Lesson 12: John Taylor—Man of Faith

"Lesson 12: John Taylor—Man of Faith," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, (1996)


The class members will develop faith in Jesus Christ by following the example of John Taylor, who followed the promptings of the Holy Ghost.


  1. 1.

    See that each class member has a copy of the New Testament.

  2. 2.

    Prepare to show the picture of John Taylor from the color section.

  3. 3.

    Bring a scarf or piece of fabric to use as a blindfold in the object lesson.

Suggested Lesson Development



Use the following three questions to lead into a discussion of the early life of John Taylor.

  • Have you ever had a dream, a feeling, or an impression that you should do something?

  • What did you do about it?

  • What was the result of your impression?

After discussing the questions (you may wish to share a personal experience), lead into the following information about John Taylor.


Display the picture of John Taylor.

John Taylor’s Boyhood Was Spiritual

Biography and discussion

John Taylor was born 1 November 1808 in Milnthorpe, Westmoreland, England, one of ten children. Although his family was not wealthy, they were close-knit and religious, and the family was taught the value of hard work. John worked on a farm on the family estate and later became a woodturner, shaping pieces of wood for various uses.

Although John was baptized as an infant, he cared little for his parents’ faith. As a youth he had a dream. “He saw, in vision, an angel in the heavens, holding a trumpet to his mouth, sounding a message to the nations. The import of this vision he did not understand until later in life” (B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1963], p. 28).

It was also revealed to John Taylor that his foreordained mission was to take place elsewhere than England. In his midteens he had joined the Methodist Church. “One day, while going to fulfill a preaching assignment [he was a local preacher], he remarked to a companion, ‘I have a strong impression on my mind, that I have to go to America to preach the gospel!’” (Paul Thomas Smith, “John Taylor,” in The Presidents of the Church, ed. Leonard J. Arrington [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], p. 77).

In 1832 the way opened for him to migrate to America. While crossing the ocean, his ship encountered a storm so severe that the captain and his crew feared the ship would sink at any moment. But John Taylor remained unshaken. “The voice of the Spirit was still saying within him, ‘You must yet go to America and preach the gospel.’ ‘So confident was I of my destiny,’ he remarks, ‘that I went on deck at midnight, and amidst the raging elements felt as calm as though I was sitting in a parlor at home. I believed I should reach America and perform my work’” (Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, p. 29).


  • How was the Lord preparing John Taylor for his future work? (Answers will vary for this and the following questions.)

  • What might have happened to John Taylor if he had not listened to and followed the promptings of the Spirit?

  • How can we, like John Taylor, develop faith in Jesus Christ? (John Taylor knew the Lord was directing his life because he listened to and followed the promptings of the Spirit. We can do the same thing.)

John Taylor Had Faith the Lord Would Guide Him

Object lesson and discussion

Blindfold one class member and then ask him to choose another class member to guide him verbally through a maze of chairs and around other class members to a specific spot, which represents the celestial kingdom. While the chosen “guide” is directing the blindfolded class member, the other class members should try to direct and lead him astray. (Try it, see what happens!) After the class member has reached the goal (the symbolic celestial kingdom), ask these questions:

  • What can be learned from this object lesson?

  • (Ask the blindfolded class member): Why did you choose the person you did to guide you? (You may need to point out that most guides are chosen because we trust them and have faith that they will guide us safely to our goal.)

  • How can this object lesson apply to our lives? (Allow the class members to express their feelings.)

Point out that John Taylor had great faith in his quest for truth and then tell or read the following experience of John Taylor’s.

Story and discussion

When John Taylor left England in 1832, he emigrated to New York, and then after a few months he went to Upper Canada where he continued to preach in the Methodist Church. One of the members of the congregation was Leonora Cannon, a remarkable woman whom John later married. John continued to preach, but he felt something was missing in his religion. He later wrote: “A number of us met together for the purpose of searching the Scriptures; and we found that certain doctrines were taught by Jesus and the Apostles, which neither the Methodists, Baptists, … nor any of the religious sects taught; and we concluded that if the Bible was true, the doctrines of modern Christendom were not true; or if they were true, the Bible was false. … In addition … , we prayed and fasted before God; and the substance of our prayers was, that if he had a people upon the earth anywhere, and ministers who were authorized to preach the Gospel, that he would send us one” (in Journal of Discourses, 23:30).

  • How did John Taylor demonstrate his faith in his quest for the truth? (By prayer and fasting.)

  • Why was John Taylor praying and fasting? (He wanted an authorized minister to bring them the truth.)

The Lord sent Parley P. Pratt on a mission to Canada and helped to answer John Taylor’s prayer of faith.

Faith in God Was Sufficient for John Taylor’s Needs

  • Would you be willing to start a journey without any money? (Financial security would be important for most people before they set out on any venture. But John Taylor performed his labors with hardly any money.)

Notice examples of John Taylor’s faith in the following experience from his life. (Retell it in your own words.)

After joining the Church, John Taylor moved his family from Canada to Kirtland, Ohio, and later to Missouri, where they were driven from their home during the Missouri persecutions. He had scarcely situated his family in Nauvoo, Illinois, the new gathering place of the Saints, when he was sent to England to preach the gospel. John Taylor’s companion was Wilford Woodruff. While preaching the gospel “without purse or scrip” (without money), John Taylor left it up to the Lord to manage his money matters, saying, “‘I would rather put my trust in the Lord than in any of the kings of the earth’” (Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, p. 71). When he arrived in New York City, before leaving for England, he had only one penny in his pocket. Still, he did not plead poverty. When asked about his financial status, he said he had “plenty of money.”

One day Parley P. Pratt approached him, “‘Brother Taylor, I hear you have plenty of money?’ … ‘Yes, Brother Pratt, that’s true.’ ‘Well, I am about to publish my “Voice of Warning” and “[Millennial] Poems,” I am very much in need of money, and if you could furnish me two or three hundred dollars I should be very much obliged.’ … ‘Then you are welcome to all I have.’

“And putting his hand into his pocket Elder Taylor gave him his copper cent. A laugh followed.

“‘But I thought you gave it out that you had plenty of money,’ said Parley.

“‘Yes, and so I have,’ replied Elder Taylor. ‘I am well clothed, you furnish me plenty to eat and drink and good lodging; with all these things and a penny over, as I owe nothing, is that not plenty?’” (Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, pp. 72–73).


  • Missionaries are expected to pay their own way. If you lived in John Taylor’s time and had no money, how do you think you would respond to a mission call to a foreign mission? (Accept varied answers.)

Thought question

  • Could you give up your material pursuits to prepare for a mission? (Urge class members to think to themselves of the things they might be asked to give up to complete a mission.)

  • What principle of the gospel would you need to exhibit to a high degree? (Faith.)

Once John Taylor arrived in England, in his first sermon he bore witness of the vision of an angel with a trumpet that he had seen many years before he had joined the Church. That vision had been fulfilled. The angel had come to Joseph Smith and the gospel had been restored (see Revelation 14:6–7). Through John Taylor’s efforts, many people in his native England joined the Church.

We Must Have Faith in the Guidance and Promptings of the Spirit

Chalkboard discussion

  • What are some of the things in the Church today that require faith like that of John Taylor? (List responses on the chalkboard. These might include such things as paying tithes and offerings, going on a mission, working with a less-active person, doing home teaching.)

  • What sacrifices can we offer to build our faith and obey the Lord? (Answers will vary. For instance, some may mention giving up possessions, such as bicycles or cars or fashionable clothing. Others may give up friends or delay their education for missions. Some may devote extra time or earnings to the service of others.)

Scripture discussion

Have the class read together James 2:20.

  • What did the Apostle James say about faith? (Without works, faith is dead.)

  • How did John Taylor apply that scripture? How can we apply it today? (Point out that when we do the things the Lord asks of us, he will guide us, as he did John Taylor, by the promptings of the Holy Ghost. When we do the things the Lord asks and sacrifice other desires to more fully serve him, we will be blessed.)

Conclude the lesson by reading the following from President John Taylor:

“‘There are events in the future, and not very far ahead, that will require all our faith, all our energy, all our confidence, all our trust in God, to enable us to withstand the influences that will be brought to bear against us. … We cannot trust in our intelligence; we cannot trust in our wealth; we cannot trust to any surrounding circumstances with which we are enveloped; we must trust alone in the living God to guide us, to direct us, to lead us, to teach us and to instruct us’” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950], p. 479).

Testimony and Challenge

Bear your testimony that we develop faith in Jesus Christ by listening to and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. As we follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, the Lord will guide us in all of our daily affairs. Challenge class members to develop their faith.