Previous chapter Table of Contents Next chapter
Work in Canada went forward rapidly under the direction of that veteran missionary John Shippy and others. One of the outstanding early missionaries in Canada was Arthur Leverton, and it was he who had baptized a young man by the name of John J. Cornish, who was known and loved by Saints everywhere. When first ordained to the ministry, Cornish could not read his own text. He not only learned to read the Bible but other books, and his progeny in the gospel, those he converted, and those his converts brought into the church, now number a mighty army, among which are some of the best-known ministers of the church.
Many are the faith-inspiring stories told of this man's ministry. Favorite among them is the following well-authenticated account of a baptism in London, Ontario, many years ago:
One Wednesday night after prayer meeting Sarah Lively and Mary Taylor offered themselves for baptism. It was late when we closed our meeting, and by the time we got to the Thames (south branch), it must have been almost eleven or half past eleven o'clock at night. A number of the Saints with others went to witness the baptism, probably about twenty Saints and about ten others. Among the number of the outsiders was one who endeavored to persecute us to a great degree, and the night being dark, with very dark, heavy clouds, and also a little misty rain, it was so that we could scarcely see each other's forms. The way being rough, with little hills and valleys, the Saints occasionally fell into the water and got wet. This provoked the persecutor to make more fun than ever. By and by we reached the river, and after we got through with our opening exercises, I stepped to the water with the hands of one of the candidates in mine. The moment my foot touched the water there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing wind, and with it came a very bright and brilliant light, more bright and glorious than my eyes had ever before seen. We were all filled with the Spirit, and the Saints immediately fell upon their knees and thanked God that he had shown unto the persecutors that we were acknowledged from on high. I gave a glance around as I was walking into the water, to see the light, and also the position of the people on the bank. The light came down from heaven, and it was in a circle, and it was about large enough to take in the thirty people, and also a part of the river, just that part where I baptized. I stood about one foot inside of this bright circle, and I cast a look outside of it, and it was just as dark one foot from the outer edge of it as it was ten rods or a mile away. When I came leading the sister to the bank, I noticed that all, both Saints and outsiders were, on their knees, with the exception of the one who persecuted us the most. After the two were baptized one of the outsiders cried out, "Oh, pray for me! This is enough to convince anyone that the latter-day work is true." In time everyone who was at the baptism came into the church.
At another time, while I was confirming a sister, the Spirit declared that from that time if she continued faithful, she would have the gift of visions. She immediately saw the Saviour, and she was wrapt in the glory of the Spirit. J. J. Cornish.
London, Ontario, July 12, 1877.
We, the undersigned, hereby certify that we are the parties baptized as described above on December 27, 1875, and that the circumstances related in the foregoing letter are correct to the best of our knowledge, so far as they relate to that event.
Mrs. R. May,
Mary E. Bushnell.
We, the undersigned, hereby certify that we were present at the baptism referred to in the foregoing letter, and that the description as given is true to the best of our knowledge.
A. C. Dempsey,
M. A. Sparks.1
In the same city of London, there lived a good Methodist couple by the name of John and Elizabeth Parker, who had been faithful church members for over twenty years. Their son-in-law, William Clow, had been a witness of the scene described above, and had joined the church. Mr. and Mrs. Parker also joined, and began slipping little tracts into the letters sent to another son-in-law, a local Methodist minister in Toronto, who had married their second daughter, Janet. Mr. Luff did not scorn these offerings but read each one, and was perhaps more deeply impressed than he cared to admit. He answered some times in a light vein and when his wife visited her parents some months later said jokingly that he wondered if when she came back he would not have a "Mormon" wife. At the same time he told her if she felt she should join the church, he would never oppose her, although he might be a Methodist minister all his life. She thought she need not worry, but in due time the letter came telling of her conversion and baptism.
Meantime Mr. Luff continued to officiate in his capacity in Toronto, and planned seriously to enter the regular ministry, as he was being urged to do. His health made a rest imperative, and he went to his father-in-law's where his wife still was. He found, as was common among Latter Day Saints, that the gospel was in the minds and conversations of all. He felt they were all praying especially for him, but he would not leave the communion in which he had found so many blessings without being sure of what he was finding in its stead, although his eight months' study had made him somewhat dissatisfied with his own church. He shut himself in the Parker family parlor one entire day and read the Book of Mormon, and as he read, at times, a peaceful assurance came over him. He could not describe it. But he did know, he said, that no one could offer opposition to that book, while under that influence.
"Are they of God?" he asked himself again and again. He was not of an emotional type, and what affected others often left him cold, but over and over in his analytical mind he went over various points of doctrine. Prayer meeting night came, and there was a goodly number present. When liberty was given to speak, Mr. Luff arose. He expressed confidence in God, pleasure in beholding the happiness of those there who were attempting to serve Him, but as to their religion he could not, like them, say he knew it to be of God. He did know one thing. God had blessed him where he was and though he was anxious to obtain all the good possible, yet he could not think of renouncing that church and entering another until he was sure he could please God better than remaining where he was. He wished them well; hoped their joy might never be less, but he did not feel like speculating with his soul.
That testimony was a distinct disappointment to those who heard, for all had been praying and expecting something entirely different. The meeting progressed. At one time all knelt in prayer, and Joseph Luff silently asked for an answer that night to his questions, at the same time seeking pardon if such a petition was presumption on his part, further he wished that the answer might be given through Robert Parker,2 his wife's ten-year-old brother, a member of the church and absolutely without guile.
No human being heard that prayer. The congregation arose from their knees, and singing and testimony continued. Soon "Robbie," as he was then called, stood up and spoke as a child of his age would speak, but before he had said many words his face became pale and tears flowed down his cheeks as he turned and facing his brother-in-law raised his hand and said:
Verily, thus saith the Lord God unto you, O son of man, Go now and obey my gospel, for this is indeed my church. It is my will that you shall be baptized at the hands of one of these my servants, for you have received of my Spirit, saith the Lord.
What could anyone in such a position do? Joseph Luff arose and told his experience, admitting that he was not entirely satisfied on all points, but willing to go ahead and obey, trusting for more light. Brother Cornish who was presiding walked over to him and spoke in tongues. The interpretation was given. The whole company was in tears. After the service he spoke of baptism, and was told there would be a baptism two days later. Joseph Luff did not wish to wait, so the entire congregation repaired at once to the River Thames, about a quarter of a mile away, where about half past ten at night he was baptized by John J. Cornish.
A few days later he returned to Toronto. One of the first things he learned was that his name had been presented for admission to the regular ministry at the annual conference of the Methodist Church. Those who presented it were horror-stricken at the news from London! Brother Luff says:
I can never tell how I felt. Up to the last Sunday before leaving home, I had occupied the Methodist pulpit; and, though teaching no particular doctrinal tenets, had been reckoned as one who endorsed all that was embodied in the creed. Now I felt that I was to be a target for every shaft. Where should I begin? How should I convince my thousands of friends that I was not only honest but had divine warrant for my course? My heart beat with unusual vigor when stepping from the cars, and along the streets where I had been a thousand times before. . . . The load of that city seemed to be on my heart, and I carried responsibilities as never before. But there I was back again, and, with an oft repeated "God help me" on my lips, I returned to my home and business.3
This was the beginning of the history of the Reorganization in the city of Toronto, as well as the story of one of the church's grand old men, whose name is known wherever the church is known.
Canada has continued until this day to be a fertile field for church activities.
1 Church History, Volume 4, pages 181, 182.
2 R. J. Parker, later a missionary of the church.
3 Autobiography of Joseph Luff, Herald Publishing House, Lamoni, Iowa, 1894.
Previous chapter Table of Contents Next chapter