Letter from Wilford Woodruff and Jonathan H. Hale, 18 September 1837

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

North Lat, 44. Long. 69, 10. Vinalhaven, Fox Islands, Monday, Sept. 18th, 1837.
To Joseph Smith Jr. and the in greeting:
Dear Saints of God, whom we love of a truth for the truth’ sake that dwelleth in you, and we pray God that it may abide with you forever: As we are called to stand upon the Islands of the sea, in defence of the truth and for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. We are under the necessity of making use of our pen, to give you an account of our labors in the ministry since we left , as we cannot at present speak to you face to face. We left May 31st, and took Steamboat at in company with , to go forth to labor in the vineyard as the Lord should direct.— After calling on the Saints in N. Y. we arrived at Sackett’s Harbour and took Steamboat on the 6th of June for and on the 8th arived at Brother Artemus Judd’s. And on the 10th, had the happy privilege of setting in conference with , , and a number other elders, and a large congregation of Saints. And we were blessed with a very interesting time. After spending several days with them we took the parting hand with these beloved friends and proceeded on our journey for the East in company with elder John Goodson, and others bound for . We took the parting hand with them at Schenectady, and arrived at the Caanan church in , visited the church a few days. Here elder took his departure for and we went to Colebrook, visited different parts of the town and held eight meetings, from thence to Canton and held a meeting in the village hall in Collinsville.— As we commenced speaking several began to beat their drums at the doors which made much confusion. This is the only disturbance we have had since we left . We next visited Avon, where we held four meetings and many came out to hear and manifested a spirit of inquiry. And had the privilege of leading three of his kinfolk into the waters of . And had not the Spirit called us away to perform a greater work, we should have had no difficulty in establishing a of the church in that place. A family where we tarried but one night, and taught them the things of the kingdom, believed our testimony, and after our departure, two of the household followed us 15 miles to receive baptism at our hands, but we were gone, and they truly believed it to be a day of warning and not of many words. We also visited Farmington and held one meeting in the Methodist meeting house, and preached to an attentive congregation who wished to hear more concerning the great work of God. We left Farmington on the 20 of July, for and after visiting the Bradford church, and after preaching several times with them, we proceeded on our journey to , Maine, where we spent several days with the church and friends. But duty urging us forward to lift the warning voice to those that had not heard the sound of the gospel, we then went to the city of Portland. We there took the Steamer Bangor on the 19 of August, to speed us on our way to the Islands of the sea, they landed us at Owls head at the setting of the sun: But how to get conveyance to the Islands we knew not, we retired to a grove and offered up our thanks unto God for his mercies and asked him to open our way before us; we returned to the Inn and soon found some men that were going near the Islands that night, they said they would land us if we chose to take passage with them. We accordingly went on board, they hoisted sail and landed us on North Fox Island, Vinalhaven, at 2 o’clock Sunday morning, August 20th. It was with peculiar feelings and sensations that we began to walk forth upon one of the Islands of the sea which was wrapped in the sable shades of night, whose waters had never covered a soul for the remission of their sins after the order of the gospel, and which soil had never before been pressed by the foot steps of an elder of Israel. We were strangers, pilgrims, and almost pennyless. But we had [p. [1]] come on the Lords business, we believed him faithful that had promised, and we felt willing to trust in his name, we soon came to a house, where we were received and we retired to rest. We arose in the morning made ourselves known as servants of the Lord, we inquired if there was any religion or priests on the Island; we were informed that there was a Baptist priest, a small church and a meeting house at the center of the Island. The town of Vinalhaven includes both North and South Fox Islands: Pop. 1800. The inhabitants are generally wealthy, intelligent, industrious, generous and hospitable to strangers. North Island is 9 miles long, and 2 wide, pop. 800. South Island is 10 miles long, and 5 wide, pop. 1000 &c. As it was Sabbath morning there was to be preaching in the meeting house, we concluded to attend considering it a proper place to introduce the gospel. When we arived at the place, meeting had commenced, the deacon came to the door and we informed him that we were servants of the Lord, that we had a message for the people and wished to be heard, the deacon informed the priest that we were preachers of the gospel. He invited us into the stand and gave out an appointment for us at 5 o’clock P. M. After the priest had closed his discourse he invited us to his house during the intermission. We presented him the book of Mormon, he appeared friendly and said he should like to read it. We met according to appointment and preached to them the first principles of the gospel. We then gave out appointments for the four following evenings to be held at the several school houses on the Island. The people came out in great numbers and heard with attention and manifested much anxiety, and in fourteen days we held nineteen meetings. The Baptist priest became alarmed seeing that his craft was in danger; and fearing that if he held his peace all would believe on our words, accordingly he strove to use his influence against us, but without effect as you may judge on learning the fact that on Sunday the 27th while we met with a congregation, he had not so much as one to meet with him at his usual place of worship, for the excitement was so great that the members of his church and deacon, were attending our meetings and inviting us to visit them, and inquiring into these things. The Lord clothed us with his Spirit and we were enabled to stand up and boldly declare those things that are commanded us.— And the sound thereof soon reached the neighboring Islands and some of the inhabitants soon hoisted their sails to convey them over the waters to hear the tidings for themselves. On Sunday the 3rd of Sept. we preached to a large congregation assembled together from these Islands, at the close of our meeting we opened a door for , and a respectable sea captain and his wife offered themselves as candidates, we then assembled where there was much water and after offering up our prayers unto God, we then lead them down into the sea and baptized them and we returned rejoicing. On Monday following we visited the South Island to set before them the truths of the everlasting gospel. We held five meetings, the people came out by hundreds, to hear and filled the school houses to overflowing.
Notwithstanding the anxiety of the people to hear more upon this important subject, yet we were under the necessity of returning to the North Island, to attend an appointment on Sunday, accordingly we met and preached to the people and opened a door for baptism and another sea Captain and a young lady came forward and we repaired to the sea shore and baptized them, and on Tuesday following, we administered the of baptism unto three others.
A Methodist priest on the South Island fearing whereunto these things would grow, came over to the Island where we were baptizing and made friends with the Baptist priest (like Herod and Pilate) and called a meeting, we attended. The Methodist priest arose and commenced warm hostilities against the book of Mormon, and our principles, we took minutes of his discourse that we might be correct in answering him. As he could not bring proof from the word of God against our principles, and in order to make an impression upon the minds of his hearers against the work; he took the book of Mormon in his hand, and with an out stretched arm declared that he feared none of the judgments of God that would come upon him for rejecting that book as the word of God. When [p. 2] he closed his meeting we arose and rectified some of his wide mistakes in his presence before the congregation, and informed the people if they would meet next Sabbath at the meeting house we would answer every objection that had been presented against the book of Mormon and our principles during the meeting. And last Sabbath we met a congregation of several hundred at the meeting house, assembled together from the different Islands, and we arose in their midst, and redeemed our pledge by answering every objection that had been brought against the book of Mormon, or our principles.— After meeting we repaired to the water and again administered the of . The Baptist priest is no less busy than his Methodist brother, for while one is in the pulpit declaring to the people, that the principles of the book of Mormon are saping the very foundation of our churches and holy religion; the other is gone over to the main land calling upon his Baptist brethren, saying come over and help us lest we fall. But cursed is man that trusteth in man or maketh flesh his arm saith the Lord God. O ye priests of Baal your cry is in vain, the God of Israel has set his hand the second time to recover his people. The stone has began to roll, and will soon become a mountain and fill the whole earth. The Lord is calling his out of the wilderness, with her gifts and graces and restoring her judges as at the first. God hath chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise, and with them he will rend your kingdoms, that the wisdom of your wise men may perish, and the understanding of your prudent men may be hid. The cry of the Saints is ascending into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth for Ephraim.— The horns of Joseph are begining to push the people together. The of the Lamb of God are bearing the of his kingdom on the shores of Europe. Yea and the mighty Captains of the ships at sea, are receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ; and enjoying its power, and the call of many from distant Islands, has already entered our ears; O come and preach to us, we have sent a book of Mormon over the billows of the great deep, to teach those that are at sea. And the word and work are propelled by the arm of JEHOVAH. And the weapon that is formed against shall soon be broken. And he that raises his puny arm against it, is fighting against God and shall soon mourn because of his loss. We say these things are true as God liveth, and the Spirit beareth record and the record is true, and vengeance will be speedily executed upon an evil work in these last days, therefore, O Babylon thy fall is sure.
Although we have not baptized but few on these Islands, yet there is hundreds believing and many are almost ready to enter into the kingdom, the calls are numerous from the neighboring Islands, and also from the main land, for us to come and preach unto them, and tell them words whereby they may be saved from the pending judgments that await the world. There are fifteen or twenty neighboring Islands that are inhabited, some of them contain a population of several thousand. And while the fields are white, we view the harvest great in this country: and the laborers few. And while we are faithfully laboring day and night for the salvation of his people; we ask an interest in your prayers, O ye Saints of the most high God. O ye of Israel will ye not go forth into the vineyard and help wind up the scene of this generation which sits in darkness and in the shadow of death. O ye ministers of our God, if we altogether hold our peace at this time, shall we not suffer loss when the Lord raises up deliverance unto Israel. But for Zion’s sake let us not hold our peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake let us not rest until the light thereof go forth as brightness and salvation as a lamp that burneth.
That we all may keep the patience and faith of the Saints and see that no man take our crown, is the prayer of your brethren in the Lord Jesus.
,
. [p. 3]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    See Testimony, ca. 2 Nov. 1831; and Revelation, 3 Nov. 1831 [D&C 133:8].  

  2. 2

    Aboard the steamboat Sandusky, the group crossed Lake Erie and arrived in Buffalo, New York, at six in the morning on 1 June 1837. (Woodruff, Journal, 31 May and 1 June 1837.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  3. 3

    The missionaries traveled on a canal boat from Buffalo to Syracuse, New York, between 1 and 3 June 1837; Hale spent two days in Syracuse, while Woodruff apparently walked forty miles north to visit family in Richland, New York. Woodruff and Hale likely met somewhere near Ellisburg, Jefferson County, New York, on 5 June. (Woodruff, Journal, 1–5 June 1837; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 9.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  4. 4

    Judd lived in Bastard Township, today part of Rideau Lakes, Ontario, Canada, located approximately thirty miles northeast of Kingston, Ontario, Canada. (Woodruff, Journal, 8 June 1837; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 9.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  5. 5

    John Goodson, Isaac Russell, and John Snider—all recent converts—were headed for New York City to rendezvous with Heber C. Kimball in preparation for the impending mission to England. Woodruff, Hale, Holmes, Goodson, and Snider trekked thirty miles from Bastard Township to Leeds Township on 12 June; on 13 June, they walked twenty-six miles to Kingston. (Woodruff, Journal, 12–13 June 1837; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 11–12; Recommendation for Heber C. Kimball, between 2 and 13 June 1837.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  6. 6

    From Kingston, the six men (Woodruff, Hale, Holmes, Goodson, and Snider, now joined by Isaac Russell) took a steamboat across Lake Ontario to Oswego, New York, and then a canal boat to Syracuse on 14 June 1837; they then took another canal boat to Utica on 15 June and arrived in Schenectady at eight o’clock in the evening on 16 June. (Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 12–13; Woodruff, Journal, 6–16 June 1837.) From Schenectady, Woodruff, Hale, and Holmes traveled for approximately seventy miles on foot to Canaan. (Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 13.)  

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  7. 7

    This likely refers to a 10 July conflict, instigated by a Presbyterian priest whom Hale had met earlier that day, that occurred near Collinsville, Connecticut. While Woodruff preached in the village hall, the priest (named by Woodruff as “Vanarsdalen”) and presumably others began beating drums outside. The priest later entered the hall, loudly disputed the missionaries’ teachings, and questioned their authority to preach, asserting that “no man had a right to preach the gospel unless he had a collegiate education.” Woodruff reportedly responded, “I would admit that point when he would tell me at what college Jesus Christ and his apostles obtained their education.” (“History of Wilford Woodruff,” Deseret News, 21 July 1858, 89; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 20–21; Woodruff, Journal, 11 July 1837.)  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  8. 8

    Woodruff and Hale traveled to Avon, Connecticut, on 5 July 1837. During their stay in the area, which lasted until 18 July, Woodruff visited his father, stepmother, uncles, and other family friends. There he baptized his uncle Ozem, his aunt Hannah, and his cousin John Woodruff. (Woodruff, Journal, 5–18 July 1837; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 19–21.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  9. 9

    See Revelation, 30 Aug. 1831 [D&C 63:58].  

  10. 10

    Phebe Woodruff joined Wilford in Farmington on 16 July. (Woodruff, Journal, 16 July 1837.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  11. 11

    Hale’s journal indicates that he left for Worcester, Massachusetts, on 19 July. He left Worcester on 21 July and took a stage to Lowell; the next day, he moved on to New Rowley. Wilford and Phebe rode a stagecoach to nearby Hartford, Connecticut, on 20 July. Wilford apparently sent Phebe on to Maine on 21 July, while he walked nearly one hundred miles to Lowell, Massachusetts; he met Hale in New Rowley (near Haverhill, Massachusetts) on 23 July. (Woodruff, Journal, 19–23 July 1835; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 23.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  12. 12

    Woodruff and Hale remained in the Haverhill area until 1 August; on that day, they departed for Dover, New Hampshire, and arrived in Saco on 5 August. In Saco, they stayed with Edward Milliken and visited with the family of Milton Holmes. Phebe Woodruff met Wilford in Saco, and the couple proceeded to Scarborough with Hale on 8 August. Woodruff and Hale spent the next week conducting church business in the area; Woodruff also devoted some time to getting to know his in-laws, whom he had not met previously. (Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 20–27; Woodruff, Journal, 1–18 Aug. 1835.)  

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  13. 13

    Hale walked to Portland to visit with his uncle Samuel Hale on 16 August; on 18 August, he briefly returned to Scarborough and then went with Woodruff to Portland. (Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 27; Woodruff, Journal, 18 Aug. 1837.)  

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  14. 14

    Owls Head (then part of the town of Thomaston) is a peninsula on Penobscot Bay with a harbor, roughly five miles southeast of Rockland.  

  15. 15

    Hale’s journal indicates that they “set sail in a small boat in company with 5 other men that ware going East.” (Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 28.)  

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  16. 16

    After arriving on the island, the two men called on Nathaniel Dyer, who “arose from his bed and let us into his house gave us a bed & in the morning gave us some Brakefast & bid us welcome.” (Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 28.)  

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  17. 17

    The Baptist church mentioned by Woodruff stands near the intersection of what are now Crabtree Point Road and School Road, overlooking Pulpit Harbor on North Haven, Maine.  

  18. 18

    The priest referred to here was Gideon J. Newton, pastor of the Baptist church on the north island.  

  19. 19

    Hale’s 3 September journal entry reads, “After meeting I Baptised Capt Justus Eames aged 48 and his wife Betsy Eames these are the first I ever Baptised I must say this was a rejoicing time to us and also to them, as I suppose they are the first that has been Baptised into the new and everlasting covenant on the Islands of the sea.” (Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 34–35.)  

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  20. 20

    On 10 September, Woodruff recorded in his journal, “After meeting I opened a door for baptism, when another Sea Captain offered himself as a candidate, by the name of Ebenezar Eames he was a brother to Capt. Justus Eames . . . a young Lady also offered herself for Baptism.” Hale’s journal entry for the same day clarifies that the young woman’s name was Melannar Eames. A Justus Ames and an Ebenezer Ames Jr. appear in an 1830 census of the island. (Woodruff, Journal, 10 Sept. 1837; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 39; 1830 U.S. Census, Vinalhaven, Hancock Co., ME, 82.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

  21. 21

    On 12 September, Cyrus Sterrett, Phebe Sterrett, and Abigail Farnham were baptized. (Woodruff, Journal, 12 Sept. 1837; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, [40]–[41].)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  22. 22

    Woodruff and Hale referred to this Methodist priest simply as “Mr. Douglass.” In an 1858 account, Woodruff noted that Gideon Newton “had been long at variance with Mr. Douglass, but they became very friendly and united in a war against us.” (Woodruff, Journal, 11 Sept. 1837; Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 40; “History of Wilford Woodruff,” Deseret News, 21 July 1858, 89.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  23. 23

    For more detailed accounts of this encounter, see Woodruff, Journal, 11 Sept. 1837; and Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, 40.  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  24. 24

    Eliza G. Luce was baptized on 17 September 1837. (Hale, Reminiscences and Journal, [42].)  

    Hale, Jonathan H. Reminiscences and Journals, 1837–1840. CHL.

  25. 25

    See 1 Kings 18:21–40.  

  26. 26

    See Daniel 2:34–35; and Revelation, 30 Oct. 1831 [D&C 65].  

  27. 27

    See Isaiah 1:26.  

  28. 28

    See 1 Corinthians 1:27; Isaiah 29:14; and Vision, 16 Feb. 1832 [D&C 76:9].  

  29. 29

    See James 5:4.  

  30. 30

    See Deuteronomy 33:16–17.  

  31. 31

    On the Twelve’s mission to England, see Historical Introduction to Recommendation for Heber C. Kimball, between 2 and 13 June 1837.  

  32. 32

    See Isaiah 54:17 (also in Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 502 [3 Nephi 22:17]); and Minutes and Prayer of Dedication, 27 Mar. 1836 [D&C 109:25].  

  33. 33

    See Jeremiah 51; and Revelation 18:2.  

  34. 34

    In November 1837, Woodruff spent a day and a half on the nearby Isle au Haut (sometimes referred to as Isle of Holt), population 315. There he preached and sold a copy of the Book of Mormon. (Woodruff, Journal, 15 Nov. 1837; 1830 U.S. Census, Isle au Haut, Hancock Co., ME.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

  35. 35

    Apart from Vinalhaven’s approximately 1,800 residents, over 6,000 people lived on the numerous islands of Penobscot, Jericho, Blue Hill, and Frenchman bays. In 1830, the most populous islands, in order, were Mount Desert Island, Deer Isle, the north and south islands of Vinalhaven, Islesboro Island, Isle au Haut, and Swans Island. (1830 U.S. Census, Hancock Co. and Waldo Co., ME.)  

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

  36. 36

    See John 4:35; Matthew 9:37; and Revelation, Feb. 1829 [D&C 4].  

  37. 37

    See Isaiah 62:1.  

  38. 38

    See Revelation 3:11.