The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United Kingdom
As of 31 December 2014, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) reported 186,193 members in 45 stakes, 335 Congregations (286 wards and 49 branches), six missions, and two temples in the United Kingdom.
The first Mormon missionaries to proselytise in the British Isles were seven men, led by Heber C. Kimball, who arrived in Liverpool aboard the ship Garrick in July 1837. Joseph Fielding, a member of the party, had a brother in Preston and it was to here that they quickly moved operations. Fielding's brother briefly allowed them to preach in his Vauxhall Chapel which led to the baptism of their first convert George D. Watt and 8 others in the River Ribble on 30 July 1837.: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. 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.
Two native Scots, Alexander Wright and Samuel Mulliner, became the first missionaries to Scotland after they were converted whilst living in Ontario, Canada. They arrived 20 December 1839 and on 14 January 1840 Mulliner baptised the first converts in Scotland, Alexander Hay and his wife Jessie, in the River Clyde at Bishopton near Paisley.
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. Ultimately all but one of the congregation converted to Mormonism and their chapel in Gadfield Elm became the first chapel of the Latter-day Saints in the United Kingdom. The Gadfield Elm Chapel in Worcestershire is the oldest extant chapel of the LDS Church and was restored between 1994–2000.
As part of this second mission, Orson Pratt headed to Scotland and, on 8 May 1840, he founded a branch of the church in Paisley. Arthur's Seat, a hill in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, has a particular significance to the history of the Latter-day Saints in the UK, because this is where the nation of Scotland was dedicated in 1840 by Pratt "for the preaching of the gospel".
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.
The first official Mormon missionary activity in Northern Ireland occurred on 28 July 1840 when John Taylor and two Irish men, converted in England, preached in Newry. On 31 July 1840 they baptised the first Mormon convert in Ireland, Thomas Tate, in a lake near Loughbrickland.
On 6 October 1840 Henry Royle and Frederick Cook became the first missionaries to enter Wales and reported 32 baptisms within two weeks of their arrival at Overton By the end of 1840 there were 3626 church members in Britain.:19
Expansion and emigration
In 1845 a missionary named Dan Jones arrived in Wales. He would become one of the most successful Mormon missionaries to work in the United Kingdom. In December 1845 there were 493 baptised members of the LDS church in Wales, in January 1846 Dan Jones was placed in charge of the LDS missionary efforts there and by the time he left Wales in February 1849 there were 4,645 baptised members in Wales. He also led at least two emigrant parties from Wales to the Salt Lake Valley. He initiated publishing pamphlets and other magazines in the Welsh language that ultimately led to the publication of a Welsh translation of the Book of Mormon in April 1852 by John Davis.
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.
Opposition to Latter-day Saint missionary efforts in United Kingdom existed from the earliest missions but intensified in South Wales and the West Midlands in the 1850s, leading to some violent incidents. 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.
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.
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.
World Wars and later developments
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.
Prior to 1922 all Latter-day Saints in Ireland were organised as the Irish Conference. With the creation of the Irish Free State causing a split, the Latter-day Saints in Northern Ireland, which remained with the United Kingdom, were organised under a newly formed "Ulster Conference" on 1 October 1922. David O. McKay formalised this split 30 September 1923. However the LDS Church would later reunite the two conferences under a newly formed Irish District 31 March 1935 organising Latter-day Saints in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland together.
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 the 1950s emigration to the United States began to be discouraged and local congregations proliferated.
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 1977 a young Mormon missionary named Kirk Anderson went missing from the steps of a LDS meeting house in Ewell, Surrey. 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 (as Joy McKinney) — 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."
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".
Table shows LDS membership statistics as of 31 December 2011 for various regions and nations of the UK, along with British Crown Dependencies.
|Country/Dependency/ Territory||Membership||Stakes||Wards||Branches||Total Congregations||Missions||Temples|
|British Virgin Islands||150||2||2|
|Isle of Man||300||1||1|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||92||1||1|
There are currently 6 missions serving the British Isles:
- England Birmingham Mission
- England Leeds Mission
- England London Mission
- England London South Mission
- England Manchester Mission
- Scotland/Ireland Mission
The nation of Wales does not have its own mission.
|12. London England|
Lingfield, Surrey, United Kingdom
|52. Preston England|
Chorley, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Notable British Latter-day Saints
John Taylor – Third President of the LDS Church and the only one to be born outside of the USA.
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