April 11, 2024

Missionaries Called to the Gold Rush

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The connection of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and early California settlement is full of exciting stories. A fun story from the Gold Rush ear in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was when Brigham Young called a group of young men to serve in the California Gold Rush. It would have been equally strange being on the receiving end of that calling. George Q. Cannon, a future apostle of the Church was one of the young men called to serve at the Gold Rush. He was twenty-four years old when he was called to go to the Gold Rush and "obtain financial means to support the Church". The missionaries learned to rely on the Lord, Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is through being faithful to the Lord in the unusual callings that the greater opportunities become available. This is what happened to George Q. Cannon on his mission to California.

The environment of the Gold Rush was terrible on the young missionaries. Lawlessness, drinking, gambling and more. These missionaries were surrounded by sin and evil all day long, and it was draining on them. The young missionaries “spent an unpleasant and unfruitful year away from home,” with nothing to show for it. They were discouraged and wondering if this call was of any importance.

It was then that this small group of California missionaries received a new call! They were called to Sandwich Islands of Hawaii by Apostle Charles C. Rich. Elder Rich told the missionaries that they needed to find enough gold to pay their way to Hawaii, and it would be cheaper for them to stay the winter in Hawaii than to fall prey to gambling and drinking with the rest of the miners.

The missionaries worked hard to find enough gold to pay their way to Hawaii, but the difficulties kept coming. The setback came when a dam broke just when the group of missionaries were ready to work their claim.

Dams all along the American River had been harmed or destroyed. “While others along the river immediately left the mines, these Hawaii-bound missionaries, needing a miracle, chose to rebuild their dam and work their claim,” Brother Orton said. “And their efforts paid off: they struck gold.”

The missionaries worked for two weeks mining the gold. They had all the money they needed to make their way to Hawaii. After two weeks the gold dried up.

“No doubt it is all right,” wrote missionary Henry Bigler in his journal, “for our eyes might have been so filled with gold dust that we might not have been able to see.”

The call to go to Hawaii was an answer to many prayer, and the missionaries were tried and tested to see if they were worthy to go to the Hawaii islands. The mission in Hawaii was difficult but packed with miracles. It seems like the time in the mines of California was to prepare the missionaries for the great work ahead.

One of the missionaries called to mine gold in California almost did not accept his call. This young man was told in a blessing that he would serve in the Islands, and mining in California is not the same. He was close to rejecting the call of mining gold, but then accepted, instead, relying on the Lord. After and year working on the mines when the Apostle extended the calling to Hawaii, this young missionary could see that it was all part of the Lords plan from the very beginning. He was very pleased that he had accepted the calling in the first place, acting in faith that it would all be right in the end.

The group of ten missionaries left San Francisco to Hawaii and started one of the most successful missions of the 19th century. George Q. Cannon and the other missionaries were able to witness the changing of lives because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. George Q. Cannon led the process of translating The Book of Mormon into Hawaiian. The Hawaiian mission was full of miracles “When George and the other former gold miners-turned-missionaries sailed for home after three and a half years in the islands and nearly five years away from home, more than 5,000 individuals had been baptized, which was more than 5 percent of the island’s population.” 



"Belonging to Heaven" by Gale Sears

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