Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Daniel Edward Williams
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Daniel Edward Williams was born on 23 December 1802 in Penally, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, to John Williams and Ann Griffiths. Just four years later, however, his father died, leaving his mother to raise four children. Being inclined towards religion, at the age of twelve Daniel began attending Sunday school and church services. He later remembered of that early period: “I was very young when I was taught to read the bible and was accustomed to seriously thinking about the state of my soul, and wished to know how I could please God and get deliverance from sin, which at that early period of my life had become a great burden on my mind.”1 At the age of sixteen he joined the Baptist church and preached for that denomination for several years. During this period, on 13 July 1827 he married Catherine Jenkins, also of Pembrokeshire, South Wales. She bore him two children, John Jenkins, born on 19 November 1827, and Mary. Daniel continued preaching until he became discouraged with the infighting and secularism among the various churches. As a result he gathered together a small group of people to study the Bible and seek truth without “the shackles of a sectarian system,”2 for which the Baptists summarily excommunicated him.
In this state of religious confusion Daniel was first introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through a tract written by Orson Pratt titled “An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records.”3 Daniel recalled: “I felt that it was true…It was just the thing that I wanted, and I hoped that God would send his servants to Wales that I might have the chance of obeying the heavenly message.”4 However, subsequent anti-Mormon propaganda dissuaded him from meeting with the Mormon missionaries after they arrived in Wales. Then on 25 March 1846 his wife died and he moved with his children to Rhymney, Wales, where a small branch of the church had been organized. There Daniel’s brother, John, became converted and baptized into the church, and bore testimony to Daniel of its truthfulness. Daniel proceeded to attend the Mormon meetings, and when he “could not withstand their testimony any longer” he was baptized in March 1847.5 Soon afterwards he was blessed by an elder of the church for an intestinal ailment and was miraculously healed; of this occurrence he later wrote: “I felt the healing power of God pass through my whole frame in an instant like electricity driving before it every pain and disease which I had been suffering for so long. I thanked the Lord for it and retired to rest,…waked in the morning free from pain.”6
Several months later Daniel was called to preach the gospel in Wales as a missionary and he readily accepted this assignment, although it meant having to work all day and preach during the evenings. He faced much opposition to his message among his native countrymen, who frequently threw rocks at him and his companions; on one occasion following a meeting he wrote: “A mob gathered outside and attacked the house with stones….When the brethren were going home peaceably, the mob followed them, pelting the men women and children with stones.”7 But Daniel did find success, baptizing many and organizing several branches of the church in Wales. He frequently served as clerk during conferences and councils, recording minutes and taking notes of the proceedings. He also labored as first counselor in the Pembrokeshire Conference and as branch president on several different occasions. On 1 January 1852 he married Mary Howells, also from Wales. Daniel’s mission ended in 1853.
Following his mission Daniel and his family emigrated to America on board the ship Jersey, which departed from Liverpool, England on 5 February 1853 and arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 22. They then journeyed to Utah in the Joseph W. Young Company, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley on 10 October 1853, and settling in Tooele, Tooele County. There Daniel most likely engaged in farming and by 1880 he was living alone, a widower, working a small plot of land. Daniel Edward Williams died on 5 June 1882 at home in Tooele.
1 Daniel Williams, “Diary and Autobiography, 1852,” p. 2-3, MSS 667, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., p. 9.
3 Daniel mistakenly identifies the author of this tract as Parley P. Pratt.
4 Ibid., p. 13.
5 Ibid., p. 18.
6 Ibid., p. 20.
7 Ibid., 1 August 1852.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 14 January 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Mormon Immigration Index [CD-ROM]. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000.
Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003. 14 January 2003 available from http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearch/.
United States Census, 1860, 1880. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 14 January 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/census/usfedcen/main.htm.
Williams, Daniel. “Diary and Autobiography, 1852.” MSS 667, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.