John Anderson – A Scottish pioneer

by Sylvia Brown

Arthur’s Seat

A prayer by Orson Pratt in 1840 is often remembered.  He climbed Arthur’s Seat, a rocky promontory above Edinburgh and earnestly prayed for 200 converts.  The work was slow and it was difficult to get people to listen.  Nevertheless, after many months of hard work and persistence, this goal came to fruition.  One of those first converts was John Anderson, a shoemaker with a large family, living in Leith.  He and his wife had changed from being members of the United Presbyterian Church to a religious group called Separatists. Their teachings were closer to John’s personal views as they didn’t believe in paid ministry or infant sprinkling.  He still struggled to understand certain principles and often contemplated baptism for the remission of sins and who on the earth would have the necessary authority to perform the ordinance.

One evening in 1840 his brother-in-law John Grieve invited him to hear a celebrated religious speaker.  The pair set out to walk the two miles from Leith to Edinburgh.  When they were around halfway John Anderson stopped.  He felt as if he could not lift his feet that seemed fixed to the ground.  He was unable to move and his brother-in-law went on alone when he saw that he could not be persuaded.  His daughter Mary Jane recounts the events that followed.

”Just as soon as he had said “Good evening,” my father’s feet were loosed from the ground.   He walked towards Leith until he reached the street called Kirkgate, which led to his home.  Then something prompted him to take the street to the right, called Constitution.  Down the street, he walked until he came to an entrance leading to the Mason’s Lodge.  This was an arched alleyway, leading to buildings in the rear, where the Mason’s hall was located.  At this spot stood an old, fresh-complexioned man, dressed in homespun clothes.  He bade my father “Good evening and inquired if he was aware that the new sect called Latter-day Saints were holding a meeting in the Mason’s hall that evening. 

Father replied that he was not, whereupon the old man invited him to attend and led the way into the hall, where he put father into a good seat.  My father turned to thank him for his courtesy, but he was gone and he never saw him again.  To the last, Father maintained that the old man was one of the “Three Nephites”.

The speakers were Orson Pratt and George D Watt.  They preached the first principles of the gospel and claimed that the Lord had spoken from the heavens and restored the everlasting gospel in its fullness, with the gifts and blessings belonging to the same.  Father sat listening and amazed at the good news – just what he had been waiting for, and it seemed to fit into his heart.  The precious seed did indeed fall into fertile soil, and it bore “a hundred-fold.”

To hear was to investigate.  To investigate was to embrace – the new and everlasting gospel which the Lord had again restored to the earth and which He in his loving kindness had gradually prepared my father to receive. 

Father rejoiced greatly for he realised that he had found “the Pearl of Great Price” This jewel he wore and prized for forty-five years.  He died December 19, 1885, in the 81st year of his life, and so valiant a soldier was he in the cause of truth, that it was said of him “……he did not owe his country one testimony.

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