A Powerful Missionary Experience of Hugh B. Brown

A young, inexperienced elder from Canada named Hugh B. Brown was laboring in Cambridge in 1904. On his arrival in that city, he saw posters in the train station declaring “Beware of the vile deceivers; the Mormons are returning. Drive them out.” For two days he went from house to house leaving tracts where he could and unsuccessfully attempting to engage Britons in gospel conversations. 18 One Saturday evening, as he later remembered, a knock came on the door.

“The lady of the house answered the door. I heard a voice say, ‘Is there an Elder Brown lives here?’ I thought, ‘Oh, oh, here it is!’

“She said, ‘Why, yes, he’s in the front room. Come in, please.’

“He came in and said, ‘Are you Elder Brown?’

“I was not surprised that he was surprised. I said, ‘Yes, sir.’

“He said, ‘Did you leave this tract at my door?’

“Well, my name and address were on it. Though I was attempting at that time to get ready to practice law, I didn’t know how to answer it. I said, ‘Yes, sir, I did.’

“He said, ‘Last Sunday there were 17 of us heads of families left the Church of England. We went to my home where I have a rather large room. Each of us has a large family, and we filled the large room with men, women and children. We decided that we would pray all through the week that the Lord would send us a new pastor. When I came home tonight I was discouraged, I thought our prayer had not been answered. But when I found this tract under my door, I knew the Lord had answered our prayer. Will you come tomorrow night and be our new pastor?’

“Now, I hadn’t been in the mission field three days. I didn’t know anything about missionary work, and he wanted me to be their pastor. But I was reckless enough to say, ‘Yes, I’ll come.’ And I repented from then till the time of the meeting.

“He left, and took my appetite with him! I called in the lady of the house and told her I didn’t want any tea [supper]. I went up to my room and prepared for bed. I knelt at my bed. My young brothers and sisters, for the first time in my life I talked with God. I told Him of my predicament. I pleaded for His help. I asked Him to guide me. I pleaded that He would take it off my hands. I got up and went to bed and couldn’t sleep and got out and prayed again, and kept that up all night—but I really talked with God.”

He spent the next day without breakfast or lunch, walking and worrying that he had to be the religious leader for these people.

“Finally it came to the point where the clock said 6:45. I got up and put on my long Prince Albert coat, my stiff hat which I had acquired in Norwich, took my walking cane (which we always carried in those days), my kid gloves, put a Bible under my arm, and dragged myself down to that building, literally. I just made one track all the way.

“Just as I got to the gate the man came out, the man I had seen the night before. He bowed very politely and said, ‘Come in, Reverend, sir.’ I had never been called that before. I went in and saw the room filled with people, and they all stood up to honor their new pastor, and that scared me to death.

“Then I had come to the point where I began to think what I had to do, and I realized I had to say something about singing. I suggested that we sing ‘O My Father.’ I was met with a blank stare. We sang it—it was a terrible cowboy solo. Then I thought, if I could get these people to turn around and kneel by their chairs, they wouldn’t be looking at me while I prayed. I asked them if they would and they responded readily. They all knelt down and I knelt down, and for the second time in my life I talked with God. All fear left me. I didn’t worry any more. I was turning it over to Him.

“I said to Him, among other things, ‘Father in Heaven, these folks have left the Church of England. They have come here tonight to hear the truth. You know that I am not prepared to give them what they want, but Thou art, O God, the one that can; and if I can be an instrument through whom You speak, very well, but please take over.’

“When we arose most of them were weeping, as was I. Wisely I dispensed with the second hymn, and I started to talk. I talked 45 minutes. I don’t know what I said. I didn’t talk—God spoke through me, as subsequent events proved. And He spoke so powerfully to that group that at the close of that meeting they came and put their arms around me, held my hands. They said, ‘This is what we have been waiting for. Thank God you came.’

“I told you I dragged myself down to that meeting. On my way back home that night I only touched ground once, I was so elated that God had taken off my hands an insuperable task for man.

“Within three months every man, woman and child in that audience was baptized a member of the Church.” 19

19. Father, Are You There?” Brigham Young University fireside address (Provo, 8 Oct. 1967), pp. 13–15.

Lorenzo Snow Preaches the Law of Tithing

Following the April 1899 sessions of general conference, President Snow felt impelled to again seek the Lord in earnest prayer for wisdom in solving the Church’s financial problems. He received no immediate answer. He was nevertheless impressed that he and other General Authorities should visit St. George and other settlements in southern Utah. At least sixteen of the Brethren, including President Joseph F. Smith, and their wives accompanied him. At the time of their visit the settlements of southern Utah were experiencing a severe drought.

St. George Tabernacle
The St. George Tabernacle was the site of President Snow’s revelation and sermon reemphasizing the payment of tithing as the way for the Church to achieve stability.

The tabernacle’s foundation stones were laid June 1863, and the building was completed in 1875. On 7 May 1876, Brigham Young, Jr., offered the dedicatory prayer.

On Wednesday, 17 May 1899, at the opening session of the conference in the St. George Tabernacle, President Snow told the Saints that “we are in your midst because the Lord directed me to come; but the purpose of our coming is not clearly known at the present, but this will be made known to me during our sojourn among you.” 10

LeRoi C. Snow, son of the President, who was reporting the conference for the Deseret News, recalled what happened: “All at once father paused in his discourse. Complete stillness filled the room. I shall never forget the thrill as long as I live. When he commenced to speak again his voice strengthened and the inspiration of God seemed to come over him, as well as over the entire assembly. His eyes seemed to brighten and his countenance to shine. He was filled with unusual power. Then he revealed to the Latter-day Saints the vision that was before him.” 11

President Snow told the Saints that he could see that the people had neglected the law of tithing and that the Church would be relieved of debt if members would pay a full and honest tithing. He then said that the Lord was displeased with the Saints for failing to pay their tithing and promised them that if they would pay their tithes the drought would be removed and they would have a bounteous harvest.

Following the conference session, President Snow was again impressed that the solution to the Church’s financial problems lay in the payment of tithing. In meetings held at Leeds, Cedar City, Beaver, and Juab, other southern Utah communities, he delivered powerful discourses relative to this gospel principle. In Nephi, in central Utah, a remarkable meeting was held where President Snow mentioned the revelation he had received on the law of tithing and “commissioned every one present to be his special witness to the fact that the Lord had given this revelation to him.” 12

At Church headquarters, President Snow again spoke powerfully about tithing at the Mutual Improvement Association conference in June. Elder B. H. Roberts then made a motion, which was unanimously adopted, that the Saints accept the doctrine of tithing now presented. Visibly moved, President Snow stood up and declared, “Every man who is here, who has made this promise, will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom.” 13

Tithing was preached in all the stake conferences, and a year later President Snow reported that the Saints had contributed twice as much tithing during the past year as they had paid the previous two years. Under inspiration, he had set in motion the program that would, by 1907, completely free the Church from debt. Many Saints testified that not only were the windows of heaven opened to save the Church, but those who followed this divine law were spiritually and temporally blessed as well.

11. LeRoi C. Snow, “The Lord’s Way out of Bondage Was Not the Way of Men,” Improvement Era, July 1938, p. 439.

12. Snow, “The Lord’s Way out of Bondage,” p. 440.

13. In Snow, “The Lord’s Way out of Bondage,” p. 442.