Why My Father Became a Baptist



My great-grandfather James Lewis was a Millerite preacher, as devout a man as ever lived in the village of Dresden. Washington County had more than its share of devout men in those times. Joseph Smith himself was said to have dug up his golden tablets from beneath a tree on my family’s homestead, though  Old James said they were only the brass plaques set there by the French surveyors. Still. the local constable swore he had seen the mysterious letters carved in what looked like gleaming gold.

“Never was such a polisher of metal as Joseph Smith,” said James dismissively. “Make brass look like gold. And the words, why they’re just French.”

Yet, soon after, Joseph Smith went west with Brigham Young and a host of followers, many of whom had been in James Lewis’s congregation.

As a Millerite, James Lewis preached of the Second Coming. It would involve a Cleansing of the Sanctuary. What this entailed was never made clear in his writings, save that it would be unpleasant for all but the staunchest faithful.

It was a hard faith, demanding. By the time my grandfather John Lewis was born, the Millerites were down to just six men.

When my father turned his back on the church to go and fight the Kaiser, John Lewis told him that they would never meet again.

“I have no intention on paying visiting calls to hell,” were the last words he spoke to his son.


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