LONDON HEARS THE GOSPEL
WHEN I returned to London I began again to work for Mr. J. J. Magee.
Having a great desire to have the gospel preached in London, I concluded that as soon as I could get a little money ahead I would try to get the elders to come. I began to talk to one and another, but the most of those with whom I conversed opposed it.
There was one young lady who lived near my boarding place, who seemed willing to investigate the new doctrine, as she called it. By our frequent gospel chats she became very much interested. We went to Bothwell where we spent Sun-day in the meetings of the Saints. She saw and heard much which confirmed her in what I had said to her, and she was baptized and confirmed and returned to London a Latter Day Saint. We now had two Saints in London.
Only one man who worked in the mill with me cared to investigate our claims, John J. Harvey. We made it our business to be together as often as we could to read and talk about the gospel. He finally became convinced that it was correct, and said whenever an elder would pass that way he wished to be baptized. Shortly the opportunity came, and Brother Harvey was baptized. There were now three Saints in London.
Having three members in the city of London, I thought if I could get a proper place in which to hold meetings I would save up some money to pay the rent and look after the minister's expenses, so we could get the work started in the city. Places were hard to get because of the expense, and but few cared to let their halls be used for Latter Day Saint meetings. Others would ask such a price that I could not reach it.
I joined the Sons of Temperance, believing if I did I would be enabled to get the use of the hall. After becoming a
member I attended regularly and began to get acquainted with several of the members, and in about two months I obtained the use of the Sons of Temperance hall, on Richmond Street, at one dollar a night. I had to do the janitor work. I had meetings advertised for Saturday evening and three times on the following Sunday.
Having made arrangement for the board and lodging of the elders at the place where I was boarding, I advertised the meetings in the three daily papers. I had circulars printed, and I distributed them.
The time came and with it Elders Robert Davis and Arthur Leverton. I had everything ready. The floor was clean and the hall lighted up nicely, but when the hour for meeting arrived there were only five or six persons present. I went downstairs and called, "Preaching upstairs in this hall by the Latter Day Saints tonight. Will start in a few minutes." I kept it up for a few minutes, then went up with a heavy heart. Nine persons only were present.
We tried it again on Sunday, but there were only a few present, until evening, when about sixty were in attendance. During the week a few came out to hear the gospel, so we closed for that time.
A few months later I got the same elders and advertised as before. In this attempt more came out to the meetings, and one night Arthur Lcvcrton dreamed that be was fishing and caught three nice fish, and when he brought them to the shore he saw three good fish lying: :there that had been caught. Robert Davis believed the fish meant that those who were ready to obey were two, and one more would be convinced during the preaching and he baptized, thus making three. Christ said, "I will make you fishers of men." We agreed that must be right, but the meaning of the fish already caught we did not know. But the three were baptized on Sunday and confirmed at the evening meeting. That Sun-day evening Brother and Sister Elijah Sparks and their daughter, who had been baptized in London, England, and had just come from there to London, Ontario, walked up and made themselves known to us, and with joy and gladness we shook
hands with a feeling of love which few but Saints can know, when united as one family in the beautiful gospel of our blessed Master.
This now made nine members of the church in London, Ontario, and on Friday of that week we met at Brother and Sister Sparks's home, where we had a nice prayer meeting, at which time I was called by the spirit of prophecy through Arthur Leverton to the office of priest, and was ordained by the same brother and Robert Davis.
The elders went home. The following day they returned. The day following that, being Sunday, the nine Saints met for a little prayer meeting, and some others who were friendly also attended. After the meeting one said:
"Now, Brother Johnnie, you have been called and ordained, you must preach to us."
"Yes," said another.
"Yes, you give out preaching in my house; I have a large room; give it out to be in my home."
"But," I answered, "I can not preach."
"Yes, you can."
"Now," said another, "you give out for preaching next Sunday."
"Oh," said I, "I can't read."
Says Elijah Sparks, "I'll read the hymns and also your lesson for you."
"There now, Johnnie," added another, "make the announcement for next Sunday."
"Say yes," cried some one.
I said yes, but with great palpitation of the heart and fearful forebodings; not that I doubted the gospel being true, but I did doubt my ability to present it properly before the people.
I fasted and prayed much to our heavenly Father that he would bless me that I might have words suitable for the occasion; that he would bring scripture to my mind that good might be done. During that week I looked over my little Testament that George Cleveland had marked for me. I tried to know the scripture and prayed the Almighty to bring to
my mind the passage necessary to use, so I could make it plain enough for them to understand. On Sunday at half past two we came together at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Burch, and several people were gathered there.
Elijah Sparks gave out the hymns, offered prayer, and read a lesson from the Bible. I stood before the congregation with the little Testament opened to Acts 2: 38. I knew the text all right, having heard it often. But now I was a preacher, you see, and I must hold the book before me. I announced my text: "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." As I concluded the words of the verse, the thought came, "What will I say next?" But words came, a good thought; some more scripture that I had heard in harmony with the text came, and it kept on coming. Then some other scripture came to mind, and I knew about where to locate those passages. As this was going on I thought to myself, "I'm doing it. It's all right. The Spirit is bringing things to my mind. God said it would be so, and here it is." Those thoughts passed like a flash between times when reading or talking.
I was glad. All this continued for about twenty-five minutes; then it seemed to stop. Nothing more came to me to say. Under the impulse of the moment I said, "Preaching again next Sunday at half past two." Then came the same feeling as when I first had consented to preach.
While the last hymn was being sung a discussion was going on in my mind: "Why did you give out another meeting? You can't preach again: you said all you know. But I did not know that; the Spirit brought that to my mind. It will not do to tell that over again, and I do not think I could tell it over again. But the Lord brought me that subject, and he'll bring me another one again next Sunday and tell me what to say."
A good feeling came over me, and I relied on God. I have done so ever since, and never have I had to sit down before any congregation for lack of words, though I have, when other ministers were present, given way for them to occupy
when I knew they were older in the work and more able to present the gospel. We all know it is because of the loving-kindness of our heavenly Father to his children that he gives unto us of his Holy Spirit which has enabled us to assist in his cause. This I have relied on all my life.
I held meeting again the next Sunday, according to agreement, and the Lord stood by me by his Holy Spirit, so that I was enabled to discourse for about forty minutes to my joy and the apparent joy and satisfaction of others. On Monday evening I baptized James H. Stratton and Albert Dempsey.
A few days later, Albert Moor and others were baptized near the Kensington bridge in the River Thames.
As the work began to grow in the city of Lond
on, the people began to talk. The papers published much against us and but little in our favor. Some of the ministers of other denominations preached and lectured against us. Reverend Parker, of the Methodist faith, delivered a lecture against us one Sunday evening. The papers had much to say, not only giving a synopsis of the lecture, but also adding much which if believed in by the general public would militate against us. Out of all this right-thinking people began to make inquiry as to our faith; they attended our meetings and began to investigate for themselves, to find out what there was about this new sect that the people have so much to say about, until our private houses were too small to hold the people who came. We rented a store building, put in temporary seats, and held our meetings where we could accommodate many more than we could in private houses, in the meantime arranging to have a lot purchased and to erect a church building.
Our meetings were held on Sundays and on Wednesday evenings, usually two meetings on Sunday and one on Wednesday evening
Newcomers began to favor our work and to hear the gospel, while others opposed it more. We were sometimes hissed at as we went along the streets, and at one time while preaching some men came and stood in front on the sidewalk, stamping heavily with their feet, making all the noise they could,
cursing and swearing and otherwise interrupting. When one of our friends went out and asked them, "Please do not interrupt the meeting," one strong man with a long, heavy stick in both hands struck the large store window with such force that he knocked pieces of glass and sash clear down to the other end of the building where I stood, preaching to the people. This caused big excitement, which broke the meeting up. For this those men were arrested and fined a few dollars each, and the magistrate gave those disturbers of the peace quite a lecture and told them to leave us alone.
Sympathy was coming our way, and we were glad to know that the authorities of the city were honorable men, willing to assist us as fellow citizens who were a law-abiding people, and that we should have fair play.
We got the little store front repaired and continued to hold our meetings, and some others believed the gospel and came into the church. Baptisms were attended to on Sun-days or after our day's work was done; among them was a sister of Albert Moor. She and one or two others were baptized. One of the daily papers made some unfavorable comments relative to the baptism, viz: "As a result one of them, a young lady, has been suffering ever since with a severe cold, but I won't tell you here name Annie Moor."
At this time the editor did print a reply which I made, in which I tried to correct the false statements they had made against us, but it was printed chiefly to show up my poor spelling and perhaps ungrammatical statements. This was rather mortifying to me, not so much that it exposed my poor spelling, but because some people might think there could not be anything in the doctrine we were preaching, and that I was only an ignorant, religious crank, etc. I did not see that it lessened the congregation, but rather resulted, as in Bible times, as said of Peter and John, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled, and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." Nearly the same was repeated of me in effect: "The boy is unlearned and can not read the Bible correctly; could not
read at all when he began his preaching; and yet there is a power connected with his preaching that is convincing, and the teaching is as found in the Bible." What they were publishing about us in the papers was only advertising us and was a means of people learning of our activities. The curiosity of some and the desire of others to learn, brought the people together, and as a consequence many learned of the angel's message and became obedient to the faith, not because of any eloquence of my own, but because the Lord worked with me.
There being no elder within forty miles of London, we were compelled to wait for days and sometimes weeks before those baptized could be confirmed. When an elder came, if there were more ready to obey the elder did the baptizing and confirming, until in the fall of 1875, when I was called of God by revelation and ordained to the office of elder.
About four months before my ordination to the office of elder, while working for Mr. Perrin, I became very sick, unable to work, and had to take to my bed. I arranged to have Brother Depper come with his cab and take me to our place of worship at the time of meeting and to have the few Saints come together and pray that I might be healed of whatever disease it might be. I received no relief. I arranged with Brother Depper to take me to the home of Brother Parker, with a few of the Saints, and not let any of the outsiders know anything about it, for we considered that those who had attended the other meeting were there only to seek a sign. We met there, and each one prayed, I being the last, and when I asked God to rebuke and remove the affliction from my body and make me whole, the Spirit of God rested upon me in mighty power, thrilling my body from head to foot. All in the house felt the power and manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and I was healed. We gave God the glory. I ate heartily and went home a well man and to my work again the next day. I had not eaten anything for a day or two, because I could not, and, being healed, I felt hungry and wanted food.
James H. Stratton was the first person I baptized. The
mother of the Stratton family had died some years before I became acquainted with them, and about a year before our acquaintance the older brother, Charles, also died. The older daughter Annie, had married a man by the name of Johnston, but he died before the gospel reached them. Circumstances made it so that the father could not care for the family, and as a matter of course the burden fell on the older daughter, Annie Johnston, and James H. Stratton, the oldest son living. After the death of Charles, there remained of the family, Annie, James, Jannie, John, Henry, and Rose, all of whom came into the church. I baptized them. Annie is the wife of John J. Harvey, of Kansas City. James and Rose also re-side there.
After I had baptized Jannie, and we began to have regular meetings established, we were permitted to see each other often, and we began to love each other better than others, and I—she—well, we loved each other so much we got married to each other. This is the little woman we often call the "little mother."
I was ordained a priest before our marriage and an elder after we were married, all in the year 1875, and as the years have come and gone, we have learned to love each other much. as we know each other better. To us eight children have been born, four boys and four girls. One of the boys died when very young, and eight years ago our oldest daughter died. I baptized my wife and all of our children except the little babe who died.
Although Sister Cornish and I have been called away from each other's companionship so much by reason of my ministerial work, we have tried to be true and faithful to each other and our children and the work of the gospel. William John and Alma James are elders in the church and are assisting well to advance the beautiful gospel, all striving for each other's good, and for full and free salvation in that bright world to come.