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Into the Latter Day Light

An Autobiography by Seventy John J. Cornish

Chapter 9—A Notable Case of Divine Intervention

Seventy John J. Cornish
Seventy John J. Cornish
Seventy John J. Cornish
Seventy John J. Cornish

I must chronicle an event which occurred in 1875 in the city of London, Ontario, December 29, at a baptism in the River Thames, south branch, at which time two young ladies were baptized, viz: Mrs. Polly Taylor and Miss Sarah Lively. Of this Miss Lively wrote seven days later as follows:

LONDON, ONTARIO, January 5, 1876.—I have been in London the last three weeks visiting my sister where I first enjoyed listening to the true gospel as taught by the Latter Day Saints. I was converted under the preaching of Brother J. J. Cornish, and feel rejoiced that I can bear testimony to the truth of the work, fully convinced that this is the work of God; and ever shall I praise God that he has been pleased to lead me from the darkness into the light of the gospel. Although a constant attendant of the P. M. C., I was blind to much of the gospel truth until I was baptized and became a believer in the doctrine as taught by the Latter Day Saints; and I shall ever bless God for the hour that I submitted to bow in obedience to his commands. I shall never forget the glorious sight witnessed by myself and a number of my brothers and sisters in Christ at once. On entering the water to be baptized, I felt that God was with me and acknowledged me by shining a beautiful light down upon me from above. The heavens seemed lighted up with a bright and shining light, which continued to shine until I was immersed in the water and arose with the blessed assurance that my sins were washed away, and returned home rejoicing.

As yet my parents know nothing of the change, and from my heart I pray God will lead them into the true light that I now rejoice in; and I hope they will very shortly join our number, as I know they were never opposed to the belief of the doctrine of the Saints, inasmuch as they ever heard. [Her parents and relatives were baptized later.—J. J. C.] Praying that we may all continue firm in the strength and power from God, I, too, am your sister in Christ. Sarah Lively.— Saints' Herald, vol. 23, p. 54.

On account of working at daily labor this baptism was performed on Wednesday, late in the evening of December 29, 1875; an intensely dark night. After our prayer meeting Mrs. John Taylor and Miss Sarah Lively, who had, as stated in her letter, attended our meetings in the city, were baptized by me in the River Thames, when suddenly there came a very beautiful light from heaven, which rested upon all—both members and nonmembers—brighter than the sun at noonday. There were about thirty persons present, and I feel sure that none of them could forget that night. It came down with a sound like a mighty rushing wind. We could hear it far above in the distance, and as it reached the place where we stood we were enveloped in the brightest and most beautiful light I ever saw—the glory of the Lord. After making the covenant I took the hand of one of those dear sisters and led her into the water and baptized her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, burying her in the water for the remission of sins; and while I stood in that water to thus baptize, with my hands raised toward the heaven, I glanced upward, and how far it seemed I could see! And while administering the ordinance as I thought of the words I used, "Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you," etc., the Spirit thrilled through me as much as to say, "Yes, you have been commissioned to thus act." It was an added testimony to me. Then the other sister was baptized after the same manner as the first, while we were thus walking in the light—the glorious light of God.

The light was round, straight up and down like a shaft from heaven to earth, and just as bright on the inside edge as it was in the center; and so far as we could see, it was just as dark on the outer edge as it was a mile away. Previous to our baptizing there had been a thaw; the ice had broken up, the great chunks and cakes of ice were floating down the river, which made it dangerous, especially in the dark. God not only gave us light to see, but also the power of the Holy Ghost to direct, and I did not notice one particle of ice the size of one's hand passing down until we had gone in and out twice and both had been baptized.

Among the number of people who witnessed the scene were John Taylor, the husband of Mrs. Taylor. He came from behind the crowd of people who were present, knelt down by my side with his arms around my body, and said: "Oh, Brother Cornish, pray for me. This is enough to convince anyone that this gospel is true. Pray for my father and mother in England, that they may hear this gospel, too. Oh, I know this is the true gospel, and I will obey it." He, as well as all that company who were not then baptized (about ten),. afterwards came to the church for baptism.

No greater light did the Apostle Paul see when on his way to Damascus to persecute the saints. We were not struck blind, as was the man Paul, for we were not on a mission to persecute the Saints as he was, but we did the will of God only.

While standing in the water by the side of the first candidate and having the hand raised, using the words, "Having been commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you," etc., came the words to my mind with double assurance, "Yes, you have been commissioned to thus act," and at the same time an extra portion of the Holy Spirit came in confirmation. These two sisters now live in the State of Missouri at Independence. The Sister Lively of that day is now Sister May, the wife of Roderick May. Sister Taylor having changed her name by marriage, is now Sister W. A. Bushnell, also of Independence.

One who had made fun about us and our work, viz, William Clow, was the only one of the whole company who did not fall on his knees in prayer to God at the time of baptism, and he alone heard the voice from heaven saying to him, "These are my people and you must not laugh at them."

As I came to the bank with the first candidate, I saw Brother Clow standing and looking up as one spellbound. On his right was Augustus Depper, kneeling on one knee with both hands clasped together, looking upward, tears running down his cheeks, praying, and the words I heard were: "We thank thee, O God, that thou hast acknowledged us in the presence of our opposers."

The newly baptized sister, upon reaching the bank, fell on her knees with the others; the other sister then arose and came forward, and as I took her by the hand I heard many voices: "Praise the Lord," "We thank thee, O God, for thy blessing," but not loud or confusing. While nearing the proper depth for baptism, this sister exclaimed, "Oh, Brother Johnnie, isn't this grand? Oh, I know this gospel is true." After baptism and dismissal the light did not go out, but gradually up until it vanished from our sight, leaving us in darkness as dense and impenetrable as before.

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