Mormon Failure in Chile - 1851
After Pratt, it was 100 years until return of missionaries
Special report: The LDS mission in Chile
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
VALPARAISO, Chile - LDS Apostle
Parley P. Pratt, his pregnant wife Phoebe, and Elder Rufus C. Allen arrived in
this bustling seaport Nov. 8, 1851.
They had come to Chile to see if it was yet ripe for Mormon missionary work.
At the time, Valparaiso was one of the most prosperous Chilean cities, with many foreigners, particularly British businessmen and bankers. It had a cosmopolitan feel, not unlike San Francisco.
Many visitors thought it was a more "democratic and liberal city" than Santiago because of its Chilean and foreign elite and wealthy businessmen, says Francisco Jara, a Santiago journalist who gave a short summary of Pratt's mission at the 2004 Mormon History Association meetings.
Unfortunately, Parley and Phoebe, his eighth plural wife, arrived in the midst of the "1851 Revolution," a kind of civil war. The Mormons faced opposition, deprivation and bias, Jara writes. Parley Pratt spent most of his time there studying Spanish and Chilean history and reading newspapers.
Phoebe Pratt gave birth to a boy, Omner Pratt, on Nov. 30, and he died 38 days later. His body is buried in a "Cemetery for Dissidents" - which included anyone who wasn't Catholic - on the top of one of Valparaiso's famous hills.
The Pratts and Allen gave up on Chile after four months and returned to San Francisco. They had converted no one. It would take another 100 years before Mormon missionaries would reach Chile's shores.
In 1990, LDS Church officials put a marble plaque memorializing Omner Pratt in the cemetery. Eleven years later, on the 150th anniversary of Pratt's sojourn in Chile, dozens of Mormons gathered there for a commemoration.
"It is holy ground for Chilean Mormons," Jara says.
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