May 20.  Elder Pratt arrived in San Francisco after a dreary passage of 79 days, during which he nearly starved to death.

Following is Elder Pratt’s letter in full:

Ship ‘Dracut,’ Pacific Ocean, lat. 18 South
March 13, 1852

Prest. Young.
Dear Brother,

We are all well.  Elder Rufus Allen and myself and wife Phebe Pratt sailed from San Francisco, Sept. 5 for Chili, S.A., arrived in Valparaiso on the 8th November, passage sixty three days; from that time to the present has been devoted by us to the study of the Spanish language, and the laws, constitutions, geography, history, character, religion, manners, customs, revolutions and events of Chili and Peru in particular and Spanish America in general.

By intent application, I soon became able to read with a degree of understanding and interest in that language.  I have already read through the Spanish Testament, while in the same language I have copied in writing many of its most important passages, and have read them over perhaps twenty times, committing some of them to memory.  I have also read a small national history of Chili, nearly three times through, in which are many curious and important facts, in relation to the wars with that brave and patriotic nation of free men called the Arraucanians.

These have maintained their liberty and independence unimpaired, for three hundred years, against the combined powers of old Spain and of all her colonies.  Sustaining a defensive war with but little cessation for near two hundred years, without firearms or other modern means of defense.  Some of their history I hope to translate and publish hereafter.  I have also read the Spanish school geography of Chili, and some other works, while a constant perusal or their newspapers, and those of Peru and Buenos Ayres have given me a general insight into their governments, laws, politics, religion, revolutions, hopes, feelings and prospects.

The civil wars and my own pecuniary circumstances, but more particularly the want of language, prevented my traveling much in the country, or even visiting the Arraucanians.  I however visited a small town, forty miles inland, and lived there one month.  On the 2d day of March we embarked on this ship, bound for San Francisco without having sufficient of the language to turn the keys of the Gospel as yet to that nation.  We stayed until all our means were exhausted, and sought and prayed diligently for our way to open, but we could neither speak the language sufficiently to preach the gospel, nor find any way to earn our living.  So we found it necessary to return to Cal. while we still study the language on board.

We have one fine young man in the cabin, who is very useful to us.  He is a native Chilean, reads and converses fluently in Spanish, is conversant with the scriptures, which we read together and converse upon.  He has now borrowed the Spanish Bible of me and is reading it by course.  I have told him of our doctrine, baptism, church, persecution, settlement in the mountains, and of the Book of Mormon, also the evils of adultery, drunkenness, gambling and other sins; and also the wickedness of the Catholic abominations.  He has taken the whole in good part, and talks of going to the Mountains with us.  What is very remarkable for a Chilean, he neither smokes nor drinks.  He has some means and is going to Cal. to make more.  We pray much in secret that God will open his heart, and give him to us for a help in the ministry.

The Chileans are a mixed race of Spanish and Indian blood; say four-fifths Indian.  Consequently, course features, black hair and eyes, low foreheads, high cheek bones, broad faces, and in most cases copper colored in its various shades and degrees.  While a few are white and even fair and beautiful.  In general they are ignorant and devoted Catholics.  Probably more than half of them can neither read nor write.  Their knowledge of art and industry is extremely limited.  In manners they are simple, frank and extremely sociable, and apparently affectionate, but subject to a small low meanness in their dealings, and to trifling thefts.  There are, however, many honorable exceptions to these faults and evil habits.

The Bible is not in general used among them, being prohibited by their religion.  But I found many who had read it.  And all so far as I tried the experiment, seemed willing to hear it read.  Some said they could understand it better, when I read it, then when it was read by their own natives.

I spoke freely to many against their priestcraft and errors showed them in the true mode of baptism, etc., which very seldom gave offense.

They frequently told me of the abominations of their priests, and how they administered all the ordinances for money, at so much per head.

The Constitution establishes the R. Catholic Religion, supports it out of the State treasury and prohibits all others.

There is notwithstanding this prohibition, a Church of England and an American Congregational Church in Valparaiso.  The latter I visited and conversed with the minister; he said there was no difficulty in landing religious books and papers, and circulating the same.  Although the press is not free to print or publish any religion but the Catholics.  He said he had landed and distributed Bibles in Spanish and that they were now for sale in the book stores.  Books are landed less of duty.

The revolution which raged so violently this season in Chili, professed to be in favor of Universal Suffrage, and absolute liberty of conscience, of the press and of speech.  The masses so far as I can judge, are warm revolutionists, but they do not like to fight.

The revolution costs some 6000 lives, and ended in a general amnesty without alteration of the government.  But the people are sanguine in their hopes, and they think to accomplish their liberties in a few years.  They are by no means crushed in spirit by the present failure.

In the provins of Buenos Ayres a long civil war has raged, which is now about terminating in favor of the more liberal part, aided by Brazil.

Peru is tranquil.  The public prints of Lima, its capital, has interested me much.  They are in Spanish, and I have spent days in their perusal.  The Government of Peru is much influenced by England and the United States.  Its constitution guarantees liberty of the press, of speech and of worship.  But it seems to have remained a dead letter on these points till this present year in which the Congress Peruana has made a special law to carry out the liberty of conscience, of speech and of the press; in which law the liberty for other worship is particularly named.  And the privileges to officiate in the Holy Sacraments, of Matrimony and of Burial!  Which is a step ahead of even Protestant England.  Peru has also made a special treaty with Great Britain, in which all these liberties are guaranteed to British subjects in Peru.

These liberal measures have alarmed “his holiness” the Pope of Rome to such an extent that he has issued his letter of disfellowship of the Government of Peruana, in which he denounces all these liberal measures as Anti Catholic, Unchristian and Heretical.  This official document in the hands of the Archbishop of Peru, and his clergy, was brought to bear with considerable power against the liberal proceedings of the Government.  But in the meantime a very learned and talented man, (I suppose a clergyman) called Dr. Vigig, and many other writers came out against the Pope, in the columns of the public prints.  They denounced him in no measured terms, as a Usurper of more power than Peter of old, who, they say, meddled not with governments, wealth or anything but to preach the Gospel and catch fish.

They boldly enquired of “his holiness,” where Peter’s salary, crown, title, palace, etc., were where his dictation of Political Government.

They then inform him, that Peru is a free and independent sovereignty, and will not be dictated by any foreign power whatsoever.  They then refer his holiness to Simon Magus, who wished to purchase the gift of God with money.  Remind him and the public how much it has cost certain other governments to purchase remission of sins, for similar offenses.  They then enquire how much poor erring Peru will have to pay to “his holiness,” for the remission of the great sin she has committed in giving her citizens the liberty to worship as they please, and to marry, die and be buried in such manner as seems them good?

Such writings have a wide circulation in Peru, and are popular.  But are also opposed by lengthy replies and defenses on the part of the more Orthodox clergy.  All these things go to show, that the press and the mind is beginning to exert its freedom in the countries where, for three centuries, all intellect has slept and all freedom of thought been crushed, buried under the incubus of the horrid institutions of the great mother of abominations.

Should Peru sustain her liberties, a field is opened in the heart of Spanish America, and in the largest, best informed, and most influential city and nation of South America, for the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the fullness of the Gospel, to be introduced.

Four-fifths or perhaps nine-tenths of the vast population of Peru, as well as most of the countries of Spanish America is of the Blood of Lehi.  ‘tis true they are degraded.  Civilization is at a low ebb and modesty and virtue, in the sense they are understood, among the more polished nations, may hardly exist among them even in idea.  Yet Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  The whole need no physician, but those who are sick.

New Granada has also revolutionized in favor of the same great principles of liberty; while the revolution in Northern Mexico, and other movements of a like nature in other parts, all go to show that a door is opening, more wide than can be filled very soon in the Spanish language.  Unless God shall raise up in England, thousands of native teaches of the fullness of the Gospel.

I had much wish to go to Peru at this time, but an empty purse, an imperfect tongue, which has only barely commenced to stammer in that language, together with the want of books, or the means to print them, with other circumstances all combined to cause me to wait a little, till I can study the language more fully.  While in the meantime I return to where I can communicate more fully with the Church at home, with the various missions on the Islands, and with my family, for whom I must do something, as soon as possible, if God will open my way.

I feel as though the Book of Mormon, and some cheap publications should be translated into Spanish and printed, and then the key be turned to those nations, while a living priesthood is accompanied by something for them to read, even those writings, which have the Promise of God, the prayers and faiths of the ancients, and the power and spirit of God to work with them in restoring the House of Israel.  It is in my heart to translate the Book of Mormon, and some other works and to print the same in Spanish, as soon as I have the language sufficiently perfect. As printing is very high in all parts of the Pacific, it may be wisdom to go to England and get some printing, and perhaps stereotyping done, and also to bring out two or three Elders from thence with English passports, etc., to assist in Spanish America.  All these contemplated labors would be under the blessing of God, a furtherance of the great work of laying the foundation for the restoration of unnumbered millions of the House of Israel and of Joseph, even of many nations extending over a large and important portion of the earth.  I feel to labor with patience, and to take time to prepare the way before me, and before those, who will in due time be sent unto them in power, knowing that God, who has said certain things, will cause the things he has said to be fulfilled in due time.

If, before half these things are accomplished, I should return to the Valley, and sit in council with you and my brethren; or, even do the translation there, I hope I will not be accounted a slothful servant; for I assure you, I do all in my power, with all diligence, and with all the prayer of faith, I possess.  And my earnest desire is to be counted worthy to labor for the restoration of Israel, till it be accomplished.

I study the language all day, and think it, and even talk it loud in my sleeps, in which I sometimes learn more than in the day.  Bu tit is no small work, to become familiar with the entire grammar, words and style of a foreign tongue, so as to write for publication.

If the Twelve Apostles will divide the European language between them and each become thoroughly versed in one, so as to translate the fullness of the Gospel and turn they keys in the same, it will be a very great step towards the consummation, for a host of fellow laborers would soon be raised up in each to cooperate with them; and these languages command the influence, and keys of communication with all the nations, tribes and languages of the earth.  I trust and hope also, that they will soon be introduced into our University, and among the Elders of Israel, in preference to the dead languages, or of those of less consequences.

Pacific Ocean, Latitude 3 North, March 27, 1852

Dear Brother,

We have now sailed for twenty-three days, and made nearly half the passage.  We are well and the wind is generally fair, but now and then a calm.  Br. Rufus Allen and myself still study with diligence the language, and talk with the Chilean, who is also reading diligently in our Spanish Bible.  The Book of Mormon, Voice of Warning, etc., has been the rounds, and been read by Captain, Mates, and others, but they cannot believe in modern angels, etc.  However, there is one intelligent sober man who is much interested.

April 29th, Lat. 27 North

Dear Brother,

Fifty-five days have passed like a dreary imprisonment to us, with but little to eat.  We live on a little poor hard bread, probably baked some two or three years since, and some beans, and very poor damaged salt meat and pork.  We have no flour, potatoes, sugar, molasses, rice, or other comforts, although we pay a good price for cabin passage.  We have not had one day of good sailing in a month.  The wind always ahead and very light.  We seldom sail more than from thirty to eighty miles in twenty-four hours.  We are hungry and weary and lonesome and disconsolate.  But after praying much for fair wind and speed, we find our prayers are not answered, and we have given it up, and have asked our Heavenly Father to give us patience and reconciliation to His will.  We as now come eight hundred or nine hundred miles south from port, and our provisions, poor as they are, must fail us soon.  But, live or die, we trust in God and try to serve him.  There is no one on board, who fears God, or regards man, so far as we know, except one of the sailors, and ourselves.  The most horrid blasphemies sound in our ears, every day in the cabin and on deck, from Captain and mate together with gambling blackguardism.  We are spurned and hated because of our testimony.  But we mind our own business and study language and Scriptures every day.  The young sailor, of whom I speak is a Mr. Howard, from the United States, who is well educated and have read our books with much interest during the passage, and has requested to be baptized and join the Church, as soon as we land.  He is not accustomed to a seafaring life, and wishes to go to the Mountains with us.  He has been brought up in school and in clerking.  But I think his calling will be to preach the Gospel.  But I have not yet even hinted this to him.

Brethren, I want to see you all, with a desire exceeding all other times of my life.  I feel as though I wanted to sit down with you, and seek the power and gift of God, and the power of heaven.

Even that which shall be spread forth for the restoration of Israel. O, when will the time come?  When shall the veil be rent, and the full powers of the apostleship be permitted to be exercised upon the earth?  It must be before long, or no flesh be saved; for the powers of darkness prevail abroad, to that degree, that it can even be felt physically.  There are none who know the Lord, none who seek after the truth, none who appreciate it when found, none who incline to cease from sin, I had like to have said, to be found abroad in the earth.  To find one is like lighting a candle and searching diligently for food among the dungeons of darkness, death and famine.  Adieu till we land.

San Francisco, Cal. May 22nd

Landed in safety on the twentieth inst., after being seventy-nine days at sea.

Found folks and things as well as could be expected in this country.  No news from Br. Murdock, since he sailed for Sydney in Australia.  Now, dear Brother and Brethren, remember me in your prayers.  My love to you and yours and to all the council, etc.

Parley P. Pratt

[History of Brigham Young, 1852:49]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, May 20, 1852, 2-9]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Aug. 2006]

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