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Wilford Woodruff


Missionary Letter
dated: Sept. 18, 1837
Apostle Wilford Woodruff and Nathan Hale
From The Elder's Journal, pp. 1-3

     North Lat, 44. Long 69, 10.  Vinalhaven, Fox Islands, Monday, Sept. 18th, 1837.

     To Joseph Smith, Jr. and the Church of Latter day Saints in Kirtland, Greeting:

                                    Dear Saints of God, whom we love of a truth for the truth' sake that dwelleth in you, and we pray God that it may abide with you forever:  As we are called to stand upon the islands of the sea in defense of the truth and for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.  We are under the necessity of making use of our pen, to give you an account of our labors in the ministry since we left Kirtland, as we cannot at present speak to you face to face.  We left Kirtland May 31 and took steamboat at Fairport in company with Elder Milton Holmes to go forth to labor in the vineyard as the Lord should direct.--After calling on the Saints in Jefferson County, New York, we arrived at Sackett's Harbor and took steamboat on the 6th of June for Upper Canada and on the 8th arrived at Brother Artemus Judd's.  And on the 10th, had the happy privilege of sitting in conference with John E. Page, James Blakeslee, and a number of other elders and a large congregation of Saints.  And we were blessed with a very interesting time.  After spending several days with them we took the parting hand with these beloved friends and proceeded on our journey for the east in company with Elder John Goodson and others bound for England.  We took the parting hand with them at Schenectady, and arrived at the Caanan Church in Connecticut, and visited the church a few days.  Here Elder M. Holmes took his departure for Massachusetts and we went to Colebrook, visited different parts of the town and held eight meetings; from thence we went to Canton and held a meeting in the village hall in Collinsville.  As we commenced speaking several began to beat their drums at the doors which made much confusion.  This is the only disturbance we have had since we left Kirtland.  We next visited Avon where we held four meetings and many came out to hear and manifested a spirit of inquiry.  And Elder

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Woodruff had the privilege of leading three of his kinfolk into the waters of baptism.  And had not the spirit called us away to perform a greater work, we should have had no difficulty in establishing a branch of the Church in that place.  A family where we tarried but one night and taught them the things of the kingdom, believed our testimony and after our departure, two of the household followed us 15 miles to receive baptism at our hands, but we were gone and they truly believed it to be a day of warning and not of many words.  We also visited Farmington and held one meeting in the Methodist meeting house, and preached to an attentive congregation who wished to hear more concerning the great work of God.  We left Farmington on the 20th of July for Massachusetts, and after visiting the Bradford church and after preaching several times with them, we proceeded on our journey to Saco, Maine, where we spent several days with the Church and friends.  But duty urging us forward to lift the warning voice to those that had not heard the sound of the gospel, we then went to the city of Portland.  We there took the Steamer Bangor on the 19th of August [1837] to speed us on our way to the islands of the sea.  They landed us at Owls Head at the setting of the sun.  But how to get conveyance to the islands, we knew not.  We retired to a grove and offered up our thanks unto God for his mercies and asked him to open our way before us.  We returned to the inn and soon found some men that were going near the islands that night; they said they would land us if we chose to take passage with them.  W [?] on board; they hoisted [?] us on North Fox Island, Vinalhaven, at 2 o'clock Sunday morning, August 20th.  It was with peculiar feelings and sensations that we began to walk forth upon one of the islands of the sea which was wrapped in the sable shades of night, whose waters had never covered a soul for the remission of their sins after the order of the gospel, and which soil had never before been pressed by the footsteps of an Elder of Israel.  We were strangers, pilgrims, and almost penniless.  But we had

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come on the Lord's business, we believed him faithful that had promised, and we felt willing to trust in His name.  We soon came to a house where we were received and we retired to rest.  We arose in the morning and made ourselves known as servants of the Lord.  We inquired if there was any religion or priests on the island.  We were informed that there was a Baptist priest, a small church and a meeting house at the center of the island.  The town of Vinalhaven includes both North and South Fox Islands, population 1800.  The inhabitants are generally wealthy, intelligent, industrious, generous and hospitable to strangers.  North Island is nine miles long and two miles wide, population 800.  South Island is ten miles long and five miles wide, population 1000, etc.  As it was Sabbath morning, there was to be preached in the meeting house, we concluded to attend considering it a proper place to introduce the gospel. When we arrived at the place, meeting had commenced.  The deacon came to the door and we informed him that we were servants of the Lord, that we had a message for the people and wished to be heard.  The deacon informed the priest that we were preachers of the gospel.  He invited us into the stand and gave out an appointment for us at 5 o'clock p.m.  After the priest had closed his  discourse, he invited us to his house during the intermission.  We presented him the Book of Mormon.  He appeared friendly and said he should like to read it.  We met according to appointment and preached to them the first principles of the gospel.  We then gave out appointments for the four following evenings to be held at the several school houses on the island.  The people came out in great numbers and [??] with attention and manifested [?] and in fourteen days [?].  The Baptist priest [?] his craft was [?] that if he held his peace all Fox Islands would believe on our words.  Accordingly he strove to use his influence against us, but without effect as you may judge on learning the fact that on Sunday the 27th while we met with a congregation, he had not so much as one to meet with him at his usual place of worship, for the excitement was so great that the members of his church and deacon were attending our meet-

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ings and inviting us to visit them and inquiring into these things.  The Lord clothed us with his spirit and we were enabled to stand up and boldly declare those things that are commanded us.  And the sound thereof soon reached the neighboring islands and some of the inhabitants soon hoisted their sails to convey them over the waters to hear the tidings for themselves.  On Sunday, the 3rd of September we preached to a large congregation assembled together from these islands.  At the close of our meeting we opened a door for baptism and a respectable sea captain and his wife offered themselves as candidates.  We then assembled where there was much water and after offering up our prayers unto God, we then led them down into the sea and baptized them and we returned rejoicing.  On Monday following, we visited the South Island to set before them the truths of the everlasting gospel.  We held five meetings; the people came out by hundreds to hear and filled the schoolhouses to overflowing.

     Notwithstanding the anxiety of the people to hear more upon this important subject, yet we were under the necessity of returning to the North Island to attend an appointment on Sunday.  Accordingly we met and preached to the people and opened a door for baptism and another sea captain and a young lady came forward and we repaired to the seashore and baptized them, and on Tuesday following, we administered the ordinance of baptism unto three others.

     A Methodist priest on the South Island, fearing whereunto these things would grow, came over to the island where we were baptizing and made friends with the Baptist priest (like Herod and Pilate) and called a meeting we attended.  The Methodist priest arose and commenced warm hostilities against the Book of Mormon and our principles.  We took minutes of his discourse that we might be correct in answering him.  As he could not bring proof from the word of God against our principles and in order to make an impression upon the minds of his hearers against the work, he took the Book of Mormon in his hand and with an outstretched arm, declared that he feared none of the judgments of God that would come upon him for rejecting that book as the word of God.  When

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he closed his meeting we arose and rectified some of his wide mistakes in his presence before the congregation, and informed the people if they would
meet next Sabbath at the meeting house, we would answer every objection that had been presented against the Book of Mormon and our principles during the meeting.  And last Sabbath we met a congregation of several hundred at the meeting house, assembled together from the different islands and we arose in their midst and redeemed our pledge by answering every objection that had been brought against the Book of Mormon or our principles.  After meeting we repaired to the water and again administered the ordinance of baptism.  The Baptist priest is no less busy than his Methodist brother, for while one is in the pulpit declaring to the people that the principles of the Book of Mormon are sapping the very foundation of our churches and the holy religion, the other is gone over to the mainland calling upon his Baptist brethren, saying come over and help us lest we fall.  But cursed is man that trusteth in man or maketh flesh his arm saith the Lord God.  O ye priests of Baal, your cry is in vain; the God of Israel has set his hand the second time to recover his people.  The stone has begun to roll, and will soon become a mountain and fill the whole earth.  The Lord is calling his church out of the wilderness with her gifts and graces and restoring her judges as at the first.  God hath chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise and with them he will rend your kingdoms that the wisdom of your wise men may perish, and the understanding of your prudent men may be hid.  The cry of the Saints is ascending into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath for Ephraim.  The horns of Joseph are beginning to push the people together.  The apostles of the Lamb of God are bearing the keys of his kingdom on the shores of Europe.  Yea and the mighty captains of the ships at sea are receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ and enjoying its power and the call of many from distant islands has already entered our ears.  O come and preach to us.  We have sent a Book of Mormon over the billows of the great deep to teach those that are at sea.  And the word and work are propelled by the arm of Jehovah.  And the weapon that is

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formed against Zion shall soon be broken.  And he that raises his puny arm against it is fighting against God and shall soon mourn because of his loss.  We say these things are true as God liveth and the spirit beareth record and the record is true and vengeance will be speedily executed upon an evil work in these last days; therefore, O Babylon thy fall is sure.

     Although we have not baptized but few on these islands, yet there are hundreds believing and many are almost ready to enter into the kingdom.  The calls are numerous from the neighboring islands and also from the mainland, for us to come and preach unto them and tell them words whereby they may be saved from the pending judgments that await the world.  There are fifteen or twenty neighboring islands that are inhabited, some of them contain a population of several thousand.  And while the fields are white, we view the harvest great in this country and the laborers few.  And while we are faithfully laboring day and night for the salvation of his people, we ask an interest in your prayers, O ye Saints of the most high God.  O ye elders of Israel will ye not go forth into the vineyard and help wind up the scene of this generation which sits in darkness and in the  shadow of death.  O ye ministers of our God, if we altogether hold our peace at this time, shall we not suffer loss when the Lord raises up deliverance unto Israel.  But for Zion's sake let us not hold our peace, and for Jerusalem's sake let us not rest until the light thereof go forth as brightness and salvation as a lamp that burneth.

     That we all may keep the patience and faith of the Saints and see that no man take our crown, is the prayer of your brethren in the Lord Jesus.

                        WILFORD WOODRUFF,
                        JONATHAN H. HALE.