George Q. Cannon was a key figure in one of the great Latter-day Saint missionary stories of the nineteenth century. Beginning in 1850, he went with a few others to preach the gospel in Hawai'i, part of an effort to carry the good news "unto every nation" (Revelation14:6). Because these missionaries had to find their own way to the islands, and because they were essentially destitute, they faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles just to reach their destination. Once there, they grappled with new and unexpected difficulties as strangers in a strange land. Living conditions were often primitive, few natives spoke English, and ministers of other branches of Christianity offered significant opposition to the missionaries' message.
Although their path frequently seemed dark, the Lord lighted the way, and these missionaries to Hawai'i—and others who later joined them—found a people prepared to receive their message. Initial progress was slow and discouraging, but by the time Cannon left the islands for his home in Utah, after having served nearly four years, thousands had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Cannon's memory and legacy continue to be felt in the islands and among a people he came to love. Even today some fondly refer to him by his Hawaiian name: Geogi Q. Pukuniahi.
The publication of George Q. Cannon's Hawaiian mission journal not only provides new insights into the history of that mission but also reveals the inspiring, faith-affirming, and life-altering experiences Cannon had as a missionary. Those experiences helped lay the groundwork for a remarkable life that included service as a book and newspaper publisher, a territorial delegate from Utah to the United States Congress, and long-time member of the top leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Size: 6 x 9
- Pages: 832
- Publisher : Deseret Book 2014
About the Authors
ADRIAN W. CANNON, grandson of George Q. Cannon, was a historian, author, and journalist.
RICHARD E. TURLEY, JR., Assistant Church Historian and Recorder for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the chairman of the editorial board for The Joseph Smith Papers series. He is the author or co-author of several books, including How We Got the Book of Mormon, with William W. Slaughter; Massacre at Mountain Meadows, with Ronald W. Walker and Glen M. Leonard; and Stories from the Life of Joseph Smith, with Lael Littke. In addition, he is the coeditor of the series Women of Faith in the Latter Days, with Brittany A. Chapman. He and his wife, Shirley, live in Taylorsville, Utah.
CHAD M. ORTON is a Church history specialist with the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His previous publications include Joseph Smith’s America: His Life and Times and 40 Ways to Look at Brigham Young: A New Approach to a Remarkable Man. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have seven children and five grandchildren.
“He Had Hinted That I Would Have to Go to the Sandwich Islands”
• September 24 to December 12, 1850 •
Tuesday, September 24, 1850. This Evening Gen. [Charles C.] Rich arrived at our place [Slap Jack Bar] upon the Middle Fork [American River], to make his final visit, it being his intention to leave for the [Salt Lake] Valley upon the 1st of Oct. ensuing. We were glad to see him for we had not, or at least I had not, seen him, since early in June <Bro. Amasa [Lyman] & him were up>; and we all looked anxiously for his appearance as we were in a little uncertainty as to what his counsel would be; he had hinted to me that I would have to go to the Sandwich Islands for the Winter as well as some others of the brethren among the rest Bro. Hy. [Henry] Bigler & Edgar Gibson, (who died the 5th Inst. [this month]) This evening he asked if [I] had any objections to going? I told him that I was on hand to do whatever he thought best as Bro. [Brigham] Young had told me upon leaving the Valley to obey the counsel of Bro. Amasa Lyman and Bro. Rich and I should be blessed, this I felt determined to do as far as in me lay. He then told me that he should like me to go and he believed I would do good while there and would be blessed. He told me he would make out the necessary papers in the morning.
Wednesday, September 25, 1850. This morning I wrote home a letter to Aunt [Leonora Taylor] to send with Gen. R. After which I went down to our Camp from the store Bro. Rich had spoken to Bro. Whit Bigler the brethren about going to the Islands; and he set me to writing out certificates of good standing which he signed. He made out one of them for Bro. [Thomas] Whittle which he had not expected he was making every calculation upon going home but in this he met disappointment. Bro. [Robert] Boyd Stewart was sent to Oregon and Bro’s Whittle, Bigler, [John] Dixon, [James] Keeler, [Thomas] Morris, [James] Hawkins, [William] Farrer, and Bro. [John] Berry if he could not go home or preferred going to the Islands. He then blessed us all.
I wrote a letter to Bro. Joseph Cain telling him about my mission and how things were going on about the Store. Bro. Rich started this afternoon. Bro. Hyrum [Hiram] Clark was expected to go along as President.
Saturday, September 28, 1850. The brethren thought the water sufficiently low to commence work at building the dam.
Sunday, September 29, 1850. Occupied in store all day.
Monday, September 30, 1850. The boys are busily employed putting up the dam.
Tuesday, October 1, 1850. Engaged as on Monday. The store’s custom was not much it was falling away very fast.
Wednesday, October 2, 1850. Finished the dam to-day weather very lowring.
Thursday, October 3, 1850. Went to work this work morning in the Claim; prospects were very poor during the morning; but towards the close of the day they struck it pretty rich.
Friday, October 4, 1850. Took it out pretty freely to-day.
Saturday, October 5, 1850. do. [ditto] do.
Sunday, October 6, 1850. Divided the proceeds of labor. $200 apiece.
Monday, October 7, to Saturday, October 12, 1850. Working at taking out gold all week with good success.
Sunday, October 13, 1850. Divided the proceeds $444 apiece.
Monday, October 14, 1850. Worked until Tuesday night when the diggings failed.
Wednesday, October 16, 1850. Divided $92 apiece.
Thursday, October 17, 1850. I was busily engaged to-day in settling up the concern making up a/cs [accounts]. &c.
Friday, October 18, 1850. Left the River; Bro. Berry was quite unwell and we were unable to travel very far in consequence & we stopped at Greenwood Valley. I found Bro. Andrew Cahoon was living here. I called at his place he was not at home. I had a chat with Sister [Mary] Cahoon about home, she was very anxious to get home and very tired of the country, she told me that their prospects were not very good at present for getting home. I told her their way would be opened for them related how dark ours had been until the last, when we had been blessed to exceed our expectations. I spoke about some books I told our situation that we had none &c. she said she had a hymn book she would let me have and when Bro. Cahoon got back he might let me have a Book of Mormon she invited me up to breakfast I offered her a $5 piece for the Hymn Book but she would not take it, I left it laying on the Table.
Saturday, October 19, 1850. Went to Bro. Cahoon’s to breakfast. Bro. Hy [Henry] Gibson went with me, Bro. C. was in very goods spirits he had been unfortunate in mining he had [a] share in several dams but they had all failed. He let me have a Book of Mormon and a Synopsis I offered to pay him for them but he would not accept anything he said when I came back I could return them to him if I had them if not it would make no difference. I thanked him and said that if I did not bring the books I might bring him something that would be as acceptable.
Sunday, October 20, 1850. Bro. Green harnessed his mules to take us over to [Asahel] Lathrop’s. I had
There was some doubt about a company going home and I wanted to send $100 home and John Dixon $150 and Bro. Hy. Bigler $240[.] I thought it best for me to leave mine with Bro. Egan <to send if a company should go,> with another $100 to be kept for me; and John left $50 more to be kept for him[.] he and Bro. B. thought best to leave
Monday, October 21, 1850. Took passage this morning on a wagon to [Jeremiah] Root’s six miles from Sacramento City. We arrived there about sun-down.
Tuesday, October 22, 1850. This proved to be a regular apostate nest. Root (an apostate) had sold to his brothers-in-law Eleazer & Stirling [Sterling] Davis and Hy. [Henry] Fairbanks all of the same stripe. I had some conversation with F. I was acquainted with him before he went in the [Mormon] Battalion and I thought him a fine young man; but he has changed since then; in speaking to me on the Mormonism he said he would not believe anything in religion or God or anything else unless “Old Christ” himself would come down and tell him. I thought to myself that it was doubtful that whether he would believe him or not. He swore he would kill Bro. Erastus Snow if he ever came across him, this was for some imaginary insult that he gave him. I was thoroughly disgusted with him and his conversation I thought of the saying “if the light that is in you becomes darkness how great is that darkness.”
We remained here [Six Mile House] all day waiting for Bro’s. Keeler and Hawkins who had gone to round by Mormon Island to see Bro. Clark and tell him. They came in about sun-down they said that Bro. C. was not there. Bro. [William] Huntington had told them that Bro. C. was up with his sons 40 miles from Sacramento City [on the Bear River].
Wednesday, October 23, 1850. Started for the City met Bro. [Hiram H.] Blackwell who told us that Bro. C. had sent word that he would be down in three days; it was thought best to send Bro. Blackwell after him. We hired a horse and he started about noon. Wm. Squiers [Squires] & Jeptha [Jephtha] Condit had rented a saloon and were fitting it up. Wm. offered us the privilege of sleeping in it which we accepted.
Thursday, October 24, 1850. Waiting patiently for Bro’s Blackwell & Clark; Bro. B. returned this evening alone, he had rode to where Bro. C. had been and found that he had moved on to the [Bear] River; he left a note with a man at the place to be sent to Bro. C. by his son who was expected down that evening. Upon due consideration it was thought best as we had all to get garments
Friday, October 25, 1850. I was busily engaged disposing of a box of Doctrine & Covenants containing 175, & two or three Times & Seasons. I left them with Mr. Conrad and wrote to Bro. Huntington about the Books as he had said he would take care of them and sell what he could. Engaged our passage on the Steamer Senator; after we got on board Bro’s. Whittle Keeler, Dixon, Hawkins & Farrer not liking the boat went on board the West Point, and they
Saturday, October 26, 1850. Just after we got up this morning we saw the West Point coming in; we went to the Wharf where she comes to[,] to meet the brethren. From there we went up Broadway and stopped at the Rose Inn kept by Mr. Foreman near Bro. [Barton] Mowry’s. The remainder of the day engaged buying clothing &c.
Sunday, October 27, 1850. In House all day troubled with the diarrhuea. A brother by the name of Geo. Serrine [Sirrine] called upon us; we had some conversation with him about the Islands &c. He promised to call again. In the evening a man by the name of Wm. Patten called upon us; he was unwell and had been very sick all summer he was in the hospital at this place; he wanted to get to the Islands he thought he would get better, and called to see us if we could help him. I did not feel like helping him especially as there were some of our own brethren [who] needed help. He came out from the Valley in our company and had been with us in the Southern [Mariposa] Mines; he had been a Mormon but was a complete apostate now. I had several conversations with him that satisfied me as to his Mormonism; he was a complete infidel and opposed Mormonism. This was my reason for not helping him, the others needing help.
Monday, October 28, 1850. Eight Years to-day since Mother [Ann Quayle Cannon] died an eventful day not likely to be erased from my memory. Called along with several others of the brethren upon Bro. [Richard and Sarah] Knowles they are English joined the Church in Manchester; they appeared like very fine folks and seemed to be glad to see us. Bro. K. went round with us to Sister Poole’s [Mary Pool’s] her son [Peter] was in and he was unwell we did not see Mrs. P.; from there we went to Mrs Bro. [William] Evans’ our object in calling round was to see where we could get some garments made Mrs. [Hannah] Evans thought she could make eight we did not see Bro. E. they have several children and look like a fine family; they are getting ready to go to San Diego. This afternoon buying cloth for garments.
Tuesday, October 29, 1850. To-day was a Gala Day here to celebrate the admission of California into the Union. We were awakened at day-light by the firing of Cannon which continued at intervals until eight o’clock. At 10 o’clock the procession was formed composed of various Fire companies[,] a company of California Pioneers; the New England Society, a company of boys in a Carriage representing the different States in the Union; a wagon with a Printing Press printing an ode to be sung composed for the occasion. A company of Police officers; & a company of Seamen with their officers; and two companies of soldiers. Taking it altogether it looked very well. They were marched into the Public Square when they had prayer by the Rev.——[R. T. Huddart] After which the Hon. Nathaniel Bennet delivered an Oration of about one hour and a half’s length. I was tired listening to him it [was] done very well for anybody but a Mormon to listen to.
Wednesday, October 30, 1850. Waiting anxiously for Bro. Clarke. Bro. Egan in town he appears some better than he did.
Thursday, October 31, 1850. Called upon Sister Evans this morning to see how the making of the garments progressed. We had a long talk on various subjects.
Friday, November 1, 1850. Felt Unwell to-day and it was quite cool I did not stir out much. In the afternoon Bro. K. Egan sent up for me to come down to the Central Wharf I went and stayed all the evening nearly waiting for him; he had bought a lot of Flour and it was on board a vessel in the harbor and he had been looking for it without success; this was the cause of detention. He had expected to have got away this afternoon on the boat to Stockton and wanted to see me before he went.
Saturday, November 2, 1850. This morning on the look out at the Wharves to see if we could not see Bro. Clark. It was thought best to send one up to Sacramento City to see what kept him. Bro. Blackwell volunteered to go; we advanced enough to pay his passage and expences. I went down with him to see him off; and to see Bro. Egan who was going this afternoon. Met Bro. E. who made me promise to write to him and he should reciprocate every opportunity. This evening Bro. [Elijah] Pell called in, (he had been in our room once before and spent the evening with us and had given us an invitation to call out and see him; he lived about a mile and a half West,); we had a long conversation he was very talkative & did not let the conversation flag; he related anecdotes in his own experience and made himself very agreeable. He gave us a pressing invitation to call give him a call to-morrow which we accepted.
Sunday, November 3, 1850. We went out to Bro. Pell’s this morning and spent the day there.
Monday, November 4, 1850. Called at Sister Evan’s and in the evening called upon Dr. [Elbert] Jones. Mrs. [Sarah] Jones is a member of the church and came round in the Brooklyn and married the Dr. here; he was a man of considerable property; they invited me to stay and take supper with them. I accordingly stayed; after supper we had a long conversation upon various subjects except religion this was or rather seemed to be foreign with him. He told me in speaking about going to the Islands that we would have some difficulty with the missionarys I told him that if they would interest themselves about it sufficiently to notice it was all we asked. When leaving he gave me a pressing invitation to call again.
Tuesday, November 5, 1850. This morning went to the Post Office to look for a letter from Bro. Blackwell; we got
Wednesday, November 6, 1850. Called upon Bro. [Joseph] Nichols to-day they seem like pretty good folks, but very little of the spirit of Gathering about them. Mrs. [Jerusha] N. spoke about going to New York and after that come back here, or maybe go overland to Salt Lake. In fact you speak to the majority of the folks professing to be Latter-day Saints
Thursday, November 7, 1850. Bro. Morris called in & wanted me to go out with him, he wanted to go and see Sister [Caroline] Thorpe, the former wife of Bro. [John] Warner G. S. L. City, who she was sent round by him in the B. [Brooklyn] with his family and he went round by land he married in the Valley, and never went after the family she married a man by the name of [Theodore] Thorpe who did not belong to the Church but was favorably inclined. We met there a Bro. by the name of Smith and another by
Bro. Pell followed & Bro. Smith & Petch they all spoke on the same subject and enlarged upon it. After the meeting was over Bro. Smith branched out into subjects rather too strong for him
Friday, November 8, 1850. Not Very Well to-day.
Saturday, November 9, 1850. Bro. Clarke is busily engaged running out trying to secure our passage; he succeeded in getting passage between decks and found Cabin fare; we had to find our own bedding for $40 and then had a 5 p[e]rcent [discount] allowed. Our idea in taking passage between decks was to be together as we could not all go in the Cabin not having berths enough at liberty. The vessel was named the Imaum of Muscat a British Vessel the Capt’s name Ritches [James Isaac Riches].
Sunday, November 10, 1850. This morning
Bro. W. called upon Bro. Keeler to close the meeting by prayer; after which we went down to the seaside and Bro. W. re-baptised Bro. Pell. We stayed and eat dinner there and confirmed Bro. P. [Pell] John Dixon was not able to go out with us, he was [has] been quite unwell several days and his face is beginning to swell as though he had the Erisypelis [Erysipelas].
Monday, November 11, 1850. This Evening Bro. Pell called in and Bro. Clark proposed ordaining him an Elder; Bro. Clark and Whittle ordained. The object in rebaptizing and ordaining Bro. P. over was he had come out in the Brooklyn with Samuel Brannan and they had, had some difficulty and Pell had been cut off. Bro. Rich had recommended this course [rebaptism] to be taken.
I have been busy this afternoon and evening writing to Uncle [John Taylor] I wrote eight pages all that I thought would interest him and requested him to write every opportunity, and told him that I should write as quick as I got to the Islands.
Tuesday, November 12, 1850. We were expecting to go aboard to-day but were disappointed the Captain said we could come on board Friday; wandering round Town the afternoon.
Wednesday, November 13, 1850. Waiting patiently for the vessel to start I never was so tired of a place as I have been of this[;] wickedness in almost every form is to be seen here and the people are ripening for destruction fast.
Thursday, November 14, 1850. John Dixon still continues very sick. About various business all day.
Friday, November 15, 1850. To-day we went down to go on board the vessel she lay out in the bay some little distance and the Captain sent his boat off for us. We went on board and selected our berths; it was very dark down below almost impossible to see anything until your eyes had become accustomed to the darkness; she was rather low between decks. John had stayed on shore at Sister Mowry’s until to-morrow. Bro’s. Hawkins & Farrer stayed with him.
Saturday, November 16, 1850. The motion of the vessel this morning nearly made me sea sickness. We wanted to purchase some more things and I got a chance to go on shore which I took in company with Bro. Keeler. Returned in evening with John; he was some better. It was the intention to start in the morning.
Sunday, November 17, 1850. The Pilot came on board this morning but he thought she could not be got ready for sea in time for the tide. It is a beautiful day a great many vessels going out; a very fine breeze.
Monday, November 18, 1850. All hands very busy this morning getting the anchors up ready for sea; it was very slow business weighing the anchors; we got a short distance and had to drop our anchor to wait for to-morrow’s tide.
Tuesday, November 19, 1850. The wind was blowing strong into the harbor so that we could not go out. A vessel drifted from her moorings and came down upon us; we had to pay out more [anchor] cable to keep her from running into us it did not answer the desired purpose for she drifted faster than
Wednesday, November 20, 1850. Head Wind still continued and we had
Thursday, November 21, 1850. The Wind blowed so strong this morning that we drifted only having one anchor down; the Captain gave orders to let the other anchor go; this kept us fast. Moderated towards evening.
Friday, November 22, 1850. I dreamed last night that I was on board a vessel and that some of the brethren and myself were heaving with the windlass at an anchor that was fast in the mud; it did not seem to be of much use. At this time I thought Bro. Joseph [Smith] passed me and went forward on to the forecastle close by the bowsprit; I followed him up there; he knelt down and prayed a few minutes aloud that the anchor might be loosened, after he had done [so] I thought that one or two of the brethren took hold of the rope and pulled it up with the greatest ease. I thought that I spoke to him and said that I wished I was in possession of such Faith and he replied that it was my privilege and that I ought to have it; that I would need it to preserve me from pestilence and the judgments that were about to be sent forth on the Nations.
When I awoke, I thought that it was given me as a warning, that Faith and prayer was of more effect than the windlass.
There was a light wind and a little more favorable than it had been; the Pilot thought it best to get ready for sea; the tide turned to go out about one o’clock and we hoisted sail and started; it was rather difficult beating out of the harbor as it was a narrow passage and the wind was rather ahead. On each side we could see a long line of breakers running seaward the foam looking in the distance like large banks of snow. There was a very heavy swell at the mouth of the passage I never remember feeling it so much I began to feel peculiar about the abdominal region of the stomach. I felt it coming on and I ran below; Bro. Hawkins and Bro. Dixon were vomiting pretty freely; <as hard as they could;> as quick as they got through with the bucket I was on hand it came up pretty freely I felt better when I had got thro’; I went up on deck[.] Bro. Keeler & Bro. Farrer went at it soon after I came up; I felt it returning and had to go below again; it was beginning to get dark by this time and the Pilot went
Saturday, November 23, 1850. A fine day to-day I crawled out of my berth and went on deck but soon had to go below to vomit. I found that the only way for me to keep from it all the while was to lie in bed. This evening we had a rain Squall and lost one of the studding sail booms.
Sunday, November 24, 1850. Very Calm to-day I was on deck the principal part of the day, I felt better than I had done.
Monday, November 25, 1850. A breeze had sprung up during the night, and we were going along at the rate of eight or eight & half
Tuesday, November 26, 1850. Wind Fair we go along finely some warmer to-day. Bro. Dixon improving very fast.
Wednesday, November 27, 1850. The Wind very fair we are sailing a little West of South; day warm and pleasant. About five knots an hour is our rate of sailing to-day.
Thursday, November 28, 1850. Wind still fair morning warm and pleasant tho’ cloudy; just have [viewed] the log sailing five knots an hour. Bro’s. Whittle & Bigler have not been any sea sick Bro. Clark had the cholic [colic] and vomited some in consequence.
Friday, November 29, to Wednesday, December 11, 1850. Warm pleasant weather during this interval nothing of any consequence worth noticing with the exception of the Sundays Bro. Clark preached twice; the last time Bro. Hawkins and Bro. Bigler followed him and bore their testimony to the truth of the work. Bro. Whittle was taken with the diarrhea which reduced him very much; we administered to him several times from which he experienced relief. On Wednesday morning [December 11] we got up and had land pointed out to us on our left, it was not very plain to be seen after awhile it was recognised by some on board as the Island of Maui the second largest Island in the group. It was welcome intelligence as we were very much tired of being on Shipboard. We came in sight of Molokai [Moloka‘i] in the afternoon and a small island called Lanai [Lana‘i]; after sundown some on board imagined they could see Oahu [O‘ahu], the Island we were destined for.
Thursday, December 12, 1850. This morning when we went on deck we were about three miles from Oahu sailing alongside, the Island looked very rough and craggy; but after rounding a point we came in sight of Honolulu and the shipping; the town is built upon an extensive flat of great fertility, groves of cocoa nut trees to be seen occasionally on the bottom; several canoes passed with natives in fishing; their canoes were fixed with outriggers on one side and seemed to be very light and easily managed. The Capt. had hoisted the signal for a pilot and we soon seen the pilot boat coming out to us, it was a Whale boat pulled with four oars, the pilot was sitting in the Stern sheets; he was a short Heavy built man about as broad as long, heavy featured; he was the personification of John Bull. His first questions when he struck the side were if Are you all well? Where are you from? Do you want to go into Port? By the time these were answered he was on deck and sung out in a Stentorian voice for the yards to be squared, they having been thrown back for him to come on board; the Capt. and all hands could not help smiling at the promptness with which he took command. He came on board at ½ past 10 and by noon we were anchored. The harbor is very difficult of access it being very narrow passage between the reefs over which the sea breaks with a tremendous roar; we saw several parts of wrecks. We had a man in the chains throwing the lead [to measure the depth of the water] all the time coming in. The water was beautifully clear
We went on shore and got our permits for which we paid $1.00. Bro. Clark hired a house at $10 pr. month.