Autobiography of William Halls
I, William, son of John Halls and Susanna Selstone, was born May 25, 1834 in Orsett, Essex, England. My father used tobacco and strong drink and some men who boarded at my father’s, just for amusement, taught me to smoke; it was fun for them to see me rock my cradle and smoke my pipe. I didn’t do this long, as I don’t know anything about it, only as I’ve been told. By heredity and environment I had every chance to have never acquired this habit.
My father was a farm laborer, having no property and receiving low wages. Therefore, we were quite poor. I was the eldest of four sons, and at the age of five or six I was called to work on the farm, herding sheep and swine, and doing little chores, with no chance of schooling.
When I was about ten years old, I thought of my father’s illiteracy and the state of our family, and the question came to me, ”Are you going to repeat the history of your father–grow to manhood, marry, and raise a family in like conditions?” And the answer came to me, “No, there is something better than that for you.” And without suggestion or encouragement from anyone I was prompted to buy books and learn to read. The only help I received was from my mother, who could read. She pronounced the words in my spelling lessons to me. I also bought pens, ink, and copy books, and learned to write without any assistance. My parents being Episcopalians, I attended the services of that church. I studied the scriptures, church catechism, and articles of faith; I attended to my daily prayers and did right as near as I knew how. But I wasn’t satisfied. There was a soul hunger, a longing for spiritual life. The future was dark and uncertain. I had a constant fear of death.
This was my condition till my fifteenth year; then one Sunday I heard there was to be preaching near my home, and I determined to stay away from church, something I had never done and attend that meeting. So strong was the prompting to go to that meeting that nothing but force could have restrained me. I went and I learned that the preacher was called a “Latter-day Saint.” Until then I had never heard of Latter-day Saints. I listened to his discourse and by comparison found it agreed with the scriptures. I was converted and the condition of the sectarian churches was made plain to my mind.