Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Bible

John Moon Clements

Lately I have been rereading a biography of my third great grandfather, John Moon Clements written by his youngest daughter Sarah Clements Dalton. I was again amazed at the story of his "traveling Bible."  

Sarah related that her father in the year 1836 at the age of 14, thought he would like to go to sea. His father gave his consent and sent him to London to his step mother's brother who was in the English Navy and had some influence with the captain of a ship. That same day John got a berth as a cabin boy on board the ship Rotterdam Chader.

For the next 14 years, John worked as an apprentice on many ships. He traveled numerous miles and entered many ports in several countries. Sarah stated that when her father left his home in Deal, England he took only a few personal things. His most treasured item was his deceased mother's Bible.

Sarah went on in her history to tell an amazing story of this Bible. I was intrigued and decided I should search John's diary for his own story.

John recorded on 22 June 1883, "Got my Bible from New Zealand having been brought by Brother Ferris, a returning [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint] missionary--a rather singular incident. I having left it there [in New Zealand] in the year 1844 with a friend by the name of George Allen, a boat builder, expecting I would have returned and got it, but never returned there, and when William M. Bromley went on his mission [from Springville, Utah] there, I gave him an introduction to him. And when he asked Mr. Allen if he knew me, he said he did and I left this Bible with him  . . . the Bible was still among his books and had been preserved."

In his own words John wrote why he never returned to New Zealand. "On 8th of April 1851, I was baptized [into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] in New Orleans by one Jordan who came in on the Helen Maria." The next day John left his own ship in the port of New Orleans and boarded a steamer for St. Louis, Missouri with the saints and Orson Pratt who had just arrived on the Helen Maria from Europe.

John continued from St. Louis, Missouri with the saints and soon thereafter crossed the great plains of the United States to the Salt Lake Valley. He eventually ended up living in Springville, Utah.

From John's journal, I was reminded about his precious Bible, "It was my mother's Bible that I took to sea with me when a boy of 13 or 14 years old and thought more of it on that account as I used to read it a great deal and thought a great deal of my mother who taught me to pray when young by her knees and many good principles which I can never forget. She was mild and gentle, good and kind. She died when I was about six years old. And I feel very thankful that I have such a mother."

I had read these passages from John's journal before and pictured him at a port in New Zealand striking up a religious conversation with a native New Zealander and then leaving the Bible in hopes of another conversation when he returned. But as I looked into this George Allen, boat builder and protector of John's Bible, I found out differently.

George Allen

George Allen was indeed a boat builder but much more than that. George was from John's home city of Deal, England--about nine years John's senior. George very likely knew John and his family while growing up in Deal. 

From Sarah's history I read that in New Zealand John stayed with George Allen and his wife, a kindly couple. After John left New Zealand and his Bible, George became very well-known as a ship builder and a wealthy citizen of Wellington, New Zealand. In 1866 he retired and purchased a farm in the countryside. He turned the farm over to his son in 1874 and returned to Wellington where he became a philanthropist and provincial councillor for the city of Wellington. This is where Elder Bromley found Mr. Allen and was given John's bible. Mr. Bromley gave the Bible to a returning missionary, Elder Ferris who returned it to John. This precious Bible remained in the Clements' home for many years long after John's death and sadly eventually the family lost track of its location.

John Clements' life was very different from George Allen's. Although they began similarly, John was always very poor as to worldly wealth. But I can firmly say if asked John would tell us money would not be a sign of wealth--only the blessing of belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--the true church on the earth. 

1 comment:

  1. Cindy,

    What a wonderful story!

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!