“The Promise,” Friend, July 1972, 38
“The seed of Manasseh,” Melvin repeated to himself just as he had more than forty years before when, as a boy of eleven, he had first heard these words.
It had been at the time the Logan Temple was dedicated and Patriarch Zebedee Coltrin had traveled from his home in southern Utah to stay with Melvin’s family and attend the dedication. What a thrill it was for Melvin to meet a man who had personally known the Prophet Joseph Smith! Every morning Melvin arose early so he could shine the patriarch’s shoes and listen to more stories about the Prophet.
Before leaving for home, Brother Coltrin suggested that he give a special blessing to Melvin and some of his brothers and sisters. In Melvin’s blessing the patriarch declared, “Thou shalt proclaim the gospel unto the seed of Manasseh and shall do many mighty miracles in the midst of the Lord.”
Later Melvin’s father told the family the story of Ephraim and Manasseh. Then he read to them from the Book of Mormon about Lehi and his family, who were descendants of Manasseh. He explained that the Indians were Lamanites and were known as the seed of Manasseh.
During the following years Melvin thought many times about his blessing. The only Lamanites he had ever seen were those who lived in tents outside of the little pioneer town of Logan, and he often wondered how he could proclaim the gospel to them.
Now, more than forty years later, Melvin J. Ballard was aboard a ship sailing for Buenos Aires, where he and his two companions, Elders Rulon G. Wells and Parley P. Pratt, were to open a mission for the South American people. As he walked along the windswept deck of the steamship Voltaire, he thought he finally understood the words of the inspired patriarch many years before, for he felt that the promise of his blessing was about to be fulfilled.
The steamship docked at Buenos Aires early on the morning of December 6, 1925, and that very afternoon the three elders met with twelve adults and four children who were interested in learning more about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
On December 12 Melvin recorded in his diary: “Just as the sun was going down, I baptized six people in the Rio de la Plata, the first in this generation in South America.” The next day the six were confirmed in a meeting, and at that meeting the sacrament was administered for the first time in South America.
Christmas night of that same year Melvin again wrote in his diary: “The sun came up at 4:41. We were up at 5. We arrived at Park 3 de Febrero at a place near the river in a grove of weeping willows at 7 A.M. We sang ‘The Morning Breaks.’ Brother Pratt read several passages from the Book of Mormon on promises of redemption of the Lamanites. Brother Wells read from the Bible. We all knelt under a weeping willow tree, and I offered prayer.”
Here is part of the prayer Elder Ballard offered:
We are grateful to come to this great land of South America to unlock the door for the preaching of the gospel. We thank thee for the few who have received us and for those we have had the joy of taking into the waters of baptism in this land. May they be the first fruits of a glorious harvest.
As Melvin J. Ballard left Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 4, 1926, he reported to the members of the Church who had gathered to say goodbye that “the work of the Lord will grow slowly for a time. It will not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and then dies. But thousands will join the Church here.”
This promise has been fulfilled many times over in Argentina and other South American “Book of Mormon countries.” Today the seed of Manasseh comprise a great part of the Church in this land as well as in other parts of the world.