James Holt was born on 10 February 1804 in Halifax County, North Carolina, to Jesse and Elizabeth Davis Holt. He married Mary Pain in 1830. She died in 1845 and that same year he married Parthenia Overton. He became a member of the LDS Church in 1839 and moved to Nauvoo in 1840-1841.
In 1881, James Holt recorded recollections of his life, including his conversion story:
In the month of October, there came a man to our section of the country to preach who claimed to belong to a church calling itself the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a new sect lately sprung up. This man’s name was Zachariah Wilson. Previous to this I had never believed in any denomination, for I could not see where they got their authority. They all preached about a God whom no one could comprehend. They believed not in revelation nor the gift of healing by the laying on of hands, according to the scriptures. Now I looked for a church that was built upon the foundation that was laid down in the scriptures, with prophets and apostles to lead, and I had talked a great deal with my brother-in-law, Andrew A. Timmons, who believed as I did. I had tried to persuade him to preach, for he was a well educated man, but he said if he were to attempt to preach as he believed, the people would kill him.
Now this “Mormon” Elder (as this new sect was called by the world) preached in our place and I went to hear him. He preached the Gospel according to the scriptures; faith on the Lord Jesus Christ and baptism for the remission sins, the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost by those who were called of God; also the administering to the sick by the laying on of hands, and a great many other things which he proved by the scriptures. He then went on to show how the Lord had appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, how he was instructed of Angels form time to time and at last, when he had grown to manhood, how he had been led by the same heavenly messengers to obtain the sacred plates; how he had been inspired to give the translation thereof, and how he had been ordained to be a prophet, seer and revelator in this last dispensation; also how he had been led by God to organize the Church of Jesus Christ with apostles and all the appendages of the Holy Priesthood, with all the gifts following those who believed and were baptized according to the promises given in the scriptures.
Now I believed and rejoiced to hear the Gospel again preached on Earth as it was in the days of Christ. I went for my brother-in-law to come and hear a man who preached according to our mind. He came to hear him and after the preacher got through, he gave any one present the privilege to ask any questions, which was fair, and he would try to answer them. My brother-in-law asked him if he had a foundation for what he preached. He said yes. My brother-in-law said that was all he wished to know at present. After meeting I invited the preacher home with me. He said if anyone would open their doors to him he would preach again to them. One man said he could have his house to preach in, and I told him he was welcome to preach in mine, so he appointed to preach in this other man’s house on Thursday and at my house on Sunday. He went home with me. On Thursday he held meeting at this other man’s house. When he got through, a Methodist preacher asked permission to say a few words, and being granted the privilege, he arose and said there was no need of any more revelation, the canon of scripture was full and we needed no more addition to the Bible for it was perfect and he could prove it by that bucket (pointing to an old bucket close by, which had but one ear and no bail). Said he “That is a perfect bucket, is it not?” “Yes it is.” “Well as that bucket is perfect so is the Bible. I told you I could prove it.” I failed to see the point of his proof, but perhaps it satisfied him. He further went on and said the very words that the man said in the pit which I saw in my dream. I had not thought anything more about my dream for some time until now it flashed to my mind with great force. The next Sunday, Elder Wilson held a meeting at my house, at which time I was baptized and ordained to the office of Teacher. My brother-in-law did not join the Church at that time. He said I was like the sow that jumped at the swill as soon as it was put in the pen. He joined the Church the following spring and went on to Nauvoo, where I heard he apostatized through some false doctrine introduced by a few individuals who belonged to the Church, but did not understand the doctrine right.
In about three weeks from my baptism, my wife was baptized. As soon as I was baptized, persecution began. All manner of lying and reviling went on about those who belonged to the Church, but it only increased my faith, for so persecuted the Church in the days of our Savior.
Title: Holt, James
Dates: 1881 (inclusive)
Collection Number: UU_Ms0412
Summary: The James Holt Papers (1881) consist of a biographical sketch of Holt titled “Life of James Holt: Early Pioneer.” This is not a journal account, but rather Holt’s recollection of life events written in 1881 when he was 77 years of age. James Holt (1804-1894) was an early member of the LDS Church who settled in southern Utah.
Repository: J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah
Address: J. Willard Marriott Library Special Collections 295 South 1500 East Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-0860 (801) 581-8864