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Harrison Burgess, 1814-1883

Autobiography (1814-1848) in
Kenneth Glyn Hales, ed. and comp.
Windows: A Mormon Family
Tucson, Arizona
Skyline Printing, 1985

A SHORT SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF HARRISON BURGESS,
SON OF WILLIAM AND VIOLATY BURGESS

I was born September 3, 1814 in the town of Putnam, Washington County, state of New York. I lived with my parents until 14 years and a part of the time afterward and being the eldest of my father's family, I was kept constantly at work and had but little opportunity of acquiring an education.

My father made no profession of religion but led a moral and virtuous life. My childhood was not marked with any crime although I paid but little or no attention to religion until the 17th year of my age. In July, 1832, when I first heard the fullness of the gospel proclaimed by Elder Simeon Carter, [and at this time] I was convinced that the scriptures were true and the Book of Mormon was a divine revelation from heaven. I was baptized [by Elder Simeon Carter and confirmed a member in the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Orson Pratt] and spent the following winter in going to school, working for my board and in meeting with the Saints.

In the spring of 1833, I started in company with Brother John S. Carter to the state of Vermont where we labored about two months and [We came to the Benson Branch where I was ordained a priest under the hands of Brother Carter with whom I continued to travel] then returned to New York State.

On the third Sabbath in May while speaking to a congregation I declared that I knew the Book of Mormon was true, the work of God. The next day while I was laboring something seemed to whisper to me "Do you know the Book of Mormon is true?" My mind became perplexed and darkened, and I was so tormented in spirit that I left my work and retired into the woods in misery and distress and therein cannot be described. [The ? all the while seemed to say I know the Book of Mormon is true?" I remained in this situation about two hours before it came into my mind the faith that the Brother of Jared had in obtaining a knowledge of God.] Finally, I resolved to know whether I had proclaimed the truth or not, and commenced praying to the God of Heaven, for a testimony of these things, when all at once the vision of my mind was opened, and a glorious personage clothed in white stood before me and exhibited to my view the plates, from which the Book of Mormon was taken. [I guess I took a short mission in the state of New York, ? proclaimed the truth in great boldness.]

In September 1834, I started with my father's family, for Kirtland, Ohio as it was necessary for him to stay (behind) to transact some business. On my journey, I accidentally met with the Prophet, Joseph Smith, in Springfield, Pennsylvania. I there saw him for the first time, and heard him preach. I arrived in Kirtland and tarried there during the winter during which my Brother Joseph received a revelation calling for the strength of the Lord's House? to go to Jackson County, Missouri for the redemption of Zion. I was one among the rest that volunteered to go and fulfill this commandment.

I started in March, 1834, in company with Joseph Smith and others. We had a long and tedious journey, and arrived in Missouri on the last of June. While the camp tarried there, Brother Joseph received the word of the Lord by revelation, relative to the camp, informing us that we were not to fight at that time, that Zion could not be redeemed then, and that He had required us to come thus far, as a trial of our faith, that He had accepted of our offering. Some individuals of the camp fell to murmur at this decree and wanted to fight the enemies of God. Brother Joseph said the Lord would send in a scourge upon us in consequence of this [unrighteous feeling] murmuring [which he did]. The cholera was upon in a few hours after this prediction, and some eighteen of our brethren fell victims to its grasp. Among the number that I attended upon, and helped to bury, was my Brother John S. Carter. My feeling on this occasion can never be described. At length I was violently seized with it myself, but through faith in God and the kind assistance of Brother Zerah Cole, I was rescued from the grasp of death.

When the camp broke up I received an honorable discharge from Lyman Wight, our Commander-in- Chief. After this I started for home in company with Heber C. Kimball, [and Luke Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, Bates Nobles, David Elisha, and Bradford Elliot?] and arriving at Kirtland, Ohio about the last of July I found my friends well and [the temple in good progress and] the Saints were exerting themselves to the utmost in their poverty to build the temple [which was so far completed that] I received my endowments therein in the spring of 1835. The Lord blessed his people abundantly in that temple with the spirit of prophecy, the ministering of angels, and visions. I will here relate a vision which was shown to me.

It was near the close of the endowments--I was in a meeting for instruction in the upper part of the temple, with about a hundred of the high priests, seventies, and elders. The Saints fell to shout, "Hosannah," and the spirit of God rested upon me in mighty power and I beheld the room lighted up, with a peculiar light such as I had never seen before; [soft and clear and] the room looked to me as though it had neither roof nor floor to the building and I beheld Joseph [Smith the Prophet] and Hyrum Smith [the Prophet's brother], and Roger Orton enveloped in the light. Joseph exclaimed aloud,"I behold the Saviour, the Son of God." Hyrum exclaimed "I behold the angels of heaven." Brother Orton exclaimed, "I behold the chariots of Israel." All who were in the room felt the power of God to that degree that many prophesied, and the power of God was made manifest, [to all these in the assembly] the remembrance of which I shall never forget while I live upon the earth.

The winter of 1836 I attended a high school together with Brothers Joseph, and Hyrum and most of the heads of the church. It was a fine opportunity for [getting] instruction. The evenings were mostly spent in meetings for instruction in the principles of our faith and religion. It was then and there that the lectures in the forepart of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants were given.

During this winter and spring the members of Zion's Camp were called together, to receive an especial blessing, according to a promise which had been made in the before-mentioned revelation. Out of this number most of the Twelve were selected, and also the first Seventy, of whom I was one.

We had a meeting every Saturday to bless and ordain such as had been called. I was blessed and ordained under the hands of Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph Smith Sr., and Sidney Rigdon. [The ensuing summer I worked for Hyrum Smith on his farm as he was absent from his home most of the time. On the first day of July, 1835 I was married to Sophia Minerva Foster daughter of Orin E. Rachel Foster who was born April 12, 1810 in Madison New Haven County, ?.]