During the Aaronic Priesthood Pioneer Sesquicentennial Fireside address May 18, President Gordon B. Hinckley recounted a story relating to the wreck of the Julia Ann - a ship carrying LDS immigrants bound for the Salt Lake Valley that sank off the coast of Tahiti in 1855.
The following information about the same story is taken from the autobiography of the ship's captain, B.F. Pond, who was not a Church member.Pond sailed from the Sydney, Australia, harbor in September 1855 with 56 passengers, half of whom were Church members. Five women and children died when the ship wrecked a few weeks later.
From the pieces of their wreckage, survivors fashioned a small boat, which Captain Pond intended to sail in search of a rescue ship in the Navigator Islands some 1,500 miles to the west because the prevailing winds blew in that direction. He considered but rejected sailing eastward to Tahiti, only 200 miles away.
Quoting from Pond's journal: "My passengers were mostly Mormons, bound to Salt Lake City. They bitterly opposed my proposition of trying to reach the Navigator Island,
fearingT they would starve to death before we could hope to send them relief."
Pond's seasoned crew proceeded with their original plans until one of the LDS members, a missionary, had what Pond called a dream or vision. "He saw
ourT boat launched upon her long voyage," but then "floating bottom up
withT drowned bodies of her crew floating around her."
Captain Pond said, "this tale so wrought upon the superstitions that not a man would volunteer to go with me, and I was reluctantly compelled to change my plan.
"I then gave strict orders that there should be no more visions told in public unless they were favorable ones, and first submitted to me for my approval. After some days the same Mormon elder came to me, having had another vision. I asked him if it was a good one. Yes,
he saidT a very good one. He saw the boat depart with a crew of ten men, bound to the eastward; after three days of rowing, they reached a friendly island where a vessel was obtained and all hands safely brought to Tahiti."
Captain Pond was now ready to row the boat against the wind, but needed one additional crewman. He said, "on hearing this very good vision, I looked my man over. He was a fine, athletic fellow, and I asked him if he believed his vision." He said he did. "I then suggested that
he couldT prove his faith by volunteering for the boat. `Of course,'
he saidT, and he did with alacrity."
As the 10 men began their journey, Captain Pond witnessed another intervention by divine providence. For eight weeks the winds had blown unceasingly to the west. But the night before their launch, a "boisterous, dangerous" storm arose, and "the wind, if we could stand it, was (now) favorable to the (eastward) course we desired to steer."
The raging storm forced the men to throw overboard many of their precious provisions. Then at once, wrote Pond, the clouds cleared, "the sun burst out" and "for three days there was not breeze enough to blow out a candle."
The men rowed nonstop for three days and nights, until they spotted land. But then the familiar westward wind returned, blowing them away from the island. Captain Pond said they rowed mightily in a "fearful but unequal contest" with the elements, until they collapsed "exhausted in the bottom of our little boat, now floating at the mercy of the sea." As forlorn "thoughts of home mingled in our prayers," suddenly before them stood the beautiful island of Bora Bora.
They landed, and eventually all survivors of the Julia Ann were rescued.
After telling the story during his fireside address, President Hinckley told Church members that just as the missionary "was favored long ago, so may you be favored for your protection and guidance if you will live worthy of the directing spirit of the Lord."