This is the first of six stories in a series titled Milestones and Miracles: The heritage of Latter-day Saints in Europe. Each story was researched and authored by James Perry, PhD, FHEA, historian and writer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The upcoming book ‘Saints – volume 3’ will include many other stories and events regarding the establishment of the Church in Europe.
Arthur Winter’s legacy of Church service began in England when at age 16, one week following his baptism, he was asked to serve in a voluntary capacity as a clerk for his congregation. Later, his skill of writing in shorthand would lead him to a lifetime of service in the Church and personal relationships with four presidents of Church: Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant. As a reporter and official stenographer, he recorded important historical information about the Church. His contributions, like many other early Latter-day Saints forwarded the work of the Church in Europe and abroad.
In August 1916 Arthur Winter attended the burial of his son, George, who was Arthur’s youngest and last son. All six of his sons had died either as children or as teenagers in tragic circumstances. The fifty-two-year-old Nottingham native had arrived in Utah in 1883 and married Hannah Bytheway, a young Latter-day Saint convert from Swansea, Wales, in the Logan Temple in December 1885. Their eight children included two daughters, Rosannah and Ruth, and they made their home in Salt Lake City.
Arthur was born in Nottingham in 1864 and after a few years of schooling at the age of 13 he began working in a lace warehouse with a friend, John Wells. Religion did not hold Arthur’s interest and he was not impressed by the churches he attended. Eventually he was introduced to the Church, and he attended a meeting with his father. Arthur grew interested in the gospel and soon after he was baptized with his mother and sister. His father, however, was no longer interested in the gospel message and some of his brothers persecuted him for his decision to join the Church. On 1 November 1880, a week after his baptism, Arthur was called as the Branch Clerk.
Arthur began preaching the gospel to his friend, John, who was resistant at first but eventually received his own testimony and was baptized. The two men were great friends and at age fourteen they decided to learn Pitman shorthand. They thought it might help them down the line and the two boys spent their evenings studying from a book. The young men would swap the book each day so they could take turns to read it. This was a skill that would prove invaluable in his later promotions.
Eighteen months later a tract society was organised in Nottingham and later that year Arthur was made a counsellor in the Branch Presidency and President of the Tract Society. Tract Societies were organised across the British Mission at various times for the purpose of distributing the written word with renewed energy. Members and missionaries worked to distribute small paper tracts to drum up interest in the Church and to help the missionaries find people to teach. At the end of 1882 the first Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association in Nottingham was formed, and Arthur was made a counsellor in addition to his other callings.
Arthur was released from his callings a few months later when he, along with his mother and two sisters left Liverpool in April 1883 for Utah. His father allowed part of the family to emigrate, but he had lost all interest in the Church and was going to stay in Nottingham. Arthur was eighteen years old when the Winters arrived in Utah. Sadly, conditions were difficult and for several months he was without work. In August 1883, Arthur spent his final quarter on a tin of oysters for his family. At least they would have a nice treat with the last of the money. The same evening Arthur received news that he was to report to the church offices the next day. Arthur was hired as an errand boy for the Church’s administrators and just over a week later he was made reporter for the Church until 1907. The young man knew each Prophet personally from Wilford Woodruff to Heber J. Grant and was the official church stenographer.
Through his work Arthur had the privilege of travelling throughout the Church and being present at prominent events. Arthur was with President Lorenzo Snow when he gave his famous talk about tithing in St. George, Utah, in May 1899. In 1902 he was made secretary of the Church Board of Education. In 1905 Arthur travelled with President Joseph F. Smith to Sharon, Vermont, for the unveiling of a monument celebrating the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He also attended the dedication of the Hawaiian Temple in 1919. On occasion Arthur spoke on the church’s weekly radio broadcast and gave talks in the Tabernacle. Perhaps the most significant event Arthur was involved in was the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple for which he was the official reporter.
Arthur was at the forefront of innovation in the Church. In 1897 he helped President Wilford Woodruff record his testimony in a “talking machine.” Arthur was also the first to use a typewriter and a telephone in the church offices.
In 1930 Arthur was tasked with touring the Church in Europe with John Wells, his old friend and then the Second Counsellor in the Presiding Bishopric. The two men toured France, England, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland, and Czechoslovakia as they visited members, inspected records, and gathered observations about the conditions of various countries. Together they inspired and addressed the Saints by using their personal conversion stories as evidence of the good that could come from acting in faith and being obedient to God’s commandments.
A few years later while visiting the UK in 1937 for the British Mission centennial celebrations he again bore his testimony:
My testimony to you, my brethren and sisters, is that this is the work of the Lord. It is the true Church, and the time will come when all people, the whole world over, will find out that this is indeed the Church of Christ. It is not the Church of Joseph Smith, it is not the Church of Brigham Young. It is not an American Church, it is not a British Church. It is a universal Church. It is the Church of God.
Following his testimony, President J. Reuben Clark of The First Presidency spoke and paid tribute to Arthur:
I should like to say something about Brother Winter, who has just spoken to you. He has been one of Britain’s great gifts to the work of the Church. He has spoken of two requisites and having a slightly different shade of meaning though perhaps involved in obedience, I should like to say that Brother Winter has been outstanding for his loyalty… No king was ever served with truer or greater loyalty even to death than Brother Winter has shown to the Authorities of the Church with whom he has worked.
Arthur passed away three years later in 1940 after 57 years of Church employment. Starting off from humble means he went on to have a productive and successful career that is almost unparalleled in the Church. He sat on the boards of prominent businesses and Brigham Young University, recorded Prophetic messages, and was involved in some of the most significant events in Church history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
From the early days of the Church to modern times, Latter-day Saints have given their time, talents and skills to the work of the Church in Europe. If you have additional insight about Arthur Winter or a personal experience of a Church member whose contributions would be of interest to others in the Europe Area, please submit your information or story to EUAChurchHist@ChurchofJesusChrist.org