Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Saving Heathens and The Book of Mormon


Just waiting for us to save them!


Elder Price and Elder Cunningham encounter an African
 heathen before they even leave Salt Lake City! [Scene from
The Book of Mormon, playing at the Eugene O’Neill theatre in New York.]

            Our daughter and son-in-law gave Marty and me tickets to see The Book of Mormon in New York, and we saw it the other day. 
            Young people who’ve grown up watching South Park and similar shows don’t even blink when they get hit with the F-word over a hundred times in a night of entertainment, but some youngsters look with apprehension when their parents venture into that environment.
            At my age (78) and after 34 years in the United States Navy, I’ve pretty much heard all the foul words.  However, males of my generation still cling to this idea that we should protect young ears, and those of ladies, from this language. 
            Well, after a few minutes watching the antics of this legion of bright-eyed, white shirt-clad young Mormons striking out to bring Christian and Mormon teaching to the heathen of central Africa, you forget about the “explicit language” and enjoy a wonderfully entertaining and funny musical. 
            The creators of South Park don’t really skewer the Mormon religion.  Instead, they make a lot of fun of idealistic people who launch themselves to the dark side of the Earth to bring the message, any message, to people there. 
            That’s the idea: Fresh young faces handing out the Book of Mormon to people in the jungle of Northern Uganda.  These lads are so filled with “missionary zeal” that they quickly join in singing a catchy Ugandan song, then find that they have blasphemed big time.
They soon discover these Ugandans have larger problems, with murderous war lords, poverty, hunger, AIDS, and female circumcision. 
One rather colorful Ugandan confides to them that he has “maggots in my scrotum”.
Elder Cunningham, played by Josh Gad, is the typical schlemiel.  A momma’s boy, this fat and friendless nerd admits he hasn’t really read the Book of Mormon that he has been sent to share with the natives. 
However, the smart and superior young Elder Price finds out he’s not so smart about spreading the gospel, and the nerd comes out on top.  Cunningham does what all the other missionaries haven’t been able to do--- he starts saving souls.
It’s a jolly, happy musical with plenty of catchy tunes, and the nerd is the winner!

            All this talk about missionaries reminds me that we Americans have been doing this stuff for a long time. 

            Oh, to have been a Missionary in the good old days!  Imagine boarding a ship in Salem Harbor, right here in Massachusetts. You took your whole family, and trunks and trunks of books, clothes, pots, pans, and all the food you would need for a few years. 
            Your voyage would take you to ports in the Caribees, and then down the coast of South America to Cape Horn If you were lucky enough to make it around the Horn, after several months you would make it across the South Pacific Ocean and make landfall near the Straits of Malacca, then into the Indian Ocean until you arrived at Hindoostan, which would be your home for the next several years.
            Or, perhaps you might have landed in Cathay, which we now call China.

Missionaries that nations and churches have sent all over the world have done a world of good, in bringing medical care, and better health practices, and teaching people better ways to farm, and to protect themselves from disease, and in many ways missionaries have carried a message of hope and faith that has truly improved the lives of people the world over!
Many, however, have sallied forth without knowing anything about the country in which they would serve, and once there, would not take the time to learn, to listen, and to acquire the local language. 
When you read some of the missionary magazines from the nineteenth century, you can see for yourself that some of our missionary work was based on ignorance, and quite heavy-handed.

            As long as America has been a country, we have been so sure of ourselves that we wanted everyone else in the world to join us.
After all, how can they live without joining us in our religious faith?  I mean, it’s only right that we lead them into the light. 
            Never mind that they have been Hindoos, Buddhists or Mohametans or even tree-worshippers --- for many centuries!
            Well, we really didn’t want those yellow and brown people to come over here, mind you --- but we felt that we needed to make good Christians of them.  While we went to great efforts to give them the wealth of our knowledge and experience, our immigration laws severely limited their coming to live here.
                        Our missionaries have taken Bibles and trinkets to win the hearts and minds of the rest of the world.  We were so terribly sure that if we could turn them into good Christians, they would stop killing each other, and marrying multiple wives, and putting widows on the funeral pyre to be burned alive with their dead husbands.  If we could make everyone in the world into good, God-fearing, teetotaler Christians, the world would be so much safer!

American Baptist Magazine, May 1820

            If you read a few of the books, magazines and papers that religious groups published, you may get the impression that our missionaries went forth to Siam and Hindoostan, Persia, Cathay and Africa--- and to the Indian tribes all over America and Canada --- without knowing much about these people, and with very little respect for their religious faith or culture.  Americans sitting at home here read with eagerness about the adventures in these far-off places.
            I invite you to read a little about the problems of building a missionary college in Serampour, India early in the nineteenth century. 
            Read about missionaries among the Indian tribes right in North America, and read a translation of a letter of King Otaheite of the Society Islands (Tahiti), telling about a comet that has struck his people. 

Serampore College in India, founded 1818.

American Baptist Magazine and Missionary Intelligencer, May 1820, Vol. 2 No. 9 Boston, MA: Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts. Memoir of Rev. Henry Jessey. Review of sermon delivered at the ordination of Rev. Stephen Chapin by Jeremiah Chaplin, Professor of Divinity in the Maine Literary and Theological Institution, at North Yarmouth. Extract of letter from Missionary College, Serampore by W. Ward. [Note: Ward was among founders of this College in India in 1818. It still exists in 2008.] College is open to all denominations of Christians, and to as many heathen scholars as choose to avail themselves of its exercises and lectures. Letter from Pomare, King of Otaheite,Society Islands. Report on efforts to Christianize American Indians of the Oneida and Stockbridge; letter signed with marks by Oneida Indians asking to embrace Christianity.34 pp. 15 x 24 cm. Paper periodical, edges frayed, page corners curled, poor. (6399) $36.00. Religious/Missionary
American Baptist Magazine and Missionary Intelligencer, September 1820, Vol. 2 No. 11 Boston, MA: Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts. Frontispiece engraving of Rev'd James Manning Winchell, A.M. late pastor of the First Baptist Church in Boston. Memoir of the death of Mrs. Tamma Winchell, Rev. Winchell's widow. Tribute on death of Rev. Edward W. Wheelock, who, dying of consumption, left Rangoon for Calcutta, and died at sea. Letter from Mrs. Colman on the Burman Mission, mournfully relates last days of Rev. Wheelock. In letter to her sister she chides her for not answering for "nine long months" and goes on to tell her about revival of Buddhism in Burma, and building of pagodas.  32 pp. 15 x 24 cm. Paper periodical, edges frayed, page corners curled, poor. (6400) $36.00. Religious/Missionary

American Messenger, June 1856; "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. Vol. 14. No. 6 New York, NY: The American Tract Society. Americans eagerly awaited this monthly religious paper. National news, religious commentary. Missionary news. Report on desperate condition of women of China, by Rev. John C. Lord of Ningpo:  They are slaves. Story about a dog who saved a store from burning in Troy, NY. War in Europe is ended, Treaty signed in Paris March 30 by Great Britain, Russia, Austria, Sardinia, Turkey, France, Prussia. 4 pp. 38 x 56 cm. Newspaper,  spinefold torn 24 cm,  good. (5361) $20.00. Religious/History

American Messenger, July 1856; "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. Vol. 14. No. 7 New York, NY: The American Tract Society. Americans eagerly awaited this monthly religious paper. National news, religious commentary. Missionary news. Colporteurs* among the Cherokees. Work of Grace among the Karens of Burmah. The Chinese Language and Dialects. Agent of American Bible Society in Turkey sees declining interest in Mohammedanism and increased interest in the Christian religion among Moslems. 4 pp. 38 x 56 cm. Newspaper,  biopredation in horizontal fold, fair. (5362) $20.00. Religious/History
*Colporteurs were peddlars or distributors of religious booklets and tracts.

American Messenger, August 1856; "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. Vol. 14. No. 8 New York, NY: The American Tract Society. Americans eagerly awaited this monthly religious paper. National news, religious commentary. Missionary news. Letter from a Slave--Thanks for  the American Messenger! Report of Mexicans in Metamoras (sic) who are willing to read. Progress in the North-west, among Romanists who have renounced Popery and then united with Protestant churches. 4 pp. 38 x 56 cm. Newspaper, very good. (5363) $20.00. Religious/History

American Messenger, September, 1856; "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. Vol. 14. No. 9 New York, NY: The American Tract Society. Americans eagerly awaited this monthly religious paper. National news, religious commentary. Missionary news. Story about lumbermen on the head waters of the Kennebec River in Maine, one who swore that God Almighty is not quick enough to kill me with a tree. The next day, while felling their first tree, a small branch was thrown with fatal  aim, as by the hand of the Almighty, and killed him. Story of brutal Indian swinging festivals honoring Shiva near Calcutta. 4 pp. 38 x 56 cm. Newspaper,  top edge ragged. very good. (5364) $20.00. Religious/History

American Messenger, April 1857; "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. Vol. 15. No. 4 New York, NY: The American Tract Society. Americans eagerly awaited this monthly religious paper. National news, religious commentary. Missionary news. Florence Nightingale, her upbringing, and her service in the recent war in the Crimea. The Rev. Dr. Eli Smith died Jan. 11 in Beyrout,Syria, aged 55. His work was in translating, preparing and issuing a Bible in Arabic. 4 pp. 38 x 56 cm. Newspaper,  very good. (5365) $20.00.  Religious/History

American Messenger, June 1858; "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. Vol. 16. No. 6   New York, NY: The American Tract Society. 4 pp. 38 x 56 cm. Americans eagerly awaited this monthly religious paper. National news, religious commentary. Missionary news. Bishop McIlvaine's Address at 33rd anniversary of the Society. Position on "anti-slavery".Minnesota was admitted into the confederacy of the United States May 12, making the number of states in the Union 32. Russia to adopt the new style of calendar, so that by 1912 their calendar will coincide with the Gregorian. The children's missionary vessel,"Morning Star" since arriving at the Sandwich islands in 1857 has made two important cruises. Newspaper,  very good.  (5372) $20.00.  Religious/Hist

Boston Investigator, The; Devoted to the development and promotion of universal mental liberty. Boston, Massachusetts, June 2, 1869 Seaver, Horace, Editor 1869 Boston, MA: Josiah P. Mendum. Unique newspaper, now in its 39th year, dedicated to Rationalism, fighting bigotry and superstition. Originally founded by the noted atheist Abner Kneeland, J.P. Mendum carried on the cause of fighting religion and religiosity. Editorial on benefits and advantages of Atheism. "Why should we not applaud the heroism of Atheistical martyrs... who were burnt by their Christian enemies?"  Paganism: "It would be difficult to prove that Paganism contained a greater mass of absurdities, follies, immoralities, madness, and fanaticism than modern Christianity." Report of circulation of the Gospel and the Holy Bible in Spain. Upwards of 5,000,000 tracts have been given away, and on Good Friday the Puerta del Sol resembled a vast reading room. Report of Indian fight. Seven companies of the Fifth Cavalry, led by General Carr, while moving from Kansas toward Fort McPherson, struck a camp of about 500 Cheyennes, and a big fight ensued, in which the Indians were badly defeated. The YMCA of Milwaukee has decided to leave its reading rooms open on Sunday, and Lake Michigan has not risen its banks and inundated the town. 8 pp. 36 x 42 cm. Newspaper, tiny holes in intersection of folds; letter "c" pencil on about five articles. Good. (7402) $49.00.  Religious/Atheism

Christian Register, The, Boston and Chicago, Saturday, April 4, 1874 Boston, MA: Christian Register Association. Writing in this newspaper is as tart and alert, educated with a good sense of humor, that one can observe even after all these years. "A Sunday among the Szekler Unitarians" by Robert S. Morison reports of visit to religious community in Almas on Homorod, Transylvania. Nearly everyone in these villages is Unitarian...visit to funeral of old woman.  "A Burman Dandy" description of a man who thinks himself the most worthy to be admired  of any dandy in all of Burmah. "An Answer to 'T.H.’ on Darwinism" gives erudite argument to earlier statements.  Editorial reports decision of the Brooklyn Trinitarian Congregational Council which justifies and approves the course of the churches of Rev. Dr. Storrs and Budington, and favors the continuance of fellowship with Plymouth Church, with stipulations. Letter from Michigan reports the Festival of the Annunciation in Ann Arbor, one of the most solemn and joyous festivals of the Catholic Church. Writer compares celebration to one in Nazareth, Palestine, with little Syrian children, 20 years ago. 4 pp. 54 x 70 cm. Newspaper,  small holes in folds, fair. (7721) $20.00. Religious/Unitarian

Connecticut Evangelical Magazine, Volume I; bound volume of numbers 1-12, from July 1800 to June 1801; First Edition Cogswell, James, D.D. Editor et al   1801 Hartford, CT: Hudson and Goodwin, Printers Evangelical magazine by Missionary Society of Connecticut to support of missions in the new American settlements and among the heathen. News from London Missionary society about missionary work in the South Seas. Misfortunes of the Otaheitean Mission. News about Missionary work among the Indians. Letter to Indian Tribes bordering on Lake Erie. Report of unusual religious appearances by Rev. Samuel J. Mills of Torringford, Connecticut. Memoirs of Mrs. Sarah Storrs, consort of Rev. Richard Salter Storrs Address to backsliding Christians. Confession of the Freethinker John James Rosseau. History of the Moravians, or Unitas Fratrum. Thoughts on the future glory of the Jewish nation. Character and experiences of Mrs. Nancy Bishop. Death of Clarissa. Revival of Religion in New-Hartford.  237 pp. 12 x 21 cm. Calf on board, corners bumped, worn, spine cracked and shriveled.  Pp. 155-156 missing bottom part of page; pp. 157-158 torn and poorly repaired. Bookplate on front pastedown from "First Social Library in Newbury port".  Overall poor condition. (4843) $68.00. Religious

Connecticut Evangelical Magazine, Volume III; bound volume of numbers 1-12, from July 1802 to June 1803; Williams, Nathan, D.D. Editor et al 1803 Hartford, CT: Hudson and Goodwin, Printers. Evangelical magazine by Missionary Society of Connecticut to support of missions in the new American settlements and among the heathen. Report on attempts to Christianize the Indians; Thomas Mayhew among the Indians on Martha's Vineyard, continued from Vol. II.  On the Revival of Religion in Yale-College, New Haven On the Comfort of the Holy Ghost. Reflections on God's Feeding his ancient church with Manna. Revival in Middlebury. Thoughts on the Angel of the Lord. Memoirs of Miss Deborah Thomas. Extract of a Letter from Rev. David Bacon, Missionary to the Indians, dated Machilimakinak, July 2, 1802. Ottawas and Chippeways. Account of Japhet Hannit as teacher of the first Indian church on Martha's Vineyard.  Life and dying exercises of Mrs. B-----, who died July, 1802 in one of the towns of the state ofMassachusetts in the 30th year of her age.484 pp. w/ index 12 x 21 cm. Calf on board, worn,  pencil  notations on front inside pastedown. Good. (4844) $74.00. Religious          

Connecticut Evangelical Magazine, The; Vol. IV, Consisting of 12 numbers, to be published monthly, from July 1803 to June 1804 Williams, Nathan, D.D.; Smalley, John, D.D.; Day, Jeremiah, D.D.; Trumbull, Benjamin, D.D.; Parsons, Elijah, D.D., et al, Editors  1804. Hartford, CT: Hudson & Goodwin Bound volume of twelve issues of Evangelical Magazine.  "Attempts to Christianize the Indians  in New-England & c."continued from the previous year.  Mention of attempts by Romish priests, which are opposed to actions of Protestant priests, include "teaching them the Pater Noster and rubbing a few beads, then baptising them."  In November 1803 issue is description of Religious exercises in the Indian Congregations, from a letter from Dr. Increase Mather in 1687.    Before he died, Rev. Mr. Atwater of Westfield wrote an Advice for his only son, William. That advice is published in the October 1803 issue.  Report of Revival of Religion in Lebanon, New York, in 1799.  "Reflections of a Youth once dissolute, brought to serious consideration" published in April 1804 issue.  484 pp. 12.4 x 21.5 cm. Whole calf on board, edges lightly worn, text block slightly fanned; contemporary signature of Elijah Loomis written three times on front endpapers, with "Cost 11/". Text block tight, slight foxing.  Good copy. (5260) $66.00. Religious/Missionary

Journal of Missions "The Field is the World" Boston, September, 1855 Boston, MA: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Summary of Intelligence: North American Indians. Choctaws, 121 have professed their faith as Christians. Cherokees: Four have joined the church, and the cause of temperance wears "a somewhat brightening aspect." Ojibwas. Not so good, little interest in education for their children. But we have noted a marked change for the better in temperance. We have not seen a drunk Indian for two years. Report from Ceylon: Cholera has abated, but still prevails at Tillipally. Small-pox is prevalent. "Has anything been done by the Mission to Syria in 25 Years?" Report by G.B.W. from Beyroot notes that work has been attempted and steadily persevered in. Reports from Hindustan, Burmah, China and Siam. Facts about the Island of Bonabe, or Ascension by one of the Micronesian Missionaries. 4 pp. 38 x 55 cm. Newspaper, paper very durable, with small stains, good. (7142) $26.00. Religious/Missionary

Massachusetts Missionary Magazine, July 1804, Vol. II No. 2  Boston, MA:Massachusetts Missionary Society. Biography:  Life of Lieutenant John Wills, late of the Royal Navy, d. 1764. He fell asleep in the embraces of God his Saviour, to his eternal gain. "Letters on Solitary Devotion-- From Pascal to Julia, letters XIII and XIV.”"Narratives by a Young Lady" After our pastor died in 1800 the religious attention declined, till an unusual stupidity took place... youth were gliding down the stream of dissipation and carelessness.  In 1803 vice and immorality seemed to rise to greater height than ever.  At this time God was pleased to send a faithful pastor to guide the flock... "The Pilgrims"--- Primus from Europe, Secundus from Asia, Tertius from Africa and Quartusfrom America. Says Quartus: "My blood chills in my veins while I contemplate the danger to which the Southern states are exposed. The debt contracted is great, and must be paid." Talk against slavery and idea for Negro missionaries from America returning toAfrica to preach the Gospel.  Quartus also talks about how Americans have mistreated the Indians in America. 38 pp. 13 x 21 cm. Paper booklet, no wraps, worn, good.  (7522) $43.00. Religious

Massachusetts Missionary Magazine, The June 1807, Vol. V No. 1 Boston, MA:Massachusetts Missionary Society. Religious and interesting communications calculated to edify Christians and inform the rising generation; profits of this work are to be applied to the support of Missionaries in the New Settlements and among the Indians of North America. Memoirs of Dr, Witherspoon. The Pious Negro Woman. Edinburgh Society'sMission to Tartary: a letter from Pinkerton in Karass. Group of missionaries crossed the Pod-Kuma, dined with Circassian shepherds, engaged in discussion of the New Testament with Muslim men. Found Tartars "miserably ignorant" of Christ and His works.Eulogium on the Late Chancellor Wythe. 40 pp. 14 x 23 cm. Paper periodical, pages uncut, edges frayed, rough, poor. (6397) $44.00. Religious/Missionary

Missionary Herald, The; Vol. XXXV No. 10, October, 1839 Boston, MA: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Journal of Mr. Thomson at Beyroot; gets in trouble handing out tracts. Visit from Arab and long, circular conversation aimed at getting a Bible. Recommendation of Antioch as a field for missionary labor. Mahrattas. Letter from Ahmednuggur. Journal from Mr. Riggs, missionary among the Sioux Indians at LakeTravers. "the Sioux love dog-meat as well as white people do pork." 32 pp. 16 x 24 cm. Paper periodical, name of "Miss Sally Howe" inscribed on cover wrap, very good. (6097) $28.00. Religious/Missionary

Missionary Herald, The;  Vol. XXXV No. 11, November, 1839 1839 Boston, MA American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions 48 pp. 16 x 24 cm. Report from Syria and the Holy Land, discouraging and daunting task; The Druzes continue to throng our dwellings  until they are persecuted by the Maronites.  Work in Beyroot. Letter from Broosa (probably Bursa, Turkey) among the Armenians and Greeks, burning of missionary books in public bonfire. Report from Borneo of a sea voyage to the mouth of the Sambas river. Six precise and strict Mohammedans, "apparently honest and sincere followers of the false prophet and his delusions." Paper periodical, name of "Miss Sally Howe" inscribed on cover wrap, very good. (6095) $28.00. Religious/Missionary  [p. 417: The Dyaks of this village (in Borneo) still continue the barbarous practice of cutting off heads, and boast of bringing in two or three fresh ones every year.  In the verandah where we have our lodgings, there  are 15 or 20, and some suspended immediately over the place assigned us to sleep."]

Contact me at

No comments:

Post a Comment