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General Conference Bulletin, vol. 1

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    J. E. GRAHAM

    (Discourse Wednesday evening, Feb. 27, 1895.)

    I will read a few verses from the 107th psalm to begin our lesson:—GCB March 4, 1895, page 450.3

    Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble; ..... So he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!GCB March 4, 1895, page 450.4

    This scripture which I have read this evening came with greater force to my soul than ever before when on the seventeenth day of last June, just at evening, we found ourselves with a company of eighteen passengers and a crew of nine men on board our missionary vessel “Pitcairn,” and were leaving our native land for the islands of the sea. When the shadows of night drew around us, we felt a sense of our helplessness and of our dependence upon God, as we found ourselves upon the verge of that great expanse of waters. As the storm arose and the vessel heaved, we felt truly that it puts men at their wit’s end; but we had the assurance that the Lord would be with us, so we felt safe. I have a testimony which the Lord in his goodness gave for the encouragement of his children who were to sail on the “Pitcairn,” and I will read something from it, so that you may see that the Lord gave us encouragement, not only through the Bible, but also through the Testimonies.GCB March 4, 1895, page 450.5

    “Very many men, women, and children have invested their mites, and offered their prayers for the safety of this ship as she rides upon the treacherous ocean.” And then again: “It is a wonderful thing to be remembered and cared for every hour by God...... Let every one on the vessel realize that he is under the protection of God.” These were words of great comfort to us. And then again: “He will give strength to every believing, trusting soul. Keep Christ with you in the vessel, and you will be safe. The ship may be tossed on the white-capped billows ever so fiercely, the restless sea may heave and the waves roll beneath her; yet Jesus is on board.” I can assure you, dear brethren and sisters and friends, that many times we referred to this precious message from the Lord, and drew much comfort from it. We felt that if we could only keep Jesus on board, all would be well, and that he would indeed bring us again to our desired haven.GCB March 4, 1895, page 450.6

    Now I will briefly describe to you the course that was taken by the vessel. The first point that we desired to reach was Pitcairn Island, which is four thousand miles almost directly south from San Francisco. On the thirtieth day after leaving port, we sighted Pitcairn Island, the first land that we had seen since leaving home; and I can assure you that it was a sight that gladdened our eyes. We had a very pleasant voyage, but some of the company on account of the seasickness experienced, could not say that. As we approached the island, just before sundown, the wind was blowing from the northeast. Bounty Bay being on the northeast side of the island, the landing place would be rough. Brother McCoy, his daughter and sister Maud Young, were with us on the vessel, and of course, understood the conditions there, and they said it would be out of the question for us to make the landing in the regular landing-place, and they questioned very much if the islanders would be able to launch their boats to come to the vessel. But as we looked toward the shore, we could see a little black speck rise on the crest of the waves. It would appear in sight, and then disappear in the trough of the sea; but finally it reached us. It was a boat from the island. They had brought some fresh fruits, knowing that we would appreciate them after our long voyage.GCB March 4, 1895, page 450.7

    As they came near, they began throwing oranges on board the vessel, and these were accepted gratefully, and some of the people on the boat scarcely waited to get the peeling from the oranges before eating them. The men in the boat said they could not make a landing at the regular landing place, but that there was another place on the north side of the island where we could land some of the passengers. This place was about a mile from the village, and in order to reach the village, they would have to climb a high hill. But the first installment of the voyage was enough for most of us, and we desired to get on solid footing once more, so were glad to land at any place. I went ashore with the second load, and we were safely landed at the foot of a great hill, against which the waves were rolling; and there was only a very small protection from the sea. When we got on shore, it appeared to be moving nearly as much as the vessel did; but there was a good company of the brethren and sisters of the island at the landing-place, and the strong young men and women took hold of those of our company who could not well walk, and carried some and led others up the hill. Brother Buckner especially was so weakened from seasickness that he had to be carried up the hill, and was wheeled down the other side in a wheel-barrow. As we neared the village, the people came out to meet the passengers from the “Pitcairn,” and we felt rejoiced to know that the Lord had taken possession of all our hearts, and that we were all one in Christ Jesus.GCB March 4, 1895, page 451.1

    Our stay there was prolonged seventeen days, but I think it was so ordered of the Lord, because our visit was profitable to us and the people. Perhaps you have before had described to you the church on Pitcairn Island. It is built of rough boards which they had picked up, and some of them they have made themselves. The church has a thatch-roof, but it is neatly seated, and I noticed that the people showed very much reverence for the house of God. Some have shoes which they wear on the Sabbath when they go to meeting, but the most of the time they go barefooted. While we were there, the ground was very muddy; but they have tubs of water sitting by the church door, and the people wash their feet before entering the house of worship. When they enter, they bow their heads, and some kneel in silent prayer, asking the blessing of the Lord upon them.GCB March 4, 1895, page 451.2

    We reached Pitcairn on the seventeenth day of July, and left there on the third day of August. We then sailed to the Society Islands, which are under the French government, and which are about 1200 miles west of Pitcairn. We reached there after nine days’ sailing. Tahiti, the principal island of the group, is very high, and as one approaches the island, it appears like a very large body of land. The highest mountain is seven thousand feet above the sea. Here we found a very commodious harbor, almost entirely surrounded by a coral reef, seemingly provided by Providence. As we neared the island, we put up a flag for a pilot, and one came out and piloted us to the quiet harbor. Here our vessel lay as quietly as though it were on land. What a sense of relief it was to us!GCB March 4, 1895, page 451.3

    At Tahiti we found those who love the truth. We were welcomed by Brother and Sister Read, who are here at the present time, and by Brother and Sister Chapman, and also a number of native brethren and sisters. Papeete, the capital of the French government here, has a population of two thousand. There are a great many vessels visiting these islands. During the time we were there, there were several large vessels lying in the harbor. There is a fleet of small vessels which trade from this point to the outlying islands, some going a thousand miles away. Here are many who have grown rich by the traffic which is centered at that place. We found the people very kind-hearted. There is one thing that causes much sorrow to the people who desire to see a better state of things. They have devoted considerable time and attention to the cultivation of sugar-cane in the past, and formerly the product was used for its legitimate purpose, but now it is used for making rum. On this is paid a small duty to the government, and then no further restriction is placed upon its sale. But in the midst of the wickedness that prevails in this place, the Lord has souls who are receiving the truth.GCB March 4, 1895, page 451.4

    The following Sabbath at ten o’clock I endeavored to speak to the people, and Brother Bambridge interpreted for me. After the discourse, we had a Sabbath-school. At the close of Sabbath-school there was another meeting, then another meeting later. It is customary to have meetings nearly all day on the Sabbath, and they seem to enjoy it, too.GCB March 4, 1895, page 451.5

    We found before we left Tahiti that we had entered a country not like our own government, that we had indeed come to a strange land; and as we were about to take our departure to other islands of the Society Group, we received a letter from the governor saying that he could not give us permission to visit the island and that we had designed to go to when we left America. We therefore went to Huahine, 100 miles from Tahiti northwest. There we found very few Europeans. We anchored in the harbor, and then went ashore to report to the custom-house officers. Later Brother and Sister Read, Dr. Caldwell and his wife, and I went to visit the queen.GCB March 4, 1895, page 451.6

    We found her to be a young woman sixteen years of age, and the affairs of the government are administered by a regent. After a short visit to the queen, we went to call on the native pastor. He appeared to be quite friendly, but we could see that he did not seem to relish our visit very much.GCB March 4, 1895, page 452.1

    When we left Tahiti, there was an old man who desired to go over to Huahine with us. We took him, with two young women whom he had with him, and on Sunday we attended church, and found that the native pastor was somewhat exercised over the visit of the missionaries and the vessel, and he asked the Lord to send fire and burn up the “Pitcairn” and all the people upon it. The other man whom we had treated kindly, and whom we found to be somewhat of a preacher, conducted the service in the afternoon. He mentioned us in his prayer, and asked the Lord to bless us and our work, and also spoke about our work in his speech to the people.GCB March 4, 1895, page 452.2

    There was one man there, Mr Barnfield, who had been roaming about among the different islands, and finally settled there as a trader. He had formerly made a profession of religion, and during our brief visit he was wakened to a new life. He said he had given up all hope and profession, but hope revived, and before our departure he said he would turn to the Lord and serve him, and the last reports are that he is faithfully serving the Lord. There is another family on the island keeping the Sabbath.GCB March 4, 1895, page 452.3

    Formerly, when the English missionaries were operating on the island, the people had better advantages for getting an education in the native language than now, but at present the children receive but about two or three hours a week of instruction, and the rest of the time run about as they please. The Europeans especially urged us to leave a teacher with them, but we had no teacher to leave. The most of the people belong to the church, and profess to be Christians. There are churches on different parts of the island, but there is only one native pastor on the island, who has supervision of the whole flock. They have a rule that no one is permitted to hold an office in the church who gets drunk; but the people are so addicted to drink that they can scarcely find a sufficient number of people to fill the office of deacon in the church.GCB March 4, 1895, page 452.4

    From Huahine we went down to Rurutu, one of the Austral Islands, which is about 300 miles south of the Society Islands. The “Pitcairn” had been at this island before, and the people had called a meeting, and made a special request that teachers should be brought to them, and also that some of our people be brought down there to settle in the island. This island is not directly under the French government, but is under French protection, and the people make their own laws and govern themselves. The other islands visited were directly under the French government. We expected to meet with a very warm welcome when we reached this island; but in this we were somewhat disappointed. Several of us took the lifeboat, and went to the harbor. They gave us the king’s house to sojourn in during our stay. The people are very hospitable on these islands.GCB March 4, 1895, page 452.5

    A regent rules this island, as the young king is not old enough to take part in the governmental affairs. The regent informed us that he had received a letter from a missionary of another island, who had warned him against receiving the people from the “Pitcairn.” He said that years ago when the English missionaries were there, and other missionaries came preaching the gospel message, they were welcome. Now the French missionary tried to keep them away. But he said that he would give us a welcome to the island, and he did so. He gave us every attention he could. We desired to leave Brother Stringer and Sister Sarah Young on this island. There were only three white people on the island. They have a law which permits no one to take up their residence on the island without the permission of all the governors on the island.GCB March 4, 1895, page 452.6

    On the way down, Brother Stringer had been practicing dentistry, and so when he went ashore, he gathered some natives about him, and began extracting and filling their teeth. They thought he would be quite a help to them in many respects, especially as they learned he was also something of a blacksmith and farmer and nurse. After several days, we ventured to ask if Mr. Stringer could be left upon the island. The regent said: “We have a law governing such matters. For myself, I would like to have Mr. Stringer remain upon the island.” So they called a meeting immediately, and talked the matter over, and decided to permit Brother and Sister Stringer to remain with them. So in this the Lord helped us, and we felt to rejoice, and we left them there in the midst of a strange people.GCB March 4, 1895, page 452.7

    From Rurutu we went to Raratonga. There we found conditions very different from what we had found them at the French islands. This group of islands is governed by a protectorate of the New Zealand colonies. At this place they have the power to make their own laws, and have organized a regular parliament. We found the laws much more liberal than on the other islands. Here quite an extensive trade is carried on. Raratonga ships annually carry from one hundred and fifty to two hundred tons of coffee and other products. Upon this island the people were all keeping the seventh day, from the fact that when the missionaries came from the West, they lost one day in crossing the day line. So they are literally “keeping Saturday for Sunday.” So of course we found no conflict in reference to the day. When the “Pitcairn” was there before our people received a warm welcome. They gave us a welcome also, and on the Sabbath I was invited to speak in their church.GCB March 4, 1895, page 452.8

    They have a peculiar custom there which I would like to mention. At the close of the Sabbath the teacher takes his class to the gallery in the church, and with a long pole preserves order. When the meeting begins, if a child acts a little disorderly, the teacher taps him on the head with his pole; and if this does not have the desired effect, he raps a little harder. At this place they are endeavoring to educate some missionaries to go out to the heathen islands farther west and engage in missionary work. There is a great demand there for teachers.GCB March 4, 1895, page 453.1

    The Lord blessed us on our missionary trip, and we were very grateful to him when he brought us back to our desired haven. We reached San Francisco on the twenty-seventh of December. This field appears very small, compared to the rest of the world, but the people in those islands should be visited, as well as those living in other countries. The message to us is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”GCB March 4, 1895, page 453.2

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