I was born on the 26th of September, 1818, at Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, England. Soon after, my parents moved to Beddenham, near Bedford, about forty miles from London. Here I went to school, but did not learn or study as I should, until my parents became discouraged about my ever being a good scholar, in consequence of my indifference to learn. At the age of thirteen years, I fell upon the ice while playing, and injured my spine, which caused my deformity and from which I suffered more or less pain for twenty years. My father regretted very much that I had no desire to learn and improve my mind. But weak as I was, I would rather work with our men in the garden than go to school any day. He told me I would be sorry for it, and I can truly say that I have been sorry ever since; for, had I taken his advice, I might have been an educated man.
On the 26th of September, 1841, I first heard of Mormonism by hearing George J. Adams preach. I was convinced it was the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I heard several of the Saints speak in tongues and prophesy. Soon after this I joined the Church and when confirmed, was promised the gifts and blessings of tongues, interpretation, healing and prophecy. These I asked for, thinking I could not be a Latter-day Saint without these gifts. I continued to pray without receiving them, when I concluded I would fast as well as pray. I commenced that evening and continued two days and three nights. The third morning while I was pruning raspberry canes and alone in the garden, I commenced to experience a very happy feeling, and the spirit of prophecy rested upon me. I prophesied about the Church in that place, and also of the troubles that the Saints in Zion would encounter by mobs and so forth. No sooner had this spirit left me than I was visited by a very different one, informing me that I had been deceived and had not joined the true church, saying, if I had I should not have been led to speak and prophesy to a lot of raspberry canes, but should have waited until I had met with the Saints, that all might be edified. The spirit darkened my mind considerably for a time, when I concluded I would go into my tool house and pray. I did so, asking the Lord to rebuke this spirit, which he did. I nevertheless felt troubled more or less about the doubts which continued to be in my mind.
A few days after, I was invited to take tea at a friend’s house. Apostle Lorenzo Snow was invited, and while there and alone with Brother Snow, I asked him whether a person belonging to the Church could have the spirit of prophecy in the center of a forty-acre field, where no one could hear him. He informed me that John had it while on the Isle of Patmos. He then asked me why I asked this question. I told him what had occurred. He said as a proof of its being from the Lord, some time when in meeting the same spirit would come upon me, and I would repeat the very words I had spoken in the garden. This I did two Sundays after. This strengthened my faith so much that I have never doubted the truth of the Latter-day work since.
Just before leaving England I visited some friends in Sheffield, and met with Brother R. Rushton, who was on a mission from Nauvoo. He had been asked to visit a brother in the Church who was possessed of a devil. This was the first case of the kind I had heard of being in the Church, and I felt quite anxious to see the party so afflicted. While reflecting about it, Brother Rushton asked me to accompany him, which I cheerfully did, and what transpired I never shall forget. When we entered the room where he was sitting, he looked around and saw Brother Rushton whom he had met before, and with a coarse voice said: “So you have come again in the name of Jesus have you? Well you may come if you have a mind to. I know you came from Nauvoo where you are building a temple to get your endowments and more power. Well, get your power, and the more power you get the more power we’ll get.” Just as soon as he was through speaking, Brother Rushton laid hands on him and rebuked the evil spirits that had possession of him, when the brother called out in a loud voice: “How did you know there was more than one?” Brother Rushton remarked calmly: “You said we.” The brother then said, “We will go but we will come again.”
Two days after they did come again, and his wife sent for the president of the branch who was a very good quiet man. A young traveling elder who had a good deal of confidence in himself, was in at the time the message came and asked the president to let him accompany him and administer to the brother, who at this time was breaking things in his house. When they reached the house they found him very much excited. He quieted a little when they entered, but soon became boisterous again, and they laid hands upon him, this young man being mouth. No sooner had he rebuked the spirits, commanding them to depart, than he became quiet and wished to lay down. But soon after, and when he appeared asleep, the young elder said to the parties present, “There, I believed I could quiet him.” He at this time was sitting upon the side of the bed where the afflicted man was lying. The brother no sooner heard this remark than he raised himself up quietly and as soon as he got up, struck this young man such a blow that he was knocked to the other side of the room. This convinced me that the brother had better give tord the credit for such manifestations. I will mention another case of laying on of hands which I think will be interesting to my young brethren. I had often asked the question in my mind why it was that elders were to be called to lay hands on the sick. Why would not one answer? While in St. Louis I called upon an acquaintance, who was in the Church, and found him quaking with the ague, which he had had for three weeks. He requested me to administer to him, which I did, rebuking the disease in the name of the Lord. I afterwards sat down and asked him how he felt. He informed me that he was healed, that the chill had left him. He had no sooner said this than I commenced to quake with a chill. I told him I had got his complaint and wished him to lay hands on me. He refused saying he had had it for three weeks. This convinced me of the necessity of having two or more to perform the ceremony.
I arrived in Nauvoo, April 12th, 1843. The next day the Prophet Joseph preached to us and blessed us. I had seen him in a vision while crossing the sea, and when I saw him that day he had on the same hat and coat that I saw him in when at sea. I heard him preach a number of times and saw him in and around the city, giving counsel, and I always believed in him from my first seeing him until his death, that he was the leader of this dispensation and God Almighty’s prophet.
I worked in the temple while it was being plastered, having charge of the fires, received my endowments in January, 1846, and left Nauvoo on the 5th of February, 1846, with the first company that crossed the river, driving a team in Charles Shumway’s company.
I was six months with the Ponca Indians in the winter of 1846, and eighteen weeks without bread or vegetables of any kind. During this time I suffered with the scurvy, having all my right side covered with boils from the size of a pea to a hazel nut, and so close that they touched each other. While these were gathering I suffered much pain, and when they had broken and the scabs got hard, I suffered with the most terrible itching, and when sufficiently healed, I would go into some ravine on a sunny day, strip off my clothes, and with a flat stick scrape off the scabs, at times in sufficient quantities to fill a quart measure or more. This to me was a great pleasure, and I often thought that if Job felt as well as I did while performing a like operation, there was no need of sympathy, he having the advantage over me in having a potsherd, which was much better for the purpose than my stick. My stay with these Indians was a very interesting and instructive one, for it taught me many lessons. I found the Lord was there to hear my prayers, and notwithstanding my afflictions, I had sufficient strength to my day.
I reached this Salt Lake Valley, September 15th, 1847, and was appointed to take charge of the endowment rooms in the Council House in January, 1851. I commenced giving endowments in February 28th, 1851, and continued in charge until I was called to go on a mission to England in December, 1860, where I stayed until 1863.
While upon this mission I received a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I was speaking to a large congregation, bearing my testimony to the truth of the gospel, when I lifted up the Book of Mormon, saying, “I know that this book I hold in my hand–the Book of Mormon–was translated by the power of God through Joseph Smith, and will go to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, as a testimony of the truth of the gospel.” This was the first testimony I had ever had of its truth. On the Tuesday morning following, about six o’clock, while I was reading the third chapter of the second book of Nephi, I felt a remarkably happy feeling come over me, such as no one can explain but those who experience it. Immediately the following was given to me: “Thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant. I was well pleased with your testimony concerning the book you now hold in your hand called the Book of Mormon, for it was given unto you by the gift of faith. Now will I give it unto you by the power of my spirit. Thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant, that book you hold in your hand called the Book of Mormon was translated from plates by the power of my spirit through Joseph Smith, and shall be a testimony to every nation, kingdom, tongue, and people upon the earth and cursed by those who obey not the same, thus says your Lord and your Redeemer! Amen.”
While these words were passing through my mind, I fancied I saw the plates, and as soon as I said amen, (for I was speaking these words aloud) everything passed from my mind as though I had never spoken, but this heavenly feeling continued. I should think I remained in this state about a minute, when I commenced to speak again saying the same words as before. This I never forgot. I had often wondered how it could be possible for the Prophet Joseph to need the visitation of an angel three times telling him the same thing every time. I had thought that if an angel was to visit me and tell me as much once, I never would forget it. Here I was convinced of my error.