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8

We Have Each a Mission to Perform

Address in Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star

Liverpool, England

May 4, 1861


British actress Elicia Allely Grist [Suhrke Garthwaite] (1827–1898) was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in May 1853, about five months after her husband, John Grist.1 As a result of Elicia’s new church membership, her parents disinherited her.2 Over the years, the Grist family moved around England and Ireland, between Birmingham, Dublin, and Liverpool, where this talk was published.3

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Britain experienced the profound economic, social, cultural, and political changes of the Industrial Revolution. The development of the steam printing press, for instance, made publications more accessible to the growing working class. The thriving print culture created a public space where people could more fully articulate their sense of personal identity, their values, and their church activity, as Grist demonstrated.4 In addition, many individuals who experienced the dislocations of the Industrial Revolution were open to exploring new religious ideas and groups, and the church grew rapidly in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century. The church’s semimonthly British periodical, the Millennial Star, which was first published in 1840, was “devoted to the spread of the fulness of the gospel” and communicated with Saints throughout the British Mission.5

The Millennial Star was particularly important because the Saints in Britain were spread out widely and lacked some of the formal organization of the church. For instance, the first British Relief Society was not formally organized until 1873.6 The Millennial Star served in part as a forum for women—some of its articles, editorials, addresses, and messages spoke specifically to a female audience.7

In her address, Grist spoke of the distinct responsibilities of women. British women were experiencing new economic, cultural, and political opportunities as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Some mid-nineteenth-century Englishwomen who fought for women’s rights and suffrage simultaneously defended the Victorian concepts of gendered spheres and woman’s place in the home.8 Grist used metaphors from her acting career in her discourse, encouraging women to recognize their performance in the various acts of life. She also spoke as a mother—the Grists had seven daughters, four of whom died in infancy.9

Grist personally completed the plan of emigration outlined in this address when her family moved to Utah in 1863 through the assistance of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund.10 Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, she immediately began acting in the Salt Lake Theater, taking up again a pastime from her earlier life.11 Whether she actually delivered this address orally or simply published it in the Millennial Star is unknown.

In taking upon myself to address the sisters of the church, I do it with a view of stimulating and encouraging the best of feelings to exist among them; but by no means do I claim to be a dictator. I merely suggest what I consider would be a means of causing a more lively interest in each other’s society, by becoming more united in our efforts and extending a goodly influence in the sphere in which we are called to move.

When we take into consideration the many opportunities and various ways of usefulness, and the amount of good that may be accomplished by us who are engaged in so great a cause, some of you may feel that it is not our prerogative to interfere in the least, or to take one step towards building up the kingdom of God. But I feel that it is a mistaken idea to suppose that we cannot perform acts that would ennoble our character and position, when we are so nearly allied to the brethren of the priesthood, and they are required to use strenuous efforts to advance the cause of God. Not that I would wish it to be understood as suggesting anything that would interfere with the rights and duties of their high and holy calling. But could we not cherish a loving, kindred spirit towards each other? If we cannot often meet together in a social capacity, we may individually retain a more saintly oneness, and imbibe in our thoughts and sentiments a greater desire to bless and build up—to strengthen and encourage, and thus be a means of diffusing abroad a more lively interest in the kingdom of our Father, whose adopted ones we claim to be. As we are all of one family, let us be united in doing all the good we can in our sphere; for we are able to accomplish much, if we feel like doing it. Also in our fellowship meetings much depends upon the part we take.12

We have each a mission to perform, if we were only to consider what responsibility there is devolving upon us in every act we perform, though we are the weaker vessels, and cannot be called to bear off the higher responsibilities which rest upon those holding the oracles of God.13 But can we not, dear sisters, carry with us a pure sentiment of kindly feeling, and assist to create a lively spirit and devoted earnestness to the cause; and I need not name one great privilege we have, when there is ample opportunity afforded us for testifying and exercising the gifts of the Spirit. How many times have we been forcibly struck by the manifest power of God in our meetings!14 In many instances, when we have participated in these holy inspirations, our testimony may have caused some who have been present to reflect more deeply and closely upon what has been said.15 The same also may be done on other occasions, while in company with our neighbor or friendly visitor, who may, perhaps, have called on us, desiring the loan of some book. Here we may have the chance of conversing upon the principles of the church, and disseminating the works of the church also; and who knows but that in this way we may be the means of convincing some honest lover of truth, and showing him or her the way of salvation! Many instances of this sort might be mentioned. But suffice it to say, I deem it unusual on my part to give such instructions to my sisters, who may fully understand their duties and the various ways of usefulness, and how they can be best engaged in spreading a knowledge of the truth, by inviting others to attend the assemblies and congregations of the Saints; for “a word in season, how good it is” to those who will take a hint!16

We will now turn our attention to the domestic circle. Much depends upon us as to what kind of a spirit pervades our homes. As wives, we can create a little heaven there. When the head of a family returns from his daily toil, he necessarily looks for those comforts and attentions which it is unnecessary for me to mention, as all know best for themselves how to please and comfort those whom it is their privilege to look up to. There are also weighty responsibilities resting upon those of us that are mothers—namely, the proper training and instructing of our children. We cannot begin too early to instill into their young minds the principles of the church. I am frequently led into a train of serious reflections by questions asked by my little ones concerning the church. Their questions often arouse me to a sense of my duty. We are, dear sisters, held accountable to God for the manner in which we bring up our children. Do our little ones ever hear us pray for them? Do they ever see us kneeling by their little beds? For it is those children who hear their mothers pray who are most likely to pray for themselves.

I would also suggest another source of good to our children—namely, that of reading aloud to them, as often as we possibly can, the works of the church.17 Their young minds are very susceptible, and impressions are soon made, and their interest easily excited to that which is good. Take, for instance, an idea lately suggested by some of the brethren of the priesthood—that of traveling to Zion at the rate of three miles a penny: so every penny saved will bring you three miles nearer to Zion!18 If we can only get our children to take an interest in this, it would check that natural desire so prevalent amongst them of running away to buy cakes and sweets that only do them an injury.

I will mention one incident that came under my notice, for the encouragement of the young who may read it, or hear it read. Two little ones belonging to a family in the church had twopence each given them, and they came running to their mother, with joy beaming in their faces—“Oh, mother, we are six miles nearer to Zion! Please to put it in the box.” It would be well to encourage our children in this new movement. Although simple as it seems, our youngest children may in some instances be traveling three miles a day, and in a very easy way too, by putting their pence in a saving-box to their own credit.19 This will cause them and us to have the interest of the gathering at heart.

I trust that these few scattered remarks, written in all humility, will be received in the same kindly feeling; and I hope some more talented sister will take up the subject, as by that course we may greatly benefit each other. I do not wish any to think that I profess to be perfect. Alas, no. I feel my own imperfections but am endeavoring to overcome those things which I know to be a hindrance to my progress in the kingdom of God.

Footnotes

  1. [1]“Death of Mrs. Garthwaite,” Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 25, 1898.

  2. [2]John Knapp Grist, Journal of John Knapp Grist (Spanish Fork, UT: Liberty Press, n.d.), [2]. At the time of the Grists’ baptisms, some thirty thousand Latter-day Saints lived in the British Mission, where the church had been established for about sixteen years. (“Statistical Report of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the British Islands, for the Half-Year Ending June 30th, 1853,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 15, no. 31 [July 30, 1853]: 510.)

  3. [3]Grist, Journal of John Knapp Grist, [63, 65, 79, 83].

  4. [4]Jennifer L. Goloboy, “Introduction,” in Industrial Revolution: People and Perspectives, ed. Jennifer L. Goloboy (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2008), xx; Paul J. Erickson, “Readers and Writers,” in Goloboy, Industrial Revolution, 85, 94–95.

  5. [5]Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, Volume One, 1830–1847 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997), 108–113.

  6. [6]Rebecca Bartholomew, Audacious Women: Early British Mormon Immigrants (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 89, 109–118; Leonard J. Arrington, “Mormon Women in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” in Coming to Zion, ed. James B. Allen and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 1997), 285.

  7. [7]See Hannah Selina Pegg, “Friendly Suggestions to My Young Sisters,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 23, no. 16 (Apr. 20, 1861): 252–254; see also Elizabeth Tullidge, “Life,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 21, no. 2 (Jan. 8, 1859): 21–22; Emily G. Teasdale, “Woman—Her Sphere and Duties,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 21, no. 13 (Mar. 26, 1859): 206–208; and Mary [Fielding] Smith and M. R. [Mercy Fielding] Thompson, “To the Sisters of the Church of Jesus Christ in England: Greeting,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 5, no. 1 (June 1844): 15.

  8. [8]Bartholomew, Audacious Women, 103–106.

  9. [9]At the time Grist wrote this address, her daughters Evangeline and Alice were eight and nine years old. (See Grist, Journal of John Knapp Grist, [3].)

  10. [10]The Perpetual Emigrating Fund, launched in 1849, provided financial assistance for and coordinated organization among Latter-day Saints moving to Utah. (Names of Persons and Sureties Indebted to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company from 1850 to 1877 Inclusive [Salt Lake City: Star Book and Job Printing Office, 1877], 59; see also Richard L. Jensen and Maurine Carr Ward, “Names of Persons and Sureties Indebted to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, 1850 to 1877,” Mormon Historical Studies 1, no. 2 [Fall 2000]: 141–142.)

  11. [11]“Death of Mrs. Garthwaite”; A. A. [Annie Adams] Kiskadden, “Greenroom Memories at the Salt Lake Theatre,” Deseret Evening News, Dec. 15, 1906. Grist was one of a large number of British Saints immigrating to Utah who brought with them theatrical experience. In a letter to Brigham Young about British Saints, George Sims described the Salt Lake Theatre as “a loud preacher” because its existence encouraged cultured British Saints to immigrate to Utah, where they could find cultural activities. (George E. Sims to Brigham Young, Mar. 5, 1863, 3, Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878, CHL; see also Lynne Watkins Jorgensen, “The Mechanics’ Dramatic Association: London and Salt Lake City,” Journal of Mormon History 23, no. 2 [Fall 1997]: 155–184.)

  12. [12]“Fellowship meeting” may have been a British term for testimony meeting. (See “The Visitor: The Fellowship Meeting,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 21, no. 4 [Jan. 22, 1859]: 57–58.)

  13. [13]See 1 Peter 3:7. Perceptions of the fall of Adam and Eve in the nineteenth century often focused on Eve being deceived by Satan; interpreters of the Bible commonly placed emphasis on women as physically and emotionally weaker than—and therefore submissive to—men. (Amanda W. Benckhuysen, “The Prophetic Voice of Christina Rossetti,” in Recovering Nineteenth-Century Women Interpreters of the Bible, ed. Christiana de Groot and Marion Ann Taylor [Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007], 170.)

  14. [14]A London-based poet described these British fellowship meetings as having “burning words of inspiration” given in “tongues unknown, and prophecy.” The Saints were greatly blessed through those meetings: “Faithful Saints refresh’d and strengthen’d / Drooping ones reviv’d and cheer’d; / Thus their happy days are lengthen’d, / Thus Jehovah’s name’s rever’d.” (T. J. D., “Fellowship Meeting,” Deseret News, Dec. 14, 1854.)

  15. [15]See Doctrine and Covenants 46:14.

  16. [16]See Proverbs 15:23. Many British women invited neighbors and friends to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For three examples, see Arrington, “Mormon Women in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” 282, 292, 297.

  17. [17]Grist’s advocacy for children’s education ran counter to the prevailing ideas in British society at the time, when most children faced many barriers to formal learning, including poverty and class distinction. Orson Pratt engaged a press in Liverpool under the auspices of the British Mission to publish scriptures, hymnals, poetry books, histories, theological pamphlets, catechisms, periodicals, and various works in French, German, Italian, Danish, and Welsh, as well as portraits of significant male church leaders in Utah. (Arrington, “Mormon Women in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” 284; Catalogue of Works Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and for Sale by Orson Pratt at Their General Repository, and “Millennial Star” Office [Liverpool: ca. 1856].)

  18. [18]As part of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, people were encouraged to save their own money and deposit it with approved agents to pay for their travel to Utah. The Millennial Star often printed information detailing the specific costs of ship passage, rail passage, and overland transportation, as well as suggested supply lists. (See, for example, “Individual or Penny Emigration Fund,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 19, no. 36 [Sept. 5, 1857]: 570–571; and “Emigration,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 23, no. 1 [Jan. 5, 1861]: 9–10.)

  19. [19]The obituary of Alice Grist Allen, a daughter of Elicia Grist, stated that Alice walked most of the way across the plains. (“Alice Alalee Allen,” Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 29, 1933.)