“My, but this boat is slow!” Sarah Thomas complained as the paddle steamer inched its way up the Mississippi River. She was sure the boat was standing still and that the trees were floating past! Even time seemed to stand still that warm day.
Sarah’s mind began to wander. She thought about the day in England a few years before, when a neighbor came knocking at their door. “There be a new preacher in town,” he announced. “Come and listen to him. Everyone’s meeting at the tithing barn.”
“I have a harness to mend,” her father answered without looking up. “It won’t mend itself.”
“His name is Heber Kimball, and he be from the Americas!” the neighbor added excitedly. “They say that he be a great preacher. He preaches about a new religion! The people of Preston really liked him.”
“Well, now,” Sarah’s father said thoughtfully. “An American preacher. I wonder if American preachers have a better tale to tell than British ones. Not a one that I’ve ever listened to preached the truth.” He stitched the leather absentmindedly. A new religion, he thought. I guess I’ll give him a chance.
As the neighbor hurried on his way to spread the word, the Thomas family prepared for the meeting. They didn’t have any other clothes to change into, but they washed themselves and brushed the clothes that they were wearing. Sarah brushed and rebraided her hair.
When they got to the busy town, some of their neighbors were hurrying to the tithing barn. Some of those who had already arrived at the meeting place were caring for their horses; others stood around talking and laughing. They were all eager for the American preacher to arrive.
The people of Chatburn liked to listen to preachers. But after the preachers moved on, it was as though the towns-people were still hungry for something that they didn’t have—the truth. No one in Chatburn had ever joined any of the churches that sent missionaries to their town.
When the American preacher walked into the town square, the people eagerly surrounded him. After they had crowded into the barn, there were so many of them that the preacher had to stand on top of a barrel to speak.
Sarah, who was used to hearing preachers, listened only halfheartedly when he began to talk. They all preach the same thing, she thought. But soon Elder Kimball’s message began to pierce her mind. He was preaching of a Savior who not only came to earth and was crucified but lived still. Elder Kimball bore such a powerful testimony of the living Savior that Sarah began to feel a warm glow, and she could tell that people around her were feeling the same thing. She strained to catch every word. Elder Kimball taught them that everyone must first have faith in Jesus Christ. Then they must repent and be baptized.
“This is it!” Sarah said to herself. “He speaks the truth!”
After the meeting, the people surged around Elder Kimball. Mrs. Partinton tugged on his sleeve. “Please, I want to be baptized!” Soon others were also asking to be baptized.
Sarah wanted desperately to add her own request for baptism, but she couldn’t be heard from the back. As she waited for her chance, the crowd flowed out the doors and down to the river. Following them, she watched as Elder Kimball baptized several people.
Her father found her in the crowd. “Come, Sarah,” he said. “It’s time to get the wee ones home.” Baby Josiah was asleep in her mother’s arms, and Timothy was crying softly as he leaned against her father. Sarah knew that she must obey, so she followed them. As they walked, she became very sleepy. It was a struggle to walk and to listen to her parents.
“I want to be baptized, Joshua,” her mother said softly. “He’s brought Christ’s true church to us.”
She heard her father chuckle softly. “Yes, he has.”
“What’s funny?” Mother asked.
“I was just thinking of all those other preachers who have come to Chatburn,” her father answered. “Not a one of us would join with them. They think that we are wild and hard-hearted. If they could only see us now! This one man has changed everything.”
“Father,” Sarah said sleepily, “I want to be baptized. May I?”
“Yes. Brother Kimball is leaving for Clitheroe tonight, but he’ll be back. We’ll be baptized when he comes again.”
The next few days were very long for Sarah. She did everything that she could think of to make the time go faster. One morning, when she was returning from taking a basket of scones to Mrs. Root, who was sick, she saw Elder Kimball on the path to town. She ran the rest of the way home to tell her family. In a short time, they were back in town, ready for a meeting. This time so many people had gathered that they met outside. Elder Kimball stood on a stone wall and preached to the people, and it was just as before. Sarah felt the Holy Ghost tell her that he spoke the truth.
Sarah and her parents were baptized that night. What a good feeling it was to know that they were all members of Christ’s true church. She felt clean and right.
Things changed in Chatburn after that. Parents began to teach their children what Elder Kimball had taught them. The children listened to their parents and obeyed Christ’s commandments. A new happiness and peace filled the village.
A few weeks later the man they now called Brother Kimball returned to their village. The children saw him on the path and, singing the songs of Zion, raced to meet him. They grabbed his arms and held on to his coat. Their parents stood in the doors of their homes as the group passed; they called out blessings on the man who had changed their lives.
What a wonderful time it was for Sarah! Brother Kimball continued to teach them. She learned more about the Prophet Joseph Smith, through whom the Lord restored the true church, and she felt a strong desire to see a living prophet.
Soon the word was spread throughout England: “The Saints are gathering in Nauvoo. Come to Nauvoo!”
“Nauvoo!” The cry jerked Sarah back to the present. The boat was rounding a curve, and now she could see people and buildings.
The Saints pressed eagerly against the rail of the boat as they searched for a glimpse of their new home. Sarah was searching, too, searching for someone very special. She wanted to see the Prophet. She had heard that sometimes he met new arrivals at the dock. Will I know him when I see him? she wondered.
As the boat neared the dock, she could distinguish faces. Her eyes stopped on a tall man who stood out above the rest. He had light brown hair and piercing blue eyes that had a twinkle in them. She knew without anyone telling her. He was the Prophet. Her wish had been answered. She was a member of Christ’s true church, and now she had seen His Prophet. Bless Brother Kimball!