Transcript for Andrew Jenson, "East Indian Mission," Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Co., 1941), 205-07
EAST INDIAN MISSION (The) comprised the great empire of India. The total area of India, embraced in the Indian states and agencies, is 1,802,629 square miles, and the total population in 1930 was 318,942,480, of whom 22 per cent lived in the Feudatory States. Central and southern India consists of a great undulating plain with an average elevation of about 3,000 feet. On the north, this plain terminates in the Himalaya Mountains, the highest mountain range in the world, which includes Mt. Everest, 29,002 feet, and many other mountains over 25,000 feet. The principal rivers are the Ganges and Indus, both having their source in the Himalayas. The range of temperature is rather wide. In the plains the heat is very great throughout the year, but equable. On the plateaus the heat is tempered by the altitude. Monsoons (periodical winds) exercise a marked effect upon the country, bringing on the wet season in summer, and the dry season during the late fall and winter. The supreme executive authority is vested in the Viceroy, representing the British Sovereign. The legislature, comprising the Council of State and Legislative Assembly, both partly elective, has a limited authority. The Feudatory States are governed by their own princes, ministers, or councils, except for restrictions safeguarding the authority of the Supreme Government.
Agriculture is the chief industry of India, rice being cultivated to a far greater extent than any other crop, although wheat, millet and pulse are raised. Large crops of cotton, linseed, rape and mustard, sesame, groundnut, sugarcane, jute indigo, tea and tobacco are also grown. Stock raising is important and hides and skins are exported. The forests of British India occupy 249,504 square miles. The leading minerals are coal, petroleum, gold, manganese ore, salt, saltpeter, tin and jadestone. Cotton and jute weaving are the largest manufacturing industries. Wool, silk, shawls, carpets, wood-carving, metal-working, sugar, lumber and paper are also of importance.
Thomas Metcalf, a private of the 9th Regiment of the British Army in India, having by chance obtained a L. D. S. tract (Divine Authority by Orson Pratt) wrote to the L. D. S. mission office at Liverpool, England, asking for additional literature of the Church, which request was promptly complied with.
Benjamin Richey and George Barber, two sailor boys who had been baptized in London Dec. 27, 1849, by Elder Henry Savage, visited Calcutta early in 1850, and had conversations with a number of people concerning Mormonism; they also attended meetings with the Plymouth Brethren, among whom were James P. Meik and others who became interested in Mormonism. When Brothers Richey and Barber returned to England later in 1850, they purchased a number of books and pamphlets treating on the principles of the gospel and sent them, by ship, back to their friends in Calcutta, who in the meantime, had also written to Franklin D. Richards in England for Church literature.
In the beginning of 1851, Bro. Joseph Richards, a sail-maker, employed on the ship "Gloriosa", was ordained an Elder by Geo. B. Wallace and authorized to preach the gospel in India and administer in its ordinances. He arrived in Calcutta later the same year and immediately delivered his message to the Plymouth Brethren in Calcutta. On June 22, 1851, he baptized James Patrick Meik, Mary Ann Meik, Matthew McCune and Maurice White. These were the first baptisms administered by divine authority in Asia in this dispensation.
A branch of the Church was organized in Calcutta, called the "Wanderers Branch", and the three brethren mentioned were ordained to the Priesthood by Joseph Richards and set apart to labor as missionaries in India. The following Sunday (June 29, 1851), Maurice White, who had formerly been a Scripture reader, was appointed to preside over the little branch by Joseph Richards, who soon afterwards left for England. On Oct. 5, 1851, Pres. White baptized a native Christian woman by the name of Anna, and on Oct. 14 of the same year, he baptized John Grundy and wife. This increased the membership of the little branch to seven souls. Soon afterwards Maurice White left for England.
Elder Lorenzo Snow, who was opening up a mission in Switzerland and Italy in 1850, concluded to extend his missionary operations to India, and therefore called Elder Wm. Willis of the London Conference and Elder Hugh Findlay, also of the British Mission, to go to India as missionaries. Bro. Willis (who had labored as a missionary in England) sailed from London Sept. 2, 1851, and arrived in Calcutta Dec. 25, 1851. On his arrival there he found that Elders Joseph Richards and Maurice White had sailed for England and there were only six members of the Church in Calcutta. At a meeting held at the residence of Bro. Meik at Acra Farm Dec. 28, 1851, it was decided to hold meetings regularly at Bro. Meik's residence at 2 1/2 Juan Bazaar St., in Calcutta, and at Matthew McCune's residence in Cooley Bazaar. Bro. Willis baptized Joseph Sutton the same evening. Bro. Meik, who was a builder and architect, soon afterwards built a lecture hall, 17 by 47 feet, in which meetings were held.
In March, 1852, the Church in Calcutta consisted of 32 members, namely, 12 Europeans and 20 natives. (See Mar. 24, 1852, History of The East Indian Mission.) At that time some of the Church pamphlets were being translated into the Hindoostanee language and baptisms were frequent.
Of the natives who were baptized in India only a few remained members of the Church in good standing. When they discovered that there was no monetary advantage to be gained by joining the Mormons they returned to their former associates, affiliating with other "Christian" denominations. Most of the whites who were baptized in India became valiant in the Church, some of them rising to prominence in Church activities in America. The principal part of the missionary work done by the Elders took place in Calcutta, but after the arrival of Nathaniel V. Jones and company in 1853 missionary labors were extended to Madras, Bombay, Rangoon, Karatchi, Poona, and other places, and small branches of the Church were organized in Bombay, Madras, Poona, and other places. Elder A. Milton Musser labored 19 months in the province of Sinde, where he erected a small meeting house and delivered lectures. But, generally speaking, the preaching of the gospel by L. D. S. Elders in India was never successful.
With the return of the Utah Elders in 1858, the mission work there came to a standstill, especially after Elder James P. Meik, one of the first converts to Mormonism in India, emigrated to Zion in 1869, together with other saints. A few members of the Church, however, still remained in India, among whom were Elder James Mills, who in October, 1879, reported that of the 14 members which constituted the numerical strength of the Madras Branch organized in 1854, six had died, four were in poor standing, two had become quite indifferent, and only three, namely, Elder James Mills (then an aged man) and two sisters remained faithful members of the Church up to that time.
In 1884 William Willis, Henry F. McCune, Milson R. Pratt and George H. Booth were called to labor as missionaries in India and endeavored to reopen missionary activities there. These brethren arrived in Calcutta Aug. 1, 1884. By them a few people were baptized, but the mission was not a success.
William Willis, who had gone to Burmah, left that place Dec. 12, 1884, returning to his home in Utah, leaving Milson R. Pratt and Henry F. McCune at Molmain, Burmah. These two young missionaries remained at Burmah about three months longer, preaching and distributing tracts, until their message was generally rejected by the people, and having in the meantime been appointed to labor in New Zealand, they sailed from Calcutta June 10, 1885, for that country.
Dr. Geo. Henry Booth returned to Utah in 1888, which practically ended the East Indian Mission; yet a few members of the Church were still left in India, and a branch of the Church existed in August, 1903, at Karachi, Sinde, presided over by Robert Marshall. Under date of Dec. 7, 1903, John H. Cooper, who had been appointed president of the East Indian Mission, wrote to Pres. Joseph F. Smith in Salt Lake City that he had arrived at Karachi June 25, 1902, and had been kindly received by Robert Marshall and his family, and soon afterwards the sons of Robt. Marshall (William, John and Charles Augustus) and other members of the family were baptized. When Elder Cooper left Karachi in 1903 the branch consisted of 8 brethren, 5 sisters and 4 children, all zealous workers and tithe-payers and observers of the Word of Wisdom.