I was born in the town of Acton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, November 1, 1799. My father, James Marsh was born in Douglas, Massachusetts, March 27, 1751. My mother, Mary, daughter of Titus Law, was born in Acton, Massachusetts, March 18, 1759.
I spent my early life in farming at Westmoreland, New Hampshire, until I was fourteen years of age, when I ran away and went to Chester, Vermont, where I worked on a farm three months; then went to Albany, New York and engaged in a public house as a waiter, where I remained eighteen months, when I went to New York and engaged in the city hotel and remained two years; when I returned to my old situation in Albany, and after serving a year returned to New York City Hotel for two years; then removed to Long Island, New York, where I engaged as groom to Edward Griswald, in whose service I remained one and a half- years; during which I became acquainted with Elizabeth Godkin, and married her on the 1st November, 1820.
Immediately after marrying I commenced in the grocery business, in New York, in which business I remained one and a half years, but did not succeed. I then engaged in a type foundry in Boston, where I continued seven years.
While engaged in this business I joined the Methodist Church and tried for two years to be a genuine Methodist, but did not succeed any better in getting Methodist religion than I did in the grocery business. I compared Methodism with the Bible, but could not make it correspond. I withdrew from all sects, and being about to leave Boston my old class leader wished me to take a good certificate, but I informed him I did not want it. I had a measure of the spirit of prophecy and told him that I expected a new church would arise, which would have the truth in its purity. He said to me, you no doubt mean to be a leader in that new sect. I told him I had no such intentions. He said, he prayed that the Lord would make me a firebrand in the midst of that new religious body, as reformation was necessary. My wife unknown to me, however, got a certificate for herself and me on one paper. I informed her that I never would attend, but I would find a suitable class for her if she wanted to join.
I remained in Boston several years engaged in the type foundry. During this period I became acquainted with several friends whose opinions concerning religion were like my own. We kept aloof from sectarians, and were called by them Quietists, because we resembled so much a sect in France known by that name professing to be led by the Spirit.
I believed the Spirit of God dictated me to make a journey west. I started in company with one Benjamin Hall, who was also led by the Spirit. I went to Lima, Livingston County, New York, where I staid [stayed] some three months, and then left for home. I called on my return at Lyonstown, on a family, whose names I do not recollect. On leaving there next morning the lady enquired if I had heard of the Golden Book found by a youth named Joseph Smith. I informed her I never heard anything about it, and became very anxious to know concerning the matter. On enquiring, she told me I could learn more about it from Martin Harris, in Palmyra.
I returned back westward and found Martin Harris at the printing office, in Palmyra, where the first sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon had just been struck off, the proof sheet of which I obtained from the printer and took with me. As soon as Martin Harris found out my intentions he took me to the house of Joseph Smith, Sen., where Joseph Smith, Jun., resided, who could give me any information I might wish. Here I found Oliver Cowdery, who gave me all the information concerning the book I desired. After staying there two days I started for Charleston, Massachusetts, highly pleased with the information I had obtained concerning the new found book.
After arriving home and finding my family all well, I showed my wife the sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon which I had obtained, with which she was well pleased, believing it to be the work of God. From this time for about one year I corresponded with Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, Jun., and prepared myself to move west.
Learning by letter that the Church of Jesus Christ had been organized on the 6th day of April, 1830, I moved to Palmyra, Ontario County, in September following, and landed at the house of Joseph Smith, Sen., with my whole family. During the month I was baptized by David Whitmer, in Cayuga Lake, and in a few days I was ordained an elder by Oliver Cowdery with six elders, at Father Whitmer's house. Joseph received a revelation appointing me a physician to the Church.
After remaining in that state, during the fall and winter the Church moved to Ohio. In the spring of 1831 I journeyed with the main body to Kirtland.
In June, 1831, I was ordained a high priest at a conference held in Kirtland where I received an appointment to go to Missouri with Ezra Thayer, and preach by the way. In consequence of Ezra Thayer delaying so long, I went to Joseph, who received the word of the Lord appointing Selah J. Griffin in Thayer's stead, with whom I journeyed to Missouri, preaching by the way; many believed our testimony, but we did not wait to baptize any. While near the end of our journey I was attacked by chills and fever and arrived very sick. I staid [stayed] at the house of Brother Benjamin Slade till I got well.
Sometime in January, 1832, Bishop Partridge having furnished me with an Indian pony, I returned to Kirtland, accompanied by Cyrus Daniels. I labored, preaching through the country around Kirtland until the summer opened, when, in company with Ezra Thayer, I went on a mission through the state of New York and returned home early in the fall; and made preparations to go up to Zion in company with several other families from Kirtland.
At that time an objection was raised to me being the leader owing to my inexperience, but there was division on this subject as some considered my office entitled me to the presidency. My opposers appealed to Joseph, who decided I should lead on account of my office; still, although we started with the understanding that I was to lead the company, my opposers never became reconciled to my presidency, until we got into difficulties at the Ohio River, where we could not proceed without better order. Here they yielded to my dictation through necessity; but when we had got down the Ohio River as far as Louisville a rebellious spirit was again manifested.
At this point I separated from the company; took my brother-in- law, Lewis Abbot and his wife, and proceeded by boat to St. Louis, where I arrived one day in advance of the company. On our arrival we found the cholera raging in St. Louis and vicinity. I went immediately to the outskirts of St. Louis, rented a house, and began my preparations to start overland to the west.
On the arrival of the other part of the company, I was sent for by them about midnight, to doctor them, but the messenger being unable to pilot me, I had to return to my house until morning, when I was sent for again, and soon found Brother Blackslee, but too late to do him any good. He died the next day.
I started for Jackson County, and arrived November 10, having been two weeks on the journey. I located in Jackson County with the brethren who had come from Colesville, where I was invited by Brother Joseph Knight, who was very sick with the bloody flux. I attended him faithfully and my wife nursed him; he succeeded in overcoming the disease and soon got well.
I had my inheritance, about thirty acres, set off by Bishop Partridge, on the Big Blue River, Jackson County, where, before spring opened, I had a comfortable log house built, into which I moved early in the spring and commenced clearing land to raise a small crop that year. I succeeded in getting some corn and potatoes planted, which did very well. Before the year was out the mob combined together and drove us out of the county. Some of the Saints moved into Clay County; others with myself removed to Lafayette County, where we wintered, and during which time I kept a common school and taught the children of the brethren.
In the spring of 1834, having learned that Joseph and a company were coming to relieve the brethren, I moved over with many others into Clay County, where I was living when they arrived. Several of those who came up in Zion's Camp remained in Missouri. I cultivated a small piece of land this summer and succeeded in raising some corn. I was chosen one of the high council.
In January, 1835, in company with Bishop Partridge and agreeable to revelation, I proceeded to Kirtland, where we arrived early in the spring, when I learned I had been chosen one of the Twelve Apostles.
May 4th, 1835, in company with the Twelve I left Kirtland and preached through the eastern states, holding conferences, regulating and organizing the churches, and returned September 25.
In the winter of 1835-36, I attended school, studied the first English grammar under Sidney Rigdon, and Hebrew under Professor Seixas (a Hebrew by birth), and in the spring returned to my place on Fishing River, in Clay County, Missouri, where I arrived in the month of April.
Soon after this, difficulties having occurred between the citizens of Clay County and the Saints, a meeting was held near Liberty, the county seat, for the purpose of amicably arranging matters. I was appointed a delegate from Fishing River. At that meeting a committee of twelve were appointed to draft resolutions, which were received by unanimous vote; when a committee of three, --viz., Lyman Wight, myself and Samuel Bent were appointed to meet next day in Liberty for the presentation of these resolutions. I was appointed by said committee, spokesman, and was enabled to speak so feelingly in relation to our previous persecutions and expulsions, that General Atchison could not refrain from shedding tears. This meeting passed resolutions to help the Saints to seek out a new location, and appointed committees to collect means to aid the poor Saints to remove.
The Church, considering the citizens were thus exerting themselves to have us removed, appointed Elisha H. Groves and myself to visit the churches in Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee, for the purpose of borrowing money to enter lands in the new settlement at the land office for the convenience of the Saints who were coming on. We started in July, and succeeded in borrowing upwards of $1400, principally from the brethren in Kentucky and Tennessee, at 10 percent interest.
September 19, 1836.--We parted with Brother Woodruff and the Saints in Kentucky, Brother D. [David] W. Patten and his wife accompanying us to Missouri. I proceeded immediately to the new city which had been laid out, and called Far West, in our absence.
On our arrival we delivered the money to those who sent us and received $1 per day and travelling expenses, for our services while gone. We furnished our own horses. I procured a lot immediately, built a house and moved into it. During the winter I made improvements on my lot; got up my firewood; attended councils and preached to the Saints.
About the month of June, 1837, I started for Kirtland in company with D. [David] W. Patten and Wm. [William] Smith, to try and reconcile some of the Twelve and others of high standing who had come out in opposition to the Prophet. On my journey I met Brother P. [Parley] P. Pratt about five miles west of Columbus, Ohio, moving to Far West; I prevailed on him to return with us to Kirtland. On our arrival I went to Brother Joseph's house, where I remained all the time I was in Kirtland.
About this time a special meeting was appointed at Joseph's house, by himself, to which several of the brethren who were disaffected were invited. I was chosen moderator, and called upon the aggrieved parties to speak first. A reconciliation was effected between all parties.
July 23rd, Joseph Smith, Jun., received a revelation to me concerning the Twelve Apostles; and on the 27th, I started with Joseph and Brother Rigdon for Canada. During this mission we visited the churches in Canada west, and returned about the last of August.
September 3.--I attended a conference held in Kirtland, in which Luke Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson and John F. Boynton were rejected. John F. Boynton plead, as an excuse for his course, the failure of the Kirtland Bank. President Brigham Young, in a plain and energetic manner, strongly protested against his course, and was not willing to receive him into fellowship until a hearty repentance and confession were manifested. I sus- tained Brother Brigham's remarks and acquiesced in his testimony.
Soon after, in company with Hyrum Smith, I proceeded to Missouri, where we arrived in October, and in a few weeks, Presidents Joseph and Sidney arrived, and we held a conference which sustained the authorities of the Church.
Sometime in the winter, George M. Hinkle, John Murdock and some others came to my house, and suggested the importance of calling a meeting to take into consideration the manner that W. [William] W. Phelps and David and John Whitmer had disposed of the money which I had borrowed in the Tennessee and Kentucky Branches in 1836. Accordingly, a meeting was called February 5th, 1838, and the conduct of the Presidency in Zion investigated. The Church would not sustain said presidency, but appointed myself and Brother D. [David] W. Patten presidents, pro tem., until Joseph Smith would arrive. We also reorganized the Church in Zion, placing every officer in his proper place. Joseph arrived in Far West, March 14th, and approved of the course we had pursued.
May 18.--In company with Joseph, Sidney and others, I went north in Daviess County. We met with Oliver Cowdery, Lyman E. Johnson and others encamped, who were also exploring northward on Grand River. We soon returned to Far West.
In August the mob recommenced their depredations against the Saints. About this time I got a beam in my eye and thought I could discover a mote in Joseph's eye, though it was nothing but a beam in my eye; I was so completely darkened that I did not think on the Savior's injunction: "Thou hypocrite, why beholdest thou the mote which is in thy brother's eye, when a beam is in thine own eye; first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, then thou shalt see clearly to get the mote out of thy brother's eye."
Had I seen this I should have discovered myself a hypocrite, but as I had often said while in the Church, if I ever apostatized I would go away quietly; I tried to do so, but the Saints kept inquiring of me if I was going to leave, and so did Joseph twice. I evaded him both times. The last time he almost got me into so tight a corner I could hardly evade. He put the question direct to me, whether I was going to leave? With an affected look of contempt I answered: "Joseph when you see me leave the Church, you will see a good fellow leave it."
After making preparations I started from Far West and moved three miles out of town, ostensibly for the purpose of settling, and soon moved off to Clay County, and from thence to Richmond, Ray County, where I saw David, John and Jacob Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, who had all apostatized.
I enquired seriously of David if it was true that he had seen the angel, according to his testimony as one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He replied as sure as there is a God in heaven, he saw the angel according to his testimony in that book. I asked him, if so, why he did not stand by Joseph? He answered, in the days when Joseph received the Book of Mormon, and brought it forth, he was a good man and filled with the Holy Ghost, but he considered he had now fallen. I interrogated Oliver Cowdery in the same manner, who answered similarly.