by Freda Entwistle

Evan Arthur was named after his father and grandfather, which was typical of the Welsh during the nineteenth century.  All three Evan’s lived in the village of Blaenavon, about 20 miles from Merthyr Tydfil, where our story begins. 

Missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had arrived in South Wales in 1842.   Under the leadship of William Henshaw and Dan Jones many Welsh converts were baptised  and emigrated to seek a new life in the heart of Zion, in North America.

Not long after Evan’s birth in 1861, his grandparents heard the gospel and were converted, leaving the Baptist Church where they had been staunch members.  However, Evan’s parents were not persuaded and continued in their family Baptist tradition. In 1863 Evan’s grandparents decided to emigrate to Utah, leaving young Evan’s family in Wales.

Evan Arthur 1861-1938
Evan Arthur 1861-1938

Blessed with a beautiful boy soprano voice, Evan grew up a loyal choir boy in the Baptist faith.   He attended the local school until age thirteen and then left to work in a machine shop.  Within a few years, Evan’s parents decided to seek a better life in America. Taking Evan, the only survivor of their four sons, the family set sail from Liverpool on the Helvetia arriving in New York in May 1879, then making their way to Pennsylvania, where they remained but a short while before moving west to Utah. Evan was now almost eighteen years old.


No doubt, Evan quickly found his way to his grandparents’ home in Tooele, Utah, and here he became better acquainted with the ‘Mormons.’   He attended their meetings and joined in their choral singing, he sang in many of their conferences, giving no thought to becoming one of them.  One day the bishop of the local ward approached him asking, “When are you going to be baptised?”  A little bit startled, Evan turned to the bishop and said, “I’m a Baptist, and one baptism is good enough for me.”

Taking him aside, the bishop explained that baptism is an ordinance needing to be performed by someone holding the same authority as Christ and His apostles, and that would be found in the Church bearing His name.   Evan decided to investigate for himself.  He continued to sing his way around the local wards and chapels.  One Sunday he attended a stake conference in Tooele where he heard Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Council of Twelve Apostles speak.  Evan was convinced by what he heard and was baptised 15 June 1890.


As yet Evan was unmarried.  He sang with the Salt Lake Oratorio Society, he served as choir leader in the 14th and 17th LDS wards, and he became a member of the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir.  He was a member of the High Priests Quorum of the 14th Ward.  Whatever he was called to do, Evan continued to use his beautiful melodic voice. As an accomplished conductor, he loved to lead the choral music and hymn singing, a talent which would be useful later as a missionary in Wales.

Ever devoted to his fellow countrymen, Evan also never forgot where his roots had started, he was a proud Welshman and became involved in Welsh activities in the Salt Lake valley.  He served as Director of the Cambrian Society of Salt Lake, an organisation concerned with the settlement and welfare of Welsh Saints. In addition, he served as President of the Sons and Daughters of Wales association.  A skilled workman from his apprenticeship in Wales, he was the Mechanical Engineer in charge of the Deseret News building for many years

Martha Triplett Arthur 1852-1923
Martha Triplett Arthur 1852-1923

In 1894 Evan married Martha Triplett, who had been born in St Helier, Jersey. When she was thirteen, her family emigrated to Salt Lake City. Martha had previously been married and had five surviving children between the ages of eleven and twenty three, so Evan found himself a father to five children overnight, though they had no children together.

When Evan received a letter from President Joseph F. Smith in April 1910 calling him to serve a mission in Wales, Martha’s health was not good.  She suffered with a heart condition, which would not allow her to do any hard work, and needed careful nursing.  In his reply to President Smith Evan says,

“My desire and my prayer is this, that God will bless me in opening up a way that I may be able to accomplish a mission to Wales... and preach the gospel to my kindred and friends I have not seen for many years, to search up my genealogy to be able to officiate in the Temple and do the work for them that are gone beyond.  Hoping this will be my happy experience some time in the future.”

Sadly, Martha died in 1923 and is buried in Salt Lake City.

MISSION ONE:  July 1924 – August 1926

A year later, at 62 years of age, Elder Evan Arthur was called to serve his first mission to Britain, under the leadership of David O. McKay, President of the British and European Missions.  He arrived in Liverpool and was firstly assigned to the Manchester Conference where within a few weeks he is found singing solo, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” in the travelling elders Priesthood meeting.  In September he was reassigned to his beloved motherland of Wales.

Within weeks of his arrival in Wales at a meeting of the travelling missionaries, Elder Arthur was reported to have given a very interesting account of his experiences with the members of the Dowlais Male Voice Choir. Nor would it be surprising to find that Evan had also taken the opportunity to sing informally with the Choir, no doubt making an impression having been a member of the Tabernacle Choir.

Throughout his mission, Elder Arthur travelled around the valleys of South Wales, selling Books of Mormon and Church pamphlets, distributing tracts for more than eighty hours a month.  He addressed assemblies on the principles of the gospel in the Cardiff and Pontypool branches. Spreading his wings, he took a journey to West Wales with President Thomas Biggs of the Welsh Conference who said, “Despite inclement weather we distributed 1500 tracts, 300 pamphlets and two copies of the ‘Articles of Faith.’  We also held one street meeting.  That the Lord prepared our way was evidenced by the many friends that were raised up to minister to our needs.”

No one seems to know why one afternoon Elder Arthur knocked on the door of 93 Plymouth Street, Merthyr Tydfil.  He was alone, as missionaries often were in those days.   The family inside was sitting around the fireplace chatting when they heard the knock.   The mother opened the door and invited the old gent to come in and speak with the family.  Her elderly father appeared to have a lot in common with the visitor and seemed to know a lot about ‘Mormonism.’  The family were not interested in the message of a restored gospel, but he continued to make return visits.  He also visited the elderly father’s brother and had many conversations there.

All too soon, it was time for Elder Arthur to return home to Salt Lake City.  He said his goodbyes to the family and though they had become very fond of the old gent they did not think they would ever see him again

. . . “ We never thought we would see him again but this wonderful old gentleman had something precious to give us . . . “

Journal of Florence Ellen Pulman Jones

But that was not to be the case

James E. Talmage, then President of the European Mission, included the following remarks in the Millennial Star.

James E. Talmage
James E. Talmage


. . . the week before last a small company of missionaries, each of them honourably released after two years or more of devoted service, sailed from these shores for their homes in the Great West. Among them was ELDER EVAN ARTHUR, a vigorous youth now in his sixty-fifth year. Since July 1924 Elder Arthur has laboured untiringly and unceasingly as a traveling missionary, imbued with such earnestness and zeal as to attract and even compel respectful attention. He has travelled afoot, literally all over the principality, distributing gospel literature, preaching and singing his way into the hearts and homes of the people, in village, town and city, from the deepest valley to Snowdon's peak, in the miner's cottage, the farmer's substantial home, and the mansion of the wealthy. As to the activities shown on statistical reports, such as hours in tracting, printed matter sold or given,... Brother Arthur has set a record for the Mission. His beloved Wales has been enriched by his aggressive yet persuasive ministry.

The Miners Hall, Merthyr Tydfil

MISSION TWO ~ Jun 1929 – July 1932

Within three years, Elder Evan Arthur arrived in Wales on his second mission.  

Once again a travelling missionary, he attended one of the largest conferences ever held in the British Mission, at the Miner’s Hall, Merthyr Tydfil. Eight hundred were in attendance on the evening of 20 September 1931 and had the privilege and pleasure of listening to the Dowlais Male Voice Choir of eighty-two voices.

Also at the Conference was Patriarch James H. Wallis who would return the following year to give many new members their Patriarchal Blessings

Missionaries at Welsh Conference
Missionaries at Welsh Conference Back row, third from left: Elder Evan Arthur; Centre seated Sister Josephine B Lund and President A William Lund, President British Mission, (May1930)

Elder Arthur shared his testimony with the readers of the Millennial Star, October 1931:

All is happiness to me, to enjoy while walking through my native land (Wales).   What great and marvellous revelations can come to one if he has the desire to live in the realms of the Lord’s intelligence – His creations.  The Heavens and earth speak it to us every hour, every tick of the clock, and every time we look at the wonders of mother nature.

I adore the Lord’s name.  His wonders never cease to me.  I praise His name in song.   I thank Him that He desireth me to walk in His beautiful creation – His gardens – and occupy the place prepared for me.

The Lord is the Head Gardener, and souls are His most precious flowers.  He clothes the lilies of the fields, but the souls of men and women are more precious to Him than the flowers and shrubs of all creation.

Once again, Elder Arthur knocked on the door of 93 Plymouth Street, Merthyr Tydfil, around August of 1931, this time with two young missionary companions, Elders Frank R. Miller and Marion G. Olsen.  Gradually, the light of the gospel began to have an effect in the Pulman home and the father, mother, eldest daughter and son began to show interest in what was being taught.  As Florence Pulman recorded in her journal, “ it seems that then as a family we were ready to accept the principals of the Gospel.”

Meanwhile, other extended family members, Ellen & Walter Price and family also showed interest in the teachings and were visited by Elder Arthur.

Taff River baptismal pool Cefn Viaduct, Merthyr Tydfil

On 10 January 1932, with snow on the ground, in stormy weather and with a crowd of onlookers gathered to witness the proceedings, there were five baptisms in the Taff River under the Cefn Viaduct. 

Father Walter Pulman, daughter Florence, son Hubert, cousin Tommy Price, and William Henry Davies from Resolven, were baptised by Elders Whiting, Miller and Olsen.

With the kindness of the folks in a nearby cottage, they were able to prepare for and change clothing after the baptism, a kindness that was extended many times for following baptisms.

On arriving home from the baptism, grandpa William Jones, fondly know as Billy Whiskers because of his long white beard, greeted Florence. He put his hand on her shoulder and said,  “That’s the finest day’s work you’ve ever done.”   It was then Florence discovered that her grandfather had been a member of the Church for over forty years!  His father, Moses Jones, was also a member and emigrated to Zion in 1869 leaving his wife and six children promising to follow him.  Though he sent funds for them several times, his wife being afraid to cross the sea and not wanting to leave her family refused to join him, and he refused to come back to Wales.

In her journal, Florence tells us there were many baptisms that followed, including the rest of her family and many more cousins and friends. As numbers grew, they could not continue to hold meetings in their homes so Elder Arthur hired accommodation in the Independent Labour Party Hall in Merthyr town. 

Having re-established a branch of the Church in Merthyr Tydfil, Elder Evan Arthur said goodbye to Wales and his convert friends, and returned to his home in Salt Lake City in July of 1932. 

MISSION THREE:  June 1935 – September 1937

On the 23 July 1935 Elder Evan Arthur arrived in London for his third mission to Britain, and was once again assigned to the Welsh District –  now in his 74th year, he was to serve for the last time in the beloved land of his ‘fathers.’ The Millennial Star described him thus:

'PICTURE an elderly, slightly bent gentleman neatly dressed in grey leading a small gathering of saints and friends in a hymn. The scene is a branch meeting in one of the homes of the members in Merthyr Tydfil, a mining town nestled in the hills of South Wales. His face and hands are wizened with age, but his Welsh voice has all the melody and freshness of youth.

His whole being seems to throb with the rhythm of the music. He is happy. His countenance and the vigour in his voice reveal that. That man is Elder Evan Arthur, who is on his third Latter-day Saint mission to his native land. He is 74 years of age and president of (the) Merthyr Tydfil branch.

Elders Rallison[1] and Arthur (both missionaries who find in age no barrier for spreading the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ), the two oldest travelling missionaries in Britain and two of the oldest in the Church, are examples of joy which the Gospel brings to those embracing its principles. No sacrifice is too great for them in their zeal to proclaim in their parent land, without monetary remuneration, the same message, which brought new brightness and purpose to their lives when they accepted the Gospel in Britain decades ago.

Nothing brings greater felicity to Elder Arthur than to proclaim the Gospel with song. He sings wherever he goes. Walking from village to village, tracting as he goes, is another fond proselyting practice of Brother Arthur.  He has walked around Wales three times during his labours, and still covers by foot each month the distance of thirty miles between Merthyr Tydfil and Varteg, where he also conducts meetings. . .

. . . The lives of Elders Arthur and Rallison have been full of trial, persecution and hardship, but in them one finds true expressions of devotion and sacrifice for a Gospel which has brought to them a full understanding of life. Like Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah.... 'they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish.' (Mosiah 28: 3.)


RETURN TO MERTHYR TYDFIL                             

When Elder Arthur returned to Merthyr Tydfil, he found the Saints had been meeting in various hired halls of the town. Very often, other groups’ activities had taken place on the Saturday night and on arriving on a Sunday morning before they could hold any meetings, floors needed to be swept, rubbish cleared and disinfectant sprayed.  Members agreed it was time to have their own hall.  Elder Arthur as Branch President, sought and gained permission from the Church to go ahead with a new building.

A piece of ground on Penyard hill was acquired by Walter E. Pulman on behalf of the Church and a sectional wooden hut was ordered and arrived at the GWR yard in Merthyr Tydfil.  It was loaded onto Brother Pulman’s horse drawn wagon and taken to the site. It was 1936, the country was in recession and many men were unemployed.  Many members and friends willingly helped to lay foundations and erect the building without any pay, happy to have something useful to do.

The completed chapel held about 100 seated. It provided a meeting hall, cloakroom, kitchen and outside toilets.   Imagine the effort put in to make this new building with its tarpaper roof ready by Christmas.  And so, the first sacrament service held in Merthyr’s new chapel was Sunday 20 December 1936.


Fittingly, Elder Evan Arthur, who had laboured so hard and faithfully in the planning and construction of the chapel was the principal speaker.  What a happy Christmas that must have been, for all who were gathered in ‘the little chapel on the hill’. Heber J. Grant, 7th President of the Church, dedicated the chapel on Monday 26 July 1937, the eighth purpose built chapel to be dedicated in Britain. It continued on to 1963 when it was set aside for the new purpose-built Stake centre which now houses two wards.

“Had that wonderful old man not been persistent in his efforts we would never have known the happiness that the gospel can bring into our lives. I will be eternally grateful to him.”

Journal of Florence Ellen Pulman Jones

In August 1937, Evan Arthur set sail for home in Salt Lake City. 

All those Elder Arthur taught the Gospel to have left this mortal existence and gone on to continue their journey in another place.  Nevertheless, his legacy lives on.  From those early days, many of the rising generations have continued the work.  Sons and daughters and grandchildren have served missions, filled leadership roles, worked in numerous callings and stayed valiant members of the Church.  Many continue to pay tribute to the grand old gent who served so tirelessly.

In a little less than a year of going home, Evan was admitted with pneumonia to the LDS hospital in Salt Lake City where he died aged 77 years.  Farewell dear friend, thou good and faithful servant.


[1] Born in Norfolk and baptised in 1884, he emigrated with his family four years later. As Supervisor of the traveling missionaries for the Welsh District, he frequently visited Merthyr Tydfil and other branches in South Wales.