Turning Point: David W. Patten
By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. And again, even the smallest candle can ignite a mighty flame.
September 1835, two men rode on horseback a distance of 25 miles from Mantua, Ohio to the small community of Kirtland. The one man was a young student enrolled at the Presbyterian school of Oberlin College. He was beginning a new semester of studies at Oberlin. He came from something of privileged background, his father being a prosperous farmer and a community man. He had grown up with a close family and many opportunities for the day. The other fellow, now, considerably older, was a frontiersman born in Vermont, and something of a rustic who had never had the privilege of learning, letters, and a life of opportunity. He had left home when just a boy and carved out a homestead in the wilderness of southeastern Michigan. So removed was he from the joys of home and family life as a child that he lived out his days never knowing his own birthdate.
As the two men rode along, of course they conversed—on many subjects. Years later, the young student said, “I was at first disposed to treat his opinions lightly, especially so, as they were not always clothed in grammatical language.”
They talked of philosophy and then the subject turned to religion. The older man, in the course of conversation, began to open up the scriptures and explain the plan of salvation and the conditions of the human family. As he did so, the disposition of his friend began to change. The young student found himself unable to resist the knowledge that [this] was a man of God. “I felt pricked in my heart,” he said. Though his language may not have been the most refined, the man, “possessed a mind of deep thought and rich intelligence.” He so opened the eyes and expanded the mind of the young man that it forever changed him. Almost 64 years later that student, now an old man himself at the end of his days would reflect back on that day as follows,
“All the circumstances of my first and last meeting with [him] are as clear to my mind as if it were an occurrence of but yesterday….He appeared to me then to be a remarkable man, and that impression has remained with me ever since….This was the turning point in my life. What impressed me most was his absolute sincerity, his earnestness and his spiritual power.”
The man bore a powerful witness of the truthfulness of the restored Gospel and then charged the young man to go before the Lord that night and ask for himself. To that charge the young man was true. He subsequently was baptized and himself went on to greatness in the eyes of the Almighty. That young man was Lorenzo Snow. Young Snow would never have the opportunity of meeting with his friend again in this life, for within three years his mentor would die a martyr—the first apostolic martyr of this dispensation—David W. Patten.
And thus is the power of simple humble, fearless testimony.
Sources: Life of David W. Patten: The First Apostolic Martyr Lycurgus Wilson
First Presidency General Letter, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 6, 1900