The Church faced considerable challenges as it sought to construct a chapel for the Saints of the Billingham congregation.
On 31 March 1961, local church leaders of different denominations defended the Church and challenged the Billingham Urban Council’s opposition to the planning application for a chapel. One local councillor, L. H. Smith, opposed the plans for an LDS chapel and described it as a pagan religion that did not accept the teachings of the Bible.
“It would be wrong to allow this to be established on our estates where all the Christian churches have done a good job of work.”L. H. Smith, Billingham Urban Councillor
The Reverend John Beardsworth, a local Roman Catholic Dean stated, “If people belong to that sort of thing I do not see why they should not have their own church.” Similarly, the Reverend John Aiken, a Presbyterian Minister said “I would not like to fall in line with anyone trying to restrict the freedom of a minority.” Branch President, Harry Truman, was surprised by the comments from the Council and wrote to them to explain the LDS faith.
“I am shocked by this outburst. Councillor Smith obviously has no idea what the Church is…I think it is the most Christian of Christian Churches. And we hold the Bible more sacred than anything on earth.”Harry Truman, Billingham Branch President
Ultimately, the Church was awarded planning permission and a Chapel was completed in 1968. The members worked hard to pay off the debts, and within a year, it was ready for its dedication.
The dedication took place on 18 May 1969, and the speakers were Bishop John Dale, Building Supervisor Horace Footes, Stake President Frederick W. Oates, and Elder John Longden, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, who offered the dedicatory prayer.
This article is part of the Church Builders History website.
The Times, 1 April 1961, ‘Mormon Chapel Dispute’