A Link Between Wales and Idaho

by Dawn Morgan

A bridge in teh country

In June 2022, Swansea Ward member Jill Morgan attended the annual Welsh Festival in Malad, Idaho, to give a presentation on the history of the LDS Church in 19th century Wales.

Malad was settled by Welsh converts in the 1860s, and there are still plenty of Jones, Davies, Williams and Evans entries in the phone book. It’s a small town of just 2,500 inhabitants. But they’re so proud of their Welsh heritage, that some 15 years ago, they reinstated the traditional Welsh festivals that the town had held up until the 1930s. These would originally have been an “Eisteddfod”, with competitions in song, dance, poetry and instrumental music. The modern counterpart in Malad still includes music, in the form of concerts which take place throughout the two days of the festival. These can be found both on an outdoor stage, and inside the lovely 1915 Latter Day Saint meeting house beside the park where the festival takes place.

But the competition is reserved for poetry, with the winning author seated on a specially carved Bardic chair- as they would be in the traditional Welsh Eisteddfod. Sister Morgan’s presentation was based on the research which she and other Welsh Church History Specialists had conducted into places of historic interest for the Church. These included former meetinghouses, such as the purpose-built chapels in Llanelli, Abergele and Monkton; places where baptisms took place such as at the Point of Ayr lighthouse on the Dee estuary; places where missionaries preached (and were often heckled or chased away); and places of special note such as Nantygwenith Street in Merthyr Tydfil where John Sylvanus Davis translated the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants into Welsh in the 1850s. Among the audience at the festival were descendants of those mentioned in the presentation– ordinary people whose lives were changed by the gospel and who accomplished great things, including the settlement of small towns across the American West where the restored gospel could be lived in peace.