As the Maid of Iowa docked in Nauvoo to unload its passengers—more than three hundred British converts—Captain Dan Jones, also a new convert, anxiously searched the crowd of greeters for the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Captain Jones had never seen Joseph Smith, so he was startled when a “large, comely man” approached him and shook his hand, saying “God bless you, brother.” When the man returned a little later, Dan Jones realized that this was the very person for whom he was looking.
Born August 4, 1810, in Halkin, North Wales, Dan Jones was the sixth of Thomas and Ruth Jones’s eight children. He grew up in a land rich in poetry, music, and rolling hills. Unfortunately a journal for him has not been found, so little is known about his early life. But during his adulthood he was a zealous missionary and defender of the Church.
When he was about sixteen, Dan became a mariner and traveled all over the world. Later, after his marriage, Dan and his wife, Jane, immigrated to the United States, where he became the captain of the Ripple, a steamboat on the Mississippi River. After the Ripple struck a rock and sank, he built another steamer, the Maid of Iowa.
The Maid of Iowa carried many English converts from New Orleans to Nauvoo, and mobs often tried to get aboard to harm the boat and its passengers. Once a mob even set fire to the boat, but it was put out before much damage was done. Sometimes Joseph and Hyrum Smith preached from its decks; it was also used to haul freight for the Nauvoo Temple. And at one time the steamboat was used in an attempt to rescue the Prophet Joseph Smith when he was illegally arrested.
Dan Jones had been baptized into the Church in the spring of 1843, and he was with Joseph Smith at Carthage Jail the night before the Prophet was killed. As they lay next to each other on the hard floor, the Prophet asked his Welsh friend if he was afraid to die.
“Has that time come think you?” Dan asked. “Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.”
The Prophet then gave what would be his last recorded prophecy as he told Dan, “You will yet see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed you ere you die.”
The next day Dan Jones left Carthage to deliver a letter from Joseph Smith to a lawyer. A mob, thinking that Dan was going for help from the Nauvoo Legion, went after him, firing bullets all around him. Fortunately Dan accidentally took a wrong road, and the mob did not catch him. The next day he learned of the death of Joseph and Hyrum.
Even then the Welshman’s life was in danger. He hid on a steamboat belonging to a friend. A mob, intent on hanging him, went aboard but could not find Dan, who had hidden under a mattress. His life was again spared, and two months later he was sailing for his native Wales to fulfill a four-year mission and the prophecy.
The first year of Elder Jones’s mission was discouraging because of the lack of baptisms. Church membership in Wales at that time was about 250. Near the end of that year he was called as president of the entire Welsh Mission.
During his mission he was able to use the priesthood to heal people. One time he blessed a convert, William Hughes, whose leg had been broken while he was working in a mine. The leg was immediately healed, and witnesses were amazed at the miracle. This resulted in a lot of persecution, however, from a minister who published bitter articles against the Mormons.
Unfortunately most newspapers would not publish anything that Mormons wrote in reply, so Dan decided to publish his own periodical, Prophwyd y Jubili (Prophet of the Jubilee). The name was later changed to Udgorn Seion (Zion’s Trumpet). In addition, Dan published a Welsh hymnal, a history of the Church, and at least sixteen pamphlets.
Though a small man, about five feet six inches tall, Dan Jones was a powerful and colorful speaker. Fluent in Welsh and English, he would often preach for hours, despite pain from lung ailments.
His vigorous writing and preaching brought a great deal of attention to the Church. As the opposition increased, so did the baptisms, and when he finished his mission in January 1849, the members in Wales numbered nearly four thousand.
Dan Jones and his wife returned to America with nearly 250 converts. Many became seasick during the trip, and President Jones lovingly helped care for them. Though all but two of them reached the United States safely, many later died, victims of a cholera epidemic.
The remainder made their way to the Salt Lake Valley to join the main body of Saints and were the first group of foreign-speaking Mormons there. Among these converts were talented members who brought with them the music of their Welsh homeland; many of them were members of the original Tabernacle Choir.
Dan Jones was called to be an explorer and locate sites for future Mormon settlements. He and a group of Welsh converts were called to settle Manti, the fourth Latter-day Saint community in Utah. Dan was elected as the first mayor, and he was influential in keeping peace with the Indians in that area.
Other Welsh communities were established in Wales (Sanpete County), Willard, and Spanish Fork, Utah, and in Malad and Samaria, Idaho. Many of the people made their living by coal mining and dry farming.
In 1854 Brigham Young called Dan Jones to return to Wales as mission president. Again persecution and hatred toward the missionaries was everywhere. But through the untiring efforts of President Jones and the other missionaries, almost two thousand more members were baptized, and at the end of this mission, he returned to the West, crossing the plains with a handcart company.
Back in the Salt Lake Valley, Dan Jones captained the Timely Gull on the Great Salt Lake. This vessel, owned by President Brigham Young, was used to carry salt, cedar wood, and flagstone.
His last years were spent in Provo, Utah, where he died in 1862 from the lung ailment that had afflicted him for so many years.