When John Batty was eight years old, his family was taught the gospel by two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was 1854, and the Battys lived in Pilley, Yorkshire, England.
A few years later, George and Encora Batty and their children joined the Church and applied for passage on a ship sailing from Liverpool to New York City. They were going to Utah to be with the Saints.
A few months before leaving England, eleven-year-old John was skipping up a dirt path toward his home. As he went along the hard-packed trail, he noticed a large apple orchard in a nearby field. He could see that the trees were covered with ripe, red apples. His mouth watered, and he decided to take an apple from the nearest tree.
There was only one problem. The trees did not belong to John, and his father and mother had taught him that being honest was the best way to live. “Never take anything that does not belong to you,” his father had told him many times.
Ignoring his parents’ teachings, John quickly climbed a tree next to the path and picked three large apples. Placing one in each of his pants pockets and one in his mouth, he quickly slid down the tree trunk and raced up the road toward home. Before he got there, he had eaten all three apples and his stomach had begun to ache.
“What gave you a stomachache?” his mother asked.
“I don’t know,” John replied, being dishonest again. He knew that if he told his mother about the apples, she would ask where he got them.
John was tucked into bed to sleep off his illness. As he lay on his straw tick mattress that night, he made a promise to himself: He would work and save enough money to pay for those three apples. And he would tell the owner of the orchard that he had climbed the tree and stolen them.
Before he could keep his promise, however, his family sailed for America. John thought about those stolen apples every day during the long weeks it took to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.
From New York, his family went by boat, stagecoach, covered wagon, and foot to Council Bluffs, Nebraska. There they bought a handcart and piled their belongings in it for the long walk to Utah. Young John Batty walked and helped push the cart all the way. He wore out the only pair of shoes that he owned.
When the Battys arrived in Salt Lake City in September of 1857, President Brigham Young asked them to move on to southern Utah to live among the Indians in a small settlement called Toquerville at “the head of the Ash Creek.”
Barefoot, young John Batty walked the three hundred miles to Toquerville. Every day he thought about the stolen fruit. His conscience was so hurt that he could not even eat an apple.
Thirty years later, long after he was grown up and married, John Batty was called on a mission. He was asked to return to England to preach the gospel to his former friends and family living in the Yorkshire and Nottingham areas of England.
Upon his arrival in Liverpool, John made his way by train back to Pilley. Walking along a path toward the edge of town, he passed the same orchard from which he had stolen the apples as a boy. Standing among the trees was a very old, stooped, white-haired man.
John called out to him, “Do you own this orchard?”
“Yes,” the man replied.
“Have you owned it for a long time?”
Here was John’s chance to repent of stealing those apples. “Sir,” he said, “I used to live nearby when I was just a boy. One day before my family sailed for America, I climbed one of those trees and stole three apples from you. I have been sorry ever since. I would like to ask your forgiveness and also pay you for them.”
“Certainly,” the man said, “but they will cost you three times as much as they cost clear back then.”
“That is fair,” John replied with a smile.
With only a little change in his pocket, John paid for the three stolen apples and bought another one to eat. In his journal that night, he wrote, “That was the sweetest apple I ever tasted!”