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THE FIRST MISSION TO THE WEST
The general conference of 1863 at Amboy, Lee County, Illinois, originated another important mission of the church. Two men were sent to carry the message of the reorganization of the church with Young Joseph at its head, to their brethren in the West, notably Utah, Nevada, and California. The difficulties to be met were even greater than those faced in foreign fields.
The motion as it passed the conference read: "Moved, that E. C. Briggs and C. G. McIntosh prosecute a mission to Utah, Nevada Territory, and California."
On the 21st of April, with a promptness that was a credit to the earliest days of church missionary fervor, Edmund C. Briggs left the vicinity of Plano to "fulfill" his western mission. He expected three or four elders to accompany him and "co-operate with him in his mission."1
Evidently but one went, Alexander McCord. The western Iowa district aided liberally in outfitting the Utah missionaries who, with a team of mules and a light spring wagon, made the distance of eleven hundred miles to Salt Lake City. Briggs writes of the opening days of his mission in Utah:
We arrived here on the 7th inst. [August, 1863]. We had a pleasant trip, though tedious and lonely, over the bleak and dry sandy plains. We came most of the way alone and without fear of danger, though reports of danger were all the time brought to us. At Fort Bridger we were required to take the oath of allegiance to the Government of the United States of America, which we willingly did, and on our arrival here we at once drove up to . . . Brigham Young's house. His clerks told me he was not at home. We then put up at the Mansion House, kept by Mr. Tuft and his mother, a widow, who treated us kindly, and on Tuesday, 11th inst., we had an interview with Brigham Young. . . . I at once introduced the subject of our presence, and under whose directions we came, and what we expected to accomplish by coming, and with all I bore testimony of the sure calling and true standing of President and Prophet Joseph Smith, the son of the Martyr. He said he knew more of that family than they knew of themselves, that Emma is a "wicked, wicked, wicked" woman and always was, that Joseph is acting under the influence of his mother, that she is at the bottom of this work, and our mission here, that the heavens have nothing to do with that family at the present, but they shall be felt after in time, but they are under the influence of the Devil now; that all Joseph wants is to associate with the murderers of his father, etc. He said, "I do not want any of your preaching here or your doctrine, and I will immediately write and advertise you and warn the people not to receive you or your doctrine into their houses, and while I have influence over the Bowery you can't hold meetings."
And then he threw out some intimidations to us, and gave us to understand we should be watched, that he wanted us to be gentlemen, and other low insinuations. We then told him we had come to do good, and that we were not in the least daunted or fearful, though intimidations had been thrown out at us before since we arrived here by him and his adherents, etc. We then bid him good day, and since then all manner of stories are afloat against us. Every crime you can think of we are charged with, and I suppose some of the people believe them, but we console ourselves without noticing them enough to contradict them, with the blessed promises of our dear Saviour, who said, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake."2
The first appointment for meeting in the territory was given out for Sunday, August 23, at the residence of Honorable Judge Waite, who opened his house to Brother Briggs's services whenever he wished to hold meetings. Most of his work, however, was done in house-to-house visiting among true friends in the territory, many of whom he found hated the prevailing evils of that place more than ever he could, never having experienced them.
Soon after, Alexander McCord went to Ogden, from whence he returned by the middle of October with the report that he had baptized three in Ogden, all members of the church in Joseph's time-John Taylor, who had joined the church in Missouri in 1831, his wife, and Stephen Maloney. In writing to the Herald on October 15, E. C. Briggs says:
I can only say now, our prospects are glorious at present of doing a great work here in restoring this people back to God, from whom they have strayed in the dark and cloudy day, and to obedience to the laws of the land which they have so ingloriously denounced heretofore. I hear good news from all parts of the territory.
We have baptized now about twenty in all, and many more are with us in faith. The Saints here feel to rejoice with unspeakable joy, inasmuch as the Lord has visited them again with the gifts of the gospel, and with that peace of mind or love that casteth out all fear.3
Five days later, on the 20th of October, in a long letter telling of his success there, Briggs wrote:
I write to inform you that the work is prospering here, equal to any expectation I have ever had.4
One of those he had converted and rebaptized, George P. Dykes was sent on to California, where by the following spring over fifty-five people had been baptized and six branches formed: Sacramento, with Cornelius Bagnell as president; San Francisco, T. J. Andrews; Folsom, Jeremiah Thomas; Dry Creek, Thomas Phillips; and Watsonville, George Adams; while three missionaries were in the field. Dykes had gone to Nevada, leaving E. H. Webb and Henry H. Morgan, son of John H. Morgan of Lydney, England, to carry on in California.
When E. C. Briggs arrived in California by October 6, 1864, he found a thriving church of three hundred and fifty-seven members waiting for him. The semiannual conference convened on that date (the California Saints having a different conference because of their distance from headquarters), and in the names of elders reporting are found many who later became well known in the history of the church: E. C. Brand, T. J. Andrew, H. V. Moore, Joseph Outhouse, Jonathan Newman, Nathaniel Booth,---Freeman, E. H. Webb, Harvey G. Whitlock, Glaud Rodger, H. H. Morgan, Cornelius Bagnell, W. H. Wilson, Hiram Falk, G. W. Oman, O. T. Davis,---Wycoff Abednego Johns, William Potter, Henry Burgess, Aaron Garlick, George Adams, and George P. Dykes.
Many of these were members of the church in the days of Joseph and had come around Cape Horn in the good ship "Brooklyn," or had escaped from Utah and fled to California. During the summer, branches had been organized at Petaluma, Brighton, El Monte, San Bernardino, Alameda, and Stockton. Three seventies were ordained at this conference, Glaud Rodger, Abednego Johns, and H. H. Morgan. A branch was organized in Nevada. Work on the Pacific Slope was set to go forward.
The 12th of December came, and still "not a single hall, or commodious house" was to be procured in all Utah for the purpose of preaching the original doctrines of the church and advocating the succession of Joseph Smith III. Notwithstanding this undoubted drawback, Elder Briggs felt to rejoice over the "triumph of our glorious cause in this desert and salt land." Those who did open their homes to him were beginning to feel the cruel mandate of ostracism, or even drastic measures of excommunication. Eighteen, at least, had been "cut off" from the dominant church there, some for entertaining the missionaries, some for attending meetings, and some for merely reading the Herald. In spite of all such difficulties, says E. C. Briggs, "our glorious cause is onward with intense rapidity, despite these oppositions and curses."
At length, on January 26, 1864, the first branch composed of thirty-nine members was organized in Salt Lake City, to be called the Great Salt Lake City Branch. On April 6, the first conference convened, and Utah was divided into three districts, northern, central, and southern. The Salt Lake City Branch by this time numbered one hundred, Provo fifty-two, and Ogden thirty.
In time reinforcements arrived on July 21 in the persons of Daniel B. Harrington and C. G. McIntosh and wife. Alexander McCord started for the East on August 5. A vigorous campaign was begun against the so-called apostates. The property of the Saints was threatened, in many cases even destroyed, and the terrible experiences of the newly converted members then residing in Utah were so appalling that they might well be discredited were they not authenticated by unimpeachable testimony. Such was the feeling against them that they were no sooner baptized into the Reorganization than they began to plan to go either to the East or to California. Many times their previous experiences had already bred in them such hatred of the place that they could not endure the thought of remaining longer than was absolutely necessary. A large company of them, fearful to remain in Utah after the United States soldiers left, went with them under military protection. The result was that for many years the work was hindered in Utah by reason of the immediate migration of all newly baptized members.
These unfortunate conditions ceased to exist in Utah many years ago, and while the membership of the two factions still feel the aftermath of the bitter feelings of past years, and differences of doctrine exist which can probably never be bridged, a feeling of tolerance has grown upon both sides which should be cultivated insofar as is possible without compromise of the convictions of either.
The church has always maintained a mission in Utah, and although the success of early years, when the missionaries found a congregation almost ready made, has not been repeated, there has always been a substantial gain through the Utah Mission.
1 The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Volume 3, page 231.
2 The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Volume 4, pages 89, 90.
3 The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Volume 4, pages 123, 124.
4 Ibid page 146.
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