We had a very rough passage, head winds nearly all the way. The vessel, The Australian, just new from England, was a first rate sea boat, Clipper built. One evening we had the wind off our quarter, every stitch of canvas was set. The First Mate told the captain he could see a squall coming, but he thought it would not reach us. But before they had time to shorten sail the squall took us, threw the vessel over on her beam; the bulwarks were entirely under water. A great excitement prevailed, the Captain gave orders through his speaking trumpet to let everything go. As soon as this was done she righted much to the astonishment of everybody. At the time this happened we were just off the mouth of Cook's Straight, the wind increased to hurricane and we were soon driving before it under a fair topmast stay sail. This storm blew us about four hundred and fifty miles back, delayed us a week. However, after fourteen days passage we anchored at Wellington Harbor.
The first person I met was the Reverend Jonas Woodward. He shook me very cordially by the hand, informed me that my mother and Alfred had sold our farm, and mother was keeping a boarding house up Willis Street. A short walk took me home. I cannot describe the scene, my sister, Amelia, hung around my neck and cried with joy. They all seemed really glad to see me once more. However I was not contented, before I had been home a week I wished myself back at the mines. It had been my intention to settle down in New Zealand if they had not sold our place in Karari.
Shortly after I got home I went sawing with Thomas Holder. We made twenty dollars a week easy, for timber was worth five dollars per thousand feet.
Much against the entreaties of my mother and sisters and my friends I engaged passage for both Alfred and Clement, my youngest brother, and on the 1st of October, 1853 we set sail for Melbourne, Victoria Colony, Australia, in the Penyard Park. She proved a very leaky vessel, in fact, before we arrived in port we had to pump night and day incessantly.
About the end of October we arrived in Hobson's Bay. We stayed one night at the home where I found Mr. Francis Evans, whom I had known in New Zealand. He was a very zealous Methodist. He introduced a Mr. Frost to us, and as he said he was going to Geelory, I asked him if he would take a parcel for Mr. Charles Webb, that I had brought from Wellington. He replied, "Yes I will, with pleasure." However, before he left he told Mr. Evans to give us some good advice when we got up in the mines. As we determined to go right on, Mr. Evans said he would like us to live in, and take care of, his cabin until he came up which would not be for a week or two. We started on November 1st, arriving on Monday evening, November 5th, deciding to rest awhile in order to get over the effects of our long and weary march.
On the following Sunday while at dinner, a gentleman whom I judged to be a Methodist preacher (for I knew Mr. Evans was a Methodist before I went home last June) came in accompanied by a number of others and informed us they were going to hold meeting. I asked the preacher if he would take a cup of coffee, with this commenced a conversation. As soon as the things were cleared off the table, Thomas Holder, who had accompanied us from New Zealand, Clement and I started to go prospecting, but the preacher came out and said we had better come in for he would do us no harm. I thought it would look rather disrespectful if we went away, so concluded to stay. Well, shortly afterward the meeting commenced. I must confess I was struck at the peculiarity of the hymns. The hymn books were in pamphlet form and headed "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". I thought to myself, the Methodists are getting up. If I was astonished at the hymns and tunes, I was still more so at the prayer that was offered up by the preacher. He prayed to the Lord to bless the Prophet, Seer and Revelator, Brigham Young, his councilors, the twelve Apostles and others. I was full of wonder and curiosity. I never had such feelings before in my life. I asked myself the question, "Who can Brigham Young be?" and again, "Who can the twelve apostles be?" It would be impossible for me to tell the hundredth part of what passed through my mind.
After singing another hymn the preacher read a passage from the Book of Mormon. "What book can that be?" thought I to myself. I would very much like to read it for I had never heard that there was such a book before. Well, to proceed, the preacher also read part of the 15th chapter of St. Mark's Gospel, and then preached Faith, Repentance, Baptism for the remission of sins, also the gift of the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands. Talked about Joseph Smith, gave us a brief history of the Church, the persecutions, etc. I cannot describe my feelings. I could not help paying deep attention, yea, I felt inspired, my heart was drawn toward the speaker, I watched for every word for it seemed good to my soul. The speaker finished his discourse by relating to us part of his history, how he passed through Great Salt Lake City (not then a Mormon) left his family there among the Mormons, and since he left most of his family had joined the Church.
The speaker, in search of gold, first in California, then came on to Australia for the same purpose, and on his arrival in Sidney he was baptized, ordained the same day and sent on a mission*. That he had not long arrived, had never preached before in his life, felt his weakness, but like the Apostles of old, he depended entirely on the Holy Ghost for assistance. However, I thought it was the most sensible and reasonable sermon I ever heard.
After meeting was over the preacher (or Mormon Elder) walked across the room, laid his hands upon my shoulders and said, looking me earnestly in the face at the same time, "Young Man, if you will obey the requirements of the Gospel it will not only be the means of saving you, but also your family and friends in the Kingdom of God."
I asked, "What Gospel?" I did not want to be in a hurry.
He replied, "Don't you believe what I have been preaching about?"
I answered, "Yes, I certainly believe for it is in accordance with the teachings contained in the Bible, and I have been taught to believe it to be the word of God." I then asked him if he would loan me a Book of Mormon. He not only loaned it to me, but also "The Voice of Warning", which he assured me was very interesting. I almost forgot to state that before the meeting was over several of the Mormons stood up and bore testimony to the truthfulness of Mormonism.
Well, after the congregation were all dismissed and gone away, Alfred commenced a long tirade against the Mormons. Said if he had known he would not have stayed to meeting, expressed his hopes that we would never go again for they were a very dangerous set of people, they practiced plurality of wives, a most abominable doctrine. I wondered where he got his information for I had never heard there was such a people on earth and I had traveled more than he had, however, I told him I believed Mormonism so far, and I was going to investigate it and know for myself. He called the Book of Mormon trash, etc. He said he could take the New Testament and confound the whole sect. The next day the Mormon Elder, Elder William Cooke, came down to see us. I told him what my brother had said before his face; about the plurality of wives etc. He replied: "It is true, we as a people do practice the doctrine, but it is no worse for us to practice it now than it was for the ancients." Suffice to say, he explained everything to my satisfaction. Oh! Bye the bye, a word in regard to Alfred confounding the whole sect. Elder Cooke told him if he had the truth and knew that the Mormons were wrong it was his duty to prove it, adding that the next meeting they would let Alfred have a chance to prove all he could, however, Alfred backed out. I rather guess he was afraid to try it for the Mormons, according to his own acknowledgment, were great scriptorians.
Elder Cooke informed us that Mr. Evans had joined the Church and that he held the Aaronic Priesthood.
We worked very hard but got very little gold. Alfred began to get disheartened and talked of going home. Brother Evans and family arrived sometime during the following week. After he came we had Mormonism from morning till night, and I might say from night till morning. Alfred could get no peace, and finally after staying three weeks he made up his mind to go home to New Zealand. He took what little gold and cash we had, left us half a loaf of bread and about two ounces of arrowroot. I lay in bed with the Cholera Morbus. Clement also complained, and Thomas declared he could not work on account of a pain in his stomach. Alfred bade us goodbye and I have never seen his face since; it is now nearly five years ago. But to return to our story, we didn't quite starve for before the week was up we succeeded in getting 2 or 3 ounces of gold.
We attended every Mormon meeting and most every evening we went and heard them sing. I got real fond of their company, though the good Christians called us fools, said we were deluded. I was ready to be baptized from the first but Thomas Holder wanted me to wait for him. Finally I told him I was not going to wait longer, if he could not make up his mind I could not help it. He answered: "Well I do wish you would try and see what it is like, adding that he was afraid it was not true. On Sunday, January 12, 1854, we went over to Maiden Flat to meeting. During the services I had a second attack of the Cholera Morbus, (the third attack generally proves fatal) and as the Mormons had been preaching about the gift of healing, I determined to be baptized. I concluded if I was healed it would be a testimony to me of the truth of Mormonism. Accordingly on the way home after the meeting I spoke to Elder Cooke about it and to my astonishment Clement offered himself as a candidate for baptism also. We were both baptized and confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the same evening in a place called The Sheep Wash, after which we held meeting. I never had a lighter heart in my life, indeed, I might say I never knew what joy was till I became a Mormon. It appeared to me that I had been blind and had suddenly received my sight. My mind was enlightened, everything seemed perfectly plain and natural, and I was not ashamed to bear testimony to the truth, for the Spirit of God bore witness with my spirit that the Kingdom of God was once more established on the earth with all its power and authority, even the Holy Priesthood.
The next Saturday, Thomas Holder was baptized, seeing we liked it so well. Most of our former (pretended) friends and companions shunned our company. It took most of our time, even when we might have been at work, to defend the principles of Mormonism. As time flew I felt a desire to increase in knowledge and understanding; I shall never forget the first time I got up in meeting to bear my testimony. I scarcely knew whether I was on foot or on horseback. I do not believe that Belshazzer's knees knocked together more than mine did, but this feeling gradually wore off, that is to a certain extent, for even now when called upon to speak in public I commence trembling.
After we had been in the Church six or eight weeks, Clement and I wrote home on the first principles of the Gospel, we had an idea that as soon as they heard the truth that they would obey it at the first opportunity. However, we were dreadfully mistaken. For in the due course of time, I believe in the month of June, we received letters from home, from mother and our two sisters, (shall I record it) full of abuse toward the Prophet Joseph Smith and the church in general. They even went so far as to say they were ashamed to own us any longer as members of the family. The letter contained no arguments but were filled with false assertions. My heart was so sore I could not forbear shedding tears. I then began to realize that I had to round up my shoulders, though forsaken by my own dear mother, brothers, and sisters, and obey all the commandments of God as far and as fast as they were made known to me. To tell the truth, after this I began to realize that all those who obeyed the requirement of the Gospel were nearer and dearer to me than all former friends or relatives. Well, we wrote home repeatedly but received no answer to our letters, although I stated in them if they would prove from the Bible that the doctrine of even Polygamy was unscriptural I would renounce Mormonism.
* footnote 1:
Parley P. Pratt, set apart in 1851 as president of the mission to the Pacific Islands, "...sent Elders John Murdock and Charles Wandell to Australia in 1851, and 1852 nine other missionaries to Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. Branches were established in each of these lands... All of these missions have been continuous since that time." The Restored Church, p. 275