Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Martin Harris: Mormonisrn s Early Convert Ronald W. Walker It began in the autumn of 1874 with a knock that interrupted Pilkingtons' evening devotions. The stranger at the door explained that he wished to hire a boy to do chores and promised room, board, and a two-year-old heifer in exchange for a year's labor. Moments later, fourteen-year-old Willie Pilking-ton, several months removed from a Lancashire sweat shop, found himself leaving his family and sitting down in the stranger's log house, the first that he had seen since arriving in Utah territory. His new employer gave Willie a pan of bread and milk for supper, supplied him with two quilts — one to soften the cabin's floor and the other to barely shield him from the autumn mountain air — and quickly went to bed in another part of the house. Willie thought he was alone, but then he heard a noise from the corner of the room that his small oil lamp failed to explain. Unnerved but not knowing what else to do, the boy quickly finished his supper and was trying to fashion a bed on the floor when he saw in the dark corner an emaciated man, who beckoned him to pull up a chair. "Now, Willie," the old man said after learning his name, "tomorrow night after your chores are done and we have had supper and all the folks have gone to bed, I want you to sit down in this chair, close to mine, for I have lots to tell" (Pilkington n.d., 7-9). So it began. During the next nine months, first at their Smithfield, Utah, farm and later when the family moved across the valley to Clarkston, the old man compulsively told and retold his story whenever he had a chance. At times it seemed his very existence required it. He spoke about himself and his past, of an ancient religious history written on plates made from gold and unearthed from their hiding place, of a new religion that restored God's ways. In all this, he claimed a central role. His money had been crucial. Moreover, he RONALD W. WALKER is senior historical associate at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. He and his wife, Nelani Midgley Walker, are the parents of seven children. This paper was first presented at the Mormon History Association annual meeting, Salt Lake City, May 1986.