New Orleans, April 27th, 1851
The purposes of Jehovah are all yea and Amen, in Christ Jesus our Lord. The above precious promise has been literally fulfilled in our pleasant voyage Zionward across the great Atlantic Ocean.
On Monday, March 4th, the splendid ship Olympus, left her moorings in the docks, for to anchor in the river, previous to the commencement of her racing course over the billows of the mighty ocean. This spectacle drew not the multitude together, not being so congenial to the spirit of this world as that of the Olympian games. Yet, we have reason to believe that the eye of the Host of Heaven was upon us for good in answer to the prayers of thousands of our brethren throughout the British isles, "that we should prosper, and have the winds and waves controlled in our favor."
Tuesday 5th. When the great courser of heaven reached the meridian, the beautiful Olympus with her white sails spread forth to catch the healthy ocean breeze, commenced her course with flying speed of 200 miles per diem, having besides her cargo about 250 jewels, as lively stones for the building up of Zion on the sides of the north, that the Lord may appear in his glory. We also enjoyed the company of about 60 fellow-passengers, kind and benevolent, who, in seeing the love, order, and harmony, that prevailed, were ready to ask with the prophet of old, "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?" I could not help interrogating myself, also, with the same question, "Who are these," &c., from the grey-headed sage and dames, full of life and vivacity, down to the innocent babe. In taking a retrospective view of the company of brothers and sisters enjoying themselves on deck on a fine morning, the sun being veiled with a thin atmospheric covering, made the balmy breeze sweet, healthy, and temperate, with the great span of ethereal blue, dancing billows pleasing to the sight, extending around us for miles, the ship steadily running here course Zionward, the helmsman keeping her bows in a direct line with the setting sun. On the poop I observed a number of our young brothers and sisters listening with attention to an instructive lecture on the science of grammar, delivered by old father [George] Waddington, who, Diogenes like, [p.188] sat in the midst of his pupils, asking them various questions, to engrave this important part of education more deeply upon their memories.
The whole length of the deck being crowded with interesting groups worthy of an artist's pencil; in one place I observed one of the young sisters teaching others the art of knitting lace in various patterns; opposite, on the larboard side of the vessel, a number of mothers amusing their little ones, at the same time conversing with one another with grateful hearts, about the goodness of God, in delivering them with their families from the confusion and poverty of Babylon, that often caused their hearts to fail within them, but now going to their homes in Zion, containing peaceful habitations, sure dwellings and quiet resting places, where God has promised "abundantly to bless her provision, satisfy her poor with bread, clothe her priests with salvation, and cause her Saints to shout for joy." The brethren in various groups here and there, some singing, some reading the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Millennial Stars, Voice of Warning, Spencer's Letters, with brother O. [Orson] Pratt's profound philosophical works, &c., a library more valuable in the estimation of the Saints than all the gold of California. If this should reach the eyes of any not in the Church, and if they should doubt this statement, let them peruse the whole of these invaluable books, and I doubt not, let their prejudice be ever so great, by the time they are read all through that with hardly an exception all must come to the same conclusion, but I exclude all those who gain a livelihood wholly or in part from their religious services. Some families in groups partaking out of various dishes of sweet food, well seasoned with hunger, for the sea appetite is sharp; the little children taking up with spoons their food from tin plates, and in chewing looking up to the faces of their parents with lamb-like innocence, just as if they said, "we are happy, indeed." One boy said, "Father, we must not leave this vessel, for we have plenty to eat here." The evening shades of darkness caused all to retire to their berths, on each side of our extensive bed-room, about thirty yards long by eight wide, containing about 300 devotees of Morpheus, but this night he received little attention, for Borease, by 10 p.m., caused, under a covering of darkness, one of his light artillery to go forth in sharp breezes, causing the rippling billows to increase into wild mountainous waves, that caused the ship to tremble
, shake, crack, and rock from side to side, like a drunken man. The Saints being novices in sea life, the sight and circumstances were new to all. The raging and roaring of the boisterous elements, with the noise of falling and rolling tins and bottles caused not the least confusion or fear in the bosoms of those who have been truly likened to Mount Zion. A few of the most lusty brethren soon gathered all together, and having lashed them with ropes, they returned to join the sweet voices of the young men and maidens who had been cheering them and us with lively songs of Zion, and through that night the dancing billows played their various antics to the sweet music of songs of joy, praise, and thanksgiving, that rose as sweet incense of faith and confidence in the Great Redeemer, the mighty governor of the boisterous elements.
Sundays. One of our brethren from Scotland compared our religious services on this day to the conferences held in England. We have the morning and evening prayer-meetings on deck, also the preaching services, when five or six of the brethren deliver short important discourses; Saints meeting in the afternoon, baptizing, confirming, blessing of children, partaking of the elements of the Lord's Supper; the interesting testimonies borne by the brothers and sisters; the exercising of spiritual gifts for the edification and exhortation and comfort of the Saints, such as prophecy, tongues, interpretation, praying with the spirit and with the understanding, teaching the Saints important principles in connection with their present prospects and future usefulness in the kingdom of God, until the evening shades of night informed us of the propriety of retiring to rest. Spending the first day of the week thus with life and diligence in the work of God, prepared us for further exercise of usefulness through the other six days in the following manner: daily prayer-meetings, morning at 10, evening at 9; daily school for the children of fellow-passengers, as well as those of the Saints, to learn the rudiments of the English and French languages; evening lectures at 5 p.m., the congregation sitting around the lecturer, [p.189] on the deck floor, the subjects being various such as astronomy, geography, agricultural improvements, conversational meetings to refresh the mind with history, themes, essay, &c., a grammar school, preaching meetings; giving out the excellent provisions provided for us by the president in the British Isles, fully sufficient, (with the addition of a few potatoes) and in quality no one desired better. Giving out the daily allowance of water, which continued pure to the end of our voyage. Cooking carried on in the galley by three of our brethren, in turns of four hours each, all vessels looked in order as brought up, and sat down without any partiality to the Saints more than our fellow-passengers, cleaning operations, amusing ourselves in various ways in the exercise of the body, and all things put together kept us in full employment, (we had no idle time for finding faults, backbiting, quarreling, &c.) tending to make us truly a pleasing picnic party of pilgrims on their way Zion ward in merry mood.
My beloved counselors brothers T. [Thomas] Bradshaw, T. [Thomas] Smith, J. Livesey [POSSIBLY, John Lindsay], and W. [William] Henshaw, have gained the affection of the Saints by their unceasing labors of love to all; the many excellent discourses delivered by the them and other brethren, cause the captain, officers, crew, and fellow-passengers, to honor and respect us, and show us kindness in various ways. Never shall we forget the captain of the Olympus. His comprehensive knowledge of navigation, his sober deportment, the attention paid to the discourses, the enquiries made about our principles, his persevering spirit in reading our books, the attention given to our health and comfort, his alacrity and willingness in throwing overboard a stage for baptizing, his erecting our pulpit with his own traveling box, and carrying out of the cabin chairs and benches to decorate our deck, Olympic synagogue, &c. Such conduct caused us all to pray earnestly that Jesus, the captain of our salvation would be pleased to bless the captain of the Olympus, and his good hearted crew.
On the quiet evening of the --th instant, the young brothers and sisters having formed themselves into two ranks, under the superintendence of our excellent brother, S. Reed [POSSIBLY William S. Reed], singing our interesting baptismal hymns, when twenty-one candidates fell upon their bended knees, and joined with us in prayer, previous to their being baptized for the remission of their sins. I cannot well describe to you the joyful feelings of all present, see so many fathers and sons, and daughters, and sailors, passing through the singing ranks one after the other in returning from their water baptism.
"Jehovah saw his darling Son,
And was well pleased in what he'd done,
And own'd him from the skies."
The same Lord smiled upon us, for many were the tokens we received of His approbation, and of rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God. The following day, at 3 p.m., we enjoyed a happy confirmation meeting, when twenty-one ranked themselves in order, that the elders of the church might lay hands upon them in the name of the Lord Jesus, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we all felt to sing.
"Behold thy sons and daughters, Lord,
On whom we lay our hands;
They have fulfill'd thy gospel work,
And bow'd at they commands.
"O, now send forth the heav'nly dove,
And overwhelm their souls,
With peace and joy, and perfect love,
As lambs within thy fold," &c.
You will forgive me for being so poetical, for I can assure you the time was a time of inspiration.
Our fellow-passengers feel so happy with us, that they often testify they shall write to England to their friends in all parts, desiring them, if they emigrate to America, to be sure to come with a company of Latter-day Saints, for they say with the captain and crews, "We never before saw such a people as these Mormons." Who are our persecuting enemies, that speak all manner of evil falsely against us? Are they not strangers that know us not, the precepts, doctrines, and principles we preach and practice, the moral and godly deportment of the tens of thousands of the members of the Church, the patience and love displayed in their conduct when persecuted and made to suffer in character, property, and liberty? In truth, the virtue of our holy religion, and the conduct of our members, are not known to our enemies, who in all their opinions and conclusions about us, are guided by as false reports as those circulated about the Redeemer himself. Oh! That they would be wise, and get our books and read them, [p.190] so that they might truly know the nature of the Mormon fountain of life, truth, and intelligence, and not stamp their character for ever, by continually acting the part of the fool described by Solomon, "judging a matter before it is known."
I have not seen finer young men, calculated to do more good in carrying the gospel to the nations of the earth, than some of the sailors, and young men baptized. They testify that they feel to rejoice in the thought that the Lord may some day, in foreign nations, make them instrumental in warning the inhabitants by the power of the Spirit, of sin, righteousness, and judgment. One fine sailor stated that "Mormonism" revived him as a sailor; "for (says he) before I was baptized, I was afraid to go up the rigging, lest I should fall down and be sent to hell for my sins." I have nothing to say about fevers, plagues, quarrelings, &c., of such we know nothing; we lived in another element that produced joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, against such, I believe, you will find no law. The effect of such exemplary conduct in this company, has tended to the conviction and conversion of fifty, who have been added to the branch in this vessel by baptism, &c. Two deaths of infants, one birth.
With respect, your brother in the Lord,
William Howell. [p.191]
BIB: Howell, William. [Letter], Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 13:12 (June 15, 1851) pp. 188-91. (CHL)