Laura Clark was born in New Fairfield, Connecticut, July 28, 1807, to Timothy Baldwin and Polly Keeler Clark. Laura and her husband, Morris Charles Phelps, and their two young daughters, Paulina and Mary Ann, were among the first white settlers of the Plainfield region located about thirty-five miles southwest of Chicago, Illinois.
In the early summer of 1831, Morris received a letter, possibly written by his sister who lived near Kirtland, Ohio. He recorded its contents in his autobiography. The letter’s author wrote “concerning a new Book Called the Book of Mormon that it was translated from writings on . . . plates.” The writer reported: “Several families . . . had comensed a new chirch, and this was all don under the directions of a Prophet. Verry respectable men and women had joined their Chirch. . . . Several of their preachers will soon leave f[or] the west. Perhaps you may see some of them.” Morris wrote, “Reading of this new Church and a Prophet created such a Curiosity and anxiety mingled with Joy that I could not refrain from weping.”1
On June 7, 1831, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 52, in which Lyman Wight and John Corrill were commanded to “take their journey speedily” to Missouri. The commandment directed, “Let them preach by the way in every congregation, baptizing by water, and the laying on of the hands by the water’s side.”2 They did just that. As they made their way to Missouri, they taught and baptized Sanford Porter Sr., a close friend of the Phelps family. Porter then taught the gospel to Laura and Morris and baptized them August 18, 1831, in the DuPage River in Cook County, Illinois. Laura’s sister Rhoda Cooper and her husband, John, were also baptized.
1. Morris Charles Phelps, “Reminiscence, 1870,” Holograph, p. 17, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
2. Doctrine and Covenants 52:7, 10.