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Jones, Captain Dan - Conversion Account

Translation of Conversion Account


The following spring, the Saints bought a large piece of land, which lay about 40 miles to the north of Quincy, and on the banks of the Mississippi, a delightful and pleasant place, with fertile lands for several miles, especially to the eastern side of it; these lands were owned for the most part by a gentleman by the name of Mr. Galland (who behaved very graciously at first, and until he received pay for his land, and then became a harsh enemy), Mr. Wells, and others. There were a few poor cottages here built on the river bank, ,which were called "Commerce," but the spot was considered too unhealthful for hardly anyone to live there for any time.

The Saints gathered here, called the place "Nauvoo," (which means beautiful), and set to the task of tilling the soil, and building houses, &c., with all their might; and their incomparable industry was crowned with abundant crops of the earth's produce in the first season of almost everything they needed; and the craftsmen in their turn were no less diligent building houses, shops, &c., &., in the town; until within the year was seen (and to the astonishment of all who went by) everyone apparently comfortable, and various works of art succeeding.

It was on being exiled from Missouri, or a little before that, that the first missionaries took "this gospel" to the islands of the sea; so that, instead of harming the work, this dispersal from Missouri, as does kicking the mustard plant when it is in full bloom, caused the seed to scatter throughout the garden, or like the previous dispersal of the disciples from Jerusalem. Among other places Britain was able to heare this eternal gospel through one of the apostles called Heber C. Kimball, &c. And the seeds soon grew in good ground until they soon brought forth fruit a thousandfold, who gathered in Nauvoo, from the year 1840, out "like doves to their windows," turning the face of the country upside down for miles around, and increasing in all honors and arts correspondingly. It was not long before the jealous spirit of their southern neighbors showed itself. About 16 miles to the south, there was a small town called Warsaw, another about 18 miles to the east, Carthage, which was the county seat; and the others were in league to split the county into two parts so as to have their town as a county seat, which would win them great advantages, valuable jobs and influence, besides a rise in the price of the lands they had for sale there. Their most cunning leaders agreed that they would have to prevent the unaccustomed growth of the new town of Nauvoo, which was already beating them in numbers, in case the seat for the new county was established here; and, without any other cause, they set about in earnest proclaiming all sorts of stories and misrepresentations of the Saints. I do not believe (and I am juding from a personal acquaintance with him) that there is any man more skilled, more suitable, or more able, or who would love the business of falsely accusing, reviling, inventing lies completely, without a word, syllable or excuse in them, with satisfaction, better than the instrument they employed for this work by the name of Thomas Sharp. He had been "sharp" enough to escape from his proper place on the gallows of the eastern states more than once! He had been sharp enough to escape the punishments deserved by the worst criminals; and in the end, under the leadership of the only one who was sharper than he, he made his way into this partnership to fulfill the measure of his untruthfulness, which he did as quickly as he could. He published a newspaper call the "Warsaw Signal," which he edited himself; and in the columns of which were to be seen all the most disgraceful accusations which he could have invented against the people of Nauvoo, and each as groundless as the next. It was not long before the editors of that country understood who and what he was, and refused to quote or notice hardly anything he said, any more than the neighbors who knew him believed any of his rigmarole. He was not dismayed by this, for he knew better than to expect it; but his main objective was to rely on scattering his rubbish far afield, where neither he nor the "Mormons" were known; and so he was strangely successful in getting far away newspapers to quote the worst stories he could construct in their own columns, and send them with their influence to others, &c. And more than once we have read this "Sharp" quite naturally as in a clear mirror, in English and Welsh newspapers! Yes, we wouild have known him even if his name had not been on them all. This one is (appropriately) the father of the lies about the Saints while in Nauvoo, and as will be seen further on in the story, he is the main cause of the persecutions and the spilling of innocent blood there after this.

The greatest profit made by this Sharp was by selling himself to be a "cat's paw" for the Missourians forever. Certainly, before every state election he would always insist on getting Missouri, or someone from somewhere, to bring some accusation or other against Joseph Smith, and all quite without cause: their purpose in this was so that they could accuse the opposition, that is the "whigs" of that, and so win the vote of the Mormons, as they thought on the side of the "Democrats!!" The defenses in the face of these accusations cost thousands of dollars to Joseph Smith. This is what was proclaimed to the world about him, with almost every editor having his verdict about him that he was sure to be guilty, &c., while understanding nothing about the matter. But, J. Smith was proven completely clean of every accusation; yes, even though he was judged by his professed enemies each time; and those authors would be as careful not to retract their accusations while publishing his defense as they are full of zeal to behave in the same way in our country. For our part, we should thank this Sharp for the information we got about the Saints; for it was by reading his accusations and others' that our attention was drawn to them before we saw them, while living in that country. Through a detailed examination of their accusations, we find clearly that it is either impossible for them to be true, saying too much in their great eagerness, or that they contradict themselves in some way, which led me to reason,--Why does everyone agree to deliver such false accusations against these unknown people? I saw that this was evil work; and that those who perpetrated such things were worse than those who suffered them! And without ever having thought before this that the Mormons as they were called professed or believed the Christian faith, nor the Bible, I would often ask what can be causing all this against them more than anyone else? It must surely be some virtues which incited liars against them; and so they must be more virtuous than their persecutors for them to suffer so many agonies, prisons, and losses. Thus did I reason about them for a while, without seeing any of them, or reading any of their work.l Among other stories I had heard, one was that "they held everything in common," "that Joe Smith had been trying to walk on the water," "that he claimed miraculous power;" and other said that "he claimed he is the Christ." I also read the Spauling Romance, as it is called, professing to reveal the original source of the "Book of Mormon," and that it was the work of a man of the above name, &c. And although I found sufficient internal proofs in the others to prove to my satisfaction that they were lies; yet, I confess that I could scarcely for the life of me, yes, having had concrete facts to the contrary, fail to believe the last. It was so skillfully woven--certified by so many witnesses, I had supposed, of high character, especially when I saw so many Reverends on it, to whom at the time I considered no little reverence and belief to be due; yes, I almost thought it was impossible for those who possessed this title to say, much less testify, to anything but what they knew to be "gospel." But how strangely was I disappointed in this! Not of my volition, but somewhat against my will, I was forced to admit in astonishment my mistake; and only then was I able to shake off the shackles with which the men of that title had bound my soul almost unbeknown to me previously! Or to rid myself of the poisonous effects of this story from my mind. If anyone deseerved the "blessedness" which Christ promised when everyone spoke ill of them, I freely admitted that it was the "Mormons" that deserved it.

There soon came into my hand, through some chance occurrence, part of a letter written by Joseph Smith's wife to some religious sister when she was with her husband in a Missouri jail; and I shall never forget the feelings aroused in me by this part of a letter! I saw in it clearly not only that its author believed the New Testament as did we--professing the apostolic faith, and rejoicing in the midst of her tribulations at being worthy of suffering all this for the sake of testimony of Jesus and the gospel; but that it contained better counsel, more wisdom, and demonstrated a more evangelical and pious spirit that anything I had ever read! I read it over and over; I almost considered it the fruit of the ideas of the apostolic age rather than the writing of the wife of such a presumptuous--and entirely ungodly man as that "Joe Smith" had been depicted to me: but the more often I read it, the greater my desire to possess something of the spirit and hopes of its author, even though it should cost me imprisonment also. My mind was not satisfied then until I got hold of one of the Mormons, and, once I had found him, it was not only two or three nights that we sat up to investigate the differences of opinion that existed between us about the gospel; and to my great surprise, I perceived that I was almost a full-fledged Mormon already, which when I relized it frightened me greatly; for I could foresee my popularity at an end the minute I had this despicable name; and consequently, my livelihood and my all. These considerations prompted me to search for sufficient counterarguments to still my conscience, and to reject them; but I shall always be thankful that the task was too difficult and endless for me. I was forced to cut through all obstacles, whatever might be the consequences of obeying the promptings of a conscience awakened in the face of the divine word of the scriptures. I submitted to the divine ordinance of baptism in the Mississippi, that is the "father of waters," and I know I shall never regret it, if I have strength to go on till the end. Even so, somehow I had not a grain of love for the "Joe Smith;" I could have swallowed almost everything except that he was a prophet of God. I later came to realize that I had formed some strange fancies about what sort of men the old prophets were; I considered that they, adn consequently "Joe Smith" before he could be a prophet, wouild have either sheep or goat skin for clothing, a long beard, and long white hair; that his face wouild be long and wrinkled, and with a haughty and dissenting air; grumbling quite a lot, and very holy. I almost believed that he ought to be a wanderer on the mountains, never coming to a house or to a table, but living on locusts, &c.; and when he came among people to deliver his divine message, that he would do so in a way that would prove to everyone that he was a prophet! While groundless fancies such as these were contending for space in my mind alternately with the thousand and one equally unfounded false accusations I had heard about this remarkable person, I took my steamboat with over 300 immigrants (Saints) from St. Louis towards Nauvoo. When we arrived a large crowd of respectable-looking people came to greet us very hospitably; such handshaking and kissing among the women, adn such a hearty welcome on meeting each other rather surprised me; but to my even greater dismay, when my glance scanned the crowd for the prophet I had pictured, and failed to see anyone similar, a large handsome man came up to me in the crowd on the boat, took my hand and squeezed it kindly, saying, "God bless you brother," several times; but before I could ask his name, he was out of sight; and then he came by again, when I understood that my eyes had beheld for the second time Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet! And although I was so busy I spared some time to gaze at him, and I saw in him everything contrary to my expectation. His fair countenance, and his cheerful and guileless face rather convinced me that he was not the cunning and deceitful man I had heard about; the wonderful love and respect shown to him by everyone, and his humility, forced me mto believe that this was not that cruel oppressor who considered everyone his slaves; yes, in a word, I was soon convinced that much of what I had heard about this man was false accusations. I went with him to his house, and he related to me in a few words the story of more of his sufferings because of his religion than I had hardly thought possible for anyone to endure so long. Yet he was as sure of his subject, and as unshakable in his determination as an everlasting rock. He boasted through it all as though he had profited from it, and before leaving his company I was almost surprised how anyone could doubt, if there was such a thing as a prophet, that it was he. Then I saw and chatted with the one who had written that fragment of letter that had so surprised me; but that did not contain half her wisdom; around her I saw three boys and one girl, the oldest being about ten years of age; in her armchair in the corner was his aged mother (over 80) of whom he was very respectful. He said that the grey hairs of his old father had taken him to his grave while under persecution. After this I went with him around the city (for it was worthy of the name by now), and I saw them all at their various tasks, and looking like other men, but comelier and more diligent than is common: having circled the place, I failed to find a drunkard, or a place to get drunk, an oath or any dissipation! Could it be, I said, that all I heard about this place and these people is lies? If not, where is the "huge wall that surrounded the city so that no one could return from it alive: as I had heard? There were not two stones on top of each other there to that purpose! Where were all the "slaves" I had heard of, and the business of "all things in common," and many other strange things? Everyone here is as free and independent as anyone I ever saw; yes, and each happily enjoying his possessions, the fruits of his labor, his family, his money, and his own thoughts or opinion without hindrance; and with state protection for that. Instead of "Joseph Smith taking the property of others," or any of the other elders either being supported at the cost of others, as are the "Reverends," and the authors who accuse them, they support their families at their own expense. Thus I found everything here opposite to what I had heard about this place and its inhabitants, until by the time I got back to the boat I was almost prepared to say that I would not believe anything from now on about them, excpet what I saw; or else, decide to believe the opposite of what their enemies said about the Mormons at least; and no doubt there are hosts like myself who went there with their minds full of prejudice, and returned from there with a completely opposite opinion about the place and the people. I saw hosts of such as these during the time that we were carrying some thousands of immigrants there after that.

[The forgoing is a translation from Welsh of Chapter 19 of a 104-page pamphlet Dan Jones published in Welsh in 1847 entitled "History of the Latter-day Saints, from their establishment in the year 1823, until the time that three hundred thousand of them were exiled from America because of their religion, in the year 1846." See Welsh Mormon Writings, pp. 54-57 for more details concerning this little known history of the LDS Church. Dan Jones's account of his conversion clarifies the chronology of his baptism, which occurred on 19 January 1843 (according to the TIB), and his first meeting with Joseph Smith on 12 April 1843. Heretofore, the common belief among Church historians was that Dan Jones's first meeting with Joseph Smith helped him to decide to get baptized. In reality Dan Jones was a convert of nearly three months prior to that first meeting. Certainly Dan Jones kept journals, but in spite of searches in archives and among his descendants no journal has been located. If anyone has knowledge of any of his journals please contact Ron Dennis at ronald_dennis@byu.edu.]

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