Missionary Labors

Shady Grove, Hickman County, Tenn.
March 7, 1879

Editors Deseret News:

By suggestion of President Morgan, of the Southern Mission, Bro. Daniel Stuart and myself left here on horseback, (the animals being kindly furnished by Bro. Robert R. Church) on the 13th of December, for a pioneer missionary tour into East Tennessee, traveling as did the disciples of our Savior, entirely without purse or scrip. We penetrated as far east as Knoxville, within about 20 miles of the North Carolina line. And although we traveled without money, as the gospel requires, we made and found friends to feed, shelter and lodge us, etc. This is a hilly, rolling country, well timbered, with some fine little valleys and open lands; soil in many places good and productive; in other parts the soil is thin and produces but little. The country is dotted with villages and farm houses. The people, generally speaking, are in fair circumstances; but there are also thousands of families that are very poor, who find it difficult to obtain the common necessaries of life. Fully one third of the people are outside the pales of any church.

The winter being unusually severe for this section of the country, the thermometer falling several times below zero, we were only able to hold a few public meetings, 13 in all, during an absence of 80 days. At our public gatherings we had an average attendance of about 77 strangers. We had good meetings and attentive hearers. We also taught the truth by fireside to at least 150 families, many of whom would keep us up till a late hour at night, answering questions and explaining to them the principles of eternal truth. We have been instruments in the hands of God of breaking down much prejudice, and here and there we found a person or family who were favorably and deeply impressed with the truth; and quite a number of persons who promised to send for copies of the Book of Mormon and Voice of Warning and continue their investigations. We had with us a few of C.R. Savage’s fine views of Salt Lake City, the Great Salt Lake, our mountain scenery, etc., which we showed to many families. They were viewed with interest by all classes of people.

As usual we found priests and editors, with but few exceptions, hostile and bitter in their denunciations against us; but the masses of the people were willing to hear and some anxious to investigate the subject of the gospel. Near the Clinch River, on this side of Knoxville, we found a worthy family of six souls by the name of Harris, who had been prepared by dreams for our coming, who received us kindly and believed our testimonies in regard to the great latter-day work. They have not yet been baptized, but will be, the first favorable opportunity. They are of Welsh descent and a family of standing and character. They have already sold out their farm, and are winding up their business preparatory for emigration. Mr. H. accompanied us three miles on our return, and, when taking leave of us, he was affected to tears.

Today we mail to 15 families, (friends) copies of the News, and several copies of the “Mormon” women’s pamphlets on Plural Marriage. Permit us here to say that there are thousands of people in this country who are now exciting over the late decision of the Supreme Court in regard to plural marriage. We have said to gentlemen, while conversing up this subject, that the decision of the “court of last resort,” was an absurd and wicked one. If Congress or the Supreme Court has a right to legislate against our doctrine of plural marriage, which is a Bible doctrine, or proscribe us in its practice, why have they not the right to pass a law compelling the Catholic priest to marry? Why not legislate against our mode of baptism, etc. Their object is to break us up as a people; but as sure as there is a God in heaven, the blow aimed at us will fall upon their own heads, unless they repent, and they will be broken to pieces like a potter’s vessel. And all men, whether high or low, who violate the sacred constitution and their oath of office will be covered with shame and obloquy.

While absent we traveled about 600 miles, and enjoyed the spirit of our mission, and return feeling well satisfied with our winters work. We have sown the seeds of truth in the hearts of many, and believe that the fruits of our labors will be like bread cast upon the waters to be seen after many days. We returned on the 3rd inst., and were welcomed back by Elder Joseph Argyle and the Saints of this Conference.

Your Brethren in the gospel,
P.P. Pratt
D. Stuart

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mar. 7, 1879, 4]
[Deseret News, Mar. 17, 1879]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]


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