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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.]

30 The Manchester Conference

“This morning,” wrote Theodore on Friday, June 26, 1840, “I arose to take Leave of the few Saints the Lord has given me after the hard labour I have had in this reg[i]on. I left them under pecul[i]ar feeling at this time[,] Satan raging so powerfully arround them.” The greater Birmingham region of southeast Staffordshire and northwest Warwickshire had been Theodore’s childhood home and the focus of much of his missionary labor. Now he was to leave it all behind.

Theodore and his companion Wilford Woodruff were destined to attend the general conference of July 6 and 7 in Manchester. They would travel to Manchester slowly, pausing to hold meetings and minister along the way. Leaving the Birmingham area Saints “in the hands of God,” Elders Turley and Woodruff traveled thirty-eight miles to the Staffordshire Potteries, an area in which Theodore had earlier served and enjoyed some success.

“When we arrived at Lane End & visited the Saint[s] there[,] I was rejoiced to See Sister Eliza Bromley once more,” Theodore wrote. Eliza was one of the Church members who had ministered to his needs during his dark time in the Staffordshire jail. “When I reflect how She feed me & Cloathed me & visited me when in Prison,” Theodore wrote, “I Pray God to reward her an hundred fold in the Kingdo[m] of our father and . . . that this her kindness should be handed down to future generations as a memorial to her.”1

The following day, June 27, Theodore found himself in company with Elders George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff. Together, they wrote a letter to Church President Joseph Smith in the United States. Little did they know that four years later to the day, Joseph Smith would die at the hands of a mob. Oblivious of the future martyrdom, the missionaries focused on the present. “Saints much rejoiced to se us here,” Theodore recorded in his journal.2

For the next few days, the missionaries worked in the region of the Potteries and Newcastle-under-Lyme. They preached, baptized, ordained, and also held a conference in Hanley at which they took roll of the members in each of the branches so that they could report the numbers during the Manchester conference. Theodore dutifully recorded in his journal that membership in those branches totaled 168 persons. During the evening session of the Hanley conference, Elders Smith, Woodruff, and Turley “addressed the official members on thei[r] various Duties,” Theodore wrote.3

On Tuesday, June 30, Theodore tried a little artwork in his journal, describing the day’s events in part with little pictures:

“This morning walked to New Castle[;] visited the Saints there,” he wrote. Then the artwork began: “Boughtt 8 [drawing of a shoe or stocking] then walked to Hanley, and Preached to a Large congregation on the [drawing of an ax] laid at [drawing of a tree with roots]. Whent to Burslem.”4

The next day, July 1, Theodore left for the Manchester conference with Elders Smith and Woodruff. “Had it Wet all the way,” Theodore recorded. Arriving in Manchester at 1:30 p.m., the missionaries found Elders Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and Hiram Clark. On July 2, the missionaries spent the day in Manchester meeting in council and writing. In the evening, they preached.5

On Friday, July 3, Elders Turley, Young, Kimball, Pratt, Smith, Woodruff, and Richards visited the Manchester museum. They saw what Theodore described as “A vast col[l]ection.” that included “Birds and Be[a]sts,” a replica of the world’s largest diamond, the tattooed head of a New Zealand chief, mummies, and “Some anchant Egiption Stone Coffins with many anchant Charactors on them.” Besides touring the museum, the men also met in council with local officers at the office of the Millennial Star, the Church’s newspaper in the British Isles. In the council meeting, the senior leaders gave the others “Instructions . . . on the man[n]er and operations of the Gifts,” meaning spiritual gifts.6

On Saturday, July 4, Theodore went to the zoo, or what he described in his journal as “the Zeologcial Gardens,” with Elders Young, Kimball, Pratt, Smith, Woodruff, and Richards, as well as William Clayton and John Needham. They saw “A number of Wild Beasts,” including lions, tigers, and leopards; an elephant, rhinoceros, and camel; three brown bears; two “Sea Bears” (polar bears); wolves; deer “from various climets”; monkeys; and various other specimens, including flowers. That evening, Theodore went seven miles to Stockport to preach.7

The next day, which was Sunday, Theodore preached three times, once at 10:00 a.m., again at 2:00 p.m., and in the evening at 6:00, when he had “a large congregation.” During the evening, he also confirmed two persons.8

Monday, July 6, was the long-anticipated Manchester conference. That morning, Theodore left Stockport “with a number of the Saints” and traveled to Manchester by steam locomotive. The trip took a mere fifteen minutes, and as they traveled, Theodore and his fellow Church members “sang the Hymn Great is the Lord tis Good to Praise &c.” The hymn, written by Eliza R. Snow, had been included in the first Latter-day Saint hymnal, published in 1835.9

“Mett in Confrence with the Bretheren,” wrote Theodore, naming seven members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who were present: Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, George A. Smith, Wilford Woodruff, and Willard Richards. The only apostle in the British Isles who did not attend was Orson Pratt, who stayed in Scotland. Over twenty-five hundred members from the dozens of Church branches in England and Scotland attended the conference.10

The general conference began at 10:00 a.m. at Carpenter’s Hall. Church leaders presented to the congregation a new hymn book that had just come off the press, and it was unanimously accepted. The assembled Church members also voted to approve the ordination of several men to priesthood offices. The members of the British mission presidency—Joseph Fielding,
William Clayton, and Hiram Clark—were released so that they could “have the privilege of more fully entering into the field of labour.”11

Theodore also recorded that one elder was charged with abusing people by “a man[i]festation of what he called the spirit of God that is among the sects of the Day.” Besides being chastised for his behavior, the man “was required to make confession to those he had injured.” If he did so, he “might remain a member” but would not “be allowed to act as an officer in the Church.” After doing considerably more business, the conference was adjourned for three months.12

Most of the Church members returned to their homes, but Theodore remained in Manchester for additional council meetings with Church leaders. On Monday, July 7, “the apostles assigned several full-time missionaries to new fields of labor” but delayed making a decision about Theodore. “I was reserved in council for to go a.m.,” Theodore wrote, meaning that the apostles expected to settle his assignment the next morning. On Wednesday, July 8, Theodore recorded their verdict: “This Day the council Desided that I Should go to Americia to lead a company.”13

[Next issue: “Preparing to Leave England”]

© 2006 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the June 2006 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter

  1. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 26, 1840.
  2. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 27, 1840.
  3. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 28-30, 1840.
  4. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, June 30, 1840.
  5. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 1-2, 1840.
  6. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 3, 1840.
  7. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 4, 1840.
  8. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 5, 1840.
  9. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 6, 1840; “Great is the Lord,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 77; Karen Lynn Davidson, Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 106-7.
  10. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 6, 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), 168-69.
  11. Men with a Mission, 168-69; Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 6, 1840.
  12. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 6, 1840.
  13. Men with a Mission, 169-170; Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 7-8, 1840.