Question: What special experience did Harrison Burgess have to strengthen his testimony of the Book of Mormon?
Answer: Harrison Burgess was born Sept. 3, 1814 in Putman Washington Co., New York, the oldest child of William Burgess and Vilate Stockwell. Being the oldest child of eleven children, he had to work to help support the family.
At age eighteen, in 1832, Harrison heard the gospel preached and was convinced that it was true. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1832 by Elder John S. Carter and confirmed by Elder Orson Pratt. He was soon invited to speak before a Church congregation. In his speech he firmly declared the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. However, as he later wrote on the following day “something seemed to whisper to me, ‘Do you really know the Book of Mormon is true?’’
He was so distraught that he retired to the woods to seek for divine guidance. He wrote of this experience:
“The misery and distress that I there experienced cannot be described. The tempter all the while seemed to say, ‘Do you really know the Book of Mormon is true?’ I remained in this situation about two hours. Finally I resolved to know, by exercising faith, whether I had proclaimed the truth or not, and commenced praying to the God of heaven for a testimony of these things. Suddenly a glorious personage, clothed in white, stood before me, and exhibited to my view the plates from which the Book of Mormon were taken.’ (Burgess 65-66)
In the winter of 1833, Harrison worked for his board. The following spring he went on a short mission with Elder Carter to the state of Vermont. In 1834 he left with his family for Kirtland, Ohio, where he met the prophet Joseph Smith for the first time. He stayed in Kirtland during the winter of 1834.
When Joseph Smith called for volunteers to go to Jackson Co., Missouri, in Zion’s Camp, Harrison volunteered to go. The trip was a long and hard one. He returned to Kirtland, Ohio in July 1835. He worked on the Kirtland temple and was able to attend the dedication in March 1836. Here he witnessed that “the house of the Lord was so filled with the spirit of the Lord’ that he said “the building appeared to have no roof and a light shone far brighter than the noon day sun.’
From Kirtland, Harrison went with a company of saints to settle Jackson County, Missouri.
He had married Sophia Foster on July 1, 1835, and took her with him. Sophia was unable to have any children. Having been persecuted out of Missouri, he moved to Quincy and then Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1844 the persecutions became greater, and he witnessed the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was a guard at the burial.
Harrison married Amanda Hammond in Nauvoo on February 6, 1846. Harrison was among the saints who planned to journey West across the plains. He fitted out an outfit and moved to Winter Quarters. At that time he was called to fill a mission in England. He accepted the mission call, and left his family to journey across the plains to the Rocky Mountains. Harrison’s parents, his two wives, and a brother and sister went to the Salt Lake Valley in the Heber C. Kimball Company in the summer of 1848. In the summer of 1850, Harrison traveled with the Aaron Johnson Company to Salt Lake City.
He lived in Salt Lake for a number of years and then moved to Parley’s Park. (Park City). Two years later Brigham Young called him to settle in Dixie in Southern Utah. Brigham asked him to build a sawmill, which he did. He went to St. George then later, in 1863, he moved to Pine Valley in Washington County, Utah. He sawed lumber to help build up St. George, Pine Valley, and the surrounding settlements.
Harrison was chosen counselor to Bishop William Snow, and later when Bishop Snow died, he was chosen as acting Bishop. He filled many short missions and took an active part in the church.
Harrison was the father of 11 children–six boys and five girls. The youngest son, age two, died of the measles in 1872. In December 1881, his daughter, Mary, died. In January 1882 another son, Jacob, age fifteen, was accidentally shot, which nearly broke his father’s heart. His wife, Amanda, died on August 8, 1882.
Harrison remained faithful to the gospel all of his life and died in Pine Valley on February 10, 1883 and was buried in the cemetery there.