New Orleans, April 26th, 1853.
Dear President S. W. Richards -- We have just arrived at New Orleans, and it is with a heart truly grateful to God my Eternal Father, for all his multiplied mercies, that I now sit down to pen you a few items of our voyage across the great Atlantic. Never I believe since the days of old Captain Noah, until the present emigration, has a more respectable company of Saints crossed the wide deluge of waters, to be freed from Babylon's corruptions, than has sailed in the International.
I am happy to say that my right hand counselor, Elder [John] Lyon, in conjunction with Elder [Richard E.] Waddington, has greatly aided me in carrying out the following measures, which have greatly contributed to our comfort and happiness, during our voyage.
After we left the shores of old England, we entered into the following order--I summoned a meeting of all the priesthood, and when we had ascertained the number and standing of each person, we divided the ship into eight wards, and appointed six traveling elders for the steerage, and two elders for the second cabin, each elder holding his ward as a branch of the International Conference, and having authority over the same, to hold meetings each morning, and otherwise to preside over all their affairs, spiritual and temporal. These elders were to be held amenable to the general council, in seeing after the Saints' welfare, and were to report the same, every Thursday evening, viz., state of health, sickness, behavior, standing, &c. They were to be assisted by a priest or teacher, in carrying out the above measures.
I also appointed meetings to be held every evening for worship, testimony bearing, teaching, &c., under the prescribed order, which was carried fully into effect.
The Saints, without exception, have enjoyed a great amount of the Spirit of God, and our hearts have been made to rejoice in the gifts and blessings of the Holy Ghost, such as speaking in tongues, interpretation, prophesying, and in a flood of intelligence being poured out upon us in rich effusion through the priesthood. [p.358] These things and the good conduct of the Saints, have had a happy result in bringing many to a knowledge of the truth. And I am now glad to inform you, that we have baptized all on board, except three persons. We can number the captain, first and second mates, with eighteen of the crew, most of whom intend going right through to the Valley. The carpenter, and eight of the seamen, are Swedish, German, and Dutch. There are two negroes, and others from Otaheite, & c. Many of them have already testified to the truth of this work, and are rejoicing in the anticipation of building up Zion.
The others baptized, were friends of the brethren. The number baptized in all is forty-eight, since we left our native shores.
The captain is truly a noble, generous-hearted man; and to his honor I can say that no man every left Liverpool with a company of Saints, more beloved by them, or who has been more friendly and social than he has been with us; indeed, words are inadequate to express his fatherly care over us as a people, our welfare seemed to be near to his heart.
The whole ship's company have been free from sickness of any kind, except the ordinary malady of seasickness, which was of no consequence materially, to those afflicted. We have had five weeks of headwinds and some heavy gales, in which our good ship was nearly tossed upside down, having only distanced in that time about 1400 miles from Liverpool. But, wonderful to relate, in fifteen days we nearly reached the mouth of the Mississippi, sailing most days at the rate of 220 miles per twenty-four hours.
The sea and the winds seemed to conspire together, to frustrate your prophesyings concerning us, still my mind reverted to your words which inspired me with faith to look for the fulfilment of them, for which I am truly thankful to our God.
On the 6th of April, we held the twenty-third anniversary of the organization of the Church, which was, in our circumstances, a splendid affair. Early in the morning, a goodly number of brethren assembled on the forecastle, and fired six rounds of musketry, to usher in our festivities. At half-past ten we marched in regular procession to the poop deck, in the following orderâ€” president and counselors with sashes, and white rosettes on their breast, who took their seats with their backs to the main-mast. After them followed twelve young men appropriately robed, each with a white rod in his hand, with sashes, rosettes, &c. Then followed twelve young women mostly dressed in light dresses, each holding in her hand a scroll of white paper, bearing the significant motto, "Utah's rights," adorned with ribands and white rosettes. The young men took their seats on the right hand of the presidency, and the young women on the left. Then followed twelve old, venerable men, dressed similar to the young men, each carrying a Bible and Book of Mormon in his hand, led on by Father [George P.] Waugh, who read portions out of each book, illustrative of this latter-day work.
We then took the Sacrament, and attended to the celebration of four marriages, which finished our forenoon service.
At two o'clock we met, and took our seats as formerly, and after an address from the president, songs, speeches, and recitations, commemorative of the occasion, followed in due order for three hours. Henry Maibin, from Brighton, composed and sung a song graphically and wittily portraying our happy company, and our progress from Liverpool.
In the evening we met on the quarter deck, and skipped the light fantastic toe, to a late hour. During the whole day, everything was done with the highest decorum, and I can say to the credit of the company that a more harmonious festival was never before held on the high seas.
I am happy to state with regard to our provisions that no complaints have been made, most considering the provision to be good and ample. And in their name we have to return you heartfelt gratitude and thanks for the exercise of that sagacity which God has so amply blessed you with, in providing for their wants, and otherwise in your choice of a vessel so well fitted to promote the health and comfort of all concerned.
I never enjoyed so much of the Spirit of God since I entered the Church of Jesus Christ, as I have with this company of Saints. I rejoice to say that my right hand counselor, Elder John Lyon, is one of the best men I have met with, and I hope we shall be near neighbors when we reach the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Elder Richard Waddington has been unwell, he has now recovered, and is taking an active part in connection with all the priesthood. [p.359]
I hope, to baptize Brother (Captain) Brown's wife, before I leave New Orleans.
I am happy to say we called Brother Brown with other of the officers of the ship, to officeâ€”Brother Brown to the office of elder.
Now, dear brother, with these few items of our procedure, I beg to conclude, praying God our Eternal Father to bless you abundantly for all you have done for us, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Christopher Arthur [p.360]
BIB: Arthur, Christopher, [Letter], Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 15:23. (June 4, 1853). pp.358-60. (CHL) (source abbreviations)