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Howells, William - Letter to Orson Pratt - 21 Dec 1849

Aberdare, December 21st, 1849

Dear Brother,--October 7th--I had the pleasure of preaching the gospel to a small congregation, in the number of which where two exalted ladies from Paris--one being the companion of a princess. They desired me to send all the tracts and books, which they intended to purchase. One of the ladies had a son, who believed the priesthood, &c. On replying to one of the various questions put to me, one said, "how strange! that is what my son says."


10th.--Great day at St. Malo, being race day, the thousands present enjoying the sport of seeing the poor breathless horses driven by spur and whip over hurdles, &c.; the multitude being Catholic and Protestant professors of christianity, and it is difficult to say which hates the other most.
11th.--Visited a learned Catholic priest according to invitation. I reasoned with him for some hours, after which he said, "I believe the Bible to be true, because the church gave it me as such, otherswise I should think no more of it than Punch.
12th.--In visiting several families I was informed that a certain gentleman belonging to the missionary society had visited the neighbourhood some time ago, and presented a Catholic family with tracts and a Bible, which were received with great politeness, but before the donor had reached the outskirts of the premises, the tracts and Bible made a fire under the boiler, to the great amusement of the family. The lady who gave me this information saw the family do what I have related, she being present at the time. She questioned them on their conduct, and received for a reply that it was the general plan the Catholics adopted--the Bible and Protestant tracts being forbidden to the laity. The Protestants joined with the Catholics in burning our tracts.
13th.--At a visit to Madame Carteret, met a learned Hebrew scholar, and a rich lady who greatly admired the Voice of Warning, which she bought together with your interesting tracts from 1 to 6. I heard this lady read "M'Ghie's Drama" with so great an effect, that I could scarcely refrain from tears, finding many circumstances narrated there, corresponding with those in connexion with myself. I had frequently the pleasure of being their guest, and on parting, the lady with her companion presented my daughters with several articles as a token of respect, although the great folks of the neighbourhood despised them for granting me leave to enter their hospitable dwelling.
20th.--A learned Catholic of the name of Brown, on the verge of entering into holy orders, and a gentleman named Hansel, a classical scholar and a clergyman of the Church of England, both testified to me "that they could not find any passage in the Book of Mormon contradicting any truth in the Bible."--The opening of a place for preaching the gospel at St. Servan, and the baptising of brother Peddle, caused the persecution to become so warm, that after having remained there near two months, and having ordained our brother to the priesthood, I presented him with a number of the French tracts, and thought it prudent to leave for a short time for Dinan, a town twenty miles off. About this time, Miss Anna Browse introduced me as a Mormon missionary to a countess from Paris, who had just paid her a visit. She listened to the principles of salvation set before her, with apparent interest. The Sunday I baptized Miss Anna Browse, being very cold, all her friends said, "that it would cost her life," but her answer was, "if I lose my life in serving God by obeying his counsel in being baptized for the remission of my sins, I cannot lose it in a better cause." At ten a.m. she entered the water with great courage, in the romantic bay near Chateau du Briond, before the town of St. Malo. The parties who witnessed the baptism, lifted their hands and said "Mon Dieu;" but instead of the death, her neighbours spoke of, she was revived by the spirit of the Almighty, and the disease that had preyed upon her constitution for years, and baffled the power of the physician, was completely eradicated. The pallid cheek from that moment showed the healthy bloom of youth, so much so that all congratulated her, and the report circulated that a ducking in the sea on such a cold morning was a sure cure, but our sister is determined to give God the glory.
22nd.--The following paragraph in the Standard of Freedom newspaper drew my attention. When one of the members of the Wesleyan connexion at Nottingham replied to a question put to him by the preacher, "What do you give to the preacher's fund?" as his reason for giving nothing said, "That he considered the preachers ought to take care of their money, and not spend it in riding in first class carriages, and drinking wine, and dining at splendid hotels." If you allow me to give you an account of my stewardship in this way, you will find that I take good care of my money: good reason why; it is not so easily got, being hitherto part of the little my wife gains in business, which, to save a clerk's salary, she attends to herself, occasionally until the midnight hour. The thousands of miles I have travelled with the scanty sum, caused me to be thankful for a third class carriage, and hope that the various railway companies will set up a fourth class carriage to assist the poor Mormon missionaries of Jesus of Nazareth to reach foreign shores. Wine on the continent is to be bought for seven sous per bottle, so I spent three-pence half penny for wine the first three months I was in France; but thanks be to our kind Master, I had good bread and butter for breakfast, dinner, and supper, and as desert, I generally added an apple or two after dinner, and for the last six months have not felt a moment's sickness.
23rd.--Brother Peddle kindly carried my bag, books, and tracts to the stream packet, leaving for Dinan at seven p.m., distant from St. Malo, twenty miles, up a fine river. In going up to the town from the steamer, in company with an English clergyman of the Established Church, he made the remark, that if I could not get lodgings, it being then late, I should have to return to the packet. I replied that I had been refused permission to remain on deck. The gentleman made no further remark. All the caffés being shut, and the person to whom I had a letter of recommendation having left the place, I had to bend my way to the square, where, at the base of a monument erected in honour of a celebrated person who conquered the English on that spot five hundred years ago, according to the French account, I spent the dark, cold night on the 23rd of October, with my daughter in my arms. Had the gentleman-clergyman taken us as his guests, "forgetting not to entertain strangers," we could have spent the night more happy.
24th.--And two following days, visited sixteen families with tracts and books, and I did not forget the English clergyman, who received the tracts with politeness, and promised to read them.
27th.--Attended the services at the church of the said gentleman, who took for his text Luke xiv, 23; "And the Lord said unto the servant, go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in that my house may be filled." I felt happy, for surely I have been through all the highways, streets, and lanes of the town, and over some hedges, for many miles into the country, compelling all by tracts and testimony to come in, that the Master's house may be filled.
November 7th.--Wrote a letter to the Protestant minister, at Havre, desiring him to correspond with sister Anna Browse. Not understanding the English language she will be able to answer all his enquiries in the French language.
11th.--Sunday morning; in passing one of the Roman Catholic churches, at Dinan, the great folding doors being thrown open, I saw the place crowded with devoted Catholics, as busy as bees at their religious services, called mass, viz., the offering up of the consecrated bread and wine, which are supposed to be changed into the body and blood of Christ, as an expiatory sacrifice for the quick and the dead. Outside, before the said church, in the square, a great multitude, as busy as bees, selling cabbage and other vegetables. The voices of those outside and those inside mingling together--a fine token of the industrious habits of the French, in connexion with the living and the spirits of the dead. The following day, in the same church, a company of soldiers met to say mass and get the blessing of the priest to prosper their military warfare in connexion with the powder and bullet, the sword and bayonet, and also to get their souls saved. The drummers took the lead at the head of the grand procession; the brass band followed, then the priests in their different orders, with white robes, walking two together, guarded by a soldier on each side. They entered the great edifice, drums beating; the priests and officers entered the choir before the altar, the musicians in a circle outside, playing their charming music during the mass. The effect in the great massive temple was truly thrilling. They had many trumpets, and instead of the psaltry they had many drums. The size of the lofty edifice that had its pinacle towering as it were in the clouds, may be guessed by the number of drawings and paintings. I reckoned about thirty, some ten feet long.
16th.--I had the pleasure of visiting the Roman Catholic Seminary, containing eleven tutors, and one hundred and thirty students. The discussion with one of the learned priests, for some hours, on the evenings of the 16th & 17th inst., was truly interesting. The first hour of the second night's discussion was spent in answering questions put to me by M. Lemú, one of the tutors, a gentleman of great courtesy (the general character of the Catholic priests). He bore the plain truths and hard sayings of my sermons with patience, and acted towards me with the greatest politeness, shaking me by the hand at parting, receiving our tracts with thanks, which I believe will be well digested by the learned linguists of the college.
A description of the vast college, an account of the priests chamber, with the nature of the conversation would be interesting, but it would fill a STAR, so I shall postpone it until we meet in our sure dwellings and quiet resting place in Zion's happy land, when from my journal I shall run over the record, of a Latter-day Saint's visit to a Catholic college.
17th.--Visited the jail, a large ponderous tower, built five hundred years ago. Not many prisoners: I spent some time with an Irish gentleman, imprisoned for debt. The law of France authorises the creditor to take the body of a debtor without any previous notice; so that this gentleman was put in jail although his coach and horses, and he testified, were sufficient to pay his whole debt in the place. I sent him some Mormon tracts the following day, for he had been circulating false reports from the prison about our principles.
18th.--Sunday. I visited the Catholic church erected in honor of St. Malo, it being the day set apart in veneration to his memory. The grand ceremony was performed before the thousands present, in the great church, having about twelve altars, lighted with candles nearly six feet long. I reckoned before that of the soirour upwards of one hundred, dazling their lights on the cross, &c.
19th.--Visited Dinan Museum, containing a fine collection of many curiosities in the different departments of art, science, and nature. I also paid Mr. Thompson the fourth visit, according to invitation, a gentleman professing himself to be a disciple of Swedenborg. During the conversation an English clergyman entered. I had to contend with both for some hours, and considering the plain truths set before them without respect of persons, their politeness in parting was truly laudable. Mr. Thompson belived Swedenborg, that a certain part of the word of God was hidden in the earth on plates, and that it should come forth. He particularly desired me to send him a copy of the Book of Mormon.
21st.--Left Dinan for St. Malo, on my return home to visit my family in Wales. Found brother Dunbar, family, and Saints at Jersey, doing well; also brother Stenhouse, and the host of Saints at Southampton.
25th.--Spent a happy day at Bristol, with brother G. Halliday; I had to preach for him, at 6 p.m., to a multitude of the Bristolians, who appeared to enjoy the service.
27th.--Reached home, "sweet home," where I had the pleasure of enjoying the smiles of my family.


Labours.--The distribution of tracts, Spencer's Letters, Voice of Warning, &c. Testifying and preaching from house to house, when an opportunity would be granted--discussing the truth of our principles in connexion with the nature of the kingdom of God, with Protestant clergymen and Catholic priests, and also the laity, comprise the principal part of my labours for the last three months on the continent of France, which I know will not be in vain in the Lord.


Success.I have not as yet reaped a rich harvest, but the few that have entered the kingdom by being "born of water and of the Spirt" have received glorious testimonies of the power of the truth as it is in Jesus. The Master has also said, "the little one shall become a thousand," &c.


Prospects.--The plowshare of truth has pierced the heart--the seed of truth was sown--a few grains immediately sprang up, the fruit appears strong and healthy, proving that the climate soil, (may I say instrument) and seed will soon cause a Mormon market to be established in France, in the very teeth of the gates of hell.
Amongst those whom I have baptized since I have been home, is an intelligent Baptist minister, upwards of 60 years old. He appears already to be a new man, commencing a new life in a new world. To God be all the praise.

With great respect, yours truly,

WILLIAM HOWELLS.

 

Immigrants:

Howells, William

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