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.]
29 “Satan Rages in the People”
That Theodore’s family members in England accepted the gospel while he was there, as a missionary seems doubtful. But he made a valiant effort to preach to them. His twenty-one-year-old sister Charlotte walked with him from Birmingham to West Bromwich on Sunday, June 14, 1840. There Theodore preached in the afternoon and spent the evening “instructing the People.” The day’s work left him feeling “Very much forteagued.” Besides the hard labor of missionary work, he had to contend with forces opposing him.
In his journal that day, he described the great opposition he faced. “Satan rages in the People,” he recorded. “They threten my life. The influence of Preestchraft is so great that it makes it hard work.”1
Monday morning, Theodore and Charlotte walked back to Birmingham together. “She came to here me preach,” Theodore wrote with obvious satisfaction. “Spent the day in Birmingham. At night Taught my parants the nature of Faith.”2
On Tuesday morning, June 16, Theodore walked to Gret’s Green near West Bromwich and “visited from house to house the things of the Kingdom.” Next, he walked to Wednesbury, where he “Preached in the Baptist Chapel” before returning to Gret’s Green in a storm that left him with a “bad cold.” His audience in Wednesbury included several preachers who had come specifically to hear him.3
He woke Wednesday morning feeling “not well.” That night, however, he went to Prince’s End, where he again preached in a Baptist chapel. The congregation seemed positive about his message. “The[y] invited me again,” wrote Theodore in his journal.
Success was bound to generate opposition, and Theodore faced it directly when he returned to Gret’s Green after his sermon. “There was a number waiting for me to injure my body,” he wrote. “Some thretining to Horsewip me and others thret[ening] to put me down a cole pit.” The mob surrounded the house where he was staying and remained there until 2:00 a.m. “One came in to me[,] called me all ill names and gave a many threats,” Theodore recorded. But they did not carry them out. While facing these trials, he received a letter from America that was brought to him by his sister Charlotte. Although Theodore never finished divulging the letter’s contents to his journal, he wrote that it “comforted my heart.”4
For the next three days, Theodore wrote nothing in his journal. During that time, he seemed to prevail against the opposition. On Sunday, June 21, he woke at 4:00 a.m. to baptize two investigators, a man and a woman. Eight friends went with him to the water. Returning after the baptisms, they “held a prayer meeting” before breakfast. At 10:00 a.m., he met the local Saints in the home of one of the members, where he confirmed three persons and administered the sacrament. He preached again at 2:30 and 6:00 p.m., after which he spent until 10:00 instructing the Saints.5
Monday morning, Theodore walked from Gret’s Green to Birmingham to visit friends living there. On Tuesday morning, he went looking for “a place for to Baptize,” a sure sign that his missionary efforts were bearing fruit, though whether family members were in the harvest does not show in his journal. In his searching for water to baptize, Theodore “Traviled all round Hebston pool round the old walk I used to go when a boy.” The walk was nostalgic. “Reminds me of my former Days,” he wrote wistfully.6
Except for one more known visit in July, he was nearing the end of his last extended visit with family members in the Birmingham area. On Tuesday, he expected to meet with “Mr. Allgood”—probably William Allgood, husband of Theodore’s sister-in-law Mary Ann Kimberley.7 Although she herself apparently did not accept the gospel, later that year she would play a role in the establishment of the Church in London by opening her doors briefly to apostles Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith when they first arrived in that metropolis.8
Tuesday night, Theodore slept at his father’s house. The next morning, he “Whent with Br John Turley To The factory and to see the alms houses &co.” After dinner at his mother’s, he walked to West Bromwich to see Elder Wilford Woodruff, who had arrived in the area and sent a letter to him. Elder Woodruff preached that night, and at 11:00 p.m., Theodore baptized four persons. “Thank the Lord for his m[e]rceys in this respect,” Theodore wrote. Even if his family did not accept his message, others would.9
Thursday, June 25, 1840, was Theodore’s last day in the area before leaving for Manchester to attend the second general conference of the Saints in England. Perhaps his family members’ rejection of his message depressed him. In any case, he wrote, “This morning I feel there is a Spirit from the Powers of Darkness that Seeks my hurt. I ask God to Presirve me and bless me and Deliver me.” He spent his day with the Saints and Elder Woodruff. That night, Theodore preached and then baptized and confirmed a man who “whent on his way rejoicing.” He also ordained one man a priest and another a teacher. He spent the night at Gret’s Green with Elder Woodruff.10
Having missed the first general conference of British Saints while in prison, Theodore undoubtedly looked forward to the Manchester conference. Still, to leave his unconverted family members, as well as the struggling flock of Church members whom he had helped gather, would cause him continued concern.
[Next issue: “The Manchester Conference”]
© 2006 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the February 2006 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 14, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 15, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 16, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 17, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 21, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 22-23, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 23, 1840.
- James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission, 1837-1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 180-82.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 23-24, 1840.
- Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 25, 1840.