Apostle Gomer T. Griffiths
Gomer T. Griffiths
My father, David Griffiths, was born in South Wales, about 1805. He was married to my mother, Martha Davis, in 1835; she was born in Llandovery, South Wales, on February 12, 1819. They united with the church during Captain Dan Jones’ first visit to Wales.
My father was ordained a deacon, in which capacity he acted for a number of years in the Merthyr Branch. In May, 1855, they emigrated to America, and settled in the mountainous regions of Eastern Pennsylvania. In 1857 they removed to Syracuse, Ohio. Here in the early days of the Reorganization they became identified with it, under the ministrations of Apostles James Blakeslee and W. W. Blair.
My father was soon afterwards ordained an elder, which position he filled at the time of his death. He died at Bevier, Macon County, Missouri, December 26, 1871, strong in the faith, and testified in his dying hours, he had the assurance given him by the Spirit “That he would come forth in the resurrection of the just.” During the thirty-six years of their married life, fourteen children were born to them, six of whom survived him, three sons and three daughters. My mother still resides at Bevier, waiting patiently the summons calling her to her happy eternal home, to join the loved ones gone before her.
I first saw the light of day in Minersville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, June 2, 1856. I was blessed by Bro. W. W. Blair; was baptized April 22, 1877, at Canton, Illinois, by Bro. Jeremiah Jeremiah (a seventy); was ordained a priest on the same day. During the last of the summer and fall of that year, I traveled for a short time with Bro. W. T. Maitland, he preaching, and I acting as helper. In the winter I visited Bro. Larkey at Ironton, Iowa. Bro. Larkey was quite advanced in years, and a very faithful brother. One Saturday morning he informed me that an announcement for preaching had been made at Hickory Grove Schoolhouse, a place about five miles distant, and that he and I would go and fill the appointment. I told him I had never preached, neither was I able to do so; however, that evening found us at the place appointed. The idea that I was to be spokesman was far from my mind; in fact, I gave the matter no thought. The schoolhouse was packed with people with only a few Saints present. Bro. Larkey opened the services in the usual way, and started to preach as I supposed, but he only talked a few minutes and then introduced me as the speaker of the evening. I arose to my feet without the slightest idea as to what I was going to speak about; and had it been possible would have rushed from the place.
After rising a text impressed itself very strongly on my mind, and I started. I had been speaking as I thought only a short time, and was very much surprised to learn, that I had spoken forty-five minutes. After learning this fact, I felt very much encouraged, and readily understood the Lord had assisted me. I was very grateful for the help thus vouchsafed to me. I was also inspired with much confidence to trust God in the future. At the close of the service Bro. Larkey announced me as the speaker for the following Sunday.
Previous to this time I had always disliked the hymn, “Nearer My God to Thee,” and always did my best to shun the use of it. The audience on the Sunday evening was composed chiefly of Presbyterians and their leader started the singing with this good old hymn. Such a change was wrought in me that I thought I never heard anything half so sweet in my life, and since that occasion, it has always been a great favorite with me. It seemed to cause me to realize the close relationship that should exist between God and his ministry. From that period all my time has been devoted to preaching. The Lord has remembered me in his loving kindness. To his name be all the honor and glory.
In January, 1878, I was ordained an elder by Bro. E. M. Wildermuth, at Inland, Iowa. Shortly afterwards I went to Canton, Illinois, and met with the Saints in the Kewanee District conference. At this conference I was appointed a mission in connection with Bro. Joseph A. Crawford. We traveled together some time. We called at Colchester, Illinois, and spent a short time with Sr. Lucy Milliken, sister of Joseph the Martyr, who treated us with every kindness and consideration. Our next point was Tennessee, Illinois, where we held forth for some days in a Baptist church building. Whilst there we were joined by Elder William B. Smith, with whom we visited Sr. Catherine Salisbury, sister of Joseph the Seer. I then went to Missouri and traveled exclusively in the Northeastern Missouri District; labored much in Salt River, where a good sized branch of the church was raised up, and where I had the pleasure of baptizing quite a number.
I desire to relate some incidents that happened during one of my visits to this place. At the close of my discourses four married men made application for baptism. Bro. D. Winn was one of the number. On the Sabbath following, we repaired to the water’s edge to administer the rite of baptism. I led three of the men into the water and baptized them without any interruption whatever, and likewise led the fourth candidate to the same place as I had the others. Just as I was in the act of performing the ceremony some one called my attention to the man, who appeared to be in a fainting condition. I began leading him out of the water, but before I reached the bank he revived and requested me to take him back. This was repeated two or three times, when suddenly he stopped, and placing his hand to his mouth removed a quid of tobacco and said, “Take me back. I am all right now.” I then baptized him without further trouble.
Another time, Bro. David Winn had a little girl who had pined away to a mere skeleton. Her father requested me to administer to her. I went to his house; but after I saw the child’s condition I was so convinced that the little one could not live until morning that I did not administer. The child was still alive next morning and I felt led to administer to her, which I did. About three months after this I was present at a quarterly conference at Salt River; while there saw Sr. Winn. She led a fine looking little girl by the hand and asked me if I knew the child. I acknowledged I did not, and was much surprised to learn that she was the same little girl I had given up for dead three months previous. Our heavenly Father in his abundant mercy had completely restored her to health.
During my early experience in the ministry, I returned home from a preaching tour, to Bevier, Missouri; had only just arrived at my mother’s house, when a little boy came to the door, asking me to go quickly to his mother’s house, as his little brother was in a very bad state. Of course I honored the summons, and found the little boy in a spasmodic fit. He had been subject to these fits from his birth, and had now reached the age of seven years. I administered to him, he was healed, and has never been troubled with anything of the kind since. He is now a young man, and can testify to this miracle. He is a son of Bro. John Morgan, of Bevier, Missouri. There were many such incidents in those days, all of which tended to confirm the word preached, and to increase my confidence in the Lord.
In the spring of 1879 I labored with Bro. William B. Smith, in the Northeastern and Northwestern Districts of Missouri. I was with him when he visited Far West Temple Lot, and preached on the corner-stone of the Temple. He took for his subject, “What is a Temple;” and delivered one of the finest and ablest discourses on that topic it has ever been my lot to listen to. I am thankful I had the privilege of traveling with “Uncle” William, and my testimony is that he was a noble and faithful man, one of the kindest and best of friends. I received much encouragement and assistance from him in my efforts for the Lord. It was also my good fortune to become associated that year with Brn. A. H. Smith and William T. Bozarth, and R. Etzenhouser, all three of whom took an interest in my welfare and assisted me greatly with their good counsel. I have always felt a warm feeling in my heart for these brethren, and shall always remember the pleasant hours we spent together.
In the fall of the year I attended for the first time a semiannual conference at Gallands Grove, Iowa. I was not only very agreeably surprised to see the large number of people present, but stimulated to press forward in the work I had espoused; it was encouraging to me to be associated for so many days with such good, cheerful, happy people.
At this conference I was ordained a seventy. After I returned home from conference I passed through a terrible time of darkness, almost doubting the call that I had received because of my conscious inability to magnify the office; but the Lord in his mercy shortly afterwards gave me abundant evidence of the divinity of the call.
An incident which seemed remarkably strange, to me at that time, happened one day as I was preparing to set out on a short preaching tour. I was waiting for a train to take me to a place called Macon City; and while pacing to and fro on the platform of the depot, I heard a small voice, saying, “You will yet be called to be one of the Lord’s apostles.” Needless to say, this caused a very peculiar sensation to come over me; and I candidly admit I did not have any faith in it, and was inclined to believe it was given by the powers of darkness, with a view to put vain thoughts in my head calculated to cause my downfall. Nevertheless it made such a strong impression on me that I could not throw it off.
In the spring of 1880 I was sent to Canada under the direction of Bro. William H. Kelley. Went from Plano, Illinois, where the conference was held, to Galien, Michigan. Was accompanied to that place by Brn. G. A. Blakeslee (who afterward became Bishop of the church), Heman C. Smith, and Morris T. Short. Bro. Blakeslee directed our labors during our sojourn there. We were to bombard the town from three different points. My position was about two miles from town, where I was to hold forth in a schoolhouse. I must confess that I did not accept the situation with any degree of satisfaction or pleasure, but felt it my duty to obey the injunction, and soon began operations.
The second night after my arrival at Galien I had a dream in which I saw myself fishing beside a small stream. I thought I caught eight fish varying in size and form. Some were excellent in quality, others not quite so good.
After I had been preaching about two or three weeks, I extended an invitation for baptism. Eight persons responded. Among the number were Bro. John Shook and wife, of Buchanan, Michigan. Both have been faithful warriors for Christ ever since.
In June, 1880, in company with Bro. C. Scott, I arrived in London, Canada. Labored there until early spring of 1881. During this time I baptized about thirty. I attended General Conference, at Plano, Illinois, in April, receiving a mission from there to Missouri and Illinois. On the nineteenth of this month I was married to Sr. Hattie A. Robbins, of Worcester, Massachusetts. We have had seven children given to us, four boys and three girls; five of whom await us on the other side, leaving us Martha L. and Hattie to still comfort and cheer us.
At the semiannual conference of 1881 I was reappointed to labor in Canada, under J. H. Lake. In April 1882, my appointment was Pennsylvania and Ohio, under Bro. Josiah Ells. I was chosen to preside over Pittsburg [Pittsburgh] and Kirtland District, which office I held for a number of years.
In the spring of 1887 I was chosen and ordained an apostle and appointed with Brn. W. H. Kelley and E. C. Briggs in associate charge of New England and Middle States. From 1888 to 1892 I was placed in charge of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. In 1892 and 1893 I was associated with J. W. Gillen in charge of European Mission. In 1894 was reappointed in charge of my former mission. In 1895 was reappointed to European Mission, associated with Bro. James Caffall. In August of this year I visited Iceland. In 1896 was placed in charge of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Northeastern Kentucky.
For the past nineteen years I have been constantly engaged in missionary work. Have been instrumental through the help of the Lord in bringing into the fold several hundred. Have striven to do all work required of me, incidental to ministerial labor.
Note by the Historian.—Since writing the above Elder Griffiths has been constantly engaged in the ministry. A part of the time laboring in Ohio and adjoining States, a part of the time on Pacific Slope, and making two more trips to the British Isles. His present appointment is to Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. His home is at Kirtland, Ohio.
(RLDS History of the Church 4:716–722)