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Howells, William - Letter to Orson Pratt - 7 Apr 1850

Boulogne-sur-mer, April 7, 1850

Dear Brother Pratt,--I left Aberdare on the 9th of February last, at 8 a.m., for France. I found it hard to part with my young family, my wife turned from me and wept; we could not get the parting farewell for some time.


Feb. 12th.--Reached Boulogne by 11 a.m. Took lodgings with a Wesleyan family in the Grande Rue. Had a conversation with the family, and a Mr. Howe, in the evening. Did not inform them that I was a Latter-day Saint. All kind,--invited also to take tea with them.
Feb. 13th.--After having got my luggage and tracts from the Custom House, I visited the English consul, post office, libraries, newspaper offices, &c., with tracts; kindly received by all, with two exceptions.
Feb. 14th.--Cold and wet. Five families took in the tracts called "The Kingdom of God," two refused. Having returned from the preaching service at the Wesleyan Chapel by the minister, Mr. Cleane, my landlord, Mr. Gregory, asked me some religious questions, and soon found out my character. After the joke was over, his wife told me that she had a sister and her husband, both members of the church of Latter-day Saints, who formerly lived at Nauvoo, but that they now reside in the valley of the Salt Lake; that she had received letters from her sister, stating that she had been delivered from sickness by the power of God, through the laying on of hands; and sincerely desiring her and Mr. Gregory, her husband, to become members.
Feb. 18th.--Several families took in tracts. I presented the French Protestant minister of the reformed church, with tracts, from number one to six. He received the present with thanks. A lady, in the evening, sent to beg of me to come and cure her consumptive daughter, who was in a dying state. I sent her "The Kingdom of God," so that she may know the plan and terms of Jesus, the never failing physician of both soul and body.
Feb. 22th.--Visited upwards of twenty English families. I do not number some hundreds of French families I have visited, as I give the small French tracts as presents; they are received almost without exception, with great kindness.
Feb. 23th.--Received a letter from my family, containing the glorious news, that brother J. Taylor, C. E. Bolton, and John Pack, are coming to France. I wept with joy for some time, and called upon my soul to magnify the Lord for having mercy upon France.
Feb. 27th.--In calling to exchange the tracts, one gentleman said, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself in bringing such blasphemous stuff to my house, I have burnt them. Yes, you know what would become of you if you were in England, &c." Another said, "The maid took them to light the fire." Another, "The boys have tore them up," &c., &c.
Feb. 28th.--The Interpreter newspaper, contained the following notice in English and French. "It seems we have been lately favoured with the visit of a Mormon prophet here, who has taken up his abode in Grande Rue. We fear that the poor fellow's chance of success is very faint indeed, as, although he has been now resident nearly a fortnight, during the course of which he has had several controversies (in all of which it is needless to say, he has been worsted;) he has not yet succeeded in making a single convert." You have made a mistake, Mr. Editor. The Mormon doctrines cannot be worsted. And there are families already here, who have believed the gospel.
March 1st.--In distributing tracts in Capicure, I succeeded in getting a room just in the centre of the lower town, to preach the gospel on Sundays.
March 3rd.--Sunday. Paid Mr. Viett a visit. His wife told me that ladies had been with her, speaking of the false principles the Mormons had; having a plurality of wives, &c. "But," said she, "I told them that I could not believe them, for the gentleman laid his hands upon his boy when very ill, and in answer to his prayer, from that moment he has been healed." There were seven present at our preaching services. The house I preached in belongs to a Frenchman, and some English had been telling his wife, of the various curses that would follow, if they consented that I should preach in their house, and that I should surely strike the family blind. Even the little children were afraid. But instead of being blinded, they commence testifying that they begin to see better than ever. There were present at the first sermon preached at Boulogne, French, English, Scotch, German, and Welsh. All shook hands at the end of the service, and if an unity of faith had just commenced its harmonious career on the continent.
Love of theatres, and amusements of all kinds, is the besetting sin of all classes in France. As a people, their cheerfulness under all circumstances is truly wonderful, you see hilarity in every step, all life and animation. As a learned author lately said, "there is so much of mercurial in their manner, and of cheerfulness in their countenances, that you at once set them down, as the happiest race of beings on the earth. No care appears to cloud a Frenchman's brow; happen what will, his cheerfulness never forsakes him. Place a rope round his neck, or even shew him the guillotine which is about to operate upon him, still you see an expression of cheerfulness in his face."
March 11th.--Went to the family where I preach on Sundays, and engaged the room for five weeks, by paying before hand, lest the enemy through bribes should get the place shut up against me. I also visited with tracts the hamlets of Bedouatre, Blanc Pignon, and Huplandre, on the St. Omer road.
March 12th.--I paid Portel a visit, a maratime village, inhabited by about 1,800 fishermen. A fine place for a branch of the church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints, so that the honest in heart may be called by God, and have authority to go and fish men in the great French-pond, containing upwards of thirty-three millions of inhabitants.
March 18th.--In visiting families in town, a Catholic priest saw me entering Mr. Viett's house; he followed me in, and asked me several questions. I had a fine opportunity of preaching the gospel to the gentleman, who received all well, and shook me by the hand in parting. Some of the protestants are so very holy, that after I have made known the doctrine of salvation to them, they refuse to shake hands with me in parting, they say "No," and shake their heads.
March 29th.--It appears by a letter I have received from sister Anne Browse, St. Malo, that she is getting on very well in that part of Brittany. Bearing her testimony with undaunted courage to friends and foes.
April 5th.--I had to preach the gospel to a Welsh congregation in the "Iaith Gymraeg." I have also engaged to preach again to the same Welsh sailors next Sunday. At the book-stall, I saw a neat pocket testament, in the French language, I enquired the price, and was told two sous, so, I gave the lady one penny, and had not the conscience to offer less.
April 6th, 1830.--The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was organized on the continent of America, containing six members.
April 6th, 1850.--I had the pleasure of organizing a branch of the same church on the continent of Europe, containing six members. To be called the "Boulogne-Sur-Mer branch of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," under the presidency at Liverpool. I had also the pleasure of ordaining brother G. Vielt to be a priest, to preach the gospel in the French language. He is worthy, for he took up the cross without "conferring with flesh and blood," although he knew not when he should lose his situation as a teacher of languages in the public school. His children were brought to me (after the organization of the branch) to lay hands upon them, and bless them in the name of Jesus, and oil to be consecrated for the use of the family; I also laid hands upon the sick, and anointed them with oil in the name of the Lord. "Who will despise the day of small things?"

With kind respects, your brother in the Lord,

WILLIAM HOWELLS.

 

Immigrants:

Howells, William

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