Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » A Few Minutes in the French Mission, 1913-1914

A Few Minutes in the French Mission, 1913-1914

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 11, 2014

From the minute book of the French Mission —

October 1st, 1913

The following letter was received from the Presiding Bishops office, signed by David A. Smith and accompanied with the requisition that it be entered in our historical record.

Sept 15 — 1913

Pres. Edgar Brossard
French Mission

Dear Brother:

It has been deemed advisable to extend our efforts in the matter of assisting our people along the line of their industrial activities. It is especially desirable that our brothers and sisters who come from the mission fields should be properly located, and begin their new homes in an environment and under conditions that will be conducive of their best temporal and spiritual welfare. The department having this in charge, is under the direction of Elder Roscoe W. Eardley, late Pres. of the Netherlands Mission.

It will be our endeavor to assist returning missionaries where necessary, to secure suitable employment or take up their work where they laid it down to enter the Missionary service. We will also enlist the services of elders who are returning from their missions abroad, and who are in a position to assist those who have emigrated from the fields in which they have labored, by asking them to take a fatherly interest in such immigrants until they have established themselves in the stakes of Zion.

To attain the best results in these matters, it will be necessary that we have the cooperation of all the presiding brethren in all the mission fields, and to facilitate this matter, we are sending under separate cover, forms to be filled in and forwarded to this office, prior to the departure of the missionary or immigrant from the field. These reports are confidential.

Will you please ask all returning missionaries to call at this office upon their arrival in Salt Lake City and enquire for Brother Eardley?

We feel confident that this movement meets a long felt need among our people, and therefore will have your hearty support.

Please enter this letter in your Mission Historical Record.

Your brethren in the Gospel,

The Presiding Bishopric
/s/ D.A. Smith

[extract from November 25, 1913]

Elders were advised to keep record of all streets tracted in their tracting books and to also have a map of each city and mark the date specified streets were tracted and give what tracts used – We must be careful to follow up tracts and each others tracting for the effect is the same as visiting old customers in commercial business – We are looking for souls – be they rich or poor – for they all have need of repentance.

We all agreed to adopt the Motto – “Tracting is a pleasure or I am not doing my duty.” [end extract]

May 9th 1914

Elder Ben J. Howells left Paris for Brussels, Belgium, to hold quarterly conference in the different Branches of the Mission. The meeting at Brussels held May 10th, was well attended and much enjoyed. There was a goodly sprinkling of friends present. Elders John Leroy Wright and George G. Allen were working hard and well. The Saints felt to rejoice.

Liege was next visited.

May 16th, 1914

Quarterly Priesthood Meeting for the Liege and Paris Conferences was held. Meeting called at nine oclock. President H.E. Willey of the Liege Conf. presided. Sacrement was administered. Papers were read by different Elders. The subjects treated were of live interest to our work. All participated in the discussion of each topic. A splendid spirit was felt by all present. President Howells gave some timely advice to Elders – urging them to renewed efforts in gospel work. The meeting was pronounced a success by all present. The Elders were profuse in their thanks to God for His many blessings.

It was decided to open up the Work at Namur, Belgium. Elders Jonathan browning and Louis D. Boudrero were assigned to labor at Namur. Elders Chas. E. Nalder and Myrl Lewis were called to take care of the work at Seraing, while Elders Marriner W. Hendricks, Perry C. Hall and Lorenzo LeRoy Jackson remained at Liege Branch.

May 17th, 1914

Special Sunday School Conference was held at Saraing. Many Saints and Friends were present. A most enjoyable meeting was held. The program rendered by the Sunday School children was especially good. At the General Conference meeting convened at seven oclock at Liege many were present among whom fifty friends. This was probably the largest attendance known at Liege. President W.H. Willey presided. The General authorities of the Church were presented to the Saints. The voting in each case was affirmative and unanimous. The French Mission authorities were likewise presented and sustained. The Saints were admonished to do their duties. The Elders bore strong testimonies. The Meeting was greatly enjoyed. The Liege Conference was a success and much good will result from its deliberations and work.

May 22nd 1914

President Ben F. Howells arrived at Neuchatel to hold conference in the Branches of the Neuchatel Conference.

May 23rd

Quarterly Priesthood Meeting was convened at nine oclock. Subjects relating to missionary work given and discussed. The meeting was very profitable. The Sacrement was administered. President Vern C. Wooley of the Lausanne Conference presided. There were present im addition to the Elders of the Lausanne Conference, Elders Hershel Pearson and Lewis Merrill from Lyons, France. President Benj. F. Howells spoke upon the personal efficiency of the missionary. He also admonished the Elders to live strictly the rules of the Mission.

May 24th 1914

Sunday School Conference called to order at ten oclock. A number of the La Chaux de Fonds Saints were present. Among others, President Benj. F. Howells spoke. He addressed his remarks particularly to the children urging them to be good and kind to one another.

At two oclock the first General Conference meeting was held. General Gospel subjects were ably treated by the speakers.

The largest meeting ever held in the Neuchatel Branch was convened at eight oclock. President Vern C. Woolley presided. There were present fifty Friends. The hall was packed. General Church Authorities, as well as French Mission officers, were presented and sustained. There were no discenting votes. President Wooley welcomed Saints and Friends. The speakers of the Evening de[a]lt ably with the “First Principles of the gospel.” President Benj. F. Howells spent some time in answering charges made upon the Latter Day Saints by a certain Pastor of Neuchatel. Meeting was much enjoyed by all. The Conference was a decided success and all who participated thanked their Heavenly Father for His kindness toward them.

May 26th, 1914

Special Conference meeting held at La Chaux de Fonds. The Saints were out in good numbers. There were few investigators present. Timely advice was given. All seemed happy.

May 28th 1914

Meeting held at Lausanne. Saints admonished to live the gospel. Meeting enjoyed. There were not as many out as usual. Elder H.E. Allen, President of Lausanne branch presided.

May 29th 1914

Special meeting held at Geneva. Many Friends and Saints present. The Work progresses there, though it is hard to get a hearing. Elder John Klapaak bid farewell to all present. Elder Klapaak was released May 28th and left Geneva for his home in Rotterdam, Holland May 30th. He fulfilled a noble mission. His name will long be treasured by Saints and Friends.

May 30th 1914

President Howells returned to Paris. The trip through the Mission was successful. All Branches were reported in good condition. Never did the prospects look brighter for Work in this land.

June 1st, 1914

Elder Wm. D. Wright was released from his labors as a Missionary 9ni the French Mission. He was faithful and did a splendid work. His release was honorable. He sailed from Liverpool June 10th, 1914, on the “Virginian” – Allen Line.

June 2nd, 1914

Acting Mission Pres. Benj. F. Howell paid the printing Company of Bouguellard and Recht, 23, Rue Bicpat [?] five hundred-sixty-four francs. This payment closed the contract between the said company and the French Mission for the printing of tracts.

June 4th, 1914

Acting Mission Pres. Benj. F. Howells paid out two-hundred twenty francs and forty centimes to the City of Paris as a tax. This tax is figured as twelve percent of rent paid to proprietor.

June 6th, 1914

Elders Wm L. Pond, Benj. F. Hulme and Walter Scott arrived at Paris to labor in the French Mission. Elder Wm L. Pond was assigned to the Liege Conference and left Paris June 10th for his field of labor. Elder Benj. F. Hulme was assigned to the Paris conference and left Paris June 10th, for Lille. Elder Walter Scott was assigned to the Lausanne Conference and left Paris for Neuchatel June 12th 1914.

July 5th, 1914

Elder John H. Dalley arrived form Zion. He was appointed to labor in the Paris Conference.

July 18th, 1914

Elder Aaron T. Pingree reached Paris. He was assigned the Paris Branch as a Field of Labor.

July 29th 1914

Acting Mission President Benj. F. Howells left Paris for Switzerland to prepare for the General Conference to be held at Lausanne, August 20th to 24th. Branches were visited by Elder Howells and Saints admonished to do their duty. The Lausanne Conference was found to be in a very good condition. The elders were working hard and the Saints and Friends felt well.

August 1st and 2nd

War declared between France and Germany. The black war clouds had been hanging low for some time. Our work was seriously injured. It was impossible for our Elders in Belgium and France to tract. Meetings were continued. All was done to comfort Saints and Friends afflicted by the conflict.

August 6th, 1914

The situation became more and more serious. Our elders were forced to leave Liege, Namur and Seraing. After stopping a short time at Brussels, they went to London. So necessary was it to leave Belgium that the Missionaries, many of them, were forced to go without their trunks and suit-cases. Happily none were injured. President W.H. Willey of the Liege Conference writes: “The sighs we saw and experienced while in Liege are most certainly of a deplorable nature. We visited Saints and Friends until noon of the day we left. The afternoon we spent at the home of the American Consul. When the city officials refused to surrender the place and forts, the Germans began shelling the town anew. This was six oclock Thursday Evening and at this time we left.” President Willey’s letter was written from London. He further stated that every Elder from the Liege Conference had safely arrived at London.

August 16 and 17th 1914

Special conference was held at which President Hyrum M. Smith of the European Mission, President H.W. Valentine of the German-Suisse, Acting Mission Pres. Benj. F. Howells of the French Mission, President Vern C. Wooley of the Lausanne Conference and all the Elders laboring in that conference, were present. Because of the War Pres. Smith was forced to cancel a number of his dates in the German Mission. He stopped at Lausanne on his way to Liverpool. Thus our August Conference at which we had hoped to have all the Missionaries laboring in the French Mission present, was held a week earlier than scheduled and the Elders from only one Conference were present. The others could not go on account of the troublesome times. The conference Meetings were enjoyed by all. The instructions given were well heeded. The remarks of Pres. Hyrum M. Smith were especially enjoyed. The meetings were really a “feast” of good “things.” Long will the Saints, Friends and Elders treasure the memory of those interesting gatherings. Priesthood Meeting was held Monday morning the 17th. A splendid spirit was enjoyed. much valuable instruction and help given. The Sacrement was administered.

August 18th, 1914

Presdent Hyrum M. Smith and son, accompanied by Elder Benj. F. Howells left Lausane for Paris, which place was reached the next day. President Smith visited the mission Head Quarters and left the following day for Liverpool.

August 24th, 1914

Elder Hersel E. Pearson was released to sail from Liverpool September 3rd. Elder Pearson performed an excellent Mission.

August 25th

Elder John H. Dalley left Paris to take his labors in the British Mission. Elder Dalley spent one month as a missionary in the French Mission. On account of the war and our inability to work in France, ti was deemed advisable to send him to England.

August 30th 1914

A telegram was received from President Hyrum M. Smith. The message contained in the communication was to instruct the Acting President of the French Mission to release all missionaries laboring in that mission. This action was prompted by the gravity of the European situation. The instructions were immediately followed out.

August 31st, 1914

Elders H.A. Davidson, Benj. F. Hulme, Rao B. Dunford and Harold Lambert left Paris for Liverpool. Their departure from the French Mission was due to the summons of President Hyrum M. Smith. These Elders while faithful and diligent in their work had not served the ordinary term of thirty months. They all regretted very much being called so prematurely from the work they had so much enjoyed.

[End of Record, until 1 January 1924]



  1. This is quite a record of activity. Thanks, Ardis.

    I liked: “The meeting was pronounced a success by all present.”

    Re: tracting. Sixty years later, I would think: “Tracting is a mixed bag we tend to fall back on when we can’t think of anything more efficient …” (At least, that’s how it seemed to me.)

    Comment by Gary Bergera — February 11, 2014 @ 8:37 am

  2. It delights me to consider the combined missionary efforts of the Mormons and Quakers in early 20th century France. I regret that I have never participated in any such gathering of Saints and Friends, though the silence during some fast and testamony meetings I have participated in may be an indication that such a union may yet be restored.

    Comment by Eric B — February 11, 2014 @ 8:49 am

  3. Amazing and sad story.

    On a lighter note, is “sacrement” an Anglo-Frenchism?

    (My French is pretty much limited to “Sacre bleu!” and “Savoir-Faire is everywhere.”)

    Comment by Grant — February 11, 2014 @ 9:01 am

  4. Lots of really interesting bits here. Most especially, the minutes really conveyed a sense of the drama from the escalating war.

    On a happier note, I loved the description of the August 16-17, 1914 conference meetings as “a ‘feast’ of good ‘things.'” It’s wonderful when meetings are a feast of good things, and I’m glad the secretary noted it.

    Comment by David Y. — February 11, 2014 @ 10:03 am

  5. Beyond all of the history evidenced in these minutes, I have one simple comment based on my mission served in many of these areas: the waffles in Liege are true.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 11, 2014 @ 11:01 am

  6. Seeing the dates, I was waiting for the inevitable commencement of the war in August. They worked right up until the end. The elders in in Belgium clearly just barely escaped while the shells were falling.

    However, glad to see that they were faithful right up until being forced to leave, enjoying the “feast of good things.”

    Comment by kevinf — February 11, 2014 @ 11:47 am

  7. It’s amazing how calm those last notes sound, given the imminent threat to Paris from the advancing Germans. Just three days after the last entry, on September 3, the French government announced that it was abandoning Paris for Bordeaux, and if not for some serious missteps by the Germans and a heroic counterattack by the French in the First Battle of the Marne, Paris would likely have fallen to the Germans within another couple of weeks.

    It’s also remarkable that they didn’t seem to have any trouble making travel arrangements. Obviously, they were traveling away from the battle lines, but I’d think that transport would have been in short supply and the rails crowded with military traffic.

    And, what about other missionaries in Belgium and northern and eastern France? He mentions those in Liege, Seraing (which borders Liege to the southest), and Namur. But weren’t there any others? No missionaries in Brussels or Antwerp? Or in Lille, or Sedan or Metz or Mulhouse? (Actually, those last two cities were inside the German border back then. So what about Nancy?)

    Comment by Mark B. — February 11, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

  8. These missionaries in Belgium were assigned to the Netherlands Mission; those in French-speaking Switzerland and in Lyons, France, were part of the Swiss-German Mission. Work in the French-speaking areas was only a year old when the war broke out. I can’t give you a count with looking up the records, but I do know they had only a handful of elders — maybe 6 or 8 — in Belgium. So, no, they didn’t have elders in most of the cities named. I’ve got some really exciting accounts of elders in the early days of the war, in countries on all sides. Time to post some of them, I think!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 11, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

  9. Thanks, Ardis, for that clarification. I had no idea that the French Mission was of such recent vintage.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 11, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

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