The people of Connecticut in those days thought it wicked to believe in any religion, or belong to any church, except the Presbyterian. They did not believe in having any prophets, apostles, or revelations, as they had in the days of Jesus, and as we now have in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
There was an aged man in Connecticut, however, by the name of Robert Mason, who did not believe like the rest of the people. He believed it was necessary to have prophets, apostles, dreams, visions and revelations in the church of Christ, the same as they had who lived in ancient days; and he believed the Lord would raise up a people and a church, in the last days, with prophets, apostles, and all the gifts, powers and blessings, which it ever contained in any age of the world.
The people called this man, the Old Prophet Mason.
He frequently came to my father’s house when I was a boy, and taught me and my brothers those principles; and I believed him.
This prophet prayed a great deal, and he had dreams and visions and the Lord showed him many things, by visions, which were to come to pass in the last days.
I will here relate one vision, which he related to me. The last time I ever saw him, he said: “I was laboring in my field at mid-day when I was enwrapped in a vision. I was placed in the midst of a vast forest of fruit trees: I was very hungry, and walked a long way through the orchard, searching for fruit to eat; but I could not find any in the whole orchard, and I wept because I could find no fruit. While I stood gazing at the orchard, and wondering why there was no fruit, the trees began to fall to the ground upon every side of me, until there was not one tree standing in the whole orchard; and while I was marveling at the scene, I saw young sprouts start up from the roots of the trees which had fallen, and they opened into young, thrifty trees before my eyes. They budded, blossomed, and bore fruit until the trees were loaded with the finest fruit I ever beheld, and I rejoiced to see so much fine fruit. I stepped up to a tree and picked my hands full of fruit, and marveled at its beauty, and as I was about to taste of it the vision closed, and I found myself in the field in the same place I was at the commencement of the vision.
“I then knelt upon the ground, and prayed unto the Lord, and asked Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to show me the meaning of the vision. The Lord said unto me: ‘This is the interpretation of the vision: the great trees of the forest represented the generation of men in which you live. There is no church of Christ, or kingdom of God upon the earth in your generation. There is no fruit of the church of Christ upon the earth. There is no man ordained of God to administer in any of the ordinances of the gospel of salvation upon the earth in this day and generation. But, in the next generation, I the Lord will set up my kingdom and my church upon the earth, and the fruits of the kingdom and church of Christ, such as have followed the prophets, apostles, and saints in every dispensation, shall again be found in all their fullness upon the earth. You will live to see the day, and handle the fruit; but will never partake of it in the flesh.’”
When the old prophet had finished relating the vision and interpretation, he said to me, calling me by my Christian name: “I shall never partake of this fruit in the flesh; but you will, and you will become a conspicuous actor in that kingdom.” He then turned and left me. These were the last words he ever spoke to me upon the earth.
This was a very striking circumstance, as I had spent many hours and days, during twenty years, with this old Father Mason, and he had never named this vision to me before. But at the beginning of this last conversation he told me that he felt impelled by the Spirit of the Lord to relate it to me.
He had the vision about the year 1800, and he related it to me in 1830—the same spring that the Church was organized.
This vision, with his other teachings to me, made a great impression upon my mind, and I prayed a great deal to the Lord to lead me by His Spirit, and prepare me for His church when it did come.
In 1832, I left Connecticut, and traveled with my eldest brother to Oswego County, New York; and in the winter of 1833, I saw, for the first time in my life, an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He preached in a schoolhouse near where I lived. I attended the meeting, and the Spirit of the Lord bore record to me that what I heard was true. I invited the Elder to my house, and next day I, with my eldest brother, went down into the water and was baptized. We were the first two baptized in Oswego County, New York.
When I was baptized I thought of what the old prophet had said to me.
In the spring of 1834, I went to Kirtland, saw the Prophet Joseph Smith, and went with him, and with more than two hundred others in Zion’s Camp, up to Missouri. When I arrived, at my journey’s end, I took the first opportunity and wrote a long letter to Father Mason, and told him I had found the church of Christ that he had told me about. I told him about its organization and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; that the Church had Prophets, Apostles, and all the gifts and blessings in it; and that the true fruit of the kingdom and church of Christ were manifest among the Saints as the Lord had shown him in the vision. He received my letter and read it over many times, and handled it as he had handled the fruit in the vision; but he was very aged, and soon died. He did not live to see any Elder to administer the ordinances of the gospel unto him.
The first opportunity I had, after the doctrine of baptism for the dead was revealed, I went forth and was baptized for him. He was a good man and a true prophet, for his prophecies have been fulfilled.
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