Tapestry of Faith Part 1:
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Pilgrim Fathers and the New England Ancestry of the Prophet Joseph Smith Transcript

Back to Video

Jeffrey Marsh: Nephi saw in vision that the Spirit of God would inspire multitudes of people with courage and determination to seek religious freedom. He recorded, “I beheld the Spirit of God that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise…” (I Nephi 13:13-14).

Craig J. Ostler: Among those who fulfilled Nephi’s prophetic vision were a group who separated from the state church in England and sailed to the Americas in 1620 on the Mayflower.1 The Prophet Joseph Smith had seven ancestors who came across on the Mayflower. Including Edward Fuller and wife, his son, Samuel,2 John and Joan Tilley,3 and their daughter, Elizabeth, and John Howland.4

Jeffrey Marsh: Today a full-scaled replica of the Mayflower sits in Plymouth Bay. It gives a glimpse into life on the crowded ship that brought 102 passengers and 25 crewmen to New England in 1620 A. D.5
Located on Cape Cod Bay, Plimoth Plantation is a museum that tells the story of the English Colonists
who arrived in 1620 and the Native American Wampanoag who have lived here for centuries. The modern visitor may take a journey back in time to 1627 and visit with colonists at Plimoth Plantation—an outdoor living history museum.

Craig J. Ostler: Plimouth Plantation is an interesting place to visit because, when you travel there and are able to interact with these people that are in this living-history-type museum, you are able to get a feel for their manner of dress, their manner of speech, but also you get to see the type of food that they ate, but most interesting to me is to go into the homes and to actually see how these individuals lived and the center place of family and Bible study in the home.
Individuals portray specific people at Plimouth Planation that lived in Plymouth 400 years ago.6 With a
little bit of effort you could even engage in a conversation with someone who is portraying himself as William Bradford, or with a little effort you might even find John and Elizabeth Howland, who are Joseph Smith’s ancestors.

John Howland actor: John Howland, and this is my wife Elizabeth.

Craig J. Ostler: I really like John Howland. I wish I could interview him personally and ask about his experience that he had on the Mayflower. You see, during a storm, for some unknown reason, John Howland is on deck rather than down below and he falls over board.7

John Howland actor: While I was in the water, trying to keep myself… I do not wish to sound as though I were not afraid, for I prayed unto God, “Thy will be done…” but disdained I a dry death, but there was a line in the water. It was, well, it was an awful day, and I took ahold of it and they hauled me back aboard.

Craig J. Ostler: Now what are the odds that an individual is going to fall overboard on the Mayflower in a storm and survive? I would put it at about 0%, except for the hand of the Lord that is involved. In his history, Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford related, “in a mighty storm, a lusty young man [called John Howland] coming upon some occasion above the gratings, was, with a seele [i.e. lurch] of the ship, thrown in the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards, which hung over board, and ran out at length. Yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again, and his life saved.”8 To me that is showing the hand of the Lord because he is a religious man. He is coming here for religious freedom and he would continue that legacy to his children saying that the Lord does care about what you are doing.

John Howland actor: I will not say that I drank the entire ocean sea, but I drank a goodly portion of it. But thereafter most of my bullies [old English for intimate friends, usually a male friend]9 and friends, they understood, that we ought, at least in this wise, and listen to a sailor and not go up aboard.

Jeffrey Marsh: The Prophet Nephi saw in vision that many of the early New England colonists carried with them a book (1 Nephi 13:20).

Craig J. Ostler: It is a book that contained “the covenants of the Lord …and also many of the prophecies of the holy prophets” (1 Nephi 13:23). Nephi also saw that, although many stumbled because the most plain and precious parts of the Lamb’s gospel had been taken from the book, it was “of great worth unto the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 13:23) which would be the ancestors of the Prophet Joseph Smith along with thousands of others who carried the Bible to the Americas.
The Puritans Separitists in Plymouth used the English translation of the Geneva Bible and as you visit
the homesthat have been designed to portray what life was like four hundred years ago at Plymouth Plantation, you will find facsimile copies of the Geneva Bible in many, if not most of the homes that are there.10

Martha Sulya: One of the known items that we believe were brought by the settlers were books. Bibles are very common, particularly the translation from Geneva.

Andrew C. Skinner: The Geneva instantly became a success. It was wildly popular among lay-persons because it was smaller in size; it was a better translation than previous English bibles had been; and it contained what is called an apparatus. It had a number of footnotes, glosses, that is to say helpful interpretive clues and hints on the side; plus it had something of a running commentary, which was extremely anti-papal and anti-Roman Catholic—almost to the point of being overwhelmingly biased against Roman Catholicism and in favor of Protestantism.

Martha Sulya: There is a Bible known to have been passed down in John Alden’s family that was a King James edition of a Bible.11 As curator, we work to re-create many of the different books that we know the settlers to have owned.

Craig J. Ostler: The legacy of faith from the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Pilgrim Fathers and others of his ancestors included a deep reverence for the Bible. In 1832 he wrote: “At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously impressed with regard to the all-important concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul, which led me to searching the scriptures, believing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God.”12
The living history museum at Plimoth Plantation is not the only location in which modern-day visitors can
gain insight into the living conditions of the Pilgrim Fathers. One home in Plymouth Village, that’s outside the Plimoth Planation itself, is the Jabez Howland Home. Jabez Howland was the son of John Howland. It is the longest standing and lived in home in Plymouth to this day. The original 17th century house consists of a porch, a hall, a hall chamber on the eastern side of the building. John Howland and Elizabeth spent there winters here with their son Jabez and his family in their later years. After John’s death, (he lived until he was 80 years old), there was a fire that destroyed the Rocky Nook Farm so then Elizabeth lived there until Jabez sold the house. The house was a private residence until 1912 when it was purchased for the museum. So today the museum houses some fine period furniture as well as some artifacts from archeological digs of the Rocky Nook Farm.13

1 “Embarkation of the Pilgrims,” Robert W. Weir, Protestant pilgrims are shown on the deck of the ship Speedwell before their departure for the New World from Delft Haven, Holland, on July 22, 1620. William Brewster, holding the Bible, and pastor John Robinson leading Governor Carver, William Bradford, Miles Standish, and their families in prayer. The prominence of women and children suggests the importance of the family in the community. At the left side of the painting is a rainbow, which symbolizes hope and divine protection. This image is a work of an employee of the Architect of the Capitol, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, all images created or made by the Architect of the Capitol are in the public domain, with the exception of classified information. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Embarkation_of_the_Pilgrims.jpg (accessed 9/2/2014)
2 Samuel married Jane Lothrop, daughter of John Lothrop of Barnstable, Massachusetts, also discussed in this volume.
3 http://www.pilgrimjohnhowlandsociety.org/ (accessed 9/2/2014)
http://www.boydhouse.com/michelle/gorham/johntilley.html (accessed 9/2/2014)
4 Archibald F. Bennett, “Solomon Mack and His Family,” Improvement Era, Vol. 58, Num. 10 (October 1955): 713. The name of Edward Fuller’s wife is unknown and the name of John Tilley’s wife is uncertain. It appears that John may have been married several times as various wives’ names and marriage dates are given in the family history records currently available. The name of Joan for John Tilley’s wife is documented in the website above, but should not be accepted as the last word in family history research.
5 http://www.plimoth.org/what-see-do/mayflower-ii (accessed 9/2/2014)
6 http://www.plimoth.org/what-see-do/17th-century-english-village (accessed 9/2/2014)
7 Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, 1606-1646. William T. Davis, ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908); electronic edition: http://mith.umd.edu/eada/html/display.php?docs=bradford_history.xml (accessed 9/2/2014) also see Of Plimoth Plantation, by William Bradford, Samuel Eliot Morrison, ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), 59; Samuel Eliot Morison, The Story of the “Old Colony” of New Plymouth [1620-1692], (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), 38.
8 Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, 1606-1646. William T. Davis, ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908); (Spelling and punctuation standardized); electronic edition: http://mith.umd.edu/eada/html/display.php?docs=bradford_history.xml (accessed 9/2/2014)
9 Origin of the word “bully” is from the mid-16th century: probably from Middle Dutch bole ‘lover’. The original usage was as a term of endearment applied to either sex; later becoming a familiar form of address to a male friend. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/bully (accessed 9/2/2014)
10 “Four Early Bibles In Pilgrim Hall,” by Rev. Dr. Charles C. Forman, Pilgrim Society Note, Series One, Number Nine, April 1959. http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Four_Early_Bibles.pdf (accessed 9/15/2014). Pilgrim Hall Museum owns William Bradford’s copy of the Geneva Bible that he brought with him to Plymouth, as well as John Alden’s copy of the King James Version of the Bible, also brought to Plymouth.
11http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Early_Bibles_PHM.pdf (accessed 2/6/15)
12 Joseph Smith Papers, Histories Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832-1844, Eds. Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Richard L. Jensen, (Salt Lake City: The Church Historians Press, 2012), 11.
13 http://www.pilgrimjohnhowlandsociety.org/howland-house (accessed 9/2/2014)