Missionary Journal Excerpts from Claudius V. Spencer

Previously, I have mentioned the story our mission president, Warren G. Tate, likes to tell about Claudius V. Spencer, who left (reluctantly) on a mission to England in 1850. I was able to secure a copy of part of his journal and some key excerpts are below:



At the April conference, 1850, I felt a presentiment that I might be called on a mission, and kept away from conference until near the close of the last afternoon’s meeting, thinking that if I were not seen, I should, perhaps, not be remembered, and then went to the door, and standing on the outside pressed it open about two inches. Just as I did this a man arose on the stand and said, “It is moved and seconded that Claudius V. Spencer go on a mission to Europe.” I turned as though shot, walked down Main Street saying to myself, “Can it be possible those men have any inspiration to call such a stick for a missionary?” I think if my body and spirit had then been weighed together, I should have pulled the beam at two thousand pounds.

Previous to this time no person had heard me pray or speak in any public meeting.

. . . The most of the company left Salt Lake City on the 19th of April, and those who did not go then overtook us the next morning. We carried the mail by express with ox teams, and delivered it at Council Bluffs on the 4th of July following.

At the time we were set apart Brother Heber forbid us taking either money, watches, rings or chains of gold or silver, but told us to go literally without purse or scrip. For the benefit of the missionaries who now go by rail and frequently in first-class style, I record that the first day out we reached Emigration Canyon, and that night had a severe snow storm. The next morning our cattle were all lost. We divided into parties to find them. The party with which I went trailed some of the cattle towards the city. They wished me to go in, see the folks and help get the cattle back. I said, “No, I will never enter Salt Lake again til I have fulfilled my mission, unless I am carried in dead.”

[He recounts numerous difficulties and privations along their arduous route east, as well as some blessings – including being able to trade their horses, wagons and other gear for better ones to complete the journey. They passed some men traveling west who had been exposed to chlora, and spoke of having to leave the road sometimes to avoid the bodies. He also mentioned how the way they lived and traveled had worn his clothing so that it was in pretty bad condition. Once he got to Albany, NY, he planned to sail down the Hudson to NYC.]

I went aboard a New York steamer and applied for a ticket for passage and state room to that city. The agent looked at me from head to foot and then said that I could not have one, as the boat was chartered by the State, county and city authorities for a pleasure trip. On looking round I saw “U.S. Mail” as a sign on the boat; I laid down the money before the ticket seller and demanded my ticket. After some squirming on his part I got it. On this same day I had the “blues” as I hope never to have them again. I had nearly concluded that there could not be either sense or inspiration in the authorities of the Church sending me to England on a mission, and that when I got to New York City I would go over to my native town where I had some property and quietly settle among my old friends and relatives. So great was the power that the devil had over me that when I first stepped on the boat I drew a chair into the niche by the “figure head” to avoid having conversation with anyone. I had sat there but a few moments when a person came up behind me and remarked that it was a pleasant evening. I made no reply.

“Boat making fine time,” said he.

Still I did not answer. Soon he spoke again, “Are you traveling far, young man?”

I jerked my chair around and answered very spitefully, “I have come a long way and I am going a long way; all the way from Salt Lake to England. Is there anything else you want?” My abruptness had sent him back several feet, and he was looking at me with about as much curiosity as if he were viewing a wild animal.

Very soon he smiled and said, “Yes if you come from Salt Lake there is a good deal more I want.”

He commenced asking questions and soon several more persons gathered around; but just then the dinner bell rang, and they invited me to go to dine, which I did not do, as it seemed to me that I could not have eaten at that time even if it were to save my life. After finishing their repast I was waited upon by three gentlemen, who stated they had engaged the cabin from the captain and wished me to preach. I told them I had never preached in my life. They wanted to know for what I was going to England. I told them to preach. They then wanted to know why I would not preach, in the cabin, my answer being that it was because I was not sent here to preach. We finally compromised the matter by my consenting to go to the cabin and answer questions. The room was so crowded that they could not sit down, but stood around in circles, and took turns asking me questions.

. . . I answered questions until about eleven o’clock at night, when I sprang from my chair and said, “Gentlemen, you have had ‘Mormonism’ enough for one night,” and I started for my room. I was stopped and led back to my chair, when I received a unanimous vote of thanks and the proffer to raise me three hundred dollars if I would accept the amount. I told the gentlemen that we preached the gospel without purse or scrip, and that I had already received enough to take me to England. I selected, however, three reliable men, who promised me to see that the three hundred dollars were given to the poor in their neighborhoods during the next Winter.

I went into my room and prostrated myself with my face on the floor, and thanked God for the gift of the Holy Ghost, for I had most surely talked by inspiration. I asked forgiveness for my unbelief, and from that time I was wholly contented to go to England.
(Labors in the Vineyard: Faith-Promoting Series, no. 12 [Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1884], 14.)

1 comment:

Patti said...

Wow! What a wonderful account!