LIFE AND HISTORY OF PHINEAS W. COOK
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|Section 5 Conversion to the Mormon Church|
In December the news came that there would be a Mormon meeting in the school house across the road, and I was invited to attend my answer was I do not wish to hear any more sectarianism for I had had enough of them, and I had rather hear the devil and I thought that would be something new.
Father and mother and Ann Eliza went, and I went and carried Harriet the baby as far as the door and then turned and went home and kept house, till they returnd, at the usual hour they come home much taken up with the sermon, and indeed it seemd as though they could not satisfy themselves with any language they had, Father said he was always a morman but never knew what the devil to call it, so was I sais mother, Well sais I, I think you must be poor off for names. I dont think it would take me long to find a name for it, this rather vext them and they said no more about it at that time there was another meeting appointed to come off in a week and as the time came on they began to talk to me about going to hear them, but I utterly refused to have anything to do with them in any shape whatever at last father and mother said so much to me, and Ann Eliza by her persuasion at last I concluded to go for arguments sake so the forth lecture I made preperations to attend, I pix out a book and thought I had a pencil but when I came to look for it I could not find it, and I started out to the neighbers to borrow one but I did not get one but I finely went into father Orr's and asked him for one for sais I, I am going to morman meeting, and I want to take notes for I intend to give them Jesse, he said he had none, I told him I had been all round but could not get any,
Thare was two strangers siting by the fire and one said that he had a pencil he would lend me for he was going to meeting and after it was over I could return it, so I thanked him and took it and started
I went with my book and candle and placed myself in front of the desk whare I could look the preacher fair in the face determined that not a word should escape for I was bent on putting down errors if I could find any, which I had no doubt of doing and that in abundance When meeting was in and it was time to open, the 2 strangers appeard of which I had borrowd the pencil, one of them opened the meeting by singing and prayer, his name I afterwards found to be Edward M. Webb. after meeting was opened, the one that handed me the pencil, arose and placeing his eyes intently on me as though he thought that I was the ownly hardend siner thare was to fear or contend with (And surely I thought from his appearance that I was more than a match for him) And after collecting (as it appeared to me) all his powers he slowly began, he said his remarks would be confined to the fall of the church, or the seting up of anti-Christ shurely thought I thats something new He proceeded and quoted many passages of the old and new testaments not forgeting his watcher who was siting over against him for he did not presume to quote a word from the scripture without seemingly consulting his feeling or mine concerning how it might be received for the passage was clearly pointed out, book chapter and verse and then a pause until I had written it down he in this way continued about 2-1/2 hours. When he was done he gave liberty for anyone to speak that wished. All of a sudden all eyes ware fixed on me as though they thought that I was on hand with any amount of argument to put down any and everything that he had said, but they looked in vain, I was satisfied I could say nothing for I knew that what he had said was true and could not be refuted by any testamony that I had, for it was as I had always told them that truth would prevail and it had surely done so at this time espesealy over me After meeting was over they came to me privately and asked me why I did not silance him by arrising and telling him the truth of the matter as it was (not thinking but I could put him down as I had done others at former times) I answerd the man has told us the truth and it was not my province to rais my voice against it and should not do it for if they could not understand it I could, and if I was to attempt it, myself would be put to silance and shame and I thought it was better to give up the matter at once. I handed him his pencil and thanked him for the use of it and asked him to go home with me but he declined saying that he had a previous engagment then I tried to engage him the next time but this they also declined so I had no chance to ask them any questions but had to content myself with what I had already heard. After this I did not blame father for saying he was always a mormon but did not know what to call it, but it was not exactly so with me, for I had not yet heard enough to convince me that Joseph Smith was a prophet sent from God, The next meeting I had my own pencil I placed myself in the same position as before but when his lecture was about half done I dropt my pencil and book onto the floor (as as they said) sat with my mouth open, at least I will say my attention was all taken up and I thought after it was over as though I had been wrapt in a vision from this time on I have never doubted the truth of Josephs mission
When Eliza heard that I had been to hear the Mormons for fear that the truth was not thoroughly planted within me, she sent me all the books and papers she had and I began to read and kept it up till I had read all that I could find concerning the matter, father and mother began to think that I should become a convert to their faith as they could not hear anything from me but mormanism from day to day, they could see me reading every odd moment, and mother said the next thing would be (if they did not put a stop to it) I should be off with the mormans and that would be the last of me father did not say as much as mother did against my reading but he did not say anything to encourage me in it, sometimes when he would hear mother say a great deal about it and oppose me so strongly he would drink too much whiskey and then he would come down on me the hardest kind, finely I became tired of their abuse, and I went away into the woods and prayed that father might become changed in his course or be taken out of the way, for I thought for me to always live in that way was more than I could endure for I had covenanted to serve the Lord and it would be impossible for me to do it under such circumstances.
After I had freed my mind before the Lord I went home, and found father quite sick with a disease called the shingles it came out on his right breast and side he sent forthwith after the Doctor he soon came and said that if he could not stop them from going round his body they would kill him for when they met in the pitt of his stomach they would strike in and they could not be got out again he continued in this way 2 or 3 days and I saw they ware gradualy moving round him, and I began to think that I had done wrong, and finding he grew worse and worse I began to fear that I should be the cause of his death or that I might have been unwise, and his blood might be required at my hands, after I had reflected qjncerely i concluded to go and ask the Lord to forgive me for my foly in not bearing more and with more pacients so I started for the woods whare I had been before, And thare I prayed that the Lord would bear with my weakness and heal my father, after confessing my sins and asking forgiveness I retrased my steps I went directly to the house and asked Ann Eliza if father was any better she told me he appeared better his breaking out was nearly all gone and his pain was gone. Then I knew that the Lord had heard me and had forgiven me for which I felt to lift my soul to God in gratitude for his abundant mercies unto me. In two days he was well.
After this when I wanted to read I kept out of sight in day time, and when I went to bed and the house was still I would get up and light a candle and set it on the stand beside the bed and lie in bed and read until from 12 to 3 oclock and no one but myself and Ann Eliza knew anything about it. About this time I was harrowing the land that we had hired broken up for wheat, the field was long and the weather was warm, and we had but one yoke of oxen, and they could not go more than once or twice around without stoping to rest, at the stoping place there was a holow stump in which I kept the book of morman, and while the oxen ware resting I would go and get it and read. In this way I read book of morman and the voice of warning and no one knew anything about it but myself. The two sermons which David Savage preached was all that I had an opertunity of hearing they had been called home in consequence of the death of Joseph. In he branch of the church at Comstock about ten miles from whare I lived thare was a conference called to be held the 7th and 8th of September and all the saints ware invited to attend. When the time came Salmon & Eliza Hall came down and stopt for me and Ann Eliza to go with them, So we got ready and went, we attended the meeting Sat. 7th and Sunday We went down to the Kalamazoo river and was baptised and Eliza ever thoughtful had brought a change of clothes for us. We then returned to the schoolhous and was confirmed under the hands of Edward M. Webb and Crandle Dunn. After meeting we went home Darius and Mary Ann was thare and a great enquiry was made to know if we had been baptised finely they found it out some way but I did not know how, as thare was several men with their wives that lived in Barry County that had been to meeting. They had watched us to see if we took any clothes with us when we went away and they thought to themselves that we did not calculate to be baptized. But when they found out that it was realy so then they had ample opertunity to display their tact and talents in refuting the-prlnciples I had embraced or at least they done their best to do so. But the more they said the stronger I felt and the more I felt to maintain it.
From this time I had no rest as mother took extra pains to let everybody know that she had a son and wished to enlist their services to reconvert me. This caused me to have many an argument, as we kept a public hous of entertainment and a great many put up for the night and when supper was over she was shure to make it known and the more she could get to join with her the more just she considered her cause. This gave me the opertunity of bearing a faithful testamony to hundreds of people which I should not have had if it had not been so. at one time as I was in the barn a man drove up and wanted breakfast and feed for his horse I told him he could be accomodated forthwith. While he was feeding his horse I ran to the house and ordered his breakfast and returned to the barn before he was ready to go to the house I enquired of him whare he was from he said he was from the south east corner county of Iowa across the Misisippi River from Hancock County in Illinois. Well sals I, you mus know something about the Mormans for you must live near them, he said he had heard many stories about them but personly knew nothing of them he had nothing to do with them and never troubled himself about them, and as it hapend John Guthrie was presant and heard the conversation.
When he went into the house mother also asked him whare he was from he answered as before in the barn Why sais she you must know something about the mormans and if you do for heavens sake do tell it for I have a son thats a morman here and if you can say anything that will stop him from going off with them I wish you would do it. so he began to tell, he said he had lived in Nauvoo and butcherd and sold beef to the mormans for three years and they was the meanest of all people liveing and they would steal the cents of a dead mans eyes. Stop! stop sais she till I go and call him in and let him hear the story. I was soon on hand and he proceeded he said he had seen old Joe Smith dead drunk many a time and he knew him to be an old scoundrel and imposter and hell was too good for him, after he had proceeded thus far I interrupted him by saying he was a liar and I could prove it and he ought to have his damd ass kicked out of door and if he dared to resent it I would do it for him.
I then related what he had just told me in the barn and then I called John Guthrie and he said the same.
In this way the fall and most of the winter passd off.