Jesse Edmund Simister (1876-1953), of Leeds, England, was baptized in 1897. At the time he wrote this testimony very early in 1917, he was and had been for some time the branch president of Leeds. He may not yet have received word of the death of his 16-year-old son, or it may have been written immediately after having received that sad news.
Brother Simister wrote several pieces during the war which will appear here at Keepa in the next little while. He survived the war to go home to his wife and five living children, all of whom, with their parents, eventually emigrated to the United States where they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.
A Soldier’s Testimony.
When I was fourteen years of age, I had the seed of “Mormonism” planted in my heart. At that time I was a member of a congregational church in Leeds. One Sunday evening the minister was preaching on faith, and, to demonstrate his theory, he told several stories. One was about a band of “Mormons” crossing the Atlantic ocean, when a violent storm arose. The captain, fearing his ship would be lost, asked the “Mormons” to pray to God that the might arrive at their destination safely. They prayed, and their payer was answered. After the service was over, I asked my father, “Who are these ‘Mormons’ that the minister spoke about?” I was told that they were a peculiar people with a religion of their own, which very few people could understand. I continued to ask questions, when suddenly I got a sharp rebuke, and was forbidden to make such inquiries, or even mention the “Mormons” again. From that time on, for about two years, I was longing to hear something concerning the “Mormons.”
One day I was invited to a tea-party. When the party was over, I was returning with two friends, and one of them, addressing me, said that they had been invited to a “Mormon” meeting. Just imagine my joy when I found out that I had actually been in the company of “Mormons.” I begged to be allowed to go with them the following Sunday to the meeting place. I can truthfully say that I have tried to live up to the teachings of Jesus Christ from that day, as they are understood by the Latter-day Saints.
It is now twenty-six years since first I heard of the “Mormons.” It was two years later when I attended my first meeting with the Saints. I was not allowed to join as a member until I was twenty-one years of age, owing to my father’s attitude towards them. For five years I struggled hard to keep in touch with the Saints, suffering great trials and persecution. No sooner had I informed my father that I had decided to attend the “Mormon” meetings, than he tried to persuade me to have nothing to do with them. I tried to reason with him, but he told me that he was older than I was, and therefore he knew more than I. I gave in on this statement; but I knew within myself that I had the light of the gospel. When he found that his pleadings were of no avail, he restored to stern methods. On one occasion he found a hymn book in my coat pocket, which I had carried home for a member, a friend of ours. When I had gone to bed that night, father came up stairs with the book in his hand, and said to me in severe tones, “You have been at those ‘Mormon’ meetings again, though I tried to persuade you not to. What do you mean?” Well, I was laid up for nearly two weeks with the cuts and bruises I received that evening, and while I lay on the bed I thought of the hymn, “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.”
It was enough to make me forsake the path of righteousness. But for the testimony I had of the truth, I think I would have done so. Many times since I have thought of the words of St. Paul, who says he had been beaten many times, and had received many stripes for the gospel’s sake. Again I received strength from the words in the Scriptures, that we shall be betrayed by parents, friends, and kinsfolk, and that a man’s foes shall be those of his own household. My father and I have been on friendly terms, I am glad to say, since I was twenty-one years of age, but he has not been able to see the truth as I see it. He knows that I still belong to the “Mormons.”
Praise ye the Lord! my heart shall join
In work so pleasant, so divine:
Now, while the flesh is my abode,
And when my soul ascends to God.
This verse always appeals to me, and expresses my sentiments at this time. There is another verse which begins with, “The Lord gives eyesight to the blind.” This I know to be true, for once I was blind for seven weeks, and suffered great agony. In this terrible affliction I had the consolation of the elders who visited me, and prayed for me. While I suffered thus, I was brought down to the very depths of humility. That made me realize my position before Almighty God. Then the spirit whispered to me and told me to go in prayer before my Father in heaven. I did so, at the same time making a promise that if God would give me my sight again, I would serve Him faithfully in the future. The Lord heard my prayers, and now I can see to read and perform my daily labors. To those who have seen me and know me, and to anyone who reads this testimony, I stand as a living witness that these statements are true. According to the Scriptures, these signs shall follow them that believe. I believed, and was blessed.
If any of my readers are persecuted, scorned, and scoffed at, for the gospel’s wake, let them say within themselves, Why should I be afraid of the scorn and ridicule of my friends, when here is a brother who has, perhaps, suffered more than I? Again, think of the sufferings of the apostles and saints in the time of Christ, when the Romans held power. Look upon the sufferings of our Lord, who died for us. Are we going to forsake our Lord and our duty to Him, for the sake of our friends? Let us say, No! A thousand times, No! Some may perhaps grow faint-hearted because this terrible war is depriving us of our elders and local brethren, so that it makes each one realize that he has to stand for himself. If this war has taken our loved ones away from us, let us not forget that if we need a comforter, we still have access to our heavenly Father, who will comfort those who have cause to mourn. Although I am deprived of the fellowship and the associations of the saints and friends and my loved ones, my heart and my thoughts are with them. I am at present in the army, serving my King and Country, and I find that in my environment the Lord has not forsaken me. He has blessed me abundantly, and given me strength to resist temptation whenever it has come before me.
The above is my testimony, and I know whereof I speak, for the spirit of the Lord bears witness to my spirit that these things are true. I also know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is now again upon this earth with all its gifts and blessings, for have I not given you proof of this, that the Lord has blessed me?
I pray that the blessing of God may rest on those who read this testimony.
Private J.E. Simister,
25th Durham Light Infantry