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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.]
28 Preaching Again to the Family, Theodore’s Greatest Desire, May 28 to June 14, 1840
On May 28, 1840, at 7:15 p.m., Theodore arrived in Birmingham and found himself “once more in company with my par[e]nts.” Despite his missionary success in the Potteries, he longed to have his family members receive the restored gospel. They had been reticent to accept it during his earlier visit, but he had come to try again. “I pray God to bless my visit,” he wrote in his journal.1
When Theodore arrived in England four months earlier and met his family again after years of being overseas, he was impressed by his younger brother John, who had been just a teenager when Theodore left England. When Theodore returned to the land of his birth, John was a young married man with four children, the youngest of them a baby boy John had named Theodore. During Theodore’s stint in prison, John was the family member to whom he appealed for assistance. Now Theodore again turned his attention to his younger brother, undoubtedly hoping that this responsible young husband and father would see the benefits of hearing and accepting Theodore’s message2 concerning the restoration of the Lord’s Church.
When he visited with John in February, Theodore had written in his journal, “I pray God to give my brother Eyes to see the Truth as it is in Jesus Christ.” Theodore had hoped to spend time with John “to conver[s]e about the things of the Kingdo[m] of God,” but John had proved to be too engaged in his business to talk with him. When they finally got a chance to talk, Theodore left the conversation lamenting how tradition had “Bo[u]nd round The understanding of the Children of men.” Two days later, Theodore decided “to preach the Gospel to the world, as Some of my relations are not willing to receive my test[i]mony.”3
That was then. Now, after Theodore had had more time to consider the blessing of the gospel in his own life, he was ready to try again. On Friday, May 29, Theodore spent the entire day “with Br John and fam[i]ly.” Theodore’s journal entry that evening said nothing about a gospel discussion, and John apparently was no more receptive or encouraging than he had been the first time.4
Theodore spent Saturday in Birmingham with his parents. He also spent Sunday morning with them. If their earlier discussions had been indirect and noncommital, this one was not. Theodore felt the urgency to preach, and he preached to his mother and father “the nessesety of Baptism.” They must have rejected his invitation, for he wrote that his soul was “gr[ie]ved in consequence of the traditions that have been instill[e]d into them by the damnable Doctrin[e]s of men.”
“I Pray God to bless them with eyes to See the truth,” he wrote. “I feel mutch. My Spir[i]t[s] are down.”5
He again decided to leave. Monday morning, June 1, he left his immediate family and headed north, hoping to meet with relatives in West Bromwich. “Found them all alive and well,” he wrote. He slept that night at the residence of a Mr. N. Woods.6
Over the next few days, he visited various communities in the area, preaching the gospel to his father’s relatives and others in the area who would listen. He soon began to have a measure of success, as well as the ever present opposition. He rejoiced when “two men came to enqu[ire] about the Doctrin[e]s of Christ.” But he also faced those who came “to [e]ntangle me in my talk.” They had brought with them an itinerant preacher named Leek “to See if he could counteract the effects of my pre[a]ching the Gospel,” Theodore wrote, “but thank God he gave me words that he could not gain say.” By Theodore’s account some in the audience were “left in ama[z]ement and others in Praise to God for sending the truth.”
“I can[n]ot leave the people at preasant,” Theodore recorded in his journal. “They are now begin[n]ing to have their ey[e]s opened.”7 His success and challenges contined over the succeeding days. Some accepted his message, rejoiced in the truth, and received baptism. Others opposed him. Despite his successes, he continued to ache for his own family’s salvation.8
On Tuesday, June 9, after “a bad nights rest,” his thoughts again turned to his mother and father. “I want to see my par[e]nts,” he wrote. “I Trav[e]led to Birmingham to See them. I long for their Salvation.” He slept that night at his parents’ house.9
The next morning, however, the best he could manage was a conversation with his step grandfather. Theodore talked with him about baptism, and although the elderly man “Confes(s)eth it to be a duty,” at his advanced age he was also “fe[a]rfull of it injuring his health.”10
That same day, Theodore returned to West Bromwich, where he preached and afterwards baptized two people. The next day, he was ill but could write, with gratitude, “God is good to me.”11
He continued preaching and facing opposition. On Saturday, June 13, he returned to see his father, mother, and other relatives. Sunday morning, he “got up early to conv[e]rse with my farther and Grandfather.” His patient preaching at last began to bear fruit. “My Father told me,” he wrote no doubt joyfully, that his father “was ready to go to be Baptized. He whould like G[rand]f[ather] to go at the same time.”12
Theodore left that day to return to West Bromwich. Though his missionary journal continues for several more weeks, he does not record that they were ever baptized. The journal of a missionary companion confirms that Theodore visited his parents at least one more time before leaving England. But whether they ever joined the Church remains a mystery.13
[Next issue: “‘Satan Rages in the People'”]
© 2005 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the October 2005 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, May 28, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, January 30, April 17-18, 21, 23, 25, May 1, 3, 6, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, February 4-6, 9, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, May 29, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, May 30-31, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 1, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 2-4, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 5-8, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 9, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 10, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 10-11, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 12-14, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 14, 1840. Confirmation of the final visit to his parents is in the Joseph Fielding Journal of July 1840.