The transcript begins with the following explanation: “An account of the Spanish mission by P. P. Pratt.” Pratt had just completed the first Latter-day Saint mission to South America, arriving in Chile in the fall of 1851 and returning to California in March of 1852. He returned to Salt Lake less than two weeks before giving this address.
Salutation after a Long Absence
My brethren and friends, it [is] with extreme pleasure—more [than I] know how to express—that I have the privilege of assembling with you, my old friends and neighbors in this country again, together with many of those that have been gathered since I departed on [a] foreign mission. . . . I make these introductory remarks because, notwithstanding I addressed you last Sunday, it does not answer the fullness of my heart to express those feelings once. I feel as though they were worth expression continually; that it does [me] more good than I can express to behold your faces and behold the spirit and the light and the joy and the faith that is in your hearts [and] expressed in your countenances. It does [me] good to be once more with you, to behold your order and to mingle my spirit with you. It does me good to contemplate your mighty works as a people in this place and to behold the durability and the beauty and the extent of [the] vast amount of [your] efforts; to [see] your labors and cares carried out . . . according to the designs and plans of that spirit that is in our Presidency. It does me good to behold the efforts and industry manifested before our eyes in every direction and in this place and in our [settlements] round about. It cheers every heart.
The Blessing of Preaching the Gospel Abroad
I realize the multiplicity of the cares and the labors which employs the minds of my brethren in the ministry and of the Presidency and those that assist in all the branches of the great work of building up Zion [and] her cities and stakes and holy places; [in] making the preparation and in extending the kingdom abroad. . . . I can contemplate upon the difference between a man’s duty and calling [who] simply has the privilege of going abroad [and] of teaching the first principles, compared with all these complicated cares and labors that draw from the mind and upon the constitution of my brethren. . . . It is a magnificent and good gift that the Lord gave me and my brethren who are called more particularly [to] preach abroad. We appreciate it. We know it is one of [the] most best and joyful gifts. At the same time, we realize that [it] is comparatively an easy labor compared with all the complicated course of building up, gathering together, [to] sustain, preserve and direct the entire affairs [of this people]. . . . Some say to me . . . “You have travelled a great deal. I should think you have traveled enough. I should think [it is] almost time [you] had a little rest and [you should now] send others.” How that [can] be I know not, but there is nothing about it. If I never have any harder task than to spend my days in teaching the first principles of [the] gospel, [and] traveling to do it among [the] nations, I should think I . . . had not [a] very [hard] task compared with my brethren that have [the] other duties that they had. . . . I realize that the lot that falls upon me in traveling abroad to preach the gospel is one of the pleasantest and easiest of all the labors of [the] kingdom.
Vast Size of the Pacific Mission
I thought this morning of occupying a small portion of your time . . . [to] lay before you a little of my individual labors and those with me in fulfilling the mission to the Pacific. It is well known, I presume, to the congregation at large, that some eight [or] ten elders together with myself were sent on [a] mission to the Pacific, without specifying any one particular nation to which [to] go, [and] that to me was given charge of that mission in general. But I presume that very few realized the extent of the field, although they may be tolerably acquainted with geography. . . . I will give you [an] idea of the whole. From one little branch we divided the field as well as [we] could. It is a world [in and] of itself. . . . Brother John Murdock start[ed] in company with another elder to go to easterly [to] those few islands in [the] South Pacific Ocean. We gave him that little portion of [the] field. This consists of New Holland [Australia], a small continent; Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania], perhaps as large as [the] state of New York; and this New Zealand, consisting of out islands, about seven [hundred] miles long and 150 wide; and several other smaller countries of such kind.
[What] we heard from them, was that in all this vast field, they had had time to organize [the] fullness of [the] gospel in one city, and that was its capital. . . . [I]t is one little branch of [a] great field . . . to say nothing of [a] number of islands that extend along in the tropics from east to west several hundreds [of] miles, and to say nothing of [the] Sandwich Islands that are capable perhaps of sustaining a population larger than the state of New York . . . , and when we come [to the] vast field of labor among [the] unnumbered millions [in the] East Indies and China and all the world—[the] Asiatic world—we are lost; for Europe, including the British Islands, are [a] song to it in comparison. The . . . number of human beings and extent of country [can] hardly be [counted]. . . .
We came to that little, small country that might be summed up in name of [the] American coast. That little country . . . extend[s] from Oregon, on [the] Columbia River on the country north, clear down, so southward and southeastward, some 80 [or] 90 degrees of latitude, clear to Cape Horn, some eight or nine thousand mile[s] on a direct line of the sea coast. . . . This little field—as [I have] called the Pacific and the countries bordering on the Pacific—there we started a mission. We [found] room for the eight or ten men went with us, to say nothing of California, which is . . . seven hundred miles long two [hundred] abroad, [and] swarming with human beings of all complexions [and] all countries, and speak almost every language you can understand. On the sea coast city of San Francisco . . . you will see thousands and thousands [of] men of Chinese [descent], as if in [the] cities of Asia, with their own peculiar languages. . . . You will hear the Spanish language, French, German, and the English, and the Chinese, and almost every other language and complexion will be here before you, and in one day perhaps you would associate with people from every one of the remotest corners of [the] earth.
The brethren that went with me . . . took several vessels. Two or three of them [went] to the Sandwich [Hawaiian] Islands [and] are doing well. The natives of these islands are as ready for the gospel as we are to give it to them.
His Conversion to the Book of Mormon and Interest in South America
I went myself with Brother Rufus Allen to vast Spanish America . . . and it is Spanish America and its peculiar . . . people and the field around there that I wish to call your attention to more particularly, and dwell on more fully today. [I] would first draw my attention though to [my] feelings towards that peculiar country. I will tell [you] my brethren, when I was a lad just out of my teens—about 1830—I read a book that was but little known in the world, although now, probably, it is in half [a] dozen [of the] principle languages of the earth, and it was entitled the Book of Mormon, and had many predictions in it that are plain and easy to be understood, and the spirit and power of God bore witness to my heart of their truth. These were, some of them, delivered by angels, some by ancient American prophets (so [we] term them), and some of them were uttered by a mortal being standing upon the earth, clothed upon with mortal flesh and bones, from his own mouth and tongue to thousands of people. Well now, these prophecies interested me I assure you. They made an impression upon my mind [that] never has been effaced. . . . I knew in me [in a way] that [would have] been no stronger if I had seen Jesus Christ in his glorified body and heard [the] same words from his own lips. I could rely on those predictions [and] consequently expect their fulfillment. I weighed every word and sentence over and over again, carefully searching what idea [it] was that was manifested, and how and [in] what manner [to] look for its fulfillment, and soon there was not a sentence predicted in that book pertaining to our time that I hadn't [pored] over, perhaps one hundred time[s], that I might perfectly and fully [understand] it, so far as man could. . . .
Among other things I learned that if the peculiarly favored nation of which I was a member should take a wise course [with] their privileges and feel thankful to God that [it would become] . . . a light above all other nations, in point of lands, elements, privileges, and freedom, and the blessings of knowledge, and last of all endowed above all other [nations] with the fullness of gospel, first introduced to them; that [if] they appreciate these blessings, repent [of their] sins, humble themselves, turn away from priestcrafts, and receive the fullness of [the] gospel and [the] Book of Mormon, then the Lord would establish his church among them, and they should be brought in [to the] same covenant that pertain[s] to the natural branches of Israel, and inherit the same land [forever], and never be brought down into bondage, [and] be a blessed and free people forever. But if on the other hand they should continue in priestcrafts, in abomination[s], and whoredom[s], [and] in all kinds of corruption, and should be filled with all manner of lies and persecution, and of murder and bloodshed, and should reject the fullness of [the] gospel, the Lord would bring the fullness of [the] gospel from among them, and he would remember the down trodden remnant [of] the descendent[s] of Lehi—of Nephi and his brethren—that had been cast . . . off from . . . the covenants of promise, from [the] gospel, [from the] privilege [of the] eternal priesthood [and] favor of heaven, and downtrodden and smitten [and] overrun by [the] gentiles; that he would remember them and bring forth his covenants and [the] fullness of his gospel unto them so then they should rejoice and should know that it was a blessing unto them from the hand of God.
Conversations with Curious Catholics
As soon as I could talk a little broken Spanish, I found [that] people in [the] middle class never tired of talking. They must know every particular thing of my country [and] its institutions. I was simply a traveler, learning the language. . . .
“Well, are you a good Catholic? Oh, you are from [a] Protestant country. Are you a good Protestant?” . . .
“Not great . . . as they don’t believe in purgatory and I do.”
“What? You come from [a] Protestant country and believe in that?”
“Yes, therefore I might not be a Protestant. The Protestants believe that every creature of Adam’s race, when he dies, goes to [hell] with the worst of murderers, to roll through all eternity without any hope; or else, on the other hand, goes to heaven [like] holy Peter, Paul and Mary, to associate there in never ending bliss. This the Protestants believe. I don't, and I believe a great many people have not sufficient knowledge [to] merit ripeness, either good [or] bad, to go to either of these extremes.”
“What then [does God] do with them when [they] die?”
“[They] go to purgatory, a middle place, a prison place of departed spirits. . . . [They] go there [because they] have to be punished, if [they] deserve that justice have [its] course, and they [can] be made better by it, and be taught, and prepared to be delivered and exalted.”
“Why,” says they, “then you are a good Catholic!”
Says I, “You call it purgatory. No matter about [the] name. Our book calls it ‘spirits in prison.’ Suffice [it] to say ‘middle place.’”
Substance of Pratt’s Missionary Message
An angel of God appeared in these last days in [the] United States, and several [have] seen him and conversed with him and heard his voice and bore witness to it, and he has revealed an ancient book that was first written by . . . the old Nephites . . . wherein they had the light and knowledge from heaven, and the book was deposited in [the] earth at [a] time [that] they lost these blessings, and it has laid hid 1,400 years, in which time they have descended in darkness and error, [and been] overrun by foreign powers [and the] yoke of bondage. . . . This book [the] angel revealed, [and] showed [them] where [to] find it, showed them how to translate it and it has been published to the world in English and several other languages, and will soon be in Spanish. . . . [It] contains [the] true doctrine of Jesus Christ, a model of his holy priesthood and church as it was revealed in this country, and . . . through [the] angel’s ministry, a young man, [a] chosen vessel was ordained to [the] holy priesthood [and] restored the fullness of [the] gospel to men, [to] correct [the] biases in Christendom . . . [that] all nations may know how . . . to worship, [and] repent of [their] errors, [and] learn more fully, and be one.
What effect [will] all this have? [I] gave a little history of ourselves, [of the] progress of [the] church . . . so far as [I could] do it in broken Spanish. . . . [They] want to hear more and more on these subjects. . . . We know nothing about fear, because He that gave himself [is] greater than [us] all, and He says, “Go to all the world.” [I am asked], “Didn’t you go out officially [to] open out [the] keys of [the] kingdom to that nation?” . . . No, because I was not fully prepared to do it, neither [did the] spirit of [the] Lord lead me to do it. I had not the language to do [it]. I left [with] sufficient [language skill] to . . . understand . . . freely and defend freely and answer freely, whatever might come. Some of them talked [so] plainly to me that I [could] understand them, but others talked swift and their words sure. [S]ome of them understand [what I] have said, others not at all. Of course [they would] say, “I don’t understand you.”1
The Fulfillment of His Mission
[When asked], “What . . . now is [your] view [of your] mission? Have you fulfilled it?” I just say I have not commenced it. All [I have] done [is] review the field and [I now] know how to commence it. Hereafter, when I sit down to study that language until I am prepared to translate the Book of Mormon . . . and then unlock the door of [the] gospel by the ordinances officially conferred [upon] them and administered among them, and place elders in their own tongue with [the] fullness of [the] gospel in hand. . . . When this preparation is commenced, with [the] book in their hands, in their own hands, I consider the key turned as Joseph turned it in our English. Until then, you consider Brother Parley on [a] Spanish mission.