Note: Prior to 8 July 2022, an old typed transcript of Theodore’s autobiography was used as the source of text on this page.1 After viewing Theodore’s original handwritten record on a microfilm at the Church History Library, I’ve corrected the inaccuracies in the transcript.2 I’ve also added images of the original four-page autobiography.3 —Mary Ann

Theodore likely wrote this autobiographical sketch while serving his mission in 1839–1840. Images of the original are located below the transcript. Even though this was written by Theodore, historical records indicate not all the listed dates are accurate.4 Transcription by Mary Ann Clements. Capitalization and spelling reflect the original. Editorial additions are in brackets.

Theodore Turley Son of W[illiam] and Eliz[a]beth Turley born in Birmingham England April 10th 1801[.] Emegrated to Canadia in the year of 1825 with wif[e] Francis Turley & 2 Children[.] Comenced Preaching Methodism in 1818[.] Continued in that cour[s]e in England and Canadia until Elder P. P. Pratt came to Canadia baptized Elder Isa[a]c Russell he came to my house & said he had been notified in a Dreem that he must come to my house & preach[.] I received the truth the first time I heard it & my Wife allso was baptized the 1[st] of March 1837 Confirmed & Ordained under the hand of Elder P[.] P[.] Pratt as Priest went [on] a mission the 2[nd] Day of Mar[ch.]

Built up a Church in of 17 Members in 3 wekes[.] Among the number was Elder Mulholland[,] Standing[,] & Mulliner[,] then I was ordained an Elder under the hands of P. P[.] Pratt[.] Continued preaching till we went up to Kirtland & from thence to M[issouri] and remained one year[.] was appointed one of the Comittee to remove the Poore after Bog[g]s’s extermenating order[.] remained theire till all the Saints were removed & Joseph Smith got out of Prison[.] I was with the twelve at the fullfiling the revelation Con[c]erning the ree la[y]ing the foundation stones of the temple in [F]ar West & their taking leave of it for to Preach to the [is]lands of the sea.

I was ordained into the [Q]uorum of the Seventys in [F]ar [W]est in 1838 under the hands of Elder [Heber C.] Kimbal. I came to Nauvoo with Joseph Smith & Built the First house that was built by a Mormon in Nauvoo[.] was one of the Comittee to fix upon the Size of the Lots & run of[f] St[reets] & Co[.] in 1839 was Set a part by Jose[ph] & Hirum Smith when John Taylor & W[ilford] Woodruff was for to go to England[.] whent to Kirtland with Elders B[righam] Young[,] [Heber] C[.] Kimball[,] G[eorge] A. Smith[,] R. Hadlock[,] & with [John] Taylor received my washing & anointings under the hand of the Twelve. went to England in company with W[ilford] Woodruff & J[ohn] Taylor[.]

[O]n September 12th 1840 Sail[ed] with the first company of 209 Saints for Nauvoo[.]

Image of handwritten biographical sketch.
Theodore Turley’s autobiographical sketch page 1 of 4. Image courtesy of the Church History Library.
Image of handwritten biographical sketch.
Theodore Turley’s autobiographical sketch page 2 of 4. Image courtesy of the Church History Library.
Image of handwritten biographical sketch.
Theodore Turley’s autobiographical sketch page 3 of 4. Image courtesy of the Church History Library.
Image of handwritten biographical sketch.
Theodore Turley’s autobiographical sketch page 4 of 4. Image courtesy of the Church History Library.

Background of Theodore’s autobiography provided by Richard E. Turley, Jr., at the 2016 TTFO Temple and Family History Day Presentation. (As reported in the March 2018 Newsletter.)

[29:32] Years ago when I was doing work on Theodore Turley’s mission journal, I found in the BYU Special Collections a typescript of Theodore Turley’s journal. They had the actual journal there as well, so I was able to compare the typescript to the actual journal. And what I discovered is that the typescript had more information at the beginning than was in Theodore’s journal. So I got the original journal out, and I looked at it very, very carefully. There were no missing pages. So I asked myself the question, where did the typist get all of this additional information that was at the front of this typescript and that just smoothly flowed into the journal? And I had a couple theories, one of which was whoever created the typescript was a family historian who wasn’t particularly careful about distinguishing his or her own research from the journal itself. And they had just sort of thrown this information together and then let it smoothly flow into a typescript of the journal.

Years later in the 1990s, when I was managing director of the Church Historical Department, a patriarch from California walked into the Church Archives. He was there for the purpose of donating his patriarchal blessings, which patriarchs do from time to time. But he brought with him a series of papers that had been recently given to him. And the staff saw what he had and brought them in to me, and I talked with him.

This was his story. He said, “I’m in the movie industry in Southern California, and I have a friend who’s also in the movie industry. I’m a Latter-day Saint; he is not. One day, he and his wife were looking through some old papers in their possession which they were about to throw away. As they were going through their old papers they found this stack, and they noticed the name Joseph Smith. And they immediately recognized that as a famous name, and they knew that Joseph Smith was a Latter-day Saint prophet. So the man came to me and said, ‘If we give you these old papers, what will you do with them?’” [The patriarch] said, “I told them that if they gave them to me I would take them to Salt Lake City, and I would donate them to the Church Archives. So that’s what I’ve done,” he said.

Well, what he donated was Theodore Turley materials passed down through his daughter, Sarah, to this line of people who, the wife was probably a descendant. I don’t know the name, that’s been lost. But they eventually just walked into the Church History Library where they are today. It turned out to be, in Theodore Turley’s handwriting, a personal history that he had drafted as a kind of prelude to his mission journal. And so we now have this personal history, which will be included in the [Theodore Turley] Papers, in which he describes his early life. [32:38]

  1. Theodore Turley, “Sketch of life and missionary journal of 1840 of Theodore Turley, b. 1800, Birmingham, Eng.,” typescript, call no. 921.73 A1 #93, Family History Library,
  2. For example, Theodore’s birth year was given as 1800 in the transcript, not 1801. The typescript also gave Theodore’s wife’s name as “Frances Amelia” rather than “Francis Turley.”
  3. Turley family papers, 1840; 1866–1881, Theodore Turley autobiography, MS 13176 fd. 1, Church History Library,
  4. For example, Theodore noted that he immigrated to Canada in 1825. He actually left sometime between August 1826 (when his daughter, Frances Amelia Turley, was christened at a church in London) and April 1827 (when he advertised in an Ontario newspaper).