An 'Errand to the World': the historic 1852 missionary conference

By Emily W. Jensen

Deseret News

Published: Monday, July 2 2012 3:43 p.m. MDT

The one millionth missionary began serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2007. In 1853, there were only 139 missionaries serving, most of them called in a special Mormon missionary conference in 1852.

“On Aug. 28-29, 1852, about 2,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered together at the makeshift tabernacle in Salt Lake City to receive counsel from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Reid L. Neilson of the LDS Church History Department said Friday in an address given at the Mormon History Association in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His presentation was titled “Errand to the World: The 1852 Mormon Missionary Conference.”

In the 1852 conference, President Brigham Young called more than 100 men on missions around the world, including Ireland, Wales, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Texas, Lousiana, Australia and Hawaii. Also included were Africa, the West Indies, India, Thailand and China. Missions had not even been opened yet in some of these locations.

“Church leader George A. Smith stood and said that church leaders did not expect those called as proselyting missions to be gone for more than three to seven years,” said Neilson. And some of those called did serve much longer missions than the normal two years of today.

Many of those early missionaries were ready to leave by the fall of that year, and while Neilson lamented not being able to tell all of their missionary stories, he did describe how the brethren who were sent to South Africa were able create a branch and convert several hundred Saints, who then traveled to join the members in Utah.

However, the elders sent to China struggled after arriving in Hong Kong. At the time, China was experiencing a revolution. “They struggled because of language and lack of money," he said. After seven weeks, they sailed back to San Francisco, hoping to regroup and go back to China to try again soon. But Nielson said that “didn’t happen for another 100 years.”

Nielson said Mormon leaders gathered at the Provo Missionary Training Center in June 2007 to celebrate “an evangelical milestone” of sending out the one millionth missionary.

Neilson added that this “global missionary program that we enjoy today had its beginnings in a makeshift tabernacle in Salt Lake City in August 1852 shouldered by about 110 men, obedient to the prophet’s call.”

Emily W. Jensen updates "Today in the Bloggernacle" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, presenting articles from the world of LDS-oriented blog sites. Her extended "Bloggernacle Back Bench" appears on Tuesdays. EMAIL: ejensen@desnews.com

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