Southwestern States Mission: The Language of Conflict

By June 10, 2012

The missionaries and the people living within the boundaries of the Southwestern States Mission often found themselves at odds. In this post I will look briefly at how the missionaries wrote about interactions that were negative in some way. [1]

I perceive four threads in the negative interactions: the missionaries sometimes described the (1) teaching/arguing interaction but more often focused on (2) cues of acceptance and/or rejection, all in the context of (3) finding food and shelter and (4) classifying the experience for institutional reporting.

?Anti-Mormon? appears only once, in reference to the ?American Party? in Utah. [2] I have found no instances of ?Bible bash? in the diaries but did find one ?Bible talker?:

?we find Some bitter people but we find one place to Stay overnight the woman was a Bible talker but I Soon wound her up but She wouldn’t give in when She was beat we kept on after the man had gone to Bed he got tired and said for us to go to Bed. [3]

The ?we wound X up? construct—a description of the argument—appears three times and in each case the diarist felt like he had ?won? the discussion. [4] Other examples include ?pinned him down so close he couldn?t get out of it,? ?I got him cornered up,? ?we had at it,? and ?we put the Bible to them so straight that the old lady got wrathful and wanted us to stop and go.? [5]

The ?bitter?but still found lodging? formula appears four times. [6] ?Bitter? (or ?bitterly?) appears forty-six times, spread over all seven diaries, often in conjunction with the refusal to accept a tract, speak to missionaries, grant permission to use a building, or feed/lodge the Elders. [7] ?Prejudice? appears somewhat more often than ?bitter? and seems to have had about the same meaning and usage. [8]

The missionaries tended to use ?abuse? and ?vilify? to describe verbal attacks on Mormonism. [9]

The number of ?Rejected Testimonies of Elders? and ?Refused Entertainment? were both sent to the conference president in the weekly report. The diaries? use of ?rejected? and ?refused? often seem to reflect those categories. [10]

Elder Clark, the curmudgeon of the group, closes us out, touching all four threads:

we did not have any dinner the day before or Supper and had benches for bed this community is all Baptist they are without charity and Bitter besides we continue our Labors tracting come to one house the woman said we didn’t believe in the Bible said Old jo Smith was a bad man said we was false Teachers said She knowed more about us then we knew our Selves I told her I was glad She was learning me So much and bore my testimony to her and go the next place we Come to was a Baptist Preacher he came to the door and said have you got any hoes I told him every man to his trade we used to hoe corn but now we was doing mission work and not hoeing corn it was dinner time he didn’t want to feed us but finally he said will you come in I said yes and go in and talk until dinner So he give us our dinner but was bitter towards us but I didn’t Care So I got my dinner I give him a pamphlet he took it and said yes that will do to make a fire with. [11]

The ?Southwestern States Mission? series uses the diaries of six seven (as of 2012 Jun) missionaries who served in eastern Texas around 1900 to illustrate aspects of Mormon material culture, lived religion, and social History. The missionaries are Mission President Duffin and Elders Brooks, Clark, Folkman, Forsha, and Jones, and Sister Cluff. The series is inspired by Ardis Parshall?s serial posting of the missionary diary of Willard Larson Jones at Keepapitchinin. Previous installment here.

[1] I initially thought this post would be simple and quick-to-write, which goes to show that initial thoughts can be treacherous little devils and should probably be shot before they complicate one?s summer vacation. More to the methodological point, my underlying assumption was along the lines of ?I?ve been working with the diaries for a while now and have a pretty good feel for what they say?,? which turned out to be a naïve assumption, even though I have, in fact, been working with the diaries for a while now. The moral is, when I say, ?my impression of the diaries is?? or ?anecdotally, the diaries say?,? I should not be trusted.

Having said that? With the small sample size, the idiosyncrasies of individual diarists can distort the composite picture, but in this post I will mostly glide over this detail. That is, I?ll write something like, ?The missionaries sometimes described X as Y,? when it would be more precise to write, ?Elder A used X four times and Elder B used it two times, and the others never used it at all to describe Y.?

[2] ?During the past few weeks a party – political – called the “American Party”, which is an Anti-Mormon party in reality, has been launched in the state. Senator Thomas Kearns is one who is very active in the formation of this party. The Salt Lake Tribune is its organ?  (Duffin, 1904 Sep 26 Mon).

[3] Clark, 1901 May 13 Mon

[4] It also appears once in an intransitive sense: ?Met one old Baptist preacher and wound up with him for about 1 hour? (Jones, 1901 Jun 11 Tue). ??he was a Preacher and he was going to learn us something and got his bible and we wound him up and he excused himself Saying he would have to go and pick cotton So we go?? (Clark, 1900 Oct 02 Tue); ?Were taken in by Bro. J.M. Calhoun, a Methodist. Before supper we wound him up on Baptism and the Holy Ghost. After supper he brought up the subject again. We then downed him on Authority and other Principles. After he became convinced that he could do nothing with us, he says, ?Now, my boys, I want to give you a little advice. You want to be very careful, my boys, how you are teaching the people.?? (Jones, 1902 Jan 14 Tue).

[5] ?That night we had a long talk with one of Bro. Williamson?s sons. He had just come home. He didn?t believe in Jos [Joseph Smith], but I pinned him down so close he couldn?t get out of it without disputing the Bible.? (Brooks, 1900 May 29 Tue); ?The next morning while talking to the old man on the Scripture I got him cornered up and I read from the Bible and he said he didn’t believe it Said I was Reading from a Mormon Bible I told him yes it was a Mormon Bible because we believed in the bible and he didn’t then he got his Bible and told me to Read it in this I Started to turn to the chapter when he became angry and said you and the Holiness people are Fawls [false] teachers I was pinning him down too close and he began to Squirm and Said you get up and leave my house as Soon as you can So I and my companion got our hats and bid him good day and thanked him For our night’s Lodgings no he said you don’t So we went on our way? (Clark, 1900 Dec 12 Wed); ?We canvassed until noon when we came to a primitive Baptist preacher. We had at it with him for an hour or so. He talked so fast for a while that we couldn?t get a word in edgeways. We let him go on with his song and finally closed in on him. But he wouldn?t look at the truth. He gave us a fine dinner. Then we continued; came to a doctor?s house and we put the Bible to them so straight that the old lady got wrathful and wanted us to stop and go.? (Jones, 1900 Nov 09 Fri); ?Came back to Cochran?s. He was a terrible fellow to talk, liked to argue. We got him pinned down so tight he could neither get over the fence nor go around it. It was all done in a friendly way.? (Brooks, 1900 Aug 24 Fri); ?At noon or a while before we came to Bro. Walker?s, where we partook of a hearty dinner, after which we got into an argument on the Resurrection which lasted four hours. He claimed that there was but one more resurrection and that the wicked did not rise at all. We put him in some tight corners but he would jump and twist the word of God to suit his own notion. After we had stayed with him so long I asked for the privilege of remaining the rest of the day and washing our clothes, which was granted us.? (Jones, 1901 Jun 24 Mon).

[6] ?She was very bitter but at bedtime she asked us home with her.? (Folkman, 1902 Mar 30 Sun); ?we go through the mud and tract from house to house and find some people very bitter Some would not Receive our testimony but when night came on we found lodgings all right? (Clark, 1900 Nov 20 Tue); ?hunt up one of the Trustees get his consent to hold meeting then go find one more ask him he said he would not give his consent But if the other two was willing he wouldn’t Say anything So we ask him if we could Stay all night he said yes. he was bitter towards us.? (Clark, 1901 Oct 15 Tue).

[7] <bitter> 43(46): Brooks: 3; Clark: 17; Duffin: 7; Folkman: 8; Forsha: 1; Jones: 5; Cluff: 2. [That is, ?bitter? appears as a standalone word or as part of a word (eg, ?bitterly?) 46 times in 43 entries, 3 of them in Brooks, 17 in Clark, etc.] Two of the instances a clearly not in the anti-Mormon sense (bitter experience, bitter milk) and a third is ambiguous: it describes an estrangement in Duffin?s family, possibly caused by Duffin?s polygamous marriage.

Examples: ?meet people who are bitter towards us one woman ordered us out of her house when She found we were Mormon? (Clark, 1901 Feb 15 Fri); ?went on visiting the people Found some very bitter towards us wouldn’t talk to us.? (Clark, 1900 Mar 27 Tue); ?Was not long before we ran on to where the elders had worked last spring. The people were very bitter. One man showed us the road and said ?take it.? I kindly thanked him.? (Jones, 1901 Nov 12 Tue); ??we walked up to a place to ask the road and to leave them a tract. The woman was very bitter. She showed us the road, said she didn?t believe in plurality of wives and turned her back on us.? (Jones, 1899 Dec 09 Sat); ?Went out and tracted as usual. The people are very bitter. They will not talk to us. They think we are here after the women and that Utah is the worst place in the world.? (Folkman, 1900 Jun 18 Mon); ?Met a number of people who were very bitter for some cause but when we asked them, they would not tell. They showed us the gate and said they knew enough of us four diffirent times. Their minister no doubt had been talking to them.? (Folkman, 1900 Oct 17 Wed); ?We went and seen the man that had it in charge and asked him if we could get it to hold a meeting in. He was very bitter and would not let [us] have it. He would not even take a tract from us so we went on. Night was coming on. We asked for shelter but the man we asked could not take us in. He said his wife was sick but it was more prejudice than any thing else.? (Brooks, 1900 Mar 19 Mon); ?we try to obtain lodgings and was refused 7 times and the last place we went to I ask for lodgings but the man was bitter against the Mormons and told us we could go on I offered him a pamphlet but he wouldn’t take it? (Clark, 1900 Jun 09 Sat);

[8] <prejudic> 71(76): Brooks: 16; Clark: 14; Duffin: 11; Folkman: 2; Forsha: 0; Jones: 28 [I?m late posting, so I didn?t collate any examples.] If the missionaries made a distinction, ?bitter? emphasized the emotional state: ?He was very bitter, I could tell by the expression he had on his face? (Jones, 1901 Mar 23 Sat); ?Some of the people in that place were quite prejudice. There were three that would not take a tract from us. There was one lady that was terribly bitter. After I had told her who we were and offered her a tract, she said no she didn?t want it and shut the door in our faces.? (Brooks, 1900 Mar 14 Wed).

[9] <abus> 11: Brooks: 0; Clark: 3; Duffin: 5; Folkman: 1; Forsha: 0; Jones: 1. ?at last he began to abuse us about the mountain meadow massacre. said the mormons done it I tried to Show him there was only two or 3 that had anything to do with it. and it was not the mormons’ fault? (Clark, 1901 Sep 21 Sat); ?the Preacher Started his abuse by Saying Joseph Smith was a cow thief and a Robber and a mean man then trying to make the People believe the Book of mormon was no Good also bringing up Polygamy and telling Some lies on our People.? (Clark, 1901 Aug 04 Sun); ?one of them said you had better get out of town I ask him by what authority he had to Say that he said Shut up and don’t you talk to me, and begun to abuse us and call us murders [murderers] in killing Some Emigrants that was going through Utah and John Dee Lee was killed for it and he give me a push and said go.? (Clark, 1901 Aug 28 Wed); ?A Baptist minister by the name of J. T. Smith, held a meeting on the Sabbath, and delivered one of the most abusive sermons against the Latter-day Saints that I ever listened to. The same day the Methodist minister delivered an abusive sermon, also, and in his prayer prayed that the Mormons might be wiped off the face of the earth.? (Duffin, 1904 Sep 4 Sun); ?The Salt Lake Tribune continues to abuse and defame Prest. Smith.? (Duffin, 1905 Oct 8 Sun); ?He then began abusing the Prophet Joseph Smith, saying that he was a thief, a murderer, and was killed while in a game of cards.? (Jones, 1902 Jan 05 Sun)

<vilif> 6: Brooks: 0; Clark: 1; Duffin: 0; Folkman: 0; Forsha: 0; Jones: 4. ?He went on vilifying our people and the prophets of God. I kindly headed him off on everything and bore him a strong testimony of the Gospel.? (Jones, 1901 Jun 03 Mon); ?while at one house a Medithest [Methodist] Preacher came there and the First thing he said was I am going to follow you up and tell the people that you are teaching Polygamy and tell them you are trying to get girls and women to be ready and you will Send them to Utah and live with them and try and get Strong enough to overthrow the government and vilified us and called us nearly Everything was bad but we read him Scripture and told him the judgment would fall on his own head.? (Clark, 1900 Apr 10 Tue); ?We then walked over to see Mr. Whitworth about preaching in the school house. He said, ?No, sir, you can?t preach here. We don?t want any of your doctrine in this community.? He began vilifying our people. By this time I was a little woke up. I gave it to him in good shape for a few moments and bore him my testimony and warned him that some day he would be sorry the way he was doing. He says ?go on with your G.D. testimony.? We left him somewhat disappointed. (Jones, 1901 Jun 14 Fri); ?One old man, when I told him who we were, he began to vilify us and also to tremble as is generally the case with such people when they slander the servants of the Lord. He said in a very rough manner, ?I don?t believe in any such doctrine.? (Jones, 1901 Oct 02 Wed); ?Had a short talk with the postmaster, but as he was inclined to vilify, we soon left him, not wishing to cast pearls before swine.? (Jones, 1902 Jan 13 Mon)

[10] <reject> 34 (34): Brooks: 1; Clark: 8; Duffin: 7; Folkman: 0; Forsha: 1; Jones: 17. ?Then, continuing our work, were rejected a few times. Did not want to do much on account of not having the right kind of tracts. (Jones, 1900 Dec 11 Tue); ?We visited quite a number of houses, were only rejected once. As night came on we were refused entertainment a time or two but finally got in, where we had a good night?s rest.? (Jones, 1900 May 09 Wed); ?This morning left our kind friends and continued our work south. We continue to meet many kind friends, as well as some who reject our testimony.? (Duffin, 1899 Nov 23 Thu); ?went and visited houses 2 rejected testimonies night came on we obtained entertainment a Mr. Hutton for the night.? (Clark, 1900 Feb 20 Tue); ?Thursday 8th Conversing from house to house met two men very hostile towards the Mormons I bore my testimony that it would be held against them all the day of judgment if they rejected my testimony.? (Clark, 1900 Mar 08 Thu); ?2 rejections of testimonies 8 refusals of entertainments? (Clark, 1900 Mar 13 Tue); ?After breakfast We Canvassed the town which consisted of Eleven families we visited every family and with one exception were treated very kindly. That exception was an old woman that wouldn?t accept of a pamphlet and rejected our testimony.? (Forsha, 1900 Jan 17 Wed); ?Leaving Bro. Brooker?s in the morning we walked around to the homes announcing our meeting and were rejected three times.? (Jones, 1899 Nov 24 Fri).

[11] Clark, 1901 May 20 Mon

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. I initially thought this post would be simple and quick-to-write


    I don’t have anything particular to say about the topic of the post, just that it reminds me of some of my mission experiences.

    Have a nice summer vacation! (Full, of course, of thoughts of Elders Jones and Duffin and Folkman and all the rest. : )

    Comment by Amy T — June 10, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

  2. Elder Folkman’s journal seemed to have a lot of negative entries during his time in Galveston prior to the hurricane of September, 1900. After that, however, and in other areas, he and his companions had much better luck,and were received more openly. Somewhere, I have the list of all the baptisms and ordinances he performed, and most of them are from the time after Galveston. I had noticed that after the storm, he seemed to feel that Galveston deserved the destruction, due to the total lack of any progress during his months there.

    When he returned in 1901 before he returned to Utah, he was surprised at the number of active members in Galveston who had moved there from elsewhere in the year interim.

    Comment by kevinf — June 11, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  3. Missionaries in Tennessee seemed to obscure their descriptions of conflict, whether it was physical or verbal. Only rarely did they sufficiently describe an event to categorize it, and gauge its severity. In one example, a missionary said they had a disagreement with two men with clubs, but no indication of how it turned out. I feel frustrated that perhaps the culture was to downplay these events. Did you find that in Texas as well?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 12, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  4. […] Scattered Children of Lehi … | Hawaiian History: Gathering the Scattered ChildrenBruce Crow: Southwestern States Mission: TheJana: Our Modest Proposal forJared T: Religion and Healing atJ. Stapley: Religion and Healing […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Southwestern States Mission: Calling a Missionary — June 17, 2012 @ 10:03 am

  5. Sorry to have neglected the comments.

    Amy: I am often surprised at how little difference a hundred years has made in how we tend to experience missions.

    Kevin: Elder Folkman and Galveston just did not get on well. His comments about that summer are among the most negative I’ve found in a missionary diary.

    Bruce: I haven’t noticed any reticence to describe conflict in particular. In fact, I’d say the Elders were probably a bit quick to cry “persecution” or “mob.” More than anything, I think the brevity of the entries constrains the descriptions of disagreement, at least in my corner of the swamp. At any rate, a “disagreement with clubs” sounds like the setup for a Star Wars quip about “aggressive negotiations.”

    Comment by Edje Jeter — June 17, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  6. One thing I noticed talking with people who had been on missions in the south prior to WWII was a tendency to see conflict and invoke priesthood into it. The narratives of washing and dusting of feet are probably the primary example of this.

    The story I can recall was the missionaries not being allowed to stay anywhere in a town so they wash and dust their feet. (They walked between towns so having no place to eat or sleep probably was much more traumatic than we read it today) As they leave town a tornado then comes and (according to the story) hits all the buildings that had denied them food or rest.

    No idea of the truth of this but I did hear it directly from the person who claimed to have experienced it. And when I was on my mission in Louisiana there were a lot of stories like that passed among the missionaries and members.

    Comment by Clark — June 20, 2012 @ 4:48 pm


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