Write "M & M" vertically on the board. If you live in a location where you can easily get them, you can pass around M&M's chocolate candies as a treat. Tell the class you are going to talk about two factors which contributed to the desert's blossoming as a rose, which both start with M. Ask the class to guess what they might be. Sing "Hark All Ye Nations" from the hymnbook (no. 264) which is another clue to the answers.
M #1: MISSIONARIES
(If you have a world map to display, add colored tacks on the map for each place mentioned below.)
On August 28, 1852 at a special conference, just over 100 elders were called to missions throughout the world. Remember, the saints have only been in the Salt Lake Valley for 5 years at this time. Do you want to guess where these missionaries were called?
- United States (Washington, Iowa, New Orleans, Texas)
- Canada (Nova Scotia)
- Europe (England, Wales, Ireland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Denmark, Norway)
- Oceania (Sandwich Islands [Hawaii], French Polynesia, there were already missionaries in Australia)
- South America (Chile and Peru)
- Africa (South Africa)
- Asia (4 to Hong Kong [China], 4 to Siam [Thailand], 9 to India)
Of course the early missions to Europe and Canada were hugely successful and brought many new saints who were skilled craftsmen from the Old World to the new Mormon colonies. Others of these early missions were not very successful at the time, but seeds were planted that germinated slowly or sat dormant, some for hundreds of years.
I will share just a little about a few of the more remote locations:
Actually, missionary work had already been started in Australia 12 years earlier by an English convert, who was joined a year later by a Scottish convert. There was a congregation there as early as 1844! (The year the Prophet died.) Two American missionaries came in 1851, the year before this conference. Today (2017) there are nearly 150,000 members in 6 missions in Australia with 5 temples (See Mormon Newsroom for the most current statistics).
Of the four missionaries called to Siam, only 1 made it because of the war there, Elder Luddington. His only converts were the captain of the ship that brought him and the captain's wife. He was only in Siam for 4 months, and was stoned twice during that time. Today (2017) there are over 21,000 members in 40 congregations in the Thailand mission (Britsch, From the East, p. 30-32; see Mormon Newsroom).
China (Hong Kong)
Three missionaries were called to China. "The mission to China cannot be assessed as anything but a complete failure," Britsch writes. The Tai-Ping Rebellion prevented any work, and the missionaries returned to the U.S. after just a few weeks. Missionaries did not return to China until 1949, when they were called again to Hong Kong. Today (2017) there are over 24,000 members in 41 congregations and 1 temple in Hong Kong. Mainland China is not open to missionary work. (Britsch, p. 33, 37; see Mormon Newsroom)
These were not the first missionaries called to India. The previous year, Lorenzo Snow, mission president in Great Britain, sent one European brother to Bombay and another to Calcutta. They initially had great success and baptized about 180 people, 170 of them native Indians. The nine missionaries called to India in 1852, then, sailed from California on Christmas Day expecting to reap a great harvest, but they were very disheartened when they found that, of those 180 converts, only 6-8 were still faithful. (Britsch, p. 14, 18) Elder Nathan Very Jones wrote of his discouragement: "To all human appearance, there is scarcely a redeeming quality in the nation." (Britsch, p. 24) The mission was shortly closed. It reopened again in 1993 with a native Indian as its president. Today (2017) there are 2 missions in India with 13,000 members (check Mormon Newsroom for most current statistics).
These missionaries to India also planted seeds in Pakistan. On their way home (1856 or earlier), they left some literature with a man named Robert Marshall, which included the prophecy of Joseph Smith on the Civil War. Ten years later, when the war erupted, it was brought back to this man's mind. He read it all. There was no one to baptize him, but he was the first real missionary in Pakistan. He became known as a Mormon and spread the gospel to twelve family members and friends. Finally, when he was an old man and near the end of his life, his sons petitioned the Church in his behalf, and someone was sent from another mission to baptize him and the other twelve (Britsch, p. 29; also Keep a Pitchin In, Mormon History Blog which has some awesome pictures, the first of which "Karachi," features the Indian and Pakistani saints--also read the comments on that post for a little more info; "From India's Coral Strand," Improvement Era, April 1909). According to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune published in September of 2011, there were about native Pakistanis serving missions, with 2/3rds of them serving in Pakistan (the entire Pakistani missionary force), although I can't find documentation from the Church on that information. It is possible that the work there has stopped due to the war. Here is some older unofficial information about Pakistan.
And now for the second M that helped the desert to blossom as a rose:
M #2: MUSICIANS
Music was very important in the settling of the LDS communities in the west. Some groups leaving Salt Lake City to settle other areas would delay a little while to see if incoming emigrant wagon trains might have a good baritone or soprano they could enlist for their community. One bishop advertised 10 acres of his town's best land to any good tenor who would settle and agree to sing in his ward's choir (Charles J. Calman, The Tabernacle Choir, p. 22).
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
The Tabernacle Choir first sang on August 22, 1847, 29 days after the pioneers had entered the Salt Lake Valley, at the first General Conference held in Utah at the bowery. At that time, there were fewer settlers in the valley than there are singers in today's choir, and very few of them were women. The singers were Welsh immigrants. They had no name, no tabernacle, no organ, and no conductor. The choir performed only twice each year for conference, but even with that, and with no organ, they greatly impressed visitors from France who wrote in 1855, "We feel bound to say that the Mormons have a feeling for sacred music, that their women sing with soul, and that the execution is in no notable degree surpassed by that which is heard either under the roof of Westminster, or the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel" (Calman, p. 21-22, quoting from A Journey to Great Salt Lake City).
The first tabernacle was built in 1851 of adobe. It seated 2,500. The present-day Tabernacle was built in 1867 (Calman, p. 22). (For more on the Tabernacle, see History of the Tabernacle at Mormon Newsroom.)
Joseph Ridges was 24 when he immigrated from England to Australia with his family. He met some Latter-day Saints on the ship and eventually joined the Church. As a boy in England, he had lived across the street from an organ factory. When he came into money from gold mining in Australia, he started to build the first organ built in Australia. The Church in Utah needed an organ, though, so at the suggestion of the Australian mission president the Ridges family disassembled it, packaged it in tin shipping cases, and immigrated with it to Utah via California. On October 11, 1857 the organ was played for the first time in the old adobe Tabernacle.
On October 6, 1867, a new tabernacle organ built in Utah by Brother Ridges was played for the first time. Parts of that organ still remain with the present-day Tabernacle organ, including the central organ case with the famous 32-foot golden pipes. These pipes are actually made of wood, and it is still a mystery how they were made. Perhaps they were made on the keystone principle, with the canvas lining glued to the inside acting as the keystone before the last strip was placed in its slot. They are the only round wooden pipes of this size in the world (Calman, p. 33; also James R. Moss, "The Kingdom Builders," Ensign, December 1979).
Joseph Daynes was born in England and began playing the piano at the age of 2. He performed an organ concert for Queen Victoria at age 11. Shortly thereafter, he crossed the plains with his family to join the Saints (about 1862) and was welcomed by Brigham Young who said, "There is the organist for our great Tabernacle organ" (L.W. Snow, "History of Joseph J. Daynes, written for the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers; also Calman, p. 33). When he first sat at Ridge's organ, his feet would not reach the pedals so he add blocks of cork to the soles of his shoes. At the dedication of the new organ, 16-year-old Joseph Daynes was at the console. His composition, "As the Dew From Heaven Distilling" is the closing number of each Tabernacle Choir television broadcast still today (Calman, p. 33-35. See also The Friend, October 1987).
George Careless was also born in England and displayed a great musical talent, which his father thought was a waste of time. So George was apprenticed to a shoemaking company. Unfortunately for George's father, the foreman loaned George a violin and told him to think of nothing but music as his career. He was baptized at age 11. At age 13 his father presented him with an ultimatum: not to choose between the church and his family, as you might expect, but to choose between music and his family. So George left the family for good. The factory foreman lent George the money to attend the Royal Academy music school at age 20. In 1864, at age 25, he emigrated to Utah to join the saints.
As they crossed the ocean, George led the LDS emigrants in a choir, impressing the captain so much that when they landed he begged for a piece of George's music. All of it was packed away, even the blank note paper, so George sat down on a crate and drew out the lines of the staff on a piece of paper from his pocket and, on the spot, wrote a little tune for the captain which he named "Hudson," after the ship. He then assembled the choir and they sang the tune "Hudson" with the words of Parley P. Pratt's well-known hymn "The Morning Breaks" for the captain. In those days, hymns would be sung to any number of different tunes, but that particular tune and lyric combination still exists as hymn number 1 in our hymnbook today.
When he reached Salt Lake City, George was greeted with the news that there were already too many professional musicians in town (three) and they were unable to make a living with music. He answered, "I'll stay with my music for two years--if I starve, you will have to bury me." Within a month, he had 24 paying students (100 pounds of flour for a series of lessons), and his abilities attracted President Young's attention.
President Young called him to lead the Tabernacle Choir. He agreed, promising, "I will do the best I can with the material I can get." And he led that "material" to greatness. He was a terrific organizer and assembled the first large-scale tabernacle choir for general conference from the core choir members, joined by saints who rehearsed throughout Utah and came to Salt Lake for the event. (See David Maxwell, "The Morning Breaks: George Careless, Musical Pioneer," Ensign, February 1984. Also found in Calman's book, p. 39-43)
You may want to close the topic with a recording of "When in Our Music God is Glorified" from the hymnbook, or simply recite the first and third verses. Or, of course, you could play a recording the Tabernacle Choir singing, "The Morning Breaks" or "As the Dew From Heaven Distilling."