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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.]

31 Preparing to Leave England

At the general conference in Manchester, England, on July 8, 1840, the Church leaders had decided that Theodore Turley should lead a company of emigrating Saints to America.1 It would take several weeks to arrange for the company to leave England, and in the meantime, Theodore continued his missionary efforts.

The next day, Theodore was assigned to “go to Bolton to visit the Church There.” He left the Saints in Manchester and traveled northwest by train to Bolton with his new missionary companion, Elder Joseph Fielding.2

On Friday, July 10, Theodore described the problems they faced in their new assignment. Visiting the Saints, he wrote, “I find great confusion amongst them.” On the positive side, when he preached that night, “a good congregation” showed up to hear him. “I ask [that] the Lord will give me a meek & quiet Spirit & wisdom to regulate this Church,” he wrote in his journal.3

Theodore did not waste any time in putting the confused branch of the church in order. Saturday morning at the home of George Naylor in Bolton, Theodore “had a conversation and bore testimony to a Class leader.” That same day, he “met in council with the officers of the church” in Bolton, giving them “some instruction of the nature of the Priesthood and their rel[a]tive dut[ie]s.” The council members appeared to listen to him and “made confessions of their errors.”4

Sunday proved to be a busy day. In the morning, he preached “at the room in Bolton” that was used by the Saints for worship. He then “Laid hands on a number of Sick.” After dining with a Church member, he “Broke Bread with the saints in the afternoon & Preached at ½ past 6 to a Large comp[an]y.”5

The next day, Theodore wrote, “I Feel to thank God for the Health that I enjoy after a hard days labour. I pray God to give me wisdom to do all things in righteou[s]ness and Truth. I want the spirit of D[iscern]ment. God grant me meekeness of spirit.” That afternoon, he visited with people who were interested in his message and who seemed to be “bel[i]eving.” In the evening, he preached outdoors “in the streets of Bolton to a congregation of the Saints and the world.” His preaching engendered both opposition and success. After he finished addressing the crowd, a preacher “came to op[p]ose” him. “He resisted my test[i]mony,” Theodore recorded. Despite the preacher’s efforts, Theodore baptized one of the investigators, traveling two miles to reach the water. Satisfied at his day’s work, Theodore wrote, “I Trust that there will a number receive the truth.”6

On Tuesday, July 14, Theodore moved on eleven miles to Chorley, his way paid for him by a generous Church member. He arrived in his new location feeling very fatigued. But there was no time for extended rest. Instead, he accepted the opportunity that day to preach in a Unitarian meeting house that one of the members had obtained for him. He was “made to feel very comfortable” while in that village.7

The next morning he spent with some of the Saints in Chorley. “Sister Mary Stocton gave me a pair of Stockings to comfort my feet,” Theodore wrote gratefully. The new stockings came at a convenient time since he had to travel on to Preston. Theodore reached the home of the Moon family in Penworthen at 1:00 p.m. and spent the evening helping the family in the hay field. In his journal, Theodore noted, “I saw a number of the Saints,” including, “for the first time,” Ruth Moon Clayton, wife of William Clayton. William would become a close associate over the ensuing months.8

Theodore started the morning of Thursday, July 16, “in good health.” He soon left for Preston, where he arrived at the home of Joseph Fielding. “Found all well,” he wrote. He dined at midday with Willard Richards “at Br Standings.” Theodore spent the afternoon with Heber C. Kimball and Joseph Fielding at the home of a “Sister Nightinggirl.”9 They spent their time laboring with Ann Fielding Matthews, sister of Joseph Fielding and wife of Timothy Matthews, a well-known Primitive Methodist minister. Timothy had allowed the Mormon missionaries to use his pulpit, only to have them persuade his flock of the need for baptism. In an effort to compete with the missionaries and retain his followers, Timothy began also to preach the need of baptism and even baptized himself. He also began actively speaking against the Latter-day Saint elders and distributing anti-Mormon tracts. Ultimately, he gave up on his Bedford congregation and in the summer of 1840 moved to Northampton to raise up a new one.

Having this opportunity to preach to Ann Fielding Matthews, Heber C. Kimball “bore Testimony to her,” Theodore wrote. “We had a long conversation with her.” She told the missionaries that her husband had become convinced of the need for baptism and, “having been ordained under the hands of the Bishop of the Church of England,” he decided to baptize himself. Politely objecting to what he had done, Elder Kimball bore testimony to her in writing. Elders Fielding and Turley added their testimonies by countersigning the document. Joseph Fielding recorded, “Bro Turley spoke awhile much to the point.” He also noted that “Brother K[imball], at parting proposed to have Prayer.” They sang a hymn, and Theodore prayed. They then left her “on the best of t[e]rms.”10

[Next issue: “Preparing to Leave England (cont.)”]

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

  1. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 8, 1840.
  2. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 9, 1840.
  3. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 10, 1840.
  4. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 11, 1840.
  5. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 12, 1840.
  6. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 13, 1840.
  7. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 14, 1840.
  8. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 15, 1840.
  9. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 16, 1840.
  10. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, July 16, 1840; Joseph Fielding Journal, vol. 3, p. 40, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, Volume One 1830-1847 (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997), 168; Richard L. Evans, A Century of Mormonism in Great Britain (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1984), 41, 97-100; http://www.lds.org.uk/content/view/15/47/ (Archived version here); http://www.saintswithouthalos.com/dirs/d_england.phtml (Archived version here).