Mormon History

Hunting For Lost Sheep - 1855

St. Louis Luminary May 5, 1855

St. Louis, May 2, 1855.
Elder Snow, Editor of the Luminary:

Dear Brother -- At the conference held in St. Louis, in October, 1854, Brother W. W. Rust and myself received a mission to travel in the northern and eastern states, to hunt up the lost sheep and endeavor to gather them into the fold. Accordingly, we left St. Louis on or about the middle of the month on the Reindeer, stopped at Alton a few days, visiting the Saints, and then passed on to Springfield, Illinois, called on a Brother Palmer, when behold, William Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph, had taken up his abode here for the time being. He grasped me by the hand, said it did him good to take an old Mormon by the hand. I inquired of him (in Yankee style) what his business was in Springfield. He said he was preaching the first principles of the Gospel. I wished to know whether he preached the gathering and acknowledged the authorities of the Church as organized in Utah. His reply was rather evasive, said he and the authorities had had some misunderstanding, the same as Peter and Paul, that he had written to President Young saying he was willing to abide his decision. He wished me to give him the hand of fellowship. I told him under existing circumstances I could not, and advised him, if he was honest-hearted, as he appeared to be, he had better repair immediately to the valleys of the mountains and report himself and abide the decision of the First Presidency. He told me he had written and he wrote a letter to Brother Brigham before we left, whether he sent it or not I know not.

In answer to questions from a number in Springfield as to the authority of William Smith, I replied that it was with him as it would be with a branch severed from the vine, it would wither and die and would be ready to be burned, receiving no nourishment from the vine.

From Springfield we went to Chicago, there I found an uncle that I had not seen in thirty years. I stopped a few days with him and partook of his hospitality, and in return I gave him an offer of salvation on Gospel terms. He said he would consider on it and give me an answer on my return.

We emptied our purses at the depot, and wished the agent to pass us as far as he felt justified in doing, as we were heralds of salvation, alias, Mormon elders; he gave us tickets to Marshall, Michigan, deducting about half the regular fare. No accident occurred until our arrival at Marshall. We partook of the hospitality of the landlord, i.e. supper, lodging and breakfast free of cost.

In the morning we left Marshall on foot, the snow being about six inches deep and storming. It was hard traveling, but we reached Parma, about thirty miles, stayed with a relation over Sunday, gave our testimony and passed on. We traveled some two hundred miles through mud and mire, sometimes we could get shelter for the night, and occasionally a bowl of bread and milk.

We made it a rule to inquire for Saints and places to preach, but no sooner than we had informed them that we were ministers of the Gospel from Salt Lake, their doors were closed against us; we traveled hundreds of miles in Michigan, but obtained but one house to preach in. The fact is, Strang, the Beaver Island Mormon, as he styled himself, is sending his emissaries out to rob, steal, plunder, preaching another Gospel, but styling themselves Mormons; hence, the prejudice that exists in the minds of the people against the servants of God that are sent abroad by the authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We called at Kirtland, found a few that called themselves Saints, but very weak, many apostates who have mostly joined the rappers. We had a lengthy interview with Martin Harris. At first he was down on polygamy, but before we left he informed me that he never should say a word against it. He confessed that he had lost confidence in Joseph Smith; consequently, his mind became darkened, and he was left to himself; he tried the Shakers, but that would not do; then he tried Gladden Bishop, but no satisfaction; he had concluded he would wait until the Saints returned to Jackson County and then he would repair there. He gave us a history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and his going to New York and presenting the characters to Professor Anthon, etc. He concluded before we left that "Brigham was governor," and that the authorities were there, and that he should go there as soon as he could get away.

We traveled together until we arrived at New York City, preaching by the way wherever an opportunity offered. From thence, Brother Rust went to Boston, and I went to Tom's River, New Jersey, found the Saints enjoying much of the spirit of God. They number nearly one hundred, and are calculating to emigrate next season. My labor has been in New Jersey and New York, with what success time will determine. I feel clear, and have obtained permission to return home, which I shall with joy, and not with grief. May God bless and sustain you, is my prayer, Amen.
                               Yours as ever, Thomas Colburn.