Eight years had now passed since Jason W. Briggs had been told to wait for Young Joseph, but Joseph had not yet come. The church grew in numbers, missionaries were sent out from time to time, but nothing was heard of him upon whom their hopes were centered. There was to be a conference at Amboy on April 6, 1860. Early in March, William Marks at Shabbona Grove, Illinois, received the following letter:
Nauvoo, March 5, 1860.
Mr. William Marks; Sir: I am soon going to take my father's place as the head of the Mormon church, and I wish that you and some others, those you would consider the most trustworthy, the nearest to you, to come and see me; that is, if you can and will. I am somewhat undecided as to the best course for me to pursue, and if your views are, upon a comparison, in unison with mine, and we can agree as to the best course, I would be pleased to have your co-operation. I would rather you would come previous to your conference in April at Amboy. I do not wish to attend the conference, but would like to know if they, as a body, would endorse my opinions. You will say nothing of this to any but those who you may wish to accompany you here.
With great regard, I subscribe myself
Yours most respectfully
There was but little time between then and conference. Marks wrote to Israel Rogers and W. W. Blair, asking them to accompany him. It was the 19th of March when Marks visited Rogers at his home in preparation for this visit. It was agreed that Rogers should go and get Blair and they together meet Marks at Burlington, Iowa. He wished to go that day so that they could start for Nauvoo the next day. Brother Marks accompanied him to the station before he drove home, and as they stood talking in the depot, intent on this mission, Brother Rogers says a rather remarkable incident happened:
The train suddenly pulled out and left me. Of course, this worried me greatly, as I was very anxious to see Brother Blair that day so he could accompany me on the morrow. While I stood wondering what I should do, to my astonishment I saw the train returning: backing right to the station; this enabled me to jump aboard. When inquired the cause of the train returning, I was informed that it could not get over the grade. The second time, however, it went over the grade without trouble.
I found Brother Blair at home, attending his sick nephew. He had failed to receive Brother Marks's letter and therefore was quite unprepared to accompany me. He, however, was not surprised. He had a letter from Z. H. Gurley in Blanchardville, Wisconsin, dated January 29, 1860. It read: "I rejoice in God that the work goes on so finely, and I know that if we are united and do what the Lord commands us, the year 1860 will not pass before the Prophet is among us."2 He consented to go, however, and preparations were hurriedly made, but long before we reached the station, we heard the train whistle. We continued with all speed possible, and though we reached the station fully fifteen minutes late, to our joy we found the train there still apparently waiting for us. This enabled us to meet Brother Marks at Burlington, according to appointment.
From Burlington, they took the steamboat, "Aunt Letty," down the river to Nauvoo, arriving there at four o'clock in the evening on Tuesday, March 21. As they walked down the street towards the Mansion House, they met a tall, brown-eyed young man. "That," said Rogers, "is young Joseph." He had never seen him or his picture, but knew him.
Arriving at Emma's home, they made known their mission, and she sent for her son. He came that evening. The first words of Marks after greetings had been exchanged were exceedingly frank: "We have had enough of man-made prophets, and we don't want any more of that sort. If God has called you, we want to know it. If he has, the church is ready to sustain you, if not, we want nothing to do with you."
The next morning at ten o'clock they left for home after prayer with the family at Joseph's request. No hearts could have been happier than theirs that day, for they carried a great secret. Young Joseph was coming to the church conference at Amboy, Illinois, on April 6!
1 Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, by Tullidge; Church History, Volume
3, page 264.
2Memoirs of W. W. Blair, page 28.