The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England
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As of January 1, 2011, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) reported 145,294 members in 36 stakes, 258 Congregations (228 wards and 30 branches), five missions, and two temples in England.
The LDS Church traces its origins to western New York state in the USA. The Church's early history was defined in part by its missionary activities, and England was one of the earliest places to be proselytised, due to the shared language. Some early members were also English, of English origin, living in the USA.
1837-1841: First Mormon missionaries reach EnglandEdit
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began in the United States, and was taken to England after a revelation received by Heber C. Kimball, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1837. In the revelation he saw Joseph Smith, who called him to proclaim the gospel in England. Shortly after, several other missionaries were called as well. These men included Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, and Joseph Fielding. They left Kirtland, Ohio on June 13, 1837. Three other missionaries, John Goodson, Isaac Russell, and John Snyder, were also called to go to England. They joined the missionaries from Kirltand in New York, and the group set off together on July 1 on the vessel Garrick.
The missionaries arrived at Liverpool on 20 July 1837. They went by coach to Preston two days later, where Joseph Fielding had a brother who would briefly allowed them to preach in his Vauxhall Chapel.:34 It was election day in Preston, and as their coach arrived the missionaries noted a large banner in bold gilt letters that bore the inscription “Truth Will Prevail”, which they took as a good omen for their work.
The following day they were invited to preach to the congregation of the Reverend James Fielding, Joseph Fielding's brother. Elder Kimball first spoke at the meeting, followed by Elder Hyde. The missionaries were invited to return to Vauxhall Chapel twice after that. However, after seeing that some of his members were following the Mormons, Reverend Fielding no longer allowed the missionaries in.
Within the week, nine of Fielding's flock sought baptism, which took place on Sunday morning July 30, 1837 in the nearby River Ribble, before a crowd of thousands. One of these new converts was Ann Elizabeth Walmesley, an invalid who was miraculously healed after her baptism. Another convert was George D. Watt.:34 On 6 August 1837 the first branch of the church was established in Preston, which remains today the oldest continuously functioning unit of the LDS Church.
In September 1837 the group obtained, through the Preston Temperance Society, access to a building in Preston known as The Cockpit where meetings began to be held regularly, including the first general conference of the LDS Church in the UK on Christmas Day 1837. By this conference there were several branches, or small congregations, established in Alston, Bedford, Whittle, Daubers, Hunter's Hill, Chatburn, and Penwortham, among other cities. Another mission conference was held in April of the following year and the church had grown to over 15,200 in membership. At this conference, Joseph Fielding was called as the mission president with Elders Richards and Clayton as counselors. Hyde and Kimball left after the conference for Liverpool.
On 8 April 1838 a second conference was held at which Joseph Fielding became president of the British mission and Willard Richards and William Clayton became counselors. On 20 April 1838 the other members of this first mission, who were not staying on, left Liverpool to return to the United States aboard, once again, the ship Garrick.
The United Brethren donate the Gadfield ChapelEdit
In 1838 Joseph Smith, the leader of the LDS Church, had announced that the Quorum of the Twelve should travel to the United Kingdom on a mission. They arrived between January and April 1840. Among the first Apostles to arrive was Wilford Woodruff who, in March 1840, was introduced to leaders of the United Brethren and began preaching to their congregation. A constable had been sent by the rector of the parish with a warrant to arrest him. At the close of the meeting seven people offered themselves for baptism, including four preachers and the constable. Within 18 days two of the most influential members of the United Brethren, John Benbow and Thomas Knighton, were baptised. Thirty days later Woodruff had baptised 45 preachers and 160 members of the United Brethren, who put into his hands their Gadfield Elm Chapel and 45 houses licensed for preaching. By 1841 nearly 1,800 additional people had converted, including all but one of the 600 United Brethren. The Gadfield Elm Chapel became the first chapel of the Latter-day Saints in the United Kingdom and is the oldest extant chapel of the LDS Church and was restored between 1994–2000.
In May 1840 the first issue of The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star, a magazine for British Latter-day Saints, was printed. It would be published regularly until 1970 becoming the longest continuously published periodical of the LDS Church. By the end of 1840 there were 3626 church members in Britain.:19
1841–1900: Growth in the British IslesEdit
Richly-bound copies of the Book of Mormon were presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by Elder Lorenzo Snow, who received an audience with Her Majesty in 1841. On that occasion Queen Victoria autographed an album of Elder Snow's, which became a prized possession in his family. His elder sister, Eliza R. Snow was a prominent poet and songwriter of the era. She commemorated the occasion of her brother meeting the Queen in her poem "Queen Victoria", which includes the verse: "O would she now her influence bend, The influence of royalty; Messiah's Kingdom to extend, And Zion's nursing mother be. Though over millions called to reign, Herself a powerful nation's boast; 'Twould be her everlasting gain, To serve the King, the Lord of Hosts. The time, the time is near at hand, To give a glorious period birth: the Son of God will take command, And rule the nations of the Earth."
By 1850 British membership had risen to 30,747 members (which was slightly more than the total in the United States at that time) and a further 7,500 had already emigrated to the United States. Following the death of Joseph Smith and the subsequent migration west of the Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City, migration from the British Isles to the United States increased greatly.:20 This emigration was aided by the church's Perpetual Emigration Fund.
In 1877 half of the 140,000 Mormons in Utah were of a British origin. This migration would leave its mark upon Utah, which as of 2000 had the highest percentage of population claiming English descent (29%) of any state in the USA. By 1892 the church membership still in the British Isles had fallen to only 2,604, despite around 111,330 baptisms occurring between 1837 and 1900 In a similar period of time at least 52,000 and up to 100,000 members had emigrated to the United States.
Many of these early converts migrated to the United States to join the main body of the Church in its pioneer movement West. John Moon brought the first company of 4 converts with him on the ship Britannia from Liverpool in June 1840. Another 800 members made the voyage the next year. Writing of the members preparing for one such ocean voyage, Charles Dickens described these pioneer Latter-day Saints in chapter 22 of his book The Uncommercial Traveller as, by his estimation, "the pick and flower of England". In June 1894, however, Latter-day Saint leaders in America had begun to encourage the European members to remain in their homelands and build up the Church in those countries.
Early twentieth centuryEdit
The London missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints held a musical conference on October 9, 1910 at the "Deseret", High Road, Tottenham. The 1910 Conference Program lists the name of the Mission President, W. P. Monson and the mission clerk, I. Owen Horsfall and the 39 missionaries: William R. Worley, Daniel F. O. Norris, Edw. R. Dimond, John C. Tuddenham, Henry Kidman, Nephi J. Brown, Elijah Gilbert, Lester J. Robins, John H. Eccles Jr., Edgar M. Wright, Edw. E Smith, Albert E. Read, Robert T. Petty, James H. Carter, John G. Darley, Warren Shurtliff, John M. Richards, James W. Blasdel, Warren Sirrine, James S. Nalder, Chas. H. Baker, Percy L. Labrum, Chas. B. Petty, James Shepherd, Everard L. McMurrin, Thos. A. Abel, Geo. T. Darley, Garnett W. Carlisle, Henry L. Jensen, Thos. S. Davis, W. G. Wagstaff, W. A. Brown, Jr., Jas. W. Saville, Wm. L. Coburn, Carl Eddington, Ezra Sorensen, Alex C. Crawford, Jennis L. Crawford, Joseph Eccles.
In February 1913 an anti-Mormon riot in Sunderland possibly led to the death of an American missionary Elder Ralph H. Hendricks though his death certificate stated he died from fever and the LDS Church's own publication's obituary stated he died after a two-month illness.
When the First World War broke out in 1914 all American LDS missionaries in the United Kingdom were evacuated back to the USA. They would not return in any significant numbers until mid-1920 when the Home Office relaxed immigration controls, which had been in place since the end of the First World War.
A well-organised 'anti-Mormon' campaign was mounted by various ministers and Latter-day Saints who had turned from the church. They lectured and published pamphlets accusing the missionary programme of being a disguise for Americans to enslave British girls as polygamous wives. The movie Trapped by the Mormons, inspired by Winnifred Graham's book of the same title, inspired widespread anti-Mormon rhetoric throughout the British Isles. Missionaries in this era were sometimes attacked. Crusaders baited then Home Secretary Winston Churchill and the British Home Office to persuade Parliament to expel Latter-day Saint missionaries and refuse entry to any more of them. Churchill led the way in opposing exaggerated claims and collecting favorable police reports from key cities. When the 'Mormon question' came up in Parliament again, Churchill said that although he had not completed his investigation, he had found nothing against the Mormons.
In 1937 Church leaders in the United Kingdom celebrated the centennial of the Church in the British Isles. During the first 100 years, 126,593 people had been baptised, and 52,000 of these had immigrated to the United States.
After the outbreak of the Second World War all American LDS missionaries were again evacuated. This was completed by early 1940 when the then British Mission President Hugh B. Brown returned to the USA. In his place a local Latter-day Saint, Andre K. Anastasiou, was appointed. Brown returned to the UK on 29 March 1944 and took back the Presidency. American missionaries would begin to return in 1946. In 1944 an additional 68 congregations were formed across the country.
In the 1950s emigration to the United States began to be discouraged and local congregations proliferated. The first LDS temple in England was the London Temple, now known as the London England Temple, dedicated in 1958 and located south of London in Newchapel, Surrey.
According to D. Michael Quinn, in the late 1950s through to the early 1960s a new focus on growth in convert numbers led to the introduction of "Youth Baptism Program", which became colloquially known as the "Baseball Baptism Program". This used baseball and other team sports as a way to bring young teenage boys into the LDS Church. Introduced by President T. Bowring Woodbury, who led the British mission from October 1958 to January 1962, it dramatically increased the baptism rate for new converts (in 1962 there were 12,000 converts alone) but controversy over the focus on numbers, the pressure on missionaries from the British Mission headquarters and the use of deception to get boys to agree to baptism led to the program being ended by 1965, and excommunications (which was the process of cancelling membership at that time) of most of the inactive new converts followed.
During the same period the LDS Church engaged in a massive building program. Prior to the Presidency of David O. McKay most British LDS congregations met in rented rooms and buildings. This was considered a detriment to the LDS Church's proselytizing and in the early 1960s a large number of chapels were constructed around the British Isles.
In the early 1970s, the Mormon sex in chains case brought the church some unwanted publicity in national newspapers. A young Mormon missionary named Kirk Anderson went missing in 1977, in Ewell, Surrey, after he was abducted from the steps of a church meetinghouse. A few days later a freed Anderson made a report to the police that he had been abducted, driven to Devon, and imprisoned against his will, chained to a bed in a cottage, where Joyce Bernann McKinney (b. August 1949) — a former (1973) Miss Wyoming World — had abducted, attempted to seduce, and then raped him. The case became known by many sobriquets, including "The Mormon sex in chains case" and "The Case of the Manacled Mormon". The coverage was extensive in part because the case was considered so anomalous, involving as it did the issue of rape of a man by a woman. in 2010 documentary filmmaker Errol Morris made Tabloid (2010), based on the media sensation surrounding the story.
Based on studies of information submitted to the Genealogical Society, it is estimated that 80 percent of the members of the Church in the world today are of British extraction.
In 2014 Tom Phillips, a former LDS Stake President, brought a private prosecution for fraud against the current President of the Church Thomas Monson through the British courts. After a summons for Thomas Monson was issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court, the case was thrown out by Senior District Judge Howard Riddle who ruled that the case was "an abuse of the process of the court" and that "the court is being manipulated to provide a high-profile forum to attack the religious beliefs of others".
"Mormon Helping Hands" service projectsEdit
The Church opens its Mormon Helping Hands programme in Britain. The project runs off of donations and volunteer work from Church members, and provides service in local communities by Latter-day Saints who live there.
"Truth Shall Prevail" summer pageantEdit
In the summer of 2013 the United Kingdom hosted the first official church pageant outside of North America. Titled "Truth Will Prevail", it told the story of early missionary efforts in Britain. The pageant included 33 core cast members, 300 family cast, and a 150-voice choir.
"I'm a Mormon"Edit
2013 also saw the opening of the Tony Award-winning Broadway production called The Book of Mormon on London's West End, which was widely interpreted to be provocative, by its creators and church members too. The LDS reacted by putting advertisements on the London Underground and buses, many of them pointing to a website associated with the "I'm a Mormon" campaign. Many English members have posted their own views and testimonies on this website.
There are two temples in England. The London England Temple serves the south of Britain. It was dedicated in 1958 by then Church President David O. McKay, and is located in Newchapel, Surrey on a site formerly known as Newchapel Farm listed in the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror. Its public open house was attended by 76,324 British citizens.
A second LDS Temple was completed in 1998 in Chorley, near Preston and known as the Preston England Temple. It serves northern England, north Wales, all of Ireland and Scotland. It was dedicated in 1998 by then Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. The world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed at the Royal Albert Hall in conjunction with the dedication.
England is one of only two nations in Europe to have two LDS temples, the other being Germany.
|12. London England Temple|
Newchapel, Surrey, United Kingdom
|52. Preston England Temple|
Chorley, Lancashire, United Kingdom
LDS Membership statistics as of January 1, 2016 for United Kingdom (figures for England alone are not published).
There are currently 5 missions serving England, including:
Notable English Latter-day SaintsEdit
- William S. Godbe – A British convert who went on to found the Church of Zion (Godbeites)
- John Taylor – Third President of the LDS Church and the only one to be born outside of the USA.
- William Bickerton – A follower of Sidney Rigdon who went on to found his own church
- William Law – Publisher of the Nauvoo Expositor
- LDS Meetinghouse Locator. Nearby Congregations (Wards and Branches).
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I love him so much that I would ski naked down Mount Everest with a carnation up my nose if he asked me to.
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