After the endowment of the priesthood at Kirtland Temple, most of the elders scattered to various parts of the United States for the purpose of continuing in their mission work. David W. Patten went back to Tennessee where he had previously enjoyed great success. Heber C. Kimball went east and met with what he considered great blessing in his work. In all the missionary work the Twelve took an active and leading part, and they distinguished themselves not only in preaching, but sometimes otherwise. The elders might spend their spare time studying Greek and Hebrew in the Temple, but when it came to a real man's job, they rolled up their sleeves and showed the people they were no physical weaklings.
Arriving one day at Ogdensburg, New York, just as Brother Heman Chapin was grinding his scythe and fixing his cradle to commence cutting his wheat, Heber C. Kimball asked for a "tow frock and pantaloons" and said he would go into the field and rake and bind all Brother Heman could cut. Brother Chapin replied that no man living could do it. But the next morning he supplied the Apostle with working clothes and a rake, and as soon as the dew was off they took their way to a small field containing about three acres. "We'll commence here," said Chapin. "All right," answered Brother Kimball. "Go ahead, Brother Heman. We'll cut down this piece before dinner." Just as Brother Chapin took the last clip, Kimball had it bound in a bundle, and they went up to dinner. Chapin never said a word or mentioned the subject again, but there wasn't a neighbor in miles around who didn't hear about it. And the next Sunday, though Brother Kimball had preached often in Ogdensburg, he had such a congregation as he had never had before. He had spoken in a language the farmers understood and admired. Henceforth nothing could shake their loyalty to such a remarkable man.
One of the young Apostles, Parley P. Pratt, felt that even the wonderful temple endowments had failed to solve his problems. His wife was still ill, his debts weighed him down with care and anxiety, and he now had the added responsibility of supporting his mother, who was old and feeble. One night soon after the dedication of the Temple, he retired to his home determined to plan his future course--whether to continue in the mission field--and his heart was still there--or to seek employment and provide for his family, so apparently the sensible thing to do. Morning found him still pondering over his problem. He felt it was too much for him to solve unaided.
Day had hardly dawned before there came a knock at the door, and Heber C. Kimball with other Saints entered. Kimball told the young Apostle that he had a message for him; first, to cease to worry about his wife, her health would improve from that hour and she would bear him a son; to leave his debts in the hands of the Lord, who would provide means to pay them, and care abundantly for his necessities. "Thou shalt go" he was told "to upper Canada, even to the city of Toronto, the capital, and there thou shalt find a people prepared for the fullness of the gospel, and they shall receive thee, and thou shalt organize the church among them, and it shall spread thence into the region round about . . . and from things growing out of this mission, shall fullness of the gospel spread to England; and cause a great work to be done in that land."
A Brother Nickerson was in Kirtland for the dedication of the Temple and offered to pay Brother Pratt's expenses to Canada; so they started out together. After a long and tedious journey in a public stagecoach, as the roads were very bad, and the lake not open, they arrived at the "Falls of Niagara," from whence they continued on foot. At the end of the second day's journey from the falls, they neared the flourishing city of Hamilton at the head of the lake. It was the eve of the Sabbath Day, and they gave out appointments for meeting the following day, then Nickerson left his traveling companion and proceeded on to his home. Pratt, now alone, preached the following day and was kindly entertained by those among whom he found himself.
But his destination was Toronto. Monday morning, he went on into Hamilton, and made inquiry about the road. The road around the lake north was very muddy, almost impassable, he was told, but the lake had just opened, and the fare by boat was only two dollars! Only two dollars! Pratt had not a single penny, and not a soul in Hamilton had he ever seen before! He had been in difficult places before and seeking the Lord in prayer had been shown the way out, but to come to this dilemma after such glorious promises, was totally unexpected. He thought again of the prophecy. Why had he believed so blindly? He had been married for ten years and was childless, and for six years of that time his wife had been tubercular. Doctor after doctor told him the disease was incurable! That foolish promise alone should have warned him! Something seemed to whisper, "Try the Lord. Nothing is too hard for him." Outside the city in the lonely forest, he poured out his soul to God and was comforted. He went into town again and soon was accosted by a stranger, who abruptly asked his name and where he was going. When told, the stranger inquired if he needed money; in reply to the affirmative answer, he gave him ten dollars and a letter of introduction to a friend in Toronto, who the stranger said was interested in things religious. The name was Taylor--John Taylor.
Satisfied now that his troubles were over, be took the first boat to Toronto and sought the home of Mr. Taylor. Mrs. Taylor was cordial and friendly, and called her husband from the machine shop. They gave him tea, but were not at all interested in what he had to say. After a pleasant talk, there seemed nothing to do but depart. He asked if he could leave his luggage there, and went out on the street. Fortunately he had money to get lodging in a public house and pay for a hall for a night or two to preach in. In the morning he made a systematic round of all the ministers. None accorded him hospitality; he asked the sheriff for the courthouse and was refused; he sought to rent a room at the public market and failed. Completely baffled, his mind again turned to the prophecy, and its wild and unbelievable promises that had sent him away from his sick wife and his honest debts and stranded him in a strange city where, manifestly, he could not do what he had been directed to do.
Again he turned to the only refuge left him--the pine woods outside the city. Kneeling again in prayer, he asked for guidance, and arose with resolution. He would leave the city. He walked back to Taylor's, and had his hands upon his luggage, when he was delayed by some casual question of Mrs. Taylor's. Before he could answer, a knock at the door interrupted, and he heard a lady caller enter the hall. He stood, luggage in hand, waiting for the caller to leave, so he could thank his hostess for her kindness and depart.
He could not help but hear Mrs. Taylor's conversation in the next room. The man was a stranger from the United States. He said the Lord had sent him to preach in Toronto. But he could find no room to preach, so was leaving. Yes, it was too bad. He might be a man of God.
Then to his astonishment he heard the caller answer. She had been washing that morning, and was very weary, but was "impressed" that she must go out. She could not rest, so started to walk to her sister's across the city. As she passed Taylor's something urged her to go in. "I'll call on my way back," she said to herself, but she was forced by some inward compulsion to stop at once. "Tell the stranger," he heard her say, "he is welcome to my home. I am a widow; but I have a spare room and a bed, and food in plenty. He shall have a home at my house, and two large rooms to preach in just when he pleases. Tell him I will send my son John over to pilot him to my house, and I will go and gather my friends and relatives to come in this evening and hear him talk."
Pleasantly domiciled in the home of Mrs. Walton that evening he sat with a crowd of friends around a large table, and in amazement heard his hostess say, "Mr. Pratt, we have for some years been anxiously looking for some providential event which would gather the sheep into one fold, build up the true church as of old, and prepare the humble followers of the Lamb, now scattered and divided, to receive their coming Lord when he shall descend to reign on the earth. As soon as Mrs. Taylor spoke of you I felt assured, as by a strange and unaccountable presentiment, that you were a messenger, with important tidings on these subjects; and I was constrained to invite you here; and now we are all here anxiously awaiting your words."
The way was open and the experiences that followed in the next two months were marvelous to all. Mrs. Walton had spoken truly. A group of students of the Bible had been meeting for two years, and were expecting the events numerated by Mrs. Walton. John Taylor was one of this group, and many others, Isaac Russell, later one of the first missionaries to England; Joseph Fielding, a young Englishman who with his two young sisters, Mary1 and Mercy,2 lived about nine miles from the city. The whole group were baptized, although on Pratt's first visit to the Fielding home, Mary and Mercy fled to a neighbor's, leaving their brother to meet the dreaded "Mormon" preacher alone. To them, the name "Mormon" had "such a contemptible sound," and besides they wanted "no new revelation to take the place of the old Bible." Pratt coaxed them home again only by a solemn promise that he would preach nothing but the Bible gospel. These two sisters, before many months passed, were willing to sacrifice their all for the message which they eventually received with all their hearts.
When Pratt left these kindly friends two months later, they pressed into his hand as he bade them farewell, several hundred dollars, which enabled him to pay his debts on arrival in Kirtland. Eventually he saw every part of the prophecy made by Kimball fulfilled.3
The experience of Pratt in Toronto was by no means an isolated one. Such happenings could be duplicated indefinitely in the days that followed the great endowment in Kirtland Temple.
That same summer in another part of Canada (Leeds County, Ontario) young John E. Page, who was sometime to be an apostle, was holding preaching meetings in a place called Plum Hollow. One night a Baptist minister by the name of John Landers came to hear him. The whole strange story was not new to Landers, for two years before his wife's brother, John Cairns,4 had heard James Blakeslee preach and been baptized by him. Landers heard just one sermon from his brother-in-law, and it had the ring of truth. He told Cairns so. He had a curiosity to hear more.
When John E. Page came along, he went to hear him. At the conclusion of the sermon, Page held up the Three Books: Bible, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and said that he knew they were all sacred books, and agreed in teaching the same doctrine. The young man spoke with such conviction that Landers was strangely stirred. He invited the stranger home that night, and the first question he asked him was: "How can you say that you know those books are true?"
Page told him that four years before in Ohio a man by the name of Emer Harris came preaching as he was preaching now, and awakened an interest in his heart, but when Harris had explained that his own brother had seen the golden plates, Page had answered that his brother's seeing them would not be enough for him, he wanted to see them himself, that he could never go out and testify to the world upon belief alone. Then he proceeded with an unusual story as Landers retold it in later years:
He said one night he seemed suddenly to be placed in a new meetinghouse, seated for worship. He saw in a corner of the room where the seats came together, three ancient-looking men, two on one side of the corner and one on the other.
They had the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated between them. He stood directly in front of them and saw them turn over the leaves, leaf by leaf, until they came to a thick mass of leaves that had a seal on them.
While looking upon them he heard the voice of the Lord say to him "This is shown you, and you are to bear witless of it all your days where you preach the gospel of the kingdom to all the world."5 When he had finished, Landers said tolerantly: "Well that may be satisfactory to you, but your knowledge will not suffice for me. If I had such a vision, I should know."6
Page did not answer. He looked intently at the Baptist minister before him for a moment then arose and walking over to his side, laid his hand upon his head, and told him, "The time will come, when you will have as great, as certain a testimony as I have."
That night the young missionary took out his writing materials and entered in the journal, which he kept all his life, this item: "September 13, 1836. I stayed that night with Mr. Landers, a Baptist elder, who, I think, will eventually believe the gospel."
The night of the fourth sermon, Landers handed in his name for baptism, rising publicly at the conclusion of the service to say: "What have I been about all my days with the Bible in my hands!" He was baptized with nine others on the seventh day of October, 1836.
The next month he was ordained an elder and immediately started an a mission with his nephew, preaching every night. One night he preached in a private house, and at the conclusion of the sermon, a man asked him about the doctrine of his church and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He told him what he had been told and sat down. His brother's son and fellow traveler arose and started to speak in tongues. Immediately Landers seemed to stand upon the Hill Cumorah. He saw the box containing the plates:
I stood at the southeast of the box, and the cover was removed from the southeast to the northwest corner, so that I was enabled to look into the box. The box was made of six stones, a bottom stone, a top one and four side stones; at the corners and edges they were joined by a black cement. The bottom of the box was covered by the breastplate; in the center of the box and resting on the breastplate were three pillars of the same black substance that was used to cement the stones.
Upon the pillars rested the plates which shone like bright gold. I saw also lying in the box a round body, wrapped in a white substance, and this I knew to be the ball or directors, which so many years ago guided Lehi and his family to this land. The top stone of the box was smooth on the inner surface as were the others, but on the top it was rounded.7
He lived for nearly a century, and from that time spent his life in telling of what he had heard, seen, and knew to be true.
And so, as the months passed, a multitude of witnesses were being gathered together from everywhere "a warning voice" was lifted to tell the story.
1 Mary Fielding married Hyrum Smith, after the death of his wife
2 Mercy Fielding became the wife of Robert Thompson, well known in early church history.
3 Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, page 141, seq.
4 John Cairns was born in Glasgow, Scotland, October 21, 1808, and was baptized in 1834 in Leeds County, Ontario, by James Blakeslee, and ordained to be an elder at his confirmation. He preached in Canada from that time on until 1842, and then moved to Nauvoo from whence he was sent by Joseph Smith to Scotland, his native land. Returning from that mission in 1845, he attended conference in Nauvoo, only to be bitterly disappointed. He quietly took his family and moved to St. Louis, endeavoring to forget about the church. Here he entered into business with profit to himself financially, and was highly esteemed in the community, serving six years upon the City council and acting as President of the Board of Health for some time. In the early days of the church he was considered one of its best in debate, and took part in several debates in this country and his native Scotland. In the eventide of a very busy life, he retired to Hannibal, Missouri, and there his heart returned often to his "early love," the gospel. Always a careful student, he went over thoroughly the claims of the now divided membership, and on July 24, l885, applied to the Reorganized Church, "Now, fully satisfied that the true Spirit and Power of God is with the Reorganization, I respectfully ask to be received among you." He was received upon his original baptism. On September 11 of the same year, he passed away at Hannibal, Missouri. See Saints' He-rald, Volume 32, page 477.
5 A letter from Landers to Mary (Page) Eaton, Autumn Leaves, Volume 3, page 198.
6 Autobiography of John Landers, Autumn Leaves, Volume 3, page 68.
7 Autobiography of John Landers, Autumn Leaves, Volume 3, page 68. John Landers was born August 20, 1794, in Leeds County, Ontario, and died January 22 , 1892, at Lamoni, Iowa. He united with the Reorganization at Amboy in 1860. His granddaughter Christiana Salyards is well known for her books and quarterlies, which are distinguished by a high order of scholarship, and show a most unusual amount of painstaking research.