Levi Ward Hancock

Conversion & first mission in Ohio

Levi was born on 7 April, 1803 in Springfield, Massachusetts.  He was the seventh of nine children born to Thomas and Amy Ward Hancock.  In about 1818 the family migrated, across  up-state New York, to the northeast corner of Ohio.  Levi was about 15 years old at this time and he began working at different places on the new frontier of the expanding country.  Various members of the family took up farmlands near Chagrin and Ashtabula, and later in Rome, Ohio (east of Kirtland and Cleveland). 

On April 6, 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially organized in New York.  The next day, Levi turned 27 years old.  Six months later, Oct. 1830, a revelation was received sending a group of missionaries, including: Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Jr. and Ziba Peterson, to the west (Missouri & Kansas) to bring the gospel to the Lamanites.  They preached the gospel to anyone who would listed to them while on their journey.  Parley had a friend, Sidney Rigdon, who had a congregation located near Kirtland, Ohio and determined to seek him out to share the good news of the restored gospel and the Book of Mormon.  Rumors of the new book and the restored gospel spread rapidly and preceded them to many parts of their route.

Levi records their arrival in northeastern Ohio in his journal: 

“In the fall (1830) I concluded I would go and see Samuel Algers (Levi’s brother-in-law, who had married his older sister, Clarissa Hancock) in Chagrin, (OH).  So, I hired a horse of my good friend Mrs. Miller and started out.  I arrived at his house that evening by taking the near road.  I set down and presently Alvah (Levi’s older brother) came in and asked me if I had heard the news?

“What news”, asked I.

“Why,” said he, “four men have come and have brought a book with them that they call history and a record of the people that once inhabited this land.”

“Oh, “ said I to myself, “that sounds interesting and I would like to hear more.”  I began to inquire about it.

Alvah said, “Why, do you not recollect of reading what the Savior said.  How he had other sheep which were not of this fold at Jerusalem?”

“Oh, yes I do,” said I.  “Well, said he, “they were here and He came and taught them the same doctrine that he taught them at Jerusalem.  And,” said he, “they baptize for the remission of sins and are building up the church, as the apostles used to do in the days of Christ. Tomorrow, they are to hold a meeting at Mr. Jackson’s in Mayfield.  Yes,” said he, “they lay hands on those they baptize and bestow on them the Holy Ghost.”

At these last words, I gathered faith and there seemed to fall on me something pleasant and delightful.  It seemed like a wash of something warm took me in the face and ran over my body which gave me a felling I cannot describe.  The first word I said was, “It is the truth, I can feel it.  I will go and hear for myself tomorrow.”  

This was on a Saturday.  So, the next day I took my mother behind me on the horse and went to Mr. Jackson’s.  We got there a few minutes before the meeting.  After I had been there a short time, I saw the people begin to assemble.  I got in the chamber where there had been a few boards pulled up, (which had been laid down loose before), to give the spectators a fair chance of hearing.  In the chamber, I took a seat beside a lawyer by the name of Card.  He sat with his pencil and paper and commenced to scribble as the speaker arose and began to talk.

I sat with both ears open for the first word he spoke.  I believed all he said as much as though I knew he was Jesus Christ.  After he had talked a short time, he opened the Book of Mormon and read what Christ said to his disciples, who had gathered around the temple in the land of Nephi.  “... of the three days of darkness that had been upon the land...”

When he had got through reading and talking about the new revelation, he then went to exhorting the people to read the scriptures and see if they did not tell of the doctrine.  They teach us that there must be something sent from God in order to prepare the people for the glorious feign of Christ.  Then the words of Isaiah, 11th chapter, or a part of the chapter as far as the eleventh verse.

After this man had spoken, whose name was Parley P. Pratt, I had found out, he gave liberty for anyone to reply.  Sidney Ridgon then spoke and said he had been trying to preach the Gospel for a long time and now he had done.  He thought he should never preach again and confessed he was completely used up and advised the people not to contend against what they had heard. After this man had spoken, there arose another young man whose countenance bespoke a spirit of peace and love.  He said he had been an eyewitness to the things declared and the book reported to be a revelation was truth, however strange it may appear to the people. 

Parley P. Pratt then said, “If anyone wants to be baptized, let them come forward.”  My father went and was baptized and also my sister Clarissa and some few others. 

I went home to father’s and then the Devil began to rage.  There was one man, by the name of Phelps, that appeared to be mad and he exerted himself every way he could to discourage us from believing.  He told of the many impositions that had been palmed upon the people and where that would not do, but that we still believed and meant to prove the work and not condemn it nor the men who brought it until they had proved themselves unworthy of our confidence by some mean trick.

Next morning, I went back to Mayfield and asked where the men were that had been bapitzing there, with a firm determination to be baptized.   I found that they had gone to Kirtland.

I think asked one of Mr. Jackson’s sons if he would go to Kirtland with me.  He said he would go if I would stay all night.  I stayed the night with him and the next morning, we stared for Kirtland, Ohio.  Upon arriving there, we found that Parley P. Pratt was engaged in baptizing.  I dismounted my horse and went and asked Parley P. Pratt if he would baptize me.  He said he would if I believed.  I told him I believed that Jesus is the son of God and felt within my heart that the things he had told us were the truth.  He then baptized me. (16 Nov. 1830).  I thanked him and got on my horse and started to go. 

When someone asked me if I was not going up to Brother Morley’s, I said I did not know where he lived.  I was told to follow some men who was just on before I did.  So, we soon came in sight of the house, as I thought and then asked if this was the place where we were to go.  I was told it was the place and was invited into the house.  I went in and presently the room was near full.  We talked and heard many stories and their opinion concerning Olivier Cowdery.  Our horses were put up and fed.  We were then given supper and when the time came that we thought we had stayed long enough we went to rest.

In the morning, I called for my hose and was told where I could find him.  When I found him, he was so lame he could scarcely go.  I didn’t know what to do, but concluded not to go to New Lyme that day.

I told Olivier if he would go to Mayfield, I would go and let the people know.  He said he would go.  I then went for my horse, calculating that it would take me all day to get to Mayfield, but to my joy and satisfaction I beheld my hose well and got on his back and he went off as well as ever. 

I soon arrived at Mr. Jackson’s and called the people together.  Olivier did not come until we went after him.  He came and talked awhile.  Lyman Wright and myself had been talking to the people the first evening I came.  It was the next day before Olivier Cowdery and Ziba Peterson and one of the Whitmores came.  They held meetings and baptized some and in the evening they confirmed many members of the church.

The next morning, I was ordained an Elder.  I then went home to my father’s and soon after I went to Rome and commenced to hold meetings.  The people appeared to be astonished at the doctrine, but did not persecute as they did in some other places.

This was in the year 1830, in the month of November.  I preached from place to place where the folks were well acquainted with me.  Not long after I came to Rome, lies began to circulate through the land concerning the church.  This caused the people to be more cold.  However, some believed that there was something on the doctrine worthy of notice.”

Levi was still working to support himself and so, as he indicated, his first mission was to share the gospel within his own community and the area immediately surrounding Rome, Ohio.  He mentioned above that he had several families who listened to his message but we’re not totally sure just how much success he had there.

However, in the very small village of Rome, there lived the family of John and Rebecca Bearce Reed.  They were well acquainted with Levi and listed to his message.  They already had a growing family with ten children.  We’re not certain of the baptismal dates for everyone in the family, but due to Levi’s preaching, this family accepted the gospel.  Their sixteen year old daughter, Clarissa Reed, was baptized on 29 March 1831, and the rest of the family was probably baptized around the same time, or at least those children who were old enough.  Later in the fall of 1831, the mother, Rebecca Bearce Reed, had her 11th child, whom she named Levi Ward Reed in honor of the man who had brought them the gospel.

While it is interesting to note that the four LDS missionaries were on their way to the west to share the gospel with the Lamanites, Rebecca Bearce Reed was approximately half Indian.  With Levi baptizing her, this mission had at least a partial success, and she may have been the first “Lamanite” in the latter-days to have accepted the restored gospel and the Book of Mormon.

For Levi, who that spring was going on 28 years old, and who had already taken note of another young woman who he thought he’d like to court, he probably didn’t take serious note of the young 16 years old Clarissa Reed.  But, over the next few years she grew into young womanhood and not too much later became Levi’s wife.  They were married in Kirtland on 29 March 1833.  With that result, his mission takes on an even deeper significance and success.  We are grateful that Levi recognized the gospel when he heard it; that he persisted in seeking out the Elders in order to obtain the blessings of baptism and the priesthood, and that he willingly accepted the calling to preach the gospel to his neighborhood, thus bringing some of our other ancestors to enjoy those same blessings in their lives.