Sunday, August 23, 2009

John and Leonora Taylor Join the Church

Parley P. Pratt’s Lack of Success in Toronto:

This is a continuation from a previous blogpost where Leonora Cannon moved to Canada and married John Taylor.

The morning after he met with John and Leonora Cannon Taylor, Parley P. Pratt began to call on the various ministers in Toronto, introducing himself and his message and requesting an opportunity to preach to their congregations. He also asked the sheriff for the use of the court house and the city authorities for a public room in the market, all without any positive response. He felt that this was “an unpromising beginning” given the prophecy about his missionary efforts in Toronto. So he found a pine grove outside of Toronto, knelt in prayer, told the Lord of his efforts and requested that a door be opened so that he could fulfill his mission. After finishing his prayer, Parley decided to leave Toronto, feeling he could do no good there.

Isabella Walton Invites Pratt Into Her Home:

Parley went to the Taylor home to tell them farewell. He found John in his turning shop, adjoining the house. While speaking with John, Isabella Walton visited the Taylor home to speak to Leonora. Parley heard the following conversation between Leonora and Isabella Walton:

“‘Mrs. Walton, [said Leonora] I am glad to see you; there is a gentleman here
from the United States who says the Lord sent him to this city to preach the
gospel. He has applied in vain to the clergy and to the various authorities for
opportunity to fulfill his mission, and is now about to leave the place. He may
be a man of God; I am sorry to have him depart.’ ‘Indeed!’ said [Isabella];
‘well, I now understand the feelings and spirit which brought me to your house
at this time. I have been busy over the wash tub and too weary to take a walk;
but I felt impressed to walk out. I then thought I would make a call on my
sister, the other side of town; but passing your door, the Spirit bade me go in;
but I said to myself, I will go in when I return; but the Spirit said: go in now. I accordingly came in, and I am thankful that I did so. Tell the stranger he is welcome to my house. I am a widow; but I have a spare room and bed, and food in plenty. He shall have a home at my house, and two large rooms to preach in just when he pleases. [1] Tell him I will send my son John over to pilot him to my house, while I go and gather my relatives and friends to come in this very evening and hear him talk; for I feel by the Spirit that he is a man sent by the Lord with a message which will do us good.’”
That evening, Parley sat at a large work table with a number of other people in Isabella. Walton’s parlor. Isabella said:

“‘Mr. Pratt, we have for some years been anxiously looking for some providential
event which would gather the sheep into one fold; build up the true church as in
days of old…As soon as Mrs. Taylor spoke of you I felt assured, as by a strange
and unaccountable presentiment, that you were a messenger, with important
tidings on these subjects; and I was constrained to invite you here; and now we
are all here anxiously waiting to hear your words.’”
Parley responded with brief message about the restoration of the gospel and told them: “I was…directed to this city by the Spirit of the Lord, with a promise that I should find a people here prepared to receive the gospel…But when I came and was rejected…I was about to depart; [but] I was provided for like Elijah of old. And now I bless your house, and all your family…”

Isabella believed Parley’s words and asked to be baptized. However, Parley asked her to wait, to give him an opportunity to teach others with whom she was “religiously connected.” The next day Isabella asked Parley to call on Emily Herrick [2], a blind widow with four little children. Her husband had died of cholera two years previous and she was dependent on the Methodists for her support. Parley visited Emily, related the circumstances surrounding his mission and she believed him. He felt impressed to give her a blessing and in the blessing promised her that her eyes would be healed. Emily “threw off her bandages [and] opened her house to the light.” That evening she attended the meeting at Isabella Walton’s, eyes wide open. At first not many attended the meetings, but more and more people began to come until the rooms of her home, and sometimes her yard, were filled with people.

Pratt Attends Patrick Bible Study Group Meetings:

Parley went with a friend to hear a preacher the next Sunday. After the meeting, he was invited to the Patrick Bible study group which the Taylors and Isabella Walton belonged to. William Patrick presided in his large, well furnished apartment, which was nearly full of people. The group had met twice a week for about two years. Each person held a Bible and was serious about seeking the truth. John and Leonora Taylor and Isabella Watson were present.

The meeting was opened by singing and prayer after which any person could suggest a subject of investigation. “John Taylor arose, and read in the New Testament the account of Philip going to Samaria and preaching the gospel…[H]e remarked that the Samaritans received the Word with joy; and were then baptized…[T]wo Apostles, Peter and John, came from Jerusalem, and laid their hands on them…and prayed that they might receive the Holy Ghost…‘Now,’ said [John], ‘where is our Philip?…Where is our Peter and John?…Is this the pattern of the Christian Church, the model for the organization in all after times? If so, we, as a people, have not the ministry, the ordinances, the gifts which constitute the Church of Jesus Christ... The subject…gave rise to a…candid investigation. Several spoke to the point…Nothing definite was concluded…when the old preacher who invited [Parley] arose and said: ‘There is a stranger present who, perhaps, might wish to speak.’” Parley arose, gave a brief introduction, indicated he was prepared to speak on the topic they were discussing, but that he needed more time than what they had left. So a special meeting was set for that evening.

That evening “Mr. Patrick's large rooms were crowded” and Parley addressed them for two or three hours. Among other things, he discussed the Jews and Gentiles of old:

‘…look at the Jews in the glass of prophecy...For nearly two thousand years we behold the Jews without a prophet…to lead them to light, to freedom, or to God…Their temple is in ruins; their sacrifices have ceased…their very city and country is desolate…We say to the Jew, why all this? Is it not possible that your fathers have rejected the Messiah and his holy Apostles and prophets; and these things been withheld from them in the anger of the Almighty?…Now, you know that this Jew is mistaken…the Jews were no longer favored with apostles and inspired men after they had rejected Christ and his Apostles…

Now, let us turn to the Gentile church. They, by the ministration of the Apostles, received the kingdom of God, and enjoyed its fruits. The natural branches were broken off, and they were grafted in; 'take heed,' says Paul, 'for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he spare not thee.' …they were everywhere blessed with the ministry of inspired men, and were favored with revelations, visions, angels and prophets…What became of these things?…Paul…predicts a time when men 'would not endure sound doctrine, but would turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables, heaping to themselves, teachers.' That they would 'have a form of godliness and deny the power.' Paul also bears testimony that the Gentiles, if they abide not in faith, shall meet with a similar fall as did the Jews.”

Parley requested an opportunity to meet with them again so that he could talk to them about a new dispensation where these blessings would be restored. It was unanimously agreed to meet again the next evening.

The next evening Parley talked for another two or three hours, setting forth in detail the “chain of prophecy, beginning with Moses…and ending with John's revelation; showing that the latter-day glory was to be ushered in by a new dispensation revealed from heaven; by the ministration of angels, and sustained by the marvelous power and gifts of God…” He requested another evening to give “the details of the commencement of this restoration by a new dispensation revealed from the heavens by the angels of God…”

On the third evening he “related the visions, manifestations and many of the details of the organization and movements of the Church…” William Patrick, whose house the meetings were in, rejected Parley. However, “John Taylor… addressed the assembly to the following effect: We are here…in search of truth… [W]e have fully investigated other creeds and doctrines and proven them false. Why should we fear to investigate Mormonism? …Mr. Pratt, has brought to us many doctrines that correspond with our own views. We have endured a great deal and made many sacrifices for our religious convictions. We have prayed to God to send us a messenger, if He has a true Church on earth. Mr. Pratt has come to us under circumstances that are peculiar; and there is one thing that commends him to our consideration; he has come amongst us without purse or scrip, as the ancient apostles traveled; and none of us are able to refute his doctrine by scripture or logic. I desire to investigate his doctrines and claims to authority, and shall be very glad if some of my friends will unite with me in this investigation. But if no one will unite with me, be assured I shall make the investigation alone. If I find his religion true, I shall accept it, no matter what the consequences may be; and if false, then I shall expose it."

John Taylor Investigates the Church:

“Later meetings were held at the house of [Isabella] Walton.” John Taylor “began the investigation of Mormonism in earnest. He wrote down eight sermons which [Parley] preached, and compared them with the scripture. He also investigated the evidences of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. ‘I made a regular business of it for three weeks,’ he says, ‘and followed Brother Parley from place to place.’”

Pratt and Taylor Meet the Fieldings:

Isabella Walton had family that lived near Joseph Fielding, about ten miles outside of Toronto in an area known as Charleton Settlement. [3] Joseph Fielding and his sisters, Mary and Mercy, had also belonged to the Patrick Bible study group. Isabella arranged for Parley to go out and preach to the people of Charleton Settlement at the Wesleyan Church. [4] Joseph Fielding, because of his prejudice against Mormons, determined that he would not attend Parley’s sermon. Others in the neighborhood felt the same way and the Methodist minister decided not to announce Pratt’s appointment to preach and decided not to allow him to use the meeting house. Word was sent back to Pratt that he was not wanted. However, Parley determined to go anyway and took John Taylor, still an investigator, with him. When Taylor and Pratt rode up to Joseph Fielding’s home on horses, Joseph’s two sisters, Mercy and Mary, ran to a neighbor’s home “so they would not give countenance to Mormonism.” Joseph Fielding knew and recognized John Taylor, a friend from the Bible study group, and decided to be civil. When they entered his home, Joseph told them he was “sorry [they] had come.” Fielding indicated he was personally opposed to Parley’s holding a meeting in the neighborhood.

Parley asked Joseph why his family opposed Mormonism? Joseph replied that the name had a “contemptible sound” and that they did “not want a new revelation, or a new religion contrary to the Bible." Parley told Joseph he would soon remove their prejudices and asked him to call his sisters back so they could have dinner together. The sisters came back, made dinner, and they all went to another farmer’s home for the meeting. The home was crowded. Parley preached and the people wanted to hear more.

Toronto Baptisms:

Isabella Walton, and her sister and daughter, were the first people of that area to be baptized by Pratt. They were baptized in Toronto Bay. On May 9, 1836, John and Leonora Taylor, Joseph, Mary and Mercy Fielding, Isaac Russell and John Goodson were baptized in Black Creek, a half mile west of the Fielding home on land owned by Isaac Russell. [5] John Snider and Theodore Turley, also members of the Patrick Bible study group, were baptized sometime later by Pratt. [6] Others in the neighborhood were also baptized and a branch of the Church was organized.

It was not too long afterward that John Taylor, Joseph Fielding, Isaac Russell, John Goodson, John Snider and Theodore Turley would all play a prominent part in the introduction of the gospel to England.

“After ministering in and about Toronto for about two months [Parley] found it necessary to return home, as some of [his] debts were pressing, and [the Canadian saints] needed a supply of…printed works…” Parley “thanked the Lord God of Israel for the fulfillment of the first installment of brother Kimball's prophecy…” When he arrived home in Kirtland, he found that his wife and been healed of her illness. [7]

The First Missionaries to England:

John Taylor, at the request of Joseph Fielding, wrote to Fielding’s brother, James Fielding, and brother-in-law, Timothy R. Matthews, who were ministers in England, about the gospel. Mary and Mercy Fielding were also involved in writing family members. Fielding noted in his journal that “It had been my earnest Prayer ever since I came into the Church…that the Lord would open the way [for] the glad tidings go to my native Country, particularly to my Breathren in the Flesh.” Fielding was afraid to write to them more than once in case it might do more harm than good. [8]

In the spring of 1837, Parley P. Pratt returned to Canada “to confer on the subject of a mission to England,” certainly influenced by Heber C. Kimball’s prophecy to him the year before. “Several of the Saints in Canada were English, who had friends in England….Several of the Canadian Elders felt a desire to go on a mission to their friends in that country.” Joseph Fielding was one of those Parley talked to. Fielding noted, “I…had some desire to be among those that should go, but felt myself very ill qualified to God on so important mission and had I not known the Lord takes the weak things of the World to confound the Strong &c. I never could have thought of entering on such a work. While I was thinking upon it, Elder Pratt said he believed it was the Mind of the Lord that I should go if I wished it. I did wish it but was much afraid. I desired however to know and do the Will of God. At this Time [at] a Conference held in Churchville…Bro. John Taylor prophesied with much of the Spirit and great Power…[that the] Spirit of God should be upon Brother Fielding, and he should lift up his Voice in his native Land…From this I began to believe that the Lord had called me to go to England.” [9]

In Kirtland, the Church was experiencing financial problems and internal dissension. Of the Quorum of the Twelve, Lyman Johnson and John Boynton were in open rebellion, Luke Johnson and William McLellin were disaffected and Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt and Parley P. Pratt were temporarily estranged from Joseph Smith. [10] In May or early June of 1837, Joseph Smith declared that God had revealed to him that "something new must be done for the salvation of His Church." That "something new" was for a mission to England. The apostles had been contemplating a European mission for some time, in keeping with their commission to carry the gospel to the world. However, when Joseph Smith approached Heber C. Kimball on June 4th in the Kirtland Temple, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me, ‘let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my gospel and open the door of salvation to that nation,’” Heber was astounded and overwhelmed. Kirtland was in crisis and he was the lone apostle to be going. He would be accompanied by several recent Canadian converts, Joseph Fielding, who was in Kirtland, and John Goodson, John Snider and Isaac Russell who would meet them in New York. Kimball met with the First Presidency on June 11th to be set apart for his mission. As they laid hands on his head, Orson Hyde entered the room, begged forgiveness and asked if he could accompany Heber to England. Orson Hyde was then set apart, as was Joseph Fielding.

About a week before, Willard Richards, while serving a mission in the eastern United States, felt “a strong desire to start for Kirtland immediately.” He arrived in Kirtland and accompanied Brigham Young to Joseph Smith’s home on June 11th, while Joseph was providing final instructions to the missionaries. He noted in his journal, “I felt my heart burn within me strongly desiring that I might be one” of them, but concluded his heavy responsibilities in Kirtland would prevent him from going. The next day, Heber Kimball saw Richards in the street. Richards had previously covenanted with Kimball that they would be among the first to carry the gospel abroad. Kimball stated, “Elder Richards I am now ready to fulfill my engagement with you. You recollect it dont you. I start for England Tomorrow & you May go with me.” Brigham Young agreed to handle Richard’s business and Willard Richards was set apart for the mission by Sidney Rigdon and Hyrum Smith. [11]


[1] Isabella Russell Walton’s husband had been First Lord Chamberlain of Toronto and lived in a large house on Adelaide Street. Side note to Joseph Fielding Diary, 1832-1837, at

[2] The Kingdom, p. 21.

[3] This later became known as Down’s View, a suburb of Toronto.

[4] Don Cecil Corbett, Mary Fielding Smith, Daughter of Britain: Portrait of Courage (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1966), p. 17, n. 3 (hereafter “Daughter of Britain”).

[5]; Daughter of Britain, p. 17, n. 3; “A Visit to the Scene of Early Canadian Baptisms,” Improvement Era, vol. Xlv, no. 9, September 1942.

[6] Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), p. 304 (Snider was baptized in June 1836); Conrey Bryson, Winter Quarters (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), p. 22; “Gravestone Markers honor Pioneers,” LDS Church News, December 7, 1996.

[7] Roberts, pp. ___.

[8] John Taylor, Journal of Discourses vol. 23, p. 31; Joseph Fielding Diary: 1832-1837 located at (“Fielding Diary”).

[9] Pratt, p. 143; Fielding Diary.

[10] Apostles in the British Isles, p. __.

[11] Apostles in the British Isles, p. __; Bushman, pp. 338, 341 (Bushman notes that during the dark days of Kirtland, following the collapse of the bank and apostasy of many of his friends, the mission to England was the only “bold stroke” of Joseph Smith during a difficult period for him).

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