Monday, February 15, 2016

The Conversion of John W Wilson

[Last week a new blog reader found an old post I wrote about her great grandfather, John Wilson. I began with only a reference to her great grandfather's baptism in Memphis, and was able to dig up more info from public records. Now great granddaughter Carrie has shared more information about his conversion. It comes from a partial document; a notebook which starts on page 29, found in the possession of John Wilson's daughter, Ruth Wilson Dana. But Carrie believes, and I agree, there is enough here to get a feel for what his conversion was like. It reads like it was written first person, so I am assuming it is autobiographical. Though without a complete document there is no guarantee. So without further delay I give the conversion story of John Wilson. - BCrow]

[Memphis, Tenn; Summer 1900]
I walked out again for recreation at about the same hour. These people were there at the same place again. I just paused a moment and learned that they were preaching but not long enough to determine what denomination they were representing. The following evening, I walked out at the usual hour for recreation. Something—I did not know what—induced me to sit down on the curbing, something I had never done before on such an occasion. Just as I sat down, the Elder that was speaking sat down and another one took his place and took for his text the Restoration of the Gospel and the Priesthood of God, and the authority given to man through the Prophet Joseph Smith to officiate in his name.

This was something I had been longing for and seeking for since I was a boy. As stated before, the like(sic) of ministers from my view point having this authority kept me from joining any of the churches. I had heard the greatest Evangelist in the U.S. preach, and had visited churches of many of the noted divines, but never did words fall from the lips of man penetrated my soul like those spoken by this humble Mormon Elder on this occasion. The spirit of God testified to me that he spoke the truth and I believed every work that he said.

I was converted to the truth of the Gospel, but it was Mormonism, the very last place that I would have gone to get the answer to my prayer. My heart almost ceased to function when I knew it was Mormonism. I, like a coward, got up and sneaked away, without saying a word to anyone, but I was surely pricked in my heart and could think of nothing else but the words of that Mormon boy, and was anxiously waiting for the next evening meeting. I went out early and was there on time.

I don't recall anything that was said in the second evening that had any bearing on my acceptance of the Gospel. I already was converted. I bought, “A Voice of Warning,” and went back to my hotel. I read, wept and prayed all night, and made up my mind that the next evening I would ask them to baptize me, yet I had not spoken to one of them.

I went out at the usual hour, but lo, there were no elders to be found, as they were not holding a meeting. Each evening for several evenings, I would look the city over at the places where I thought they might be holding a meeting, but I failed to contact them.

I was recovering from my illness, and felt like I was able to go to work. I placed an ad in the paper for employment. A gentleman living in the suburbs of the city phoned me to call at his home In the evening. I went and made an agreement with him to take the morning train and go to his mills in the state of Mississippi. It was very necessary both from an agreement and a financial standpoint that I leave on the morning train.

I took a streetcar back to the center of the city and just as the car pulled up to the corner of the square, I recognized the elders. The had apparently just dismissed their meeting and were leaving. I jumped off the card. I didn't walk, but I ran and overtook them. I introduced myself to them and said, “I have heard you preaching here on the street and I want to be baptized tonight, as I am leaving early in the morning. They said they had not baptized anyone there. I, like Eunic(sic) of old, told them that I would show them where there was water, that I knew several places where they could perform the ordinance, but they were not as charitable to me as Stephans(sic) was to the Eunic(sic); they did not ask me if I believed with all my heart that Jesus was the Christ. They positively refused to baptize me and gave me some pamphlets or tracts. I bought some books from them and I was told to report to them later.

I left on the morning train, went and fulfilled my engagement, but the predominating thought in my mind and heart was the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the longer I worked, on the job, the more anxious I was to be baptized. It seemed the longer I was postponed, the greater my desire was to have it done. Therefore, I resigned my position and went back to Memphis.

As soon as I arrived, I immediately looked up the Elders. They were willing to baptize me and took me down to the Mississippi River and baptized me. John T. Perkins of Pocatello, Idaho baptized me,
 and Ernest Fisher of the same place confirmed me. This was the 30th day of August, 1900. They administered the Sacrament and bore testimony to the truth of the established gospel of Jesus Christ and that Joseph Smith was and is a Prophet of the Living God.

I knew comparatively little about the Mormon church and had heard many derogatory things said relative to the church. There was one predominating thought came to my mind before I was baptized. I had read in some newspaper that Brigham Young would go to the fields of the member of the church, and take three-fourths of all they produced for the Church. This seemed to me to very hard to endure, if it were true. Nevertheless, I reasoned that these young men who were making such a great sacrifice to carry God's message to the world were clean, conscientious, truthful young men, and I said in my heart, if they can endure that, so can I. I asked them no questions because I knew that what they were preaching was the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that they were servants of the living God, and that God would be just in all things, and whatsoever was His will, was my will.

The answer to my prayer uttered in Louisville, Kentucky was literally fulfilled and I know and testify that God heard my prayer and through his spirit I was led to the place where I could be told what God wanted me to do. The spirit of God testified to me of the truth of the Gospel and caused it to bun in my heart that it was true. Before I was baptized, I wrote my mother, father and brothers and sisters, who were living at Rosine [Ohio county] Kentucky and told them what I was going to do, and that I was going to do it, though not one of them even spoke to me again, and I was not waiting for a reply. I gave all I had for the gospel position in life, friends, and relatives, and I think I got the best of the bargain.

John W Wilson

John Wilson's name from line six of page 174 in the Middle Tennessee Conference Baptismal Record. Edited to hide the names of those not related as per guidelines from LDS Church


Aaron Abell said...

Bruce: Great story. Thanks for posting it. Just loved the whole story but especially the last few lines.

BruceCrow said...

Thank you. I'm glad you liked it.

Ardis said...

This is terrific. What a find!

Alisa Mui said...

Great story.
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