Traveling and Preaching

Oklahoma, Iowa
May 28, 1877

Editor Deseret News:

Dear Sir—Since the date of my first letter to the News, my raveling companion, Brother Nels Madson, Jr., and myself have been actively engaged in the ministry, traveling principally among strangers, preaching the gospel in country districts, villages and towns, where they have never before had the privilege of hearing. In certain towns, school-houses, halls and churches of all denominations are closed against us, locked, bolted and barred, and we are told that streets are good enough for “Mormon” elders to preach in. At the town of Atlantic we applied to a Methodist priest for his church to preach in. He replied that he would open it for any of the churches of the day, but not for the followers of “Joe Smith,” as we were not orthodox. He also stated at the same time that he had read, many years ago, the Book of Mormon and the Voice of Warning, and had carefully laid them away, to keep as a memento of the folly and absurdity of “Mormonism.” Finding him to be very bitter in his feelings we turned and left him. Generally speaking, we scarcely find a person who is advanced in years, who does not presume to know much more about our leaders, people and doctrines than we can tell them. On Sunday, the 15th of last month, when we went to a certain hall near Des Moines to fill an appointment, we found the steps and doorway filled with large blocks of wood. We removed the same and opened house, when a small congregation having assembled, we preached to them, and by request we held a second meeting, but few attended, and but little interest was awakened. We do not “talk for hire,” nor “divine for money,” as do the sectarian divines of the day, but we carry out, to the very letter, the instructions given by our Savior, to his ancient and modern disciples, in regard to preaching the Gospel without purse or scrip. In our travels among the people, when we get hungry or sleepy we call at the first house we come to, private of public, and ask for a meal’s victuals or a night’s lodging. We seldom have to apply to more than one or two houses. Sometimes, however, we have gone to some six or eight different places, before they would entertain us for the night. In some few instances they have rejected us at once, crying out, “Impostors, false prophets,” etc., and slamming their doors in our faces. We tell them plainly who we are, where we are from, and the nature and importance of our calling and mission. As a rule, they treat us with a degree of kindness and respect, setting before us as food the best they have in the house, and providing us with a good bed to sleep in at night. In return we answer five hundred questions (more or less) respecting our leaders, people, and country, and preach them four or five short gospel sermons. On taking our leave, they frequently invite us to call and see them again.

At Commerce, one Sunday evening, we had a crowded meeting, over one hundred strangers being present. We bore a strong testimony to the restoration of the gospel and priesthood, with all the authority, powers, gifts and blessings. The mass of the congregation were deeply interested, while some four or five others took offence, and rising in the assembly, left the hall in an abrupt manner, thundering and muttering out their anathemas against us as they went out. Before leaving they interrupted us in speaking, and tried to break up the meeting, but they signally failed. During the night (as we learned the following morning) a plot was laid by some four or five men to tar and feather us, and ride us out of town on a rail. Some good citizens, however, prevailed on them to give up the job.

While on a visit to Polk City we held a meeting in the “Christian Church,” there being only one saint present. The rest of the congregation, of over 100 persons, were strangers. We spoke to them with much assurance and in power, but there was no place in their hearts for the truth, and our words bounced back to us, like a ball thrown against a wall. A careless, indifferent spirit was manifested. In the assembly, I learned after meeting, from the individual named (who kindly entertained us) that Elders Edward Stevenson, and Nathan T. Porter and others had preached in the town, more or less, for over twenty years. A few have been gathered out, others have rejected the truth; consequently infidelity, skepticism, spiritualism, etc., prevail among them to an alarming extent. With a population of over 1,200 people, not one single young man or woman, with one exception, so we were informed, was connected with any religious society, and many of the parents made no profession of religion.

We hold from two to five meetings per week, from twenty-five to 125 strangers being present at each meeting. We generally deliver short and prayerful addresses to attentive audiences. Some few are enquiring for the Book of Mormon and have desires to investigate, others are shy and seem to be afraid to come to the light, while others again manifest a wicked spirit, and would mob us if they dared to do so. I find by experience that the less I sermonize, and the more I bear a direct and pointed testimony to the restoration of the gospel, to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and of the divinely appointed mission of Joseph Smith and his brethren, the greater the boldness and assurance I have, the more good I can accomplish, and the greater the flow of the Holy Spirit to me while addressing my fellow men.

Your brother in the gospel,
P.P. Pratt

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, May 28, 1877, 6]
[Deseret News, June 26, 1877]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]