Sons & Daughters of Joel

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My Conversion to Mormonism

     About this time [1831] there was considerable excitement about the Mormons at Kirtland, where there had been a branch of the church built up, and Joseph Smith had arrived at that place and held a conference, and was sending out Elders through the country, and many evil reports were in circulation concerning them and most of the people believed them to be true, I obtained The Book of Mormon and read it some but was so filled with prejudice on account of the evil reports in circulation that I returned it before I had read it through.

     But soon there arrived two Mormon Elders in the neighborhood by the names of Harvey Whitlock and Edson Fuller who preached in a school house nearby.  Myself and wife went out to hear them.  They preached upon the first principles of the Gospel, treating upon faith, repentance and baptism for the remission of sins with the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost with signs following the believer, etc.  Their preaching filled me with astonishment, it being the first discourse that I had ever heard that corresponded with the New Testament.  When they spoke of the Book of Mormon they made it equal to the Bible.  My prejudice was so great against the book that I would not receive their testimony.  I heard them twice and concluded to stay at home, but they continued preaching in the vicinity and soon commenced baptizing.  In a few days Lyman Wight, Samuel H. Smith and others came to their assistance and in a few weeks they baptized about fifty in the vicinity.

     All this time I had kept at home except the two first meetings.  My wife, who had always been a strong Methodist, had a desire tat this time to attend their meetings which were held every day, and I gave my consent, for I never would abridge anyone's liberty in religious matters.  She attended several meetings and began to believe in the work, and myself having searched the Bible daily while staying at home, began to think that the work might possibly be true.  I therefore concluded to adhere to the advice of Paul "to prove all things and hold fast the good."

     I accordingly came to the conclusion to take my Bible in my hand and attend all their meetings and investigate the subject thoroughly with prayer for Divine direction.  This I did for several days, comparing their preaching with the Scriptures which brought me to the following conclusions:

       Firstly, that as all Protestant sects had spring from the Church of Rome, they have no more authority to administer in the ordinances of the Church of Christ than the Church of Rome had, and if she was the "Mother of Harlots," they must be consequently her daughters; therefore, none of them could be the Church of Christ.

       Secondly, that a supernatural Power did attend the Mormon Church and it had risen independent of all denominations; therefore its origin must be from heaven or hell.

       Thirdly, that it is unreasonable to suppose that God would suffer the Devil to bring forth a work with the gifts and blessings of the ancient Church of Christ corresponding with that which he has promised to bring forth in the last days for the gathering of the House of Israel and by that means lead astray all the honest men of the earth.

       And fourthly, that as the principles taught in the Book of Mormon corresponded with the Bible and the doctrine of the Church was the same that was taught by Christ and his apostles with signs following the believer, I concluded that the work was of God, and embraced it will all my heart and soul, and was baptized on the first day of June, 1831, by Elder Sylvester Smith.  My wife had been baptized a few days previous.

     - Joel Hills Johnson, A Voice from the Mountains, pp. 16,17

I Enjoy Spreading the Gospel

       In the following January (1832), I went to visit my friends in the town of Pomfret, County of Chautauqua, State of New York, in company with brother Almon W. Babbitt, who was then a private member of the church.  We visited and preached from house to house and found some believing and others very hard against the work of the Lord.

       During our stay there, Brother Joseph Brackenbury and Edmund Durfee (High Priests from New London in Huron County, Ohio) being on their way to the east called on us, which filled our hearts with joy.  We held several meetings and some believed the gospel and two were baptized.  One of them was my mother, Julia Johnson, and the other my brother-in-law, Lyman R. Sherman.

       Both were baptized by Elder Brackenbury, and there appeared to be quite an inquiry among the people.  But, alas, in the midst of fair prospects and great expectations, disappointment often blasts our hopes and proves the saying true that in the midst of life we are in death.  For our beloved brother, Joseph Brackenbury, was taken sick with what was supposed to be the bilious cholic and remained in great distress, which he bore with the fortitude of a saint for one week and expired with an unshaken confidence in the fullness of the Gospel which he had preached, and a firm hope of a glorious resurrection among the just.

       The sectarian priests taking advantage of this circumstance and howling like wolves, seemed to slacken the faith of those who were believing, which caused the work to stop for a while, and we were obliged to return directly home and could not stay to combat the enemy.

       On my return home I continued to preside over the branch of the church at Amhurst, which duty I performed according to the best of my abilities, laboring for the benefit of the Saints in its vicinity and other branches until May, 1833, having baptized in all, twelve persons and ordained two elders and two priests.  I then went to Kirtland and being counseled by President Joseph Smith, I made a purchase of land and moved my family to Kirtland about the last of July and commenced making brick for the House of the Lord, then to be built in that place, in which business I labored until the 25th of September of the same year.  But the brick was not used for that purpose because the church concluded to build the house of stone.

       About the last of October , I was taken sick with the bilious fever and was confined to my house for several weeks.  After my recovery I was under the necessity of building a house and laboring for the benefit of my family.  I also built a saw mill to cut lumber for the Lord's House on a small stream near Kirtland Village and labored for the benefit of my fellow creatures by preaching the Gospel wherever opportunity presented within the vicinity of Kirtland.  My labors were mostly in the towns of Montville, Concord, Huntsburgh, Russel, Leroy, Hampden and Chagrin (now Willoughby).  In some of these towns I preached almost every Sabbath until the first of August 1835, having baptized five persons; but many others who were the fruits of my labors were baptized in Huntsburgh and other places.  I also ordained two elders and one priest.

- Joel Hills Johnson, A Voice from the Mountains, pp. 19,20

Continuing my Preaching

       On the 26th of August 1835, I left home in company with Elder Ezra Thornton to travel and preach the gospel for a short time in the southeast part of the state of Ohio.  We preached in Huntsburgh, Parkman, and Paris, and on the 29th came to Palmyra and stopped at Ezra Gilbert's and found himself and family, some believing.  In the evening we were visited by a (would be) learned Baptist Priest, by the name of James Macalva who swelled himself up like the toad in the fable and spoke many swelling words about his college learning, knowledge of language, etc., and said that he had held debates and whipped out the best of the Mormon preachers and was acquainted with the Book of Mormon and its origin and placed many anathemas upon its author, etc., and then gave us a challenge for a debate.  We told him that we were ready to establish at all times the Gospel and necessity of the Book of Mormon, from the scriptures.  I then asked him what fault he found in the book.  He answered that it was ungrammatical.  I told him that we might condemn the Bible upon the same principle.  He then said that there was not an ungrammatical sentence in the Bible.  I referred him to a few passages and asked him if they were written according to the rules of grammar but could not get him to say anything more upon the subject.  He began to back out from his challenge by saying if we would go to the town of Hyrum he would debate with us there.  We told him that we should not go there where Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and others of the Saints had been shamefully mobbed, but would debate with him in Palmyra at any time and place he would mention.  He would not agree to that so we went home.  This took place in August 1835.   

       Sunday the 30th, preached at Mr. Gilbert's at 2 o'clock and also in the evening.

       Monday the 31st, traveled among the Hicksite Quakers and could not get a place for preaching.

       Tuesday, September the 1st, 1835, tried to get a preaching place at New Lisbon but failed, and came to Wellsville on the Ohio River and stopped at Samuel Bunwell's.

       Wednesday the 2nd, preached at Wellsville.

      - Joel Hills Johnson, A Voice from the Mountains, p. 20

Meeting with Hostility and Success

       Thursday the 3rd of September, went to Franklin, 20 miles from Wellsville.  On the way we met with a company of people raising a house to whom we introduced the subject of our mission and tried to get a preaching place in the neighborhood, but the priests and deacons present put their heads together and prevented us.  They then told us to shake the dust from our feet as a testimony against them and leave them and their own blood should be upon their own heads.  After warning them sufficiently, we left them and went on our way and came to Brother Boutzons, Franklin Township, where Brother David Evans had labored and baptized six.  We found them in good faith and preached to them two evenings in succession.

       Sunday the 6th, preached in the village of Hanover at 2 o'clock and had a good congregation and good attention.  Several Cambelite priests were present.  I thought it a good opportunity to preach upon the subject of Priesthood.  I commenced by saying that there were only three Priesthoods mentioned in the Bible and only two of them were given by the God of Heaven for the benefit of mankind, and they were the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthoods.  I spoke at considerable length on the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods, showing that it was through them only that mankind could obtain salvation.  I then introduced the Priesthood of Baal as the third Priesthood mentioned in the Bible and brought up the circumstances of Elijah the Prophet and the Priests of Baal to show the contrast between the Priesthood of God and that of Baal.  I then said, "If I ask the Priests of modern days if they have the Melchizedek Priesthood their answer will be 'No,' for that is too holy for men in these days.  Then if I ask if they have received the Aaronic, 'No," is their reply again for that was done away with at the coming of Christ."  Then said I, "They must have received the Baalan Priesthood for they have claims upon no other."

       While making these remarks the people stared at me with profound silence at the close of which I told the people that there was liberty for remarks, but no reply was made.

       Monday 7th, preached in the town of New Garden.

       Tuesday 8th, attended to the ordinance of baptism.

       Wednesday 9th, preached again in New Garden.

       Thursday 10th, attended an appointment at Georgetown.

       Friday 11th, preached in Knox and Chambersburgh.

       Saturday 12th, attended an appointment at Alexandria.

       Sunday 13th, preached at Brother Boutzon's.

       Monday 14th, Brother Thornton left me and went home.

       Tuesday 15th, preached at Hanover again.

       Wednesday 16th, went to hear a Campbellite preacher who compared the Gospel to glass and said as sun glasses are used to light pipes and cigar with, so we may use the Gospel to light our souls with the love of God and said it was a good magnifying glass to magnify our sins by, and might be used as spectacles, etc.

       Thursday 17th, preached again at Brother Boutzon's.

       Friday 18th, preached at Hanover.

       Saturday 19th, no meeting on account of bad weather.

       Sunday 20th, preached again at Brother Boutzon's.

       Monday 21st, started for home where I arrived September 1835, the 23rd day.

- Joel Hills Johnson, A Voice from the Mountains, p. 21

My Preaching Continues

     January the 3rd, 1838, I left home to go to Sandusky City on business and on the 7th preached in Amherst, Loraine County, Ohio.

     Wednesday the 10th, I arrived in the city of Sandusky and on the 13th preached in the Academy on the subject of the Gospel, but the people were very hard and did not want to hear any further on the subject.  On Monday the 15th started homeward.

     April 2nd, Preached in the Lord's House at Kirtland on the subject of the gathering of the Saints and building up Zion in North America.

     July 2nd, Attended to the ordinance of baptism.  I will here insert a letter that appeared in the fifth number of the 1st volume of the "Times and Seasons" published at Commerce (since Nauvoo), Hancock County, Illinois.

     Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, February 6th, 1840, to the Editors of the "Times and Seasons" and all the Saints of our God and fellow laborers in the dispensation of the fullness of times, Greetings,

Dear Brethren,

     Realizing that all the faithful are wishing to hear from the Elders abroad and to know how the work of pruning the vineyard progresses in the last days, I had thought proper to give you a short sketch of my labors since the 6th day of July, 1838, for on that day I started from Kirtland, Ohio, with my family in company with the camp of the Saints, called the Kirtland Camp, numbering in all, men, women, and children, five hundred and fifteen souls, fifty-eight teams with a large number of cows.  This company consisted principally of the poor Saints of Kirtland, with the sick, poor, lame, blind, etc., with all that could not move without help.

     We had a fine journey to Dayton, Ohio, where we stopped and labored four weeks on the turnpike; then resumed our journey and arrived at Springfield, the seat of the Government for Illinois, September the 15th, and finding that several persons in the camp were sick with fevers, the managers thought best for me to stop and take care of them, which I accordingly did, by renting a house for their benefit and making other necessary provisions for their comfort.

     I then commenced preaching in Springfield in my own hired house, but the prejudice of the people (on account of the difficulties at Far West) was so great they generally would not hear, but few were inquiring.  Many of the brethren who were coming from the east, when they heard that I was at Springfield stopped there also, and I soon organized them into a branch of the Church, called the Springfield Branch, over which I was chosen to preside.  We held our meetings in the Campbellite meeting house.

     I continued preaching in Springfield and its vicinity until January 8th, 1839.  The Church at this time numbered about forty members in good standing.  I then removed my family to Carthage the county seat of Hancock County, Illinois, the vicinity in which I soon commenced preaching, and also near Crooked Creak.  In April I baptized and confirmed several members and organized a branch of the Church called the Crooked Creek Branch, over which I was chosen to preside and I have endeavored to do, preaching to the Church and other places until the present time, having had many calls for preaching which I could not attend to on account of my ill health and indigent circumstances.  I had baptized and confirmed in this vicinity 15 members, and brothers John E. Page has baptized several and James Carle, two.  This branch numbers about fifty members in good standing, and many more appear to be believing.  I hope they will soon become Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise, by being baptized for the remission of their sins.

     From your fellow laborer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

           Joel H. Johnson

I would here remark in addition to the above that when I first came to Carthage in January 1839, I rented an old vacant store house with several rooms into which I moved my family.

     I had not been here long before Sidney Rigdon, Bishop Partridge and others who had fled from Far West on account of mob violence called on me while on their way to Old Commerce to seek a locatoin for the Saints, who were then being driven frm the state of Missouri.  And as soon as the authorities of the Church had concluded to make Old Commerce (since Nauvoo) a locatoin for the Saints, they came flocking into hancock County and on hearing that I was in Carthage beat their course thither and made my house a stopping place until the could find a suitable location for the Saints for the time being.

I had by this time, through my labor and the blessings of my Heavenly Father, rooted out much of the prejudice existing in the minds of the people in reference to the difficulties at Far West and gained many warm friends to the Saints in exile who were seeking in Hancock County an asylum from mob violence; for I had baptized several in the vicinity of Carthage, and also I had baptized several members and organized a branch of the Church at Crooked Creek, eight miles distant in what was called the Perkins Settlement.

On the eighteenth of February, 1840, I moved my family on to the West Branch of Crooked Creek, having previously purchased a saw mill and piece of land where I labored during the spring and the summer for the support of my family and preached on the Sabbath to the brethren.

About July first, I appointed a meeting of the Church to take into consideration the subject of organizing a Stake in the Crooked Creek Branch.  The saints met and unanimously agreed to establish a Stake if it agreed with the mind of the First Presidency.  Accordingly we appointed a committee of three to visit the President and ascertain his mind on the subject and adjourned our meeting to the 9th of the month.  On the 9th, the Church met and heard the report of the committee from the President, which not only corresponded with our wishes, but urged the necessity of a Stake and gave directions for its organization.

I was elected the President of the Stake, Joseph Holbrook was elected my first counselor and Ebenezer Page was elected my second counselor.  Wm. Wightman was chosen Bishop, and Elijah B. Gaylord and William G. Perkins his counselors.  The High Council was then elected and after some other business the meeting was adjourned until the 15th when President Hyrum Smith was expected to be present to ordain those who had been elected to office.  We met on the 15th; agreeable to adjournment when Hyrum Smith took the chair and called for those who had been appointed to office to come forward and receive their ordination.  I was accordingly ordained to the President of the Stake, and all the rest were ordained to their several appointments.  The location being fixed upon for a town, it was soon laid out and called Ramus.

- Joel Hills Johnson, A Voice from the Mountains, pp 23 - 25

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