Many of my ancestors joined the church in the late 1830’s, early 1840’s. I’m very grateful for all they went through to bring the Gospel to me and all their posterity. Their conversion stories are very intriguing since they deal with the very beginnings of the Church. I suggest that you study the history of the Church along with my ancestors' history to get a better understanding of what these people had to go through and why they had to go through such trials. My information is taken from journals and family histories and many quotes will be given since their writings are more correct than any interpretation I could put into them. Not all my ancestors are represented here because of lack of time and space at the moment. But I hope to beable to research the rest of them soon.
David Cluff, son of William
Cluff, married Betsey or Elizabeth Hall, daughter of Moses and Lucy
Hall. In 1830 in New Hampshire David became interested in Mormonism
which had caused great excitement in the Eastern states. Harvey Harris
Cluff, one of David’s sons, wrote this of David. . . "As
father had become deeply interested in accounts published by explorers
of antiquites showing that a civilized people once inhabited America,
he naturally became imbued with the hope that the new record, would
give his the information that he was seeking after. Father was led to
go to Kirtland Ohio where the Prophet was and see and talk with him. He
seemed to have a great desire to hear from the Prophet direct a
statement of the wonderful visions,and condecensions of heavenly
beings. During his journey from New Hampshire he chanced to meet Martin
Harris, a convert to the new faith on a canal boat from whom he gained
much information which only intensified his anxiety to see the Prophet."
Elizabeth Haight Hatch, wife of
Jeremiah Hatch, lost all her children due to death in their early
childhood. Finally, she prayed to the Lord asking Him for a son and
promising to dedicate him to the Lord if he lived. Hezekiah Hatch was
soon born and became the first of his family to join the Church. He
then took the Gospel to his family. Hezekiah and his wife, Aldura
Sumner had no religious affiliation although they understood the
scriptures well. Hezekiah was baptized into the Church in the fall of
1840 by Elder Paletiah Brown. Mis Mother and Father were next to be
baptized. Elizabeth Haight Hatch (his Mother) was old and crippled at
the time and had used crutches for 13 years. She told her family that
she wouldn’t be crippled after her baptism. Because of her
great faith this statement came true and she never used crutches again.
She and her husband were baptized in 1840. Elizabeth later died in
Winter Quarters on Dec. 5, 1847.
Noah Brimhall heard the Gospel
and was convinced of it’s truthfulness in 1841. In 1843 he
headed off to see Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. The Prophet was in prison so
Noah’s wishes were not met at that time nor at any other time
in his life. (He later was detained in a Hospital in Chicago due to an
accident he had). Noah was close friends with William Hyde and
therefore spent much time in the Hyde household. This allowed him the
opportunity to attend the meeting when Brigham Young and the twelve
were sustained as the leaders of the Church to replace Joseph Smith. It
is interesting to note that Noah Brimhall, then a nonmember, voted for
Brigham. Noah crossed the Mississippi River in 1846 as the Saints were
expelled from Kirtland and was baptized at Council Point in the
Missouri River by William Hyde in 1846. He visited with friends and
relatives for the last time and wrote of the experience, "In the fall
of 1841 I visited friends and relatives where I found many apostates
that had been led away by strange and gladden a Bishop who declared
that an Angel had come from Heaven and laid hands on him and ordained
him to the Church. Thus we can see how men suffer themselves to be lead
away by the power of darkness and become almost insane." George
Washington Brimhall, Noah’s brother, was required to leave
his wife and children behind due to apostasy.6
I’m grateful that these valiant men remained strong in spite
of pressure from family and friends to leave the Church. In Oct.1852
Noah married Samantha Lake, daughter of James and Philomelia Smith Lake
who had joined the Church and crossed the plains. (Their story shall be
given later). Noah entered the divine law of plural marriage and
suffered along with the other Saints who valiantly lived this law.
Noah’s testimony is that, "I know that Joseph Smith was a
prophet of God and gave the Book ofMormon to the World under Gods
direction and that those who have followed Joseph and Brigham have been
the Lords choice."
The James Lake Sr. family was
one of the early German colonists in New Jersey. James Jr. moved to
Canada with his family where he married Philomelia Smith (fifth cousin
once removed of Joseph Smith). Here they met Brigham, Phineas, and
Joseph Young along with Elezier Miller who taught them the Gospel and
with whom they developed a strong relationship. James Lake Jr. and
Philomelia were baptized in 1832 by Elezier Miller in Ontario County,
Canada. From here they traveled to lake Ontario to start their journey
to Kirtland. Philomelia had to leave her 14 year old daughter behind
because Esther, the daughter, had gone to visit relatives and
hadn’t gotten back in time to join the family. Both were
heart broken. (Esther went back to stay with the relatives and later
married and raised a family). They arrived in Kirtland and were the
recipient of the persecutions heaped on all the Saints. Being forced
out of Kirtland they stayed in Geneva, Scott County, Ill. from
1838-1844 until they could get more supplies. They later joined the
Saints in Nauvoo where they helped build the Temple and later
experienced the gloom felt at Joseph Smith’s martyrdom.8
In Sketches of James Lakes Life by S.C. Richardson this experience is
related as follows, "They (the Lakes) followed faithfully the footsteps
of the Prophet (Joseph Smith). They knew the truth when it was
presented to them. After the awful scene at Nauvoo, where they saw the
form of the Prophet they loved so well, laid in the grave, they sought
a testimony from God as to their future procedure, and this testimony
they received at the great meeting held in the grove at Nauvoo, Aug. 8,
18 There they witnessed the sublime personality of Joseph Smith as it
cast its mantle of splendor around the chosen form of Brigham Young, he
being transformed before the eyes of the people, as a heavenly witness
to them, that God had caused the majesty of his priesthood to fall upon
‘whom he would’ that his work might be continued."9
Along with the other Saints, the Lakes were forced to leave Nauvoo and
made their way toward Council Bluffs. Once more they were detained due
to lack of supplies and stayed three years in Halt County, Missouri.
Here they were greatly blessed and found favor in the eyes of the
Missourians. They arrived in Salt Lake in 1850 and went on to colonize
Ogden. Through all this travel Philomelia was said to be of delicate
health and James was crippled from an ax accident where he lost his leg.
William Darby Cooper was born
on March 10, 1828 In South Carolina. He was sixteen when he heard the
Gospel and was baptized on Sept. 2, 1844 by Alonzo LeBarren. He was the
only member in his family to join the Church. William married Lydia
Rochester in 1846 and moved west with the Saints arriving in the Salt
Lake Valley in Sept. 1855. Here he entered into Plural marriage by
marrying Lydia’s sister, Mary Hannah Rochester. These are the
thoughts Jesse Cooper, William’s father, shared about
William’s membership in the Church and in particular about
the Churches doctrine of plural marriage . . .(written to William in
1866) "Dear Son. . . I received your letter dated 23rd of April and was
glad that you had peace and plenty. I wish that I could say the same. I
got a letter some time ago, in that you wanted me to come to you. My
time of traveling so great a distance is past on account of my age and
infirmity. I am not able to undertake it. I am not able to work in the
plantation, and if I was stout and hearty, I would hate to come on
account of your wife system, for I cannot believe it to be right, no
not if every man, and woman, and child was to preach it. I believe it
never was the will of God from Adam to this day, nor never will be.
There is one thing, if we were to do everything the ancients did, we
would be guilty of every crime that could be named,almost." "These are
honestly my sentiments. I feel that it is time for me to be plain, for
I know that my time is short in this world. . . "I want no argument at
all with you. I am sorry that you ever got in the belief you have, for
the United States will put your system down before five years. Wesley
Lee and Jane Harris wrote you this spring about it. Write both of them,
and I have written more letters than you have ever got, you
don’t get half of them. . ." "I wish you well and would
rejoice to see you, but feel that I shall not in this
George Prince was born in England. He moved to South Africa at the age of 26 because the English government was giving away tracts of land to make new settlements. George was always looking for the restored gospel and knew he would recognize it when he heard it. In treasures of Pioneer History an experience of his is related as follows "One evening at the end of a hard day’s travel as he was making him rounds to see that everything was all right for the night, someone called him by the name of ‘George.’ He turned and beheld a personage clothed In a long white robe, who told his that the Gospel had been restored and would be brought to him by two men, warning him to heed their teachings and accept them. He was told that he would know the men immediately upon seeing them. The gathering of Israel was also explained to him and urging that it should be done speedily lest part of his family be left behind."12 As George related the experience to his wife, she laughed calling his as visionary a man as Abraham of Old. Two years later as Billy, George’s son, was playing outside two men came up the path. Billy, upon recognizing the two men from his fathers vision ran into the house announcing the arrival of the men. The men were Mormon missionaries who taught and converted the Prince family. The Prince family immigrated to Utah in 1860 where they continued faithful in the Church.
From these records and journals we can see how valiant these Saints were in the Church - giving each one who reads their life histories the courage and strength to carry on in their footsteps. There are thousands of others who went through similar ordeals. Now it’s our challenge to search them out - read their histories, learn from them, do their genealogy, etc. Good luck and have fun.
Journal of Harvey Harris Cluff, pg. 3.
Footnote2: The Cluff Family Journal, pg.3.
Footnote3: Journal of Harvey Harris Cluff, pg. 6-7.
Footnote4: Hatch Family Journal.
Footnote5: Lorenzo Hill Hatch Journal, pg2.
Footnote6: Noah Brimhall
Footnote7: Noah Brimhall
Footnote8: A History of My People and Yours by Claud Nelson McMillan, 1956.
Footnote9: James Lakes Life; Harold B. Lee Library at BYU.
Footnote10: James Lakes Life; Harold B. Lee Library at BYU.
Footnote11 Cooper Records in possessionof James P. Cameron of St. George, Utah.
Footnote12: Treasures of Pioneer History; pg. 210-271.
Footnote13: A Visit to the Jungle by Sarah Ann Prince Butler.