Another Theodore Turley Discovery: Fire and Ice in 1838

Theodore Turley portrait

This week in my Family History Class we had a lesson on Internet Research.  We talk about 100s of websites that are helpful for every aspect of research and study.  It’s sort of a fire hydrant approach to get everyone moving beyond the same old searches they always do to new and exciting ways and places to discover information about their ancestors.

One fun place to search is Google Books, where digitized records are added daily.  So Monday night before class, I thought I’d check to see what I might find there, new since my last search.  It was about 1:30 a.m. when, after typing in “Theodore Turley, Ontario,” I found volume 56 of the Millennial Star listed with a hit on page 427.

Before I share what I found, I want to copy the account below from a post I wrote in June after a visit to the Church Archives in Salt Lake just before my trip to Tornoto:

I checked a few more records there and found an amazing journal account by a young woman named Elizabeth Terry Herward [whose husband was usually drunk and very disagreeable] who lived in Upper Canada at that same time. Imagine the thrill when I read her words:

In December of 1837, we heard there were “Mormon” preachers in Canada, about twenty miles from us. This being something new, he was willing they should come and preach at our house; accordingly, I sent for Brother Theadore Turley to come, which he did, and the first sermon I heard I believed it was true. He preached several times to us, and, although Kirby [her husband] hated the Baptists, yet as soon as he found that I believed the Mormons, he hated them also and would not let them preach any more in our house, and swore I should not go to hear them. One very cold day in the winter, Brothers Turley and Robert B. Thompson called at our house on their way to my fathers, where they were going to preach. George Thompson sold me a Book of Mormon for $1.25 and Kirby was near me when I received the book and he snatched it out of my hand and threw it into the fire, which was very hot, and it went in open, and he kicked it down between the sticks of wood. I was across the room from the fire, but I sprang as quick as I could and took out the book, which, to our great astonishment, was not burned, and neither was their a letter scorched. At that moment I received a testimony that the Book of Mormon was true. Brother Turley took the book and presented it to Kirby and told him it was the word of God, which, if he did not receive, he would be damned. Kirby cooled down in a minute and told me to give them something to eat and he gave their horses some oats and he also gave Brother Turley his new mittens, which I had just made for him. So, in this instance, the Lord made the wrath of man praise Him. Kirby made Brother Thompson give up the money, but he suffered him to lend me the book, yet he soon hardened his heart and said he would burn Brother Thompson in the fire, and he did abuse the Mormons wherever he saw them. He was now far worse against them than he had ever been against the Baptists. But, in the most of this persecution, the Lord blessed me and comforted my mind.

So Monday night, I found this account.  James P. Terry is Elizabeth Heward’s brother!  Here he adds his witness to the account above.  But that’s not all.  James adds some amazing details Elizabeth didn’t mention in her journal.

I was thrilled to read this autobiographical account telling more of the story of Theodore Turley as a new Mormon Missionary in Toronto.  Theodore was 36 years old, and had been a member of the Church less than a year in February 1838.  Eight of his ten children had been born and two had died.  He  and Frances and their family were living in Churchville.

When I finally went up to my bed at about 2:00 a.m., my mind was flooded with images of a bitter cold 1838 Toronto winter and a mill pond somewhere under 2 feet of ice.  I thought about how they might have cut that ice.  It probably took them all day using hand tools.  I thought about what it must have been like for Theodore or his companion to step into that icy water with members of the Terry family, and baptize them by immersion.

This tells me something about Conviction and Faith and Testimony and the truthfulness and power of the Book of Mormon.  There are very few things on this earth that might entice me to immerse myself in a mill pond covered with 2 feet of ice in the cold of winter.   But I would do it to stand as a witness of Christ and His Restored Gospel.  Theodore Turley and his family did it.  The Terry family did it.  And I would do it too.

There is a promise in the Book of Mormon that any who sincerely ask to know if it’s true will receive the answer Theodore’ family and the Terry family and I have received:

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:4)

I thought about these things as I tried to sleep Monday night.   My toes were icy cold in my comfortable clean bed.  But my heart felt warm and grateful to know what I know and to know those I love also knew.

Terry, Elizabeth b. Herward Baptized by TT

Elizabeth Terry Heward b. 17 Nov 1814

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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2 Responses to Another Theodore Turley Discovery: Fire and Ice in 1838

  1. Mel says:

    This is fantastic. Thanks for sharing

  2. Amanda Christensen says:

    A wonderful story! Thanks for sharing!

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