Mormons begin a lot of journeys they don’t finish. Or at least they don’t accomplish what they set out to do. Stories in Latter-day Saint Church history abound of people who think they are pursuing one goal but later find out there might be a different purpose for their journeys. Or is that just another way of excusing failure? Elam Luddington may be just such a man who began a journey this way.
I never lacked for meals, victuals or was without purse or scrip.
Elam Luddington reports that he almost died three times as a youth in his autobiography, a portent of his future life as a converted Mormon. But interestingly he writes more about Indian encounters and the Mormon Battalion than his three years in Southeast Asia as a missionary from 1852-1855 for which he is now credited as the first Mormon missionary to Thailand. Yet he doesn’t have much to say about the trip. In his own words,
“Then I was called on a Mission with three others, namely, Chaney West, Franklin Denny and Levi Savage to go to Bancock, Siam, Further India. We started October 21, 1852, together with fifty-two elders for different parts, namely, Siam, Calcutta, Australia, Sandwhich Islands, South America, etc.
I spent three years on this mission in the East Indies. I visited Calcutta, Malacca, Siam, Calunthan, China, etc., and was on three sailing ships. I travelled thirty thousand miles, baptized 16 converts and returned home in the fall of 1855. I never lacked for meals, victuals or was without purse or scrip.”
(Elam Luddington, Luddington family and all existing portions of an autobiographical sketch, FHL US/CAN Fiche 6018292, located at the LDS Family History Center, Salt Lake City, Utah)
In six sentences he summarizes three years, thirty thousand miles, three others, 16 converts, and several cities. The phrase “without purse or scrip” alludes to a great adventure. It comes from the Bible, in Luke 10:4, for example, which means that a missionary will not carry money or belongings but live day to day by what people provide him or her on the journey.
Luckily others wrote more details about Luddington and his companions’ mission, walking in their footsteps, estimating their travails, but most importantly publishing the story of Elam’s “etc”.