Bishop Millen Atwood
One evening many years ago, a Church meeting was called in the old Thirteenth Ward in Salt Lake City. The venerable old Bishop Atwood was the speaker. Bishop Millen Atwood had grown up in the east as a lad with many responsibilities. His father suffered ill health and Millen labored on the family farm to help support his father’s family. Education was not his abundant privilege.
In the year 1840, Millen heard Elder Joseph T. Ball bear testimony of the gospel and he instantly believed. “Something got down into me,” he said, “that has never gone out since.”
From there Millen was set on a course true and faithful. He helped build the Nauvoo Temple and, later, wagons for the saints in the great exodus of 1846 from Nauvoo. He served numerous missions.
It was 1856 and Millen Atwood was one of the captains of a hundred in the Willie Handcart Company. All that they endured—he was there with them, leading, lifting, and encouraging them along. He was faithful and well-liked by those he led.
And now we come to the night of that meeting. In attendance was a young man about 17-18 years of age. He had been born the year Bishop Atwood was leading his people across the plains with handcarts. The young man was enrolled in a night class studying grammar. He had been given an assignment by the teacher to collect and present sentences in class that were not grammatically correct, and then present the corrected versions.
Bishop Atwood began to speak, and immediately the young man smiled and began to write. “I am going to get here tonight,” he said to himself, “during the thirty minutes that Brother Atwood speaks, enough material to last me for the entire winter in my night school grammar class.”
But the young man never wrote another sentence. “When Millen Atwood stopped preaching,” he later recalled, “tears were rolling down my cheeks, tears of gratitude and thanksgiving that welled up in my eyes because of the marvelous testimony which that man bore of the divine mission of Joseph Smith, the prophet of God.”
Although it is now more than sixty-five years since I listened to that sermon, it is just as vivid today, and the sensations and feelings that I had are just as fixed with me as they were the day I heard it….That testimony made the first profound impression that was ever made upon my heart and soul of the divine mission of the Prophet. I had heard many testimonies that had pleased me and made their impression, but this was the first testimony that had melted me to tears under the inspiration of the Spirit of God to that man.”
There is power, not of this world, in a true testimony. When we skip the rambling travelogues and declare boldly what we really know by the witness of the Holy Ghost there is a power that attends the worthy that causes the soul to vibrate in harmony and changes hearts.
And who was that young grammar scholar-Heber J. Grant.
Bishop Millen Atwood