A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview

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The Mission To The Indians


In the month of September, 1830, a young man came to the house of Joseph Smith, at Fayette, and asked to see the prophet. As Joseph was absent, he was referred to his brother Hyrum who explained to him what he wanted to know about the Book of Mormon, the revelations of the Lord to his brother, and the establishing of the Church. The young man was a preacher of the sect called Campbellites, and his name was Parley P. Pratt. On his journey from his home in Ohio to New York he had obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon, had read it, and had been deeply impressed with its beautiful truths. Wishing to know more about this new revelation of God, he had sought out Joseph.

Parley P. Pratt joined the Church and soon became one of its leading men, working with Joseph and his brethren with great energy. He became one of the Twelve Apostles, traveled in many parts of the earth preaching the gospel, wrote many fine books, and at last was killed by a wicked man in the state of Arkansas.

Some day you will want to read a full account of this great man's history as he wrote it himself, but here I will give you but a few of these interesting events, because they have much to do with the Church at this point of our history.

You will remember that the Book of Mormon tells about the early history of the Indians. In this book it is predicted that some day the gospel should be preached to them, and the record of their forefathers should also be brought to their knowledge. At the second conference of the Church held in Fayette, September 1st, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson and Peter Whitmer, Jr., were called to go on a mission to the Indians. They were to go into the wilderness through the western states and into the Indian Territory, preaching by the way whenever a chance afforded.

It was late in October when these four elders started on this the first important mission of the Church. They preached to some Indians near the city of Buffalo, presented them with the Book of Mormon, and proceeded on their journey into the state of Ohio. In the northeastern part of this state is the town of Kirtland where Elder Pratt had some friends. They stopped here for some time and preached the gospel to the people. Great interest was aroused, many believed and were baptized. Among these was Elder Pratt's former teacher, Sidney Rigdon, who also became one of the Church's leading men. Others who joined the Church at this time were Edward Partridge who became the first bishop in the Church, Newel K. Whitney who became the second, Lyman Wight who became an apostle, and many others. In a few weeks the missionaries had raised up a large branch of the Church at Kirtland.

Having done this good work, the elders went on their way westward. One evening they were stopping at the house of one Simeon Carter not far from Brother Pratt's old home. They were just about to read to him from the Book of Mormon when an officer entered and arrested Elder Pratt. The elders left their book with Mr. Carter and went with the officer to a sort of court, where Brother Pratt was ordered to pay a large sum of money or go to prison. The prisoner paid no attention to these demands, which made hispersecutors very angry. It was now about midnight, but the elders took it quietly and sang a hymn or two. Then Elder Pratt said that if the witnesses who had told false things about them and the judge who had abused and insulted them, would repent of their evil words and acts and would all kneel down together he would pray that God might forgive them.

"My big bull-dog pray for me!" said the judge. "The devil help us!" cried another.

Next morning as Elder Pratt and the man placed to guard him were walking in the road, the elder asked the officer if he was good at a race.

"No!" was the reply, "but my big dog is. I have trained him and he will take any man down at my bidding."

"Well," continued Bro. Pratt, "you have given me a chance to preach and have given me lodging and breakfast. I thank you for your kindness, but I must be going. Good-day, sir."

With that Elder Pratt left the man and his dog, and had got quite a distance before the officer had recovered from his surprise. Then he came running after him, clapping his hands and shouting to his dog.

"Stu—boy, stu—boy, take him Watch, lay hold of him! Down with him!" At the same time pointing in the direction of the fleeing elder. Just as the fierce animal was about to overtake him, Elder Pratt began clapping his hands and shouting like the officer, pointing into the woods just ahead. The dog bounded past him and was soon lost to sight in the forest, while the missionary got safely away.

Mr. Carter read the Book of Mormon the elders had left. He believed, went fifty miles to Kirtland, was baptized, returned home, began to preach, and soon there was a branch of sixty members in that place.

In western Ohio the missionaries found another tribe of Indians with whom they stayed a few days. They then went to Cincinnati and from that city to the mouth of the Ohio river by boat. It was now very cold, and the river was so blocked with ice that the boat could go no farther. The missionaries therefore walked the rest of the distance to St. Louis and from there across the state of Missouri to its western boundary.

The snow was deep, there were no beaten roads, the houses were few and far between, and the wind blew fierce and cold. For days they had nothing to eat but corn bread and frozen pork; but at last they reached the town of Independence, in Jackson county, Missouri, which was then near to the Indian country.

The elders now took up their labors among the Indians. They were kindly received, and the chief called a council which Oliver Cowdery addressed. The Book of Mormon was presented to them and explained, and they became very much interested. The sectarian preachers heard about this and complained to the Indian agent, who ordered the elders off the Indian lands. So after but a few days of preaching the elders had to leave. They went back to Jackson county and preached to the white settlers, some of whom believed the word of God and were added to the Church. Four of the elders remained at Independence, while Bro. Pratt was sent back to Kirtland to report their labors.

Topics.—1. Parley P. Pratt. 2. The first mission to the Indians. 3. At Kirtland. 4. Journey to Independence and preaching to Indians.

Questions and Review.1. Who was Parley P. Pratt? 2. Name some of the books he wrote. 3. Give a brief sketch of his life. 4. Name those who went on the first mission for the Church. 5. What was the special object of this mission? 6. About how far is it from Fayette to Independence, Mo.? 7. Where is Kirtland? 8. What leading men were converted there? 9. How did Bro. Pratt escape from the officer? 10. How did people travel in those days? 11. Why were the missionaries forbidden to preach among the Indians?