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Theodore Turley: A Biography
Richard E. Turley, Jr.

[This is another in a continuing series of newsletter articles that together will make up the first rough draft of a biography of Theodore Turley. The draft will undergo considerable revision before being published in book form. I invite all family members to read it critically, make suggestions, and offer additional information for possible inclusion. Feel free to e-mail me.]

5 Gathering with the Saints, 1838

An early revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of six elders of the Church proclaimed:

And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect: for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;

Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of the land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.1

Having sold their Churchville farm for fourteen hundred dollars late the previous year, Theodore and Frances prepared in the spring of 1838 to gather with the saints.2

The Church had been formally organized in New York state in 1830, but the saints had encountered persecutions that made their tenure in that state difficult. That year, a revelation had led to the calling of missionaries to preach to the Lamanites, as the Book of Mormon called the Native Americans. The same revelation declared that the city of Zion, the gathering place of the saints, would be built “on the borders by the Lamanites.”3 The missionaries traveled to Missouri, which by revelation in 1831, was designated as “the land . . . appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints . . . the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.”4

En route to Missouri, the missionaries to the Lamanites had stopped in Parley P. Pratt’s former neighborhood in Ohio, where soon hundreds received the joyous message and joined the Church.5 Before Missouri was identified as the land of Zion, the saints were commanded to “assemble together at the Ohio,” a temporary gathering place.6 The town of Kirtland, Ohio, became the headquarters for the Church in anticipation of the building of a temple in the center place of Zion, which was declared to be Independence, Jackson County, Missouri.7

Before long, however, mobs drove the saints from Jackson County. Kirtland, meanwhile, became the designated spot for another temple, which was dedicated in March 1836 and became a place of great spiritual blessings for the saints.8 By late 1837 when Theodore visited Kirtland, the town was still the Church’s headquarters, but apostasy, persecution, and political and economic strife were making it an uncomfortable place for faithful saints to live. When Theodore and Frances first sold their farm, they may have intended to gather to Kirtland, but by the time they and their family departed from the Toronto area in the spring of 1838, Joseph
Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other prominent Church members had fled the region and begun gathering in the vicinity of a new Church headquarters at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri.9

According to his own account, Theodore “continued preaching till we went up to Kirtland & from thence to Mosurria [Missouri].”10 Finally, the day arrived, and Theodore would later record, “I with my famely left Toronto U[pper] C[anada] for Colwell County Far West.” Theodore wrote that he and his family “Started with two wagons & four horses, ” but they did not travel alone. Theodore specifically named four other men and their families who traveled in the company.11 One was Elder John Snyder, who had been one of the original missionaries to England and with whom Theodore undoubtedly discussed the work that was going on there.12 Another was Almon Whiting Babbitt, a missionary who had been serving in Canada and who would later become a well-known politician in early Utah before his massacre at the hands of Indians. Babbitt was apparently the leader of the emigrant group of which Theodore, Frances, and their family were a part.13 The other two men were Joel Terry and a Brother Lemon.

Passing through Kirtland,14 they continued their travels to Missouri. As they traveled, they apparently added other saints to their company. For example, Anson Call recorded in an autobiographical account that he left his residence in Ohio on March 20, 1838, to travel to Missouri and “left my family to journey up with Almon Babbitt and others.” Call arrived in Missouri, became established on a tract of land, celebrated the Fourth of July in Far West, and the following day “started back to meet my family.” Call recorded that he “met them 25 miles west of the Mississippi River in company with Alwin Babbitt [Almon W. Babbitt], John Schnider
[Snyder] and others. I found them well but much fatigued from their long tedious journey.” Call joined the group and headed for Far West,15 where they arrived, by Theodore’s account, on July 18, 1838.16

Under date of July 28, the Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith, Jr., which was kept by Joseph’s scribe George W. Robinson, notes, “President Smith and Prest Rigdon left Far West, for Adam Ondi Awman to transact some important buisness, and to settle some Cannadian Bretheren, in that place, as they are emegrating numerously to this land from all parts of the County. Elder Babit [Almon W. Babbitt] from Cannada with his company, has arrived, brother [Theodore] Turley is with him–”17

Summarizing both the length of the journey and the purpose for their gathering, Theodore recorded, “Distance about 1000 Traveled by Land Desireous of Settling my famely in peace from the noise of war &c with the advantages of communion with the People of God.” “[H]owheavour,” Theodore wrote, “The Dev[i]l and all his Host was Determined whe Should
not enjoy it long.”18

[Next issue: “Trouble in Zion, 1838”]

Draft of 26 December 1996
© 1996 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the January 1997 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter

  1. Doctrine and Covenants 29:7-8. For a concise description of the Latter-day Saint doctrine of gathering, see Ronald D. Dennis, “Gathering,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan. 1992), 536-37.
  2. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, p. 1, Special Collections, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Theodore Turley, Autobiography (ca. 1840), MS 13176, fd. 1, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. See also my previous article in this series, which appeared in the Theodore Turley Family Newsletter (April 1996): 2-7.
  3. Doctrine and Covenants 28:9; see also Doctrine and Covenants 45:63-71.
  4. Doctrine and Covenants 57:1 -2.
  5. See, e.g., Max H. Parkin, “Lamanite Mission of 1830-1831,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 802-4.
  6. Doctrine and Covenants 37:3.
  7. Doctrine and Covenants 57:3; 58:57; 84:1-5.
  8. Doctrine and Covenants 96:2; 97; 98; 101; 105:33; 109; 110.
  9. See Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Kirtland, Ohio,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 793-98; Larry C. Porter, “Far West, Missouri,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 500.
  10. Theodore Turley, Autobiography (ca. 1840), MS 13176, fd. 1. Consistent with scholarly practice, I have retained the original spelling in all quotations from original sources in this article, using square brackets to indicate any alterations made for the sake of clarity.
  11. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, p. 1.
  12. On John Snyder’s role in the first mission, see, e.g., Richard L. Evans, A Century of “Mormonism” in Great Britain (1937; reprint Salt Lake City: Publishers Press. 1984), 16-40.
  13. For biographical information on Babbitt, see Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co./Andrew Jenson Memorial Association, 1901-1936), 1:284-86; Lyndon W. Cook and Milton V. Backman, Jr., Kirtland Elders’ Quorum Record, 1836-1841 (Provo: Grandin Bokk, 1985), 69-70.
  14. Theodore Turley, Autobiography (ca. 1840), MS 13176, fd. 1.
  15. Anson Call, “Autobiography of Anson Call,” typescript, Special Collections, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  16. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, p. 1.
  17. Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 262-63. This entry is the basis for the one found in History of the Church 3:48.
  18. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, pp. 1-2.