Letter to Samuel W. Richards, dated Oct. 26, 1854, at Swansea. (Vol 16:766-768)
General Condition of the Work--Extensive Tract distributing--Good Prospects--Opposition, Mobbing, and Violence.
Udgorn Seion Office, Swansea, October 26, 1854.
Dear Brother--In accordance with your request through the Star, to be advised of the state of the work of God amongst the various nations over which you have the high honour to preside, I embrace this opportunity to inform you of the general features of the Church in Wales.
During the summer season the Priesthood have been diligent in out-of-door preaching, and have had more numerous and attentive audiences than heretofore; "camp meetings" have been the order of the season, especially where much opposition has been presented; and the combined influence of the Saints so assembled has never failed so far to move the prejudice, storm the strongest ramparts, and win conquest to the kingdom of God.
The weaker Conferences have been much strengthened by the aid of Elders and Priests from the stronger, who, together with many "volunteers" labouring in new grounds, sustained principally by tracts, have done much towards the spread of the Gospel; and I am pleased to see, by the renewed vigour of the officers generally, that they realise their responsibilities, and the importance of faithfully warning their fellow beings of impending dangers.
You can anticipate our future prospects of success when I say, what I have not been able to say so unexceptionably heretofore, that officers and Saints are united, so far as I know; and I have had the pleasure of visiting the majority of the Conferences of late; everywhere the Saints evince an increasing desire to excel in living their professions, which to me is a certain forerunner of paramount success.
Now, the weather being unfavourable to out-door preaching, the brethren manifest no less zeal to water the seed so profusely sown, by distributing tracts from house to house and selling them to the world, each having his sphere appointed him weekly; and truly it does the Saints, as well as the world, much good, because, as they say, the Lord blesses them with his Spirit abundantly in so doing. So that "Mormonism," so far from being in a dying or dead state, as many have flattered themselves, is humming about the ears of the priests and people, who feel quite alarmed already, and admit that this "imposture" threatens to be more dangerous than ever. You would be pleased to see the diligence of the Saints, in following the tracks of the clergy, priests, and Scripture readers, and all sorts of pedlars, with "Replies" to the falsehoods which they spread abroad, sometimes meeting in the same house, and then I leave you to judge who finds the door first! Truly their zeal is worthy of a better cause. But through the blessings of Him who owns the work, all their efforts are abortive to retard its onward march. The capital which the priests make of the "plurality" has prevented the people investigating heretofore, although it has had a salutary influence upon the Saints, and it is getting old and forgotten by the world gradulally.
Baptisms have not been as numerous as we expect them to be shortly, although a few individuals are still being baptized everywehre. I will merely recite one out of many instances--even in Merthyr, the place where the very stones might have denounced a Gospel-hardened race, the seed is sprouting like a tulip bed after a summer's shower--seventeen baptized and twenty backsliders returning in one Branch in one week. That most popular of preachers--the Cholera, which has swept off hundreds in that vicinity of late, may have contributed some to accomplish the above; but I am glad to learn, that out of the many attacked by that "king of terrors," no Saints have died there, and only two or three have I heard of elsewhre, the ordinance being their only antidote.
In regard to myself, I never did feel a greater desire to further the purposes of God, so far as I understand them, nor more pleasure in it; I never fancied that I could do much, but my mite is as willing as the much of my brethren. My counsellors--elders Jeremy and Daniels, are very efficient and zealous men, of one heart and soul with myslef in all things, and they are a great blessing to the Saints. May the Lord bless them for it.
I have lately published upwards of 50,000 Welsh tracts on the first principles, "Replies," and "Invitations," with the addresses, time of preaching, &c., for every Branch of note throughout the Principality, nearly all of which are in circulation, at the lowest rates, besides other Welsh tracts previously on hand, and a fair proportion of English, so that taking all into consideration we have a reasonable prospect for success when the spirit of truth accompanies them home to the honest heart. The problem is solved, that tract distributing, so far from augmenting, is the best method of liquidating "old book debts," by winning new co-workers to that, as well as to every other laudable work; proving the force of the expression of one of old--"He which soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly;" whereas, the libereal mind deviseth liberal means, and by his liberality shall he live.
The old debts have been considered quite an impediment to the progress of the work in all the Conferences, but I am pleased that, of late, a new era has dawned upon us in that respect, by the abundant blessings manifestly poured upon the faithful minority in proportion to their exertions in paying the debts, so that by far the majority are now convinced that the Lord pays better interest on their loans than they had conceived of; nor is it new or strange to hear them detail in the meetings how the Lord has repaid them for "days' work" contributed, but the fact engenders faith in Him and in His promises, in proportion to its use.
Without particularizing on incidents, you will be able, by the above representation, to delineate the general features of the work in Wales at the present time; and while your superior judgment may deliberate over the scene, that the Spirit of inspiration may dictate amendments, alterations, new means, or anything, anyhow, to give the gospel a greater impetus in our midst, is the heart's desire of him who has no higher ambition.
I will detain you to state one instance, which occurred lately, to show the rage of the adversary, and you may have a suggestion on the subject.
While two Elders were preaching in Caermarthenshire a few Sundays ago, a gang of thirty or forty, led on by a tavern keeper, commenced shouting and hallooing, professedly to drown the voice of the brother who was preaching. Their lungs failing before they accomplished their object, the stones came next; one struck the other brother in the face, until his blood was steraming; others whizzing by their heads, failed to dislodge them so the mobs rushed upon them, forced them to flee, and pursued them for a long way, until one succeeded in gaining the woods; the other was knocked down by a stone, and brutally kicked while bleeding on othe ground, the timely aid of a generous stranger saving his life, when they had pronounced him dead. The strangeer carrierd him to a house, and he so far recovered as to be able to ride back with a guard next day to detect the mob, when the tavern keeper openly avowed the deed, and declared that "the next time, instead of stones they would use guns;" and he subsequently, when arraigned before the authorities, reiterated the threat with impunity, and without the least prohibition, fine, or censure on their part. The highest dignitaries have written abusive letters to our attorney for defending the brethren. These are the third and fourth Elders whom this man has attempted to murder; one, an old man over sixty years of age, was struck down by a stone hitting him on the head, thrown by this same villain, a year ago, abused, and left for
dead. When he recovered so as to be able to prosecute him, the Court fined the defendant 6d! The plaintiff had the costs to pay, and had a severe reprimand for preaching, with threats if he continued. Another Elder, having called at this fellow's house on business, he came in with a club, and beat him so brutally that he barely escaped with his life.
There are those in that vicinity who believe, and some desire baptism, but this roaring lion threatens the life of any Saint he meets, and we can get no protection. But I have probably written enough these busy times, hoping this long history will remind you of that long letter promised me long ago.
With congratulation oupon your safe return, and continual prayer for you in every good, and with my kind respects to yourself, to President Spencer, if there (heaven alone can reward him of the good he has done here--universally and deservedly beloved and esteemed), also to the brotherhood in the Office, I bring my epistle to a close.
From your brother in the Covenant,