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27

Knowledge Now Which Is Definite

Mutual Improvement Association June Conference

Assembly Hall, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

June 11, 1916


Speaking at a Mutual Improvement Association conference in 1916, Annie Emma Dexter Noble (1861–1950) described her experience of gaining a personal witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ; she later wrote, “It is one thing to believe and another to have positive knowledge.”1 Noble was the tenth of thirteen children born to Abigail Tryphosa Dick and Walter Dexter in Friezland, England, where her father was an accomplished lace maker.2 The family moved to Brooklyn, New York, for two years, then returned to England, leaving Noble in the care of a friend from their local Christian congregation. There she experienced a personal conversion to Jesus Christ. She returned to her family in England when she was seventeen.3

Noble married Abraham Noble, a Baptist, on May 26, 1885, in Nottingham, England, and they had seven children. In 1906, Abraham became ill with severe depression, which affected him physically for several years. The couple traveled around England and finally to the United States, seeking medical help. At one point, while visiting friends in Gainsborough, England, the Nobles met two young Mormon missionaries, an encounter that remained in Annie’s memory. A short time later, in Brooklyn, she prayed fervently to know if her husband would ever be healed. She recalled that she heard a voice: “Your husband shall be completely restored—and he shall preach the gospel.” The experience marked a transformative shift; not only did Abraham begin to improve, but Noble found herself seeking further contact with the divine. Two and a half years later, a Mormon missionary left a gospel tract at their home in Nottingham. After two years of study, Annie and one daughter were baptized on November 5, 1910. Her husband and other daughters were baptized fifteen months later.4 The family immigrated to Utah in 1912.5

About a year after the family arrived in Utah, Noble’s bishop asked her to preside over the ward Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA). She remembered, “It was a very great surprise and I felt my inability keenly, and also felt that others could fill the position far better than I.” Notwithstanding her feelings of inadequacy, the bishop persisted, and she was appointed president of the Ogden Fifth Ward YLMIA on October 28, 1914, and served for seven years.6

In her role as a ward YLMIA president, Noble attended the 1916 annual conference for officers in the Young Men’s and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Associations, held in Salt Lake City. The Sunday morning session consisted of a testimony meeting in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.7 The board minutes state that “the meeting was a most successful one,” attended by President Joseph F. Smith and YLMIA general president Mattie Horne Tingey as well as Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association superintendent Heber J. Grant.8 According to the minutes, “many bore strong testimonies concerning the work of the Lord, and the spirit of the gospel was greatly enjoyed by those present, the Holy Ghost being poured out in great measure upon those who spoke as well as upon those who listened.”9 Testimonies of twenty-one different leaders from a variety of stakes, both male and female, were printed in the Young Woman’s Journal, including one by “Sister Noble, Weber Stake.”10

My brethren and sisters, I feel it a great honor to be in your midst this morning. I feel that I am among the aristocracy of the world, and I have been deeply impressed with the beauty of the countenances of the people of Zion.

I have been in this country only three and a half years, and not quite six years in the church. I am thankful to be here in Zion and for the great blessings which the Lord has poured out upon me.11 In less than six years, my sons and daughters have been gathered into the fold of Christ, and each one by his or her own investigation. I realize that the foundation knowledge of the principles of the gospel makes us strong, and I rejoice today. And I can testify to the truth, and the knowledge and the strong testimony which my children have and my husband has. I bless the Lord that he has called us in this day to see the light of the gospel. It was a great thing to us. We had belonged for a great many years to the Baptist denomination, and I must say that for some years I had been very much exercised over what should be expected of me as a Christian.12 And I thought to myself, how much ought I to do? I gave what I felt continuously to be right, and yet I had misgivings, and thought how lovely to know definitely how much was expected of us, both in service and in means. And I feel to rejoice that I have knowledge now which is definite, not only upon this point but on so many other points which have become quite clear to me and to all of us.

I wish to bear my testimony that I know this gospel is true, that I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet of the Lord. Not until nearly six months after I joined the church was I able to say that I knew that Joseph was a prophet of the Lord. I used to attend cottage meetings every week in Nottingham,13 in the city that I came from, and when I heard the brethren and sisters bear testimony that the prophet was a true prophet of the Lord—I knew the gospel was true, I had a testimony of that, but oh, I used to feel I would like to say that I knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord. It seems a strange thing that I should have a testimony of the gospel and yet not have a testimony of the servants whom the Lord spoke through and delivered that gospel to; but so it was. One evening I was going as usual to the cottage meeting, when such a desire came to my heart as I went down the road that I could declare to my brothers and sisters that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of the Lord.14 And in a moment it seemed like a voice said, You can say it now, and I said, Yes, I can say it; I know that he is a true prophet of the Lord. That is the answer that I received, and I went forward to the meeting and I declared it, and I have declared it ever since, the testimony that was given to me instantaneously.15

My dear sisters, I wish to tell you how much I love you all. I love my sisters in Weber Stake, and all my sisters. My heart is touched when I look at the sisters’ faces, often whom I do not know at all personally, and my heart goes out in love for them, because I know that they are my sisters in the church, and I pray the Lord will bless you all and keep you in obedience. Obedience is the great thing. I pray the Lord will bless you all, in the name of Jesus, amen.

Footnotes

  1. [1]Annie Emma Dexter Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences in the Life of Annie Emma Dexter Noble, 1931–1940,” 14, CHL.

  2. [2]Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 1.

  3. [3]The Dexter family were active members of the Church of Christ in England, but when they lived in Brooklyn, they attended a neighborhood Christian church with similar worship practices. Noble recorded that at the age of fourteen, she heard Dwight L. Moody, a famous evangelist, speak to the local Brooklyn congregation. In her effort to obtain a personal witness of Jesus Christ, she prayed to trust God, “and immediately it was as though a heavy stone was lifted out of my heart and the room was as a bright light, and I was filled with joy and happiness indescribable.” (Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 3–5, 38, 60–67.)

  4. [4]Annie Noble joined the Baptist church when she married her husband. After meeting Latter-day Saint missionaries, she was baptized in the Nottingham baths in 1910; her husband was baptized in the Leicester baths. (Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 8–13, 69, 71, 73, 80.)

  5. [5]The Nobles departed from Liverpool and arrived in Montreal. Noble recalled receiving a spiritual impression that she would serve a mission, and indeed, the Nobles later returned to their hometown of Nottingham, England, from 1920 to 1922 to preach the gospel. (Manifests of Passengers Arriving at St. Albans, VT, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1895–1954, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, National Archives Microfilm Publication M1464, Oct. 27, 1912; Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 26–28, 33–37.)

  6. [6]Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 33; Ogden Fifth Ward, Weber Stake, Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association Minutes and Records, vol. 4, 1909–1915, Oct. 28, 1914, 161, CHL.

  7. [7]Attendees were instructed to share their feelings “regarding the divinity of this work. … We desire to hear brief testimonies of the goodness of the Lord to us as his children, as members of his church and of these Improvement Associations.” (“Officers’ Notes,” Young Woman’s Journal 27, no. 10 [Oct. 1916]: 618.)

  8. [8]Young Women General Board Minutes, typescript, vol. 8, 1914–1917, “Twenty-First General Annual Conference of the Y.M. and Y.L.M.I.A.,” June 8–11, 1916, 58, CHL.

  9. [9]Young Men Minutes, typescript, vol. 16, 1916, “The Twenty-First General Annual Conference of the Y.M. and Y.L.M.I.A.,” 100.

  10. [10]“Officers’ Notes,” 618–629.

  11. [11]Years later, Noble wrote about the events leading to her conversion. She described the fear and confusion she felt before she decided to be baptized and recalled a voice of inspiration that spoke peace to her soul. She also described receiving blessings for paying her tithing, as well as an ability to find lost property, which she considered a gift from the Lord. (Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 75–78, 15–16, 20–22.)

  12. [12]Noble had been very active in her Baptist church. “I sang a great deal at concerts and church affairs and was the chief soprano in the choir of the Baptist church,” she remembered. When she contemplated joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she worried about offending her husband, family, and friends who remained faithful Baptists. (Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 29, 76–77.)

  13. [13]After her baptism, Noble typically attended morning service at the Baptist church with her husband, then went to Latter-day Saint meetings in the evening. (Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 78–79.)

  14. [14]Noble later recorded: “Some might think it strange for a person to join the Mormon church without a testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. However, in my case I believed with all sincerity that Joseph Smith was authorized to establish this church; otherwise, I could not have joined it.” (Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 14.)

  15. [15]She also recounted this experience in her autobiography: “In the spring after joining the church in the November previous, I was walking along Muster’s Road on my way to cottage meeting about 7:30 in the evening. I was alone. The air was very mild, and the trees which grew all along the road for a mile were in the fresh, green leaf. A soft yearning came into my heart to know something more than I already had, and an earnest desire and prayer went to God that I, like the rest of the Saints, might be able to say at cottage meeting that I too knew without doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. In a moment the Spirit whispered, ‘You do know,’ and I have known it ever since! As I continued to walk, I understood, as I had never understood before, the meaning of Christ’s words to Nicodemus: ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou heareth the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is it with everyone that is born of the Spirit.’ I had hands placed upon me for the reception of the Holy Ghost, thereby being born of the Spirit and thus entitled to receive (I know not just how) a positive knowledge!” (Noble, “Some Sacred Experiences,” 14.)