Elder Nephi Pratt

I feel thankful to God for the blessings that we have received this day by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in listening to the inspired remarks of the brethren who have spoken. To come from the missionary field and look upon the faces of the Saints and hear the voice of inspiration from the mouths of the prophets, is a great privilege. It is greatly enjoyed by those who from day to day and from month to month go through the great cities of our land and seldom look upon a friendly face.

The Northwestern States Mission, over which I have been called to preside, is a small mission in some respects. It consists of the State of Washington, British Columbia, Montana, and a part of Idaho. I took the presidency of that mission and started my labors on the 14th of May last. I found about twenty great cities in the mission, and many large towns, and there were only eight Elders. They were so few and so inexperienced that it seemed when I arrived there like we had nothing to work with. But we commenced a little more systematically than the Elders had beer doing, and we started to hold street meetings in Spokane, and in Butte, where they had almost given up the work. In our preaching instead of speaking so much upon faith, repentance and baptism, as we have in years past, we were led to preach upon the divinity of the mission of Joseph Smith, and upon the fact that God had once again uttered His voice from the heavens, and that He had sent forth divinely-authorized servants into the great field of the world to warn the people of the Judgments of God that are coming upon the earth; for the people of Washington and Montana are so utterly indifferent to the Bible and its contents that those whom the Elders can reach seem to have no interest in those things. We cannot reach the family people, who make up the church-going members in the various cities where We labor; for they reject us, shut us out, and will not have us. When we preach on the streets our tongues are loosed upon the subject of the coming of the Son of God and the signs that were to precede it, and we are led to proclaim that this people are the ones that are doing this great and marvelous work. We have also been able, by the power and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, to defend the Prophet Brigham Young, and to show up the majesty and the greatness that rested upon him in establishing the Latter-day Saints tn this place, where in the beginning, when we looked down at the earth, it was like an ash-heap, and when we looked at the heavens, the sun’s scorching rays came down upon our unprotected heads without pity. We did not know anything about irrigation, and we could not tell, if we dropped the seed in the soil, whether it would ever grow. We have told the people that in the midst of these difficulties, so huge and so appalling, there was one potent voice—the voice of Brigham Young, who, sticking his cane in the soil, said, "Here shall be erected the Temple of our God;" and there was one voice that could say, "Here shall be builded a great city." We have testified to this, and to what it has done for the people of the west; and when we have defended the prophets and declared these things, we have been received royally, and our hearts have been made to rejoice when we went on the streets without fear and trembling.

In the mission we now have 15 Elders in all, a few of whom are in Spokane, a few in Butte, and a couple in Anaconda. Western men do not threaten to mob us. They seem to feel above it. When we have been attacked on the streets by some wicked or quarrelsome person, we have found that we had defenders, who rose up and spoke well of us; while some have borne testimony to the greatness of the men that settled this country and made it possible to settle the other countries west of here. We have three branches of the Church—one in Butte, one in Anaconda, and one just established in Spokane with 22 members. In the five months I have been there we have baptized 17. We have Sunday schools in two of our branches, and expect to establish one in Spokane next Sunday or the Sunday following. In Spokane we have to hold our Sabbath meetings in our private residence, and we are beginning to have it crowded each Sunday, with as many strangers as Saints. Our Elders are young men, without any training in singing. You ought to go out on the streets and see how lamentable it is to call, what we do singing. Men that cannot carry a tune, to save their lives; but, like Brother Grant, they are persevering, and we are getting so that we sometimes sing in harmony, if the Spirit of the Lord rests upon us. If I were to speak my mind, I would say to the rising generation of men who expect to fulfill missions in this Church, learn to become good singers; learn to sing in parts, so that you can form singing clubs. When you go into the missionary field it will help you greatly, and it will open doors to you that will not be opened if you do not possess that gift.

Brethren and sisters, in our mission we have not been able to set the world on fire by any means. I never saw such indifference as there seems to be there. Men do not want you to speak the word "religion" in their hearing. They have their business to attend to and they won’t talk religion. There is only one here and there that cares to speak upon the principles of the Gospel. But we have considerable opposition there from the ministers, and from some apostates that have been spewed out of the mouth of the Lord. They get into our street meetings and begin to abuse the Prophets and find fault with us and the word of God; but we ignore them. We will not contend with them, and they are getting so that they have no following, and I am glad of it. In the cities where we preach on the streets, we have good crowds to hear us, and some of them are quite intelligent and attentive; but they are not made up of men who care anything about it after we are through. Some of them will come and bear testimony to the excellent character of our people, and that is all. We have a number of scattered Saints there, among them some young People, and they are hoping that some day they may come where they can get good companions and marry. They are holding themselves from the company of the wicked, trusting that in the future they may have the blessing of becoming united with the righteous. They are mixed up with the sectarians, and we cannot hold meetings with them. The best we can do is to send an Elder among them occasionally, and then very often they cannot get a schoolhouse to meet in. But we feel blessed and encouraged. We have the still small voice up there, and receive of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. We feel to bless the name of the Lord who gave us that mission, and to proclaim His Gospel. We would be discouraged, did we not know that it is His work, and not ours.

One evening, on the streets of Butte, we met a minister, who got up a new argument against us. We had been preaching that a church without apostles and prophets, pastors and teachers, called by divine revelation from God, was not the body of Christ; that a church which did not have these officers was a thing without parts, without limbs, without eyes, and that a church without the Holy Ghost was dead. This man said that he wanted to tell the people that we were a deformity. He had studied Mormonism seven months, and he said the Mormons believed in a great many things that were not in the New Testament. He went on to sky that we believe in three Presidents to preside over the church, and there was no such thing established by Jesus; we believed in High Priests, and there had been no High Priests in the Church in the days of Jesus; we believed in Patriarchs, and there was no such thing as Patriarchs provided for in the New Testament days. He continued, "If we are a body that is dead, without limbs or eyes, what are they? Are they not a body with three ears, and four arms, and eight legs?" And -he called us a deformity. Well, the people did not receive him very well, and the answer of the young Elder to his remarks was so overwhelming against him that he departed very quickly. We have been blessed and prospered, and it has not been possible for whatever intelligence has been brought against the work of God to bring it into shame or humiliation. I will tell you what we need in that mission. We need 80 Elders. But they are giving us missionaries Just as fast as they can spare them, and we are thankful for them.

I ask God the Eternal Father to bless this work, to promote its interest everywhere, to bless the missions and the mission presidents, with all the missionary Elders, to bless the Presidency of the Church and all the interests of this people everywhere. I ask God to bless them all, and to plant our feet wherever we are colonized, that our influence may be felt, and that we may exhibit those qualities of salvation that shall attract men to us. I ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen.

[Conference Report, Oct. 1902]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]


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