LATE in the fall of 1867 I was laboring as a missionary in my native country. Being only eighteen years of age, and having no experience in this great world, I had much to learn: not only the Gospel, which I was sent to proclaim, but the customs and manners of the people as well.
I was appointed to labor with the presiding Elder of the district, an experienced missionary, who had a great deal of regard for his own welfare. After traveling some months among the branches of the Church, the president and myself took a new field of labor. He was to take one side of the road and I the other, and to go from house to house; and when evening came we were to try and find each other. So we parted. The weather was nice overhead, but the traveling was very difficult at places, as the wind had drifted the snow very high, and small houses were nearly covered by it.
My first day's labor was attended with but little success. Every one seemed to be opposed to receiving the Gospel; so when darkness came I found myself alone on the road. I did not see my partner during the whole day. I found no place for shelter that night, so I made my bed in the snow. The next day went like the first, and the third day the same. I had nothing to eat as no one seemed willing to entertain me.
On the night of the third day as I was wandering in the dark I saw a light in the distance. Towards it I went to see if I could not get shelter for the night. When I came to the house it was a miserable-looking place. But I thought, if I could only get inside for the night I would be very thankful.
I knocked at the door of the house and was invited to come in. On entering I found an old lady sitting on a chair, busily spinning. Her face was anything but handsome. She reminded me of old witches that I so often had read about in my school days, and I almost trembled at the very thought of asking her for the privilege of remaining in her house for the night; but I dreaded to lie on the snow another night. So I took courage and asked her. She at first refused. I told her that I was a messenger with the everlasting Gospel, and was sent like the apostles of old, without purse or scrip, and if I only could sit in one of her chairs I would be very thankful. At last she gave me the privilege of staying. She did not leave her labor, but went on spinning. I seated myself on a chair and began to speak to her of the Gospel, telling her that God had again raised up prophets and apostles as in days of old.
The old lady exclaimed, "Young man, I don't want any of your preaching. I have no time to listen. I am a poor woman and have to work all day, and if you stop me from my work I shall not get it done by nine o'clock tomorrow morning.
I told her that she should lose nothing because of me, but on the other hand should be blessed.
At ten o'clock she stopped her work and went to another room of the house. I then moved my chair to the distaff and began to spin. After awhile the old lady returned, and with surprise she said, "What! can you spin?"
I told her I could, so she went back again, and after a few minutes she returned with a part of her bed clothing, saying, "I have nothing to give you to eat, but I will make a bed for you, so you can rest your body."
I thanked her very much for her kindness, but I dreaded the thought of going to bed, for surely I thought she was a bad woman; but I trusted in God that He would protect me from harm. After my bed was made on the top of three chairs I asked permission to kneel down in prayer, which was granted me. She then went to the other room, and I retired on the chairs.
I slept but little. The wind was blowing fiercely, and the snow was drifting high. When daylight came my bed was covered with snow, which had come through the cracks of the house; but I felt thankful to God that I had been sheltered from the storm that night. I arose early and at once went to spinning the yarn, while the old lady was taking away my bed and making fire. She was trying to get some breakfast, but all she had was a small piece of black, rye bread and some black coffee. She shared it with me willingly. This scanty meal was all I had had for three days, so my readers can understand how I felt, but yet I was happy, and thankful to my Heavenly Father and I felt I had not been forsaken.
About nine o'clock I bade my old lady good-morning. Her yarn was finished in time for her delivery, so she lost nothing by me. I asked God to bless her for what she had done for me.
My partner seemed to be lost, for I had not seen him since we parted, and I wondered how he was getting along. As it was getting close to the hour of twelve o'clock, noon, I entered a small village. Here I thought I should get something to eat; but no; there was no one who had anything to spare for a Mormon Elder, neither did I find any who would listen to the Gospel. After calling at every house, I at the last house saw the family sitting at the table, eating. My hunger was very intense at this time. I pleaded with the man to let me have something to eat, but he refused. I offered him money, which he refused also. He was determined not to give nor sell to a Mormon. I told him that I had been without food for three and a half days, but it did not move him. As I was speaking, a thought came to me like this: if he, the man of the house, refused me the third time, the first spoonful he took to his mouth would choke him. Well, he did refuse me, but no sooner had he done so than he raised the spoon to his mouth and began to choke. I left him, asking God to remember him. After leaving the house, I could hear him coughing or groaning, but what became of him I do not know.
I went again from house to house, but no soul would listen to the warning voice or give me anything to eat. It was getting towards evening and I saw no prospect for a lodging place, so I went a short distance on the road and there saw a man standing still, as if he was looking for something. When I came nearer the spot I found it to be my lost partner and president of the district.
"Hello!" said he. "Where have you been?"
I then gave him my report since we parted.
He laughed, saying, "0, I have lost nothing. I have had all that I had wanted to eat and the best of sleeping places."
I congratulated him upon his good luck. Well, here we stood; it was getting dark and I knew of no place to go.
Well," said my partner, "I am not going to sleep out-doors tonight. Come, we will cross the line and go into another district where there are some Saints."
So off we started, and when we came to the place it was after nine o'clock. was light in the house.
The sister living there was pleased to see us, and after some talk she asked, "Do you want anything to eat ?
My partner answered, "No, thanks; we have had plenty." So after prayer we retired for the night. We were assigned to separate rooms. When I had laid myself on my bed I began crying and saying to myself, "0, what a man my partner and president is! He knew that I have had scarcely anything to eat for four days, and then to say we had plenty! I prayed to the Lord for something to eat, as my hunger was very great. After I had prayed a noise was heard in one of the rooms, a door was opened, and the sister of the house came with a candlestick in her hand and just passed my bed. As she was passing I said, "Sister, have you not a piece of dry bread for me, for I am very hungry; I have had but one scanty meal in four days." Whereupon she exclaimed, "You hungry! Did I not ask Brother -- if you wanted anything to eat, and he said that neither of you were hungry?" I told her that he had had plenty, but I had had nothing; so she went and got me something to eat, and then went back to her room. When morning came I was served with coffee and cake on my bed, while my partner got nothing; and at our breakfast the good sister made a distinction in the preparation of the food. At one end of the table she spread a white tablecloth. and placed on it the very best of food she had in the house, while at the other end everything very simple.
My partner was walking up and down the room, wondering at the peculiar way the table was arranged. He said to me, "Well, I am the president and shall sit at this end where all the nice things are, and you at the other end."
Our sister just then entered the room. Prayer was offered up, after which the lady said to me, "Please take your seat here," pointing to where the good things were, "and you, Brother ----, at this end," where all the simple food was.
The president looked with astonishment upon our sister. She requested me to ask a blessing upon the food, after which she turned to Brother --, who seemed to have lost all his appetite for breakfast, saying, "If you are not satisfied with your meal you can just let it alone."
He did not eat any, but became angry. As I was hungry, it took some time before I was ready to leave the house, but as soon as I had finished eating he left the house like a madman. I thanked the sister for her kindness to me, asking God to bless her and hers.
When we came out on the road he began to speak to me, using very unbecoming words. When he got through I told him the reason why our good sister had acted that way: because he told her when asked if we needed anything to eat that we had had plenty.
After awhile he began to see his wrong, and asked my forgiveness. I forgave him, but I always remembered it; and when I was again called to go back to my native country as a missionary, and when acting as a presiding Elder, I was careful to remember those who were placed under me, that they should not suffer like I did.
I have learned that it is best to be humble and meek, and not to feel that there is none like unto ourselves. My president some time afterwards married a good woman, emigrated to Zion, but by the time he reached Ogden his love for Mormonism had left him. The spirit of fault-finding had taken possession of him, and at last he left the church.
H. F F. Thorup.
The Juvenile Instructor
1 July 1895 pp 407-10