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.

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