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A Few Minutes in Aleppo, Syria, 1924

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 17, 2014

Minutes of the Armenian Mission Conference.

The first conference to be held under the name of the Armenian mission convened at Aleppo, Syria, January 19th to 23rd inclusive.

President David O. McKay, Sister Emma Ray McKay and Sister Mary R. Booth arrived at Beirut, Syria, the morning of January 18th, per s.s. Lotus They were met at the landing stage and were welcomed into the Near East by President J. Wilford Booth of the Armenian mission. The journey to Aleppo commenced that afternoon, the party going by automobile over the Lebanon mountains, across the Valley of Leontes, and to the antique ruins of the city of Baalbek. A ten hours’ ride by rail the next day brought the party to Aleppo, in northern Syria, where the Saints were at the station en masse, to accord a hearty welcome to the visitors. Many of the older Saints remembered Sister Booth from her former mission among t5hem; her coming at this time was a pleasant surprise to them.

At “Jebel Nahar,” mission headquarters, a reception was combined with the first session of conference Saturday evening. The assembly room had been tastefully decorated and a pleasing program had been prepared in honor of President McKay and party. Brother Abraham Hindoian was master of ceremonies. “Hope of Israel” was sung in good English. Prayer was offered by Brother Nazar Bezjian. “County Your Blessings” was the second song. Brother Moses Hindoian spoke telling of the value of true friends. Three boys, Sarkis Bezjian, Herand Gedikian and Barkav Ivazian, assisted by the congregation in the chorus, sang “If There’s Sunshine in Your Heart.” Sister Khanum Palosojian gave an interesting talk on the subject of bringing forth good fruit. A recitation in English was given by Setrak Junguzian. Brother Nazar Bezjian made a few remarks on Gospel topics. Brothers Khoren, Rupen, Joseph and Puzant Uzunian and Sarkis Tutluian sang “We are Sowing.” Sister Yeranik Gedikian spoke on “The blessings we have received.” Sisters Elisa and Aremenuhe Uzunian and Rebekha Hindoian sang “Mid Scenes of Confusion.” “Waiting for the Reapers” was sung by a mixed quartette composed of Joseph and Zaruhe Uzunian, Garabed Junguzian and Hurepsemi Tutluian.

Sister Emma Ray McKay complimented the members upon their efforts of the evening and thanked them for the hearty reception they had accorded her and the other visitors.

President David O. McKay told of the striking contrast which he noted between the condition in which President Hugh J. Cannon and he found the Saints in November 1921 and that evidenced by the delightful entertainment which had characterized the present occasion.

Presidents J. Wilford Booth made a brief report of his meeting the visitors and of the journey from Beirut to Aleppo.

The congregation sang, “Sunshine in the Soul.” The benediction was offered by brother Hagop Bezjian.

One hundred persons were present.

At 9 a.m. Sunday morning, January 20th, the Sunday-school session of the conference commenced by the congregation’s singing “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains.” Prayer was spoken by Brother Moses Hindoian. The second hymn was Ne Guzel Idi Ol Sabah, the Turkish translation of “O, How Lovely was the Morning.” A trio was sung in Armenian by Lydia Uzunian, Vartuhe Berberian and Louise Bezjian. Brother Hagop Bezjian gave a short talk in Arabic. Short recitations were given by Maria Uzunian, Osanna Polosojian and Nazar Almajian. A duet in French was sung by Rebekha Hindoian and Louise Bezjian. The “Articles of Faith” were recited in English and Turkish by twenty-six members of the congregation. “My Father Knows” was rendered in a local tune by Elisa and Armenuhe Uzunian. Five languages – English, french, Turkish, Armenian and Arabic – were used in presenting the program.

Sister Emma Ray McKay told an impressive story of how a little girl had exerted her influence in order to induce her father to quit smoking.

President McKay told a story which indicates the value of honesty. He urged the hearers always to be honest.

The session closed by the congregation’s singing, “The Day Dawn is Breaking.” The benediction was pronounced by Brother Sarkis Bezjian, a boy ten years of age.

One hundred ten were in attendance at the Sunday-0school session.

At 1:30 p.m., the sacrament meeting began, President J. Wilford Booth conducting. “Oh, Thou Rock of Our Salvation” was sung as the opening hymn. Prayer was offered by Brother Garabed Silohian. The second song was Serdar u Selamet, the Turkish rendition of “The Prince of Peace.” The sacrament was administered by brothers Moses Hindoian and Hagop Gedikian. The congregation sang Ya Khilaskyarum, a tr4anslation fo “Jesus, My Savior.”

The remainder of the time was turned over to the congregation for testimony bearing and prayer and song. For more than an hour the time was eagerly occupied, often two and three standing on their feet at once, waiting for an opportunity to speak. Eighteen testimonies were borne, four of which were in English; five hymns were sung and one prayer was offered.

President McKay pronounced the benediction.

The evening session began at 6:30 p.m. by the congregation’s singing “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd.” Brother Abraham Hindoian offered the invocation. Four local brothers sang, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”

Sister Mary R. Booth was the first speaker. Sister Booth told of the journey she had made to be with the Armenian Saints once more. The speaker carried greetings to the Saints from Zion.

The congregation sang “High on the Mountain Top,” after which Brother Nazar Bezjian spoke a few words of advice and counsel.

President McKay spoke for the remainder of the time, his theme being the fruits of Mormonism. He ocunseled the Saints and the investigators to live a clean life and to hold firm in the faith.

Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” was sung by three local Sisters.

President and Sister McKay sang a duet, “‘Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love.”

The closing hymn was “Come, Come Ye Saints.” Prayer was offered by Sister Dudu Bezjian.

Two impressive Priesthood meetings were held, the first on Monday evening, Janu7ary 21st, at which President McKay gave special instructions concerning the spiritual aspect of mission work. He showed that the strength of Zion lies in the Priesthood. The second meeting was held Tuesday evening, at which the temporal affairs of the Saints were discussed. Attention was given to the questions of establishing schools and of providing permanent employment that the members of the Church might become self-supporting.

A Relief Society meeting, at which Sister Emma Ray McKay, President of the European Mission Relief Societies presided, was held on Sunday morning, following the Sunday-school session. Sister McKay gave valuable instructions concerning the work of the sisters in their meetings and int heir service for the poor. The regular Relief Society meeting was held Tuesday morning, January 22nd. The report of the Relief Society of the mission was read by Sister Nuritza Berberian. The report shows an enrollment of fifty-five; thirty-seven meetings have been held since March 17, 1923, and with an average attendance of thirty-nine; an amount equal. to £21 has been donated, of which £`18 17s has been expended for the support of the poor; thirty-three sick persons have been visited; over two hundred persons have been helped in their distress. President and Sister McKay were very gratified with the report.

Monday evening, January 21st, a dinner was tendered by the Hon. Parker W. Burhman and T.R. Flack, United States Consul and Vice-consul respectively, in honor of President and Sister McKay and President and Sister Booth.

Tuesday evening, a conjoint session of the Mutual Improvement Associations was held in the assembly room. After the usual opening exercises, a report was given of the progress of the organizations since their inception last October. The associations have a library of one hundred choice volumes; they hold interesting meetings each week; and on the first Sunday evening of each month a conjoint meeting is held at which special features are presented such as lectures from ministers, doctors, or professors.

President McKay then addressed those present, telling them of the power of God which accompanies those who live a good life and who heed the shieprings of the Holy Spirit.

The last of a series of ten interesting meetings was held Wednesday evening, January 23rd. this was in the nature of a social and farewell party for President and Sister McKay. A program consisting of songs, speeches, games and stories was presented.

The Sisters of the Relief Society resented Sister McKay with a specially designed, hand-worked table cover as a token of remembrance and love.

President and Sister McKay left Thursday, January 24th, for England, traveling via Palestine. They were accompanied as far as the coast of Tyre and Sidon by President J. Wilford Booth.

J. Wilford Booth



9 Comments »

  1. I love this regional (Armenian?) niche you have carved out for yourself in Mormon history. I know it is only one of many you have worked on over the years, but this particular one speaks to me.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — March 17, 2014 @ 10:18 am

  2. Thanks, Bruce. It’s practically an untouched field, and it’s as dramatic and exotic and faithful and every other superlative as you could hope to find!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 17, 2014 @ 10:47 am

  3. Fascinating trip! It’s fun for me to see all these names–mixed throughout the report.

    (By the way, loosely based on President Booth’s description, here’s a map route of the McKays’ travel to get to Alleppo: http://goo.gl/maps/n7j47)

    Comment by David Y. — March 17, 2014 @ 11:02 am

  4. Thanks for the map, David! the area is still so unfamiliar to me that this really helps.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 17, 2014 @ 11:06 am

  5. “Eighteen testimonies were borne, four of which were in English; five hymns were sung and one prayer was offered.”

    This sounds like the hymns and prayer were part of the testimonies. Unless they had five closing congregational hymns and they didn’t write who said the closing prayer. Was this a way of bearing testimonies?

    Comment by Carol — March 17, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

  6. I’ll echo Bruce’s sentiments. This is great.

    Comment by kevinf — March 17, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

  7. Carol, yes. I see lots of minutes from the early 20th century that show one or more people requesting the congregation to sing a particular hymn right in the midst of testimony bearing. I don’t know when that went out of fashion, or whether church leaders discontinued it or whether it just sort of faded away.

    I’m glad you like it, kevinf. I hope minutes and other primary documents don’t get too tedious — it’s just that they are the raw materials I use every day and that get me the closest to Saints of the past that I want to share that kind of experience with everybody.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 17, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

  8. There was a thing a few years ago around here at least, where people would want to sing their testimony. We got a letter from the Stake Presidency (and maybe from the First Presidency) that said that wasn’t appropriate.

    I really like to see this raw material.

    Comment by Carol — March 17, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

  9. These posts about Aleppo are fascinating to me because I never would have guessed (or probably even believed) a mission and branch existed in Syria back at this time without reading them. Now I find that David O. McKay and his wife visited. Amazing stuff.

    Comment by Chris M. — March 18, 2014 @ 10:28 am

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