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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.]
22 Trying to Convince the Family
Tuesday morning, February 4, 1840, Theodore had breakfast with his mother before going to see his sister Mary Ann Turley Mills, whom unfortunately he found to be sick. Next he went to see his brother John’s family. Increasingly anxious for his family members’ spiritual welfare, he evidently held out hope especially for his brother John, apparently the most successful member of his family from a worldly perspective. “I Desire the Salvation of my relations,” he wrote in his journal. “I Pray God to give my brother Eyes to see the Truth as it is in Jesus Christ.”1
Like the Prophet Joseph Smith before him, Theodore did not limit testifying of his spiritual experiences to his family; he right away went to see a Methodist preacher he had known before leaving England and whom he thought would understand his message of the restoration.2 “This afternoon,” Theodore recorded later in the day, “I whent to see Mr [J] Lilley a methodist Preacher That used To be acquainted with me 20 Years ago. He appears to be very Darke as to the Things of God. I could not get him to understand The Plan of Salvation. Nor the revelations as given.” Not being one to give up, Theodore gave the man a copy of A Timely Warning, a missionary tract written by Latter-day Saint apostle Orson Hyde.3
After being rejected by his Methodist acquaintance, Theodore returned to trying to convert his family members. “I Spent The rest of the Day in conversations with my Mother and fameley,” he wrote. “Oh; I Desire their salvation. I Pray to God to give me his holy spirit to helpe me and Give them Hearts to understand.”
Theodore spent that night at his mother’s and had breakfast there Wednesday morning. Also that morning, he wrote a letter to Wilford Woodruff addressed to his area of ministry, Burslem in Staffordshire.4 Elder Woodruff received the letter the next day, and summarized its contents in a letter to Willard Richards. He noted that Theodore was “in Birmingham preaching to his relatives in the family circle, but was soon expecting to preach in public,” and that it was “hard work to preach to his parents, who had been professors of Godliness forty years, and had great confidence in their ministers.”5
That same Wednesday, Theodore had dinner with his brother-in-law Richard Mills. Although he did not record the purpose of the appointment in his journal, he more than likely tried again to introduce the gospel to the family.
Wednesday afternoon, Theodore also wrote another letter, this one to his sister-in-law Mary Ann Kimberley Allgood in London. Although he did not realize it at the time, the seed planted by this letter would eventually bear some fruit. This sister-in-law would later be the first person in London to open her doors to Mormon missionaries.6
“This Evening,” he confided to his journal in the afternoon or early evening, “I hope to spend in company with my brother John to converce about the things of the Kingdo[m] of God.”
That opportunity either did not develop that evening or required some follow up since he again tried to see John on Thursday morning. He found his brother so engaged in business that he “could have no oppertunity to convirse with him.” Theodore again wrote with fervor that he hoped to have the opportunity soon.
He later had dinner with his sister Mary Ann Mills and spent the afternoon with her husband Richard “Visiting the Britianac Gard[en]s To See the Various colections of roots and Plants covering 13 acres of Land.” He “Took Tea,” the afternoon meal, with Richard and finally that evening was able to have supper with John and his wife “at his house in Liland Street.” Theodore recorded nothing in his journal about whether he fulfilled his purpose of introducing them to the gospel.7 We may surmise, however, that had he been successful, he would have mentioned it.
Friday morning, Theodore had breakfast with his mother before going to see Jesse Kimberley, his wife’s brother, about their father’s will and other matters. Thomas Kimberley, Theodore’s father-in-law, had signed a will leaving “thirty pounds to my Daughter Fanny the Wife of Theadore Turley.”8 In keeping with his busy schedule, he thereafter had dinner with his eldest sister, Elizabeth Walton, and from there went to visit with his wife’s aunt.
Knowing he had been called to England to preach the gospel, Theodore seemed to be looking for any family member or acquaintance who would accept his message. He wrote that after visiting with his wife’s aunt, “I whent to See my old Master James Parkes and Took Tea with him.”9 At age fourteen, Theodore had been apprenticed to Parkes, a master stamper and piercer, who taught Theodore the metalworking skills that helped him earn a living through most of his life. Parkes’s shop was located on St. Mary’s Row across the city from Theodore’s parents’ home, just as it had been during Theodore’s apprenticeship.10
In his journal that evening, Theodore one more time expressed the purpose of his various visits, writing, “I hope The Lorde will open a Door for me to Preach the Gospel To This Peopel.” He slept that night at his mother’s house and used the opportunity to preach to his grandfather, with whom he again shared a room.
Saturday, February 8, Theodore continued his quest to preach the gospel to his relatives. Theodore was the fourth child in his family, having three older sisters. After eating breakfast with his mother, he went with Richard Mills to meet with Sophia Turley Davis, his third oldest sister and the closest of his five sisters to him in age. Their mother evidently joined the conversation. “Spent the Day with Sister Davis and mother,” Theodore recorded. “Bor[el Testemony of the Truth in sincerity.” He must have preached enthusiastically, for he mused in his journal that they “Ke[pt] me Talking or Preaching all Day Till I am oarse[.]” His writing of hoarse without the h shows that his years of residency abroad had not yet removed his British accent.
That night, Theodore had supper not only with his mother, father, and grandfather but also with his sister Sophia and his younger sister Ann Turley Goldfinch, who was four years his junior and lived with her husband in London. “My Sister ann his come from London to Birmingham to See me,” Theodore wrote with obvious delight. The attention he continued to receive from his family during his visit seems to convey that the family was closely bound, devoted to each other, and happy to once again be united with their son and brother, Theodore.
Sunday, February 9, 1840, gave Theodore another opportunity to preach to much of his family but unfortunately also seems to have further convinced him he might be required to take his message elsewhere. In the morning, he again went to have breakfast with his brother John’s family “on Purpose to convirse with him on the Things of the Kingdom of heaven.” He ended up having a stroll with John, they walking ‘”Some d[is]tance.” Theodore obviously continued to have great hopes for his younger brother and tried with all his heart to preach to him, but John would not budge. “But oh; how has Tradition Bound round The understanding of the Children of men,” Theodore lamented in his journal. “They truley have Eyes but see not. I Long for theer Salvation.” He prayed “That the God of heaven may grant me the Desire of my heart in this respect.”
Sunday afternoon gave him a chance to spend more time with relatives. “The House [was] crowded with Pirsons to See me,” he wrote. “I had an oppertunity to Testify of The Goodness of God.” They listened politely, lifting his spirits once again. “I am some what encoraged,” he recorded, “hoping some of my relations will imbrace the Truth which is my earnist desire before the Lord.” That night he once again slept with his grandfather in Birmingham.
Monday morning, he woke with an optimistic attitude, counting his blessings. “This Morning in good health,” he scratched in his journal. “Thank God for it.” He had breakfast at his mother’s with his sisters Sophia and Ann. Sophia surprised him by inviting him to return with her that evening to her home in Atherstone to see her husband, William Davis, “She paying my expenses,” Theodore wrote with appreciation.
While waiting to travel to Atherstone that evening, Theodore visited the Mechanics’ Institute in Birmingham with his two sisters and his brother John. That evening, he and Sophia traveled the twenty miles to Atherstone, the coach fare being five pounds sterling for the ride. They arrived at her home about 8:30 p.m. As he had with his other opportunities to visit relatives, Theodore looked on this visit with the Davises as a chance to preach the gospel. “I pray god to give me wisdom and zeal in Doing his will and bearing Testomony before my relations of The Things of God,” he wrote in his journal.11
Tuesday morning, February 11, 1840, Theodore awoke at the home of his sister Sophia and her husband William Davis, who appears to have been a prosperous “Printer and Stationer,” in Atherstone, Warwickshire for at least the past ten years. Although Theodore had hopes of preaching the gospel to them, whatever had transpired since his arrival in their home had once more left him pessimistic, true missionary that he was. Theodore confided in his journal, “This morning I am Longing to Leave my frinds so That I m[a]y go to preach The Gospel to The world, as Some of my relations are not willing to receive my testamony. I pray God to open Their eyes to See their situation and privelidges as God offers them.”12
Despite his pessimism, he spent the day with his sister Sophia “in conversation with her on the nature of religion as reveiled.” Feeling discouraged, Theodore took a walk in the afternoon. He meditated on “The goodness of God to me and my fameley,” likely referring to his wife and children in America and the blessings they had shared in accepting wholeheartedly the good word of God as revealed to a modern prophet. “Oh,” Theodore exclaimed, thus revealing his deep understanding of the restored gospel, “I long to be worthy of That comforter That Jesus promise[s] to his Desiples. The manifestation of The father and Son The minist[e]ring of angels. The Lord Grant it to me.”
On Wednesday morning, February 12, 1840, Theodore woke to a rainy day. As he pondered the weather along with his own circumstances, his mind reflected on two kinds of fields that must have seemed similar in his mind. The first was the farmers’ fields. He observed that the weather had been wet for ten months straight in England, making it impossible for the farmers to get their seed into the ground. “There is very little wheat sown last fall,” he noted. “There must be great destress ne[x]t season inconsequence.” Turning his thoughts and his pen to the second type of field, he wrote, “I am this morning still hoping soon to get into a field that I can labour without giving offence to my relations. I Thin[k] I Shall Soon go to Woolverhamton in Staffordshire.”13
He was not ready to give up on his family and friends in Birmingham and elsewhere in Warwickshire but He had simply realized the truth of Christ’s statement that “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.”14 He had hoped that their knowledge of him would help them accept the gospel, but he now believed that they did not take him seriously enough.
Theodore soon returned to the Potteries of Staffordshire to join his missionary companion Wilford Woodruff, where he implored Elder Woodruff to go to Birmingham in his stead. “Elder Turley returned to the Potteries from Birmingham,” Elder Woodruff wrote, “wishing me to go there to erect the standard, as it was his native place, and he thought I should do better there than himself.”15
[Next issue: “Imprisoned”]
© 2003 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the October 2003 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 34.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 34. Regarding Joseph Smith’s First Vision, Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 58, wrote: “Joseph did tell a Methodist preacher about the vision. Newly reborn people customarily talked over their experiences with a clergyman to test the validity of the conversion. The preacher’s contempt shocked Joseph.”
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 34; On Hyde’s A Timely Warning, see Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, Volume One 1830-1847 (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997), 63-64, 68, 85-86.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 34.
- Wilford Woodruff to Willard Richards, in Manuscript History of the British Mission, 8 February 1840, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 34; Manuscript History of the British Mission, 12 October 1840. Richard L. Evans, A Century of “Mormonism” in Great Britain (Salt Lake City: Publisher’s Press, 1937), 164-165, describes the visit of Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, and Wilford Woodruff to London on 18 August 1840: “They traveled to the center of the city by omnibus, and from there directed their steps to No. 19 King Street, Borough, the home of Mr. William Allgood, whose wife was a sister-in-law to Elder Theodore Turley. Mrs. Allgood cordially welcomed them, fed them, and directed them to the King’s Arms, King Street, Borough, where they were comfortably lodged.”
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 34-35.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 35; Thomas Kimberley Will, copy in possession of author.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 35.
- Pigot and Co.’s Commercial Directory of Birmingham (Longon: J. Pigot & Co., 1829), locates Parkes’s shop at 5 St. Mary’s Row. Wrightson’s Triennial Directory (1818), available at <http://www.dwarner.com/data/BHAM_P.HTM>, also places it on St. Mary’s Row. Joseph S. Turley, a who owned and preserved Theodore’s journal for many years, recalled: “I saw with my own eyes when I visited Colton [California] in 1911 his Indenture made out and sworn to by his father William Turley when he was fourteen, in 1814, to serve his master, ‘Samuel Parks, Stamper, Piercer, and Toolmaker’ for seven yrs. to learn his trade. The first five yrs. for bed and board, the last two yrs. if he wished to moved elsewhere, he was to receive the munificent sum of five shillings (a dollar and twenty cents) a week for board and lodging.” Theodore Turley Family Newsletter, October 1971, p. 4. Theodore’s journal gives his master’s first name as James, not Samuel. Does any family member know the present whereabouts of the indenture mentioned by his grandson as being in Colton in 1911?
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 35-36.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 37. William West’s The History of Warwickshire (1830), 554, lists William Davis of Atherstone as a bookseller, stationer, and printer. See online index at <http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/WAR/west/index.html#index>.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 37.
- Matthew 13:57.
- Manuscript History of the British Mission, 11 March 1840; Wilford Woodruff Journal, 27 February 1840.