In 1898, as now, serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints required tremendous sacrifice and dedication. For Don Carlos McBride, leaving his wife and infant son in Pima, Arizona, to go to the Samoan Islands demanded an extra degree of commitment to his faith.
Following the directions of Church leaders was an accepted thing to Don McBride. When he was nine years old, his father had accepted a call from President John Taylor to leave his home in Santaquin, Utah, to colonize the Gila Valley area of Arizona. Life was hard there; scarce rainfall made farming difficult. Water was obtained only by irrigation. Don and his brothers helped support the family by freighting goods across Indian territory.
On January 13, 1897, Don McBride married Mary LaPreal Nuttal. In October of that year, their son, Donald, was born. When the call came from the First Presidency to serve a mission in the Samoan Islands, Don, with the support of his wife, accepted immediately.
In June 1898 Elder McBride, with only a few dollars in his pockets, left for Salt Lake City to be set apart for his mission. There he received a special blessing from a General Authority of the Church. The blessing contained a promise that if he would fill an honorable mission, obeying those who were in authority over him, he would have power to command the winds and waves of the sea to be still.
Elder McBride thought little of this promise upon his arrival in Samoa. He worked diligently to master the Samoan language. In his mission journal he wrote, “Fasted all day and prayed to the Lord in secret to help me learn the language. … I study very hard to get the language, but it is slow work.” Then, as he began to feel more sure of the language, he started to offer prayers and to bear his testimony at meetings and to teach in the Church-organized schools. He even helped in translating the Bible into Samoan.
Elder McBride encountered prejudice and opposition from the ministers of other churches on the islands. He wrote, “In looking around I find the field is by no means clear and prejudice staring me in the face as the Teachers have forbidden anyone attending our meetings.”
He learned to enjoy the unaccustomed food delicacies of the Samoan people and mentions feasting on roasted bat, ula (breadfruit), and palela (a kind of sea worm). He also grew to appreciate their sincere friendliness and hospitality.
Elder McBride and his companion were called to travel to the island of Savaii to prepare for a conference to be held there. As they drew near the island in a boat, a fierce inland wind suddenly forced them back out to sea. Having no compass, they knew that they would be lost if they didn’t keep the island in sight. They and the Samoan men with them took turns rowing until all were exhausted, their hands blistered and raw.
Suddenly Elder McBride remembered the blessing that had been given to him. He arose at once and stretched forth his hands. In the name of Jesus Christ he commanded the winds and the waves to be still. Immediately the winds subsided, and the terrifying waves became peaceful, astonishing the frightened natives. Although the men were now far out to sea, they turned their boat toward the island and rowed to it safely.
Don Carlos McBride served two missions to the Samoan Islands, spending a total of nearly seven years there. In 1910, during his second mission, he was called to be the mission president. Despite the hardships and sacrifice involved, he served with obedience and love.
(For activity see pages 24–25 or pages 46–47.)