citizens. Various church members came to us, principally of the Ladies’ Aid society, and assisted to care for the old people upon the day set apart for the holiday, and they pledged themselves to support us in that manner, until the enmity of some of the churches was aroused, and they forbade their members to have ought to do with us. This has resulted in some leaving the church they belonged to, and they are helping us in that city. Among other things, they propose to visit Salt Lake City this summer, through the kindness of Senator Clark. As early as the 17th of last July they passed a motion inviting me as their honored guest to join them when they should visit Salt Lake City, and to be with them here, not because of my own individuality, but because I was the representative of our people. I had the privilege today of handing to Elder Ben E. Rich a little souvenir from the society, in the shape of a badge of membership, presented to him because of the love that they bore his father. As they grow older their love for the founders of that city increases, and they hold them in high honor and esteem. Many of them, although they have lost their identity with the Church, and possibly so long as they live will not recognize themselves or permit us to recognize them as members, yet I have noted that when the "dread summons" comes to carry them hence, they want us to be with them, and have asked that we should preach their funeral discourses. In many instances they have even acknowledged that the Gospel is true, and that it has been through their own weakness that they have fallen away and lost their membership.

The young Elders in that mission are humble, faithful, and painstaking in their efforts. They go not forth in their own strength, but like David, when he faced Goliath, they go in the strength and the name of the Lord God of Israel. The courage which they evidence, anti the faith they manifest, works upon the hearts of the people to receive their testimonies, and it makes friends of them whether they embrace the Gospel or not. This encourages us.

We feel to sustain the Church organization. We have learned by experience that we do not walk in our own light. Sometimes we borrow light from others, but we are trying to live so that we shall walk by faith, by the light that shines from within, that we may be enabled to follow our file leaders in all things: in this we know there is safety. God grant that we may realize all our fond ideals and aspirations, and that it shall not be long before the world shall believe that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is for the uplifting of humanity, for the salvation of the souls of men, for the healing of the nations, and that we are the ambassadors of truth and right eousness, I ask it in the name of Jesus Amen.

[Conference Report, Apr. 1906]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]


Elder Nephi Pratt

Elder Nephi Pratt said that there are more people now within the Temple block than were living in Utah at the time of the laying of the cornerstone of the Temple, that magnificent monument of the faith and labors of the Latter-day Saints. The "Mormon" people worship the true and living God, not that something called a "Universal Force," adored by an eminent American divine and believed in more or less by the people of Christendom. Such an imaginary being would be incarnate in the roar of the tempest and in the earthquake’s devastating shock. Our God and Father, he said, is a personality, that divine being whose feet were washed and who partook of food in the tent of Abraham, who visited Jacob and Moses; whose finger of flesh wrote the ten commandments upon a tablet of stone, and whose voice proclaims His will to the ends of the earth. The Latter-day Saints, continued Elder Pratt, came to an arid and desolate region, and in privation laid the foundations of their present a affluence. The young men were urged upon by the speaker to marry, and not become the "ugliest thing on two legs, a bachelor." He advised the Saints to so live that prisons, asylums and almshouses would be unnecessary for them.

[Conference Report, Apr. 1906]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]


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