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.]
9 Prophecy Fulfilled, 18-26 April 1839
On 18 April 1839, Theodore Turley left Far West, Missouri, with some of the last remnants of the faithful Latter-day Saints who had resided there. They were refugees, robbed of their homes and possessions, fleeing bigotry and violence for what they hoped would be a safe refuge eastward across the Mississippi River in Quincy, Illinois. Yet before leaving Far West for good, they had an important matter of business to finish. Joseph Smith had prophesied that the members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles would begin their overseas missions by taking leave of the saints at the Far West temple lot on 26 April 1839 after recommencing to lay the foundation of the temple.1 Theodore would help see this prophecy fulfilled.
After leaving Far West, Theodore would eventually go to Tenney’s Grove, the safe haven where he and other members of the Committee on Removal of the Poor had temporarily settled some impoverished families. But his arrival there would be delayed by other events. In a statement recorded by Church clerk Thomas Bullock around 1845, Theodore explained:
I and Hyrum Clark started together–he was all the time hard at work shoeing horses for the brethren–when we were driven and had started 10 or 11 miles Bro: Clarke’s Wagon broke down–we had to contrive a new axle–Bro. Clark went 40 miles to Richmond to get some Wagon boxes, and I set to work to make an axle tree–we were delayed–after we repaired and started again–we again broke down–after getting ready a second time, on the morning of our departure–I observed there were some Mormon Wagons in the distance on the Prairie–we had some meal and milk, which afforded a sufficiency for a meal, when up came Father Alpheus Cutler, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, John E. Page, and Daniel Shearer–2
Six days earlier, Brigham Young had called a council meeting of the Twelve in Quincy. At the meeting, the appointment of Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith as members of the quorum had been voted upon and sustained. The group had also elected to return to Far West to fulfill Joseph Smith’s prophecy. On their way back to Far West, they had picked up Elder Page, who had been in Missouri with his family.3
Brigham Young and those traveling with him had camped the night of 23 April about six miles from Tenney’s Grove. Regarding their meeting with Theodore and the others the following day, Brigham Young’s history records, “We remained at the grove, where Elders Elias Smith, Theodore Turley and Hyrum Clark, (of the committee, who were left to attend to the removal of the poor,) who had been driven from Far West, met us; they informed us that on the 16th, the mob came into Far West and tantalized the committee on the subject of the revelation, saying that was one of Joe Smith’s revelations, which could not be fulfilled, as the Twelve and the Saints were scattered to the four winds; and threatened them severely, if they were found in Far West next day. They turned round, and on the 25th, accompanied us to father Timothy B. Clark’s, near Far West.”4
Meanwhile, Elder Heber C. Kimball, who had left Far West for Quincy, Illinois, decided to return to Far West after confirming that Joseph and Hyrum Smith had escaped from prison. A history of Heber C. Kimball published fourteen years after his death provides the following account of the events that followed:
Expecting Brother Brigham Young and the Twelve to arrive there that day, I kept myself concealed in the woods, and passed around the country notifying the brethren and sisters to be on hand at the appointed time to witness the work upon the temple.
On the night of April 25th, which was pleasant, clear and moonlight, Elders Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, John E. Page, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith and Alpheus Cutler arrived from Quincy, Illinois, and rode into the public square early on the morning of the 26th. All seemed still as death.
We held a conference at the house of Brother Samuel Clark . . . .5
Theodore Turley was among those who arrived in Far West with the members of the Twelve. Presumably, he attended the conference, which according to a record made at or near the time, was a “council held at Far West by the twelve–Highh Priests, Elders and priests.” The record explains that the council adopted the following resolution:
Resolved that the following persons should be no more fellowshipped in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but be excommunicated from the same, viz Isaac Russel, Mary Russel, John Goodson and wife–Jacob Scott Senr. & wife[,] Isaac Scott, Jacob Scott Jr[,] Ann Scott, Sister Walton, Robert Walton, Sister Cavanagh, Ann Wanlass, Wm Dawson Jr & wife, Wm Dawson Sr & wife, George Nelson, Joseph Nelson & wife and mother, Wm Warnock and wife[,] Jothem Maynard[,] Nelson Maynard, George Miller–Br Grigg & wife, George Walters, Luman Gibbs[,] Simaeon Gardiner & Freeborn Gardener
The same minutes provide the following account of what happened next:
The council then proceeded to the building Spot of the Lords House, when the following business was transacted
Part of a hymn sung on the mission of the twelve[.] Elder Cutler the master workman of the house then recommenced laying the foundation of the Lord’s House agreeably to the Revelation by rolling up a large stone near the South east corner.
The following of the 12 were present, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, John E. Page & John E Taylor who proceeded to ordain Wilford Woodruff & George Smith (who had been previously nominated by the first Presidency, accepted by the twelve and acknowledged by the Church) to the office of the twelve to fill the places of those who had fallen.
Darwin Chase and Norman Shearer (who had just been liberated from Richmond prison where they had been confined for the cause of Jesus Christ) were then ordained to the office of the Seventies.
The twelve then offered up vocal prayer in the fol[l]owing order[:] Brigham Young, Heber C Kimball[,] Orson Pratt[,] John E Page[,] John Taylor[,] Wilfred Woodruff & George Smith after which we sung Adam Ondi Ahman, and then the twelve took their leave of the fol[l]ow[in]g Saints agreeably to revelation viz Alpheus Cutler[,] E[l]ius Smith[,] Norman Shearer[,] Wm Burton, Stephen Markham[,] Shedrick Roundy[,] Wm C. Clark[,] John W Clark[,] Hezekiah Peck, Darwin Chase[,] Rich[ar]d Howard[,] Mary ann Peck, Artimishia Grainger[,] Martha Peck[,] Sarah Grainger[,] Theodore Turly[,] Hiram Clark and daniel Shearer.
Elder Alpheus Cutler then placed the stone before alluded to in its regular position, after which in consequence of the peculiar situation of the saints, He thought it wisdom to adjourn untill some future time when the Lord shall open the way expressing his determination then to pr[o]ceed with the building6
A history of one of the participants in these events, Heber C. Kimball, notes what happened after the conference adjourned:
The brethren wandered among our deserted houses, many of which were in ruins, and saw the streets in many places grown over with grass.
We went to Father Clark’s, got breakfast, and before sunrise we departed.7
Many of the persons excommunicated during the morning council meeting were acquaintances of Theodore Turley and his family.8 The excommunication of Isaac Russell must have been especially heartbreaking for Theodore since Isaac had brought his family into the Church.9
Theodore left the meeting in company with Elder Page and Elder Woodruff, to whom he suggested that they “stop a bit while I bid lsaac Russell good bye.” They stopped at lsaac’s house, and Theodore called out, “[B]rother Russell!”
Isaac’s wife answered the door, saying, “[C]ome in[;] it is brother Turley.”
Appearing somewhat surprised, Isaac replied, “[I]t is not[;] he left here two weeks ago.” But when he discovered that it was indeed Theodore who had called on him, Isaac invited him to sit down.
Theodore answered, “I cannot[;] I shall lose my company.”
“[W]ho is your company?” Isaac asked.
“[T]he Twelve,” Theodore replied.
“The Twelve,” Isaac responded.
“[Y]es[;] don[‘]t you know that this is the twenty sixth and the day the Twelve were to take leave of their friends on the foundation of the Lord[‘]s House to go to the Islands of the Sea? The Revelation is now fulfilled, and I am going with them.”
Isaac was speechless, and Theodore bid him farewell.10
[Next issue: “Refugees in Search of a Home, 26 April to 11 June 1839”]
© 1998 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the October 1998 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter
- Doctrine and Covenants 115, 118.
- “Theodore Turley’s Statement of occurrences in Missouri in 1839,” MS 5020, bx 18, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, hereafter abbreviated as HDC. See also History of the Church, 3:325-26, 335.
- “History of Brigham Young,” Deseret News, 17 February 1858, 394; Wilford Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881), 57-58.
- “History of Brigham Young,” Deseret News, 17 February 1858, 394; see also History of the Church, 3:335. Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal, 58, says that when they arrived in Far West, they “spent the night at the home of Morris Phelps, who was not there, however, himself; he, having been taken prisoner by the mob, was still in prison.”
- President Heber C. Kimball’s Journal (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882), 74-75.
- “April 26, 1839 Resolutions at Far West,” General Minutes Collection, HDC. A more formalized, and apparently later, copy of the minutes is also in the same collection. It bears the scribal notation “Minutes of Conference/Far West./26, April 1839” and lists Brigham Young as president of the conference and John Taylor as clerk. See also Wilford Woodruff, Journal, 26 August 1839, HDC; History of the Church, 3:336-39.
- President Heber C. Kimball’s Journal, 74-75.
- On the reasons for Isaac Russell’s excommunication, see History of the Church, 3:226, 336, 342-44, 4:5-6; Times and Seasons 3 (1 April 1842): 747-48; Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: The Kimball Family, 1888), 245-47, 257-59; Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co./Andrew Jenson Memorial Association, 1901-1936), 1:316, s.v., “Smith, Jesse Nathanial”; George A. Smith, Discourse of Jan. 10, 1858, Journal of Discourses, 7:115-16.
Isaac Russell’s daughter Isabella later wrote, “I have heard the whole story of that nights marvelous fulfillment of prophecy from the lips of Theodore Turley, a life long friend and companion of my fathers, who accompanied the Twelve to Far West, and who awoke my father and bade him goodbye. I do not know that they ever met again in this life but he came to see mother during the first year after our arrival in Salt Lake and came again to visit the family after she died in 1865.” Isabella Russell Johnson, History of Isaac Russell, 17, Brigham Young University Library, Provo, Utah.
- Theodore Turley, Autobiography (ca. 1840), MS 13176, fd. 1, HDC.
- History of the Church, CR 100/102, vol. 3, addendum, p. 14. This version of the story is the earliest of which I am aware. I have corrected the word loose in the original to lose and Sea”? to Sea? See also History of the Church, 3:339-40; “History of Brigham Young,” Deseret News, 17 February 1858, 394.
Theodore summarized his participation in the last days at Far West as follows: “I was with the twelve at the fulfilling the revelation conserning the reelaing the foundation stones of the temple in far West & their taking leave of it for to Preach to the [Is]lands of the sea.” Theodore Turley, Autobiography.
Isaac Russell was not the only resident of the Far West area to become aware of the fulfillment of the prophecy. In his memoirs, George A. Smith briefly recounted the events of 26 April 1839 and observed, “This movement so astonished the mob, that a number of families who had come to settle on our vacant farms left the country.” “Memoirs of Geo. A. Smith,” MS 1322, HDC (a typescript of which is also available in the Emily Smith Stewart Collection, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah).