Historic Building Missionary Reunion

by Arnold Jones

Church Building missionaries

The Birmingham Handsworth Chapel is an exception, it is the only purpose built chapel dating back to 1912 in the UK.  During the 1950s, in the aftermath of World War II, the Church gave approval for the purchase of a number of buildings in Great Britain. Throughout that period the Church purchased large homes and chapels and converted them into LDS chapels. Elder Derek Cuthbert refers to these chapels in his book, “The Second Century” and shows photographs of those in Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff, Plymouth, Belfast, Middlesbrough, Lowestoft, Norwich, Bristol and Loughborough.

Then came the 1960s and 70s, a unique period in the history of the Church in Great Britain. Churches and church-goers reported that in 1960, the membership of the Mormon Church in Great Britain was 17,332. Only two years later the membership had nearly tripled reaching 45,206. There was a need to accommodate the current and anticipated growth in membership and a new building programme was born. By 1967, an additional 73 buildings had been erected.  This mammoth task had been accomplished with the use of building supervisors who were called from around the world to manage each chapel project. To support them, building missionaries were called to serve on each site and the local members contributed thousands of hours of labour.

Church Builders

A Missionary Meeting was held in Great Britain on the 27th November 1960. Brother Wendell B. Mendenhall, chairman of the Church Building Committee, speaking of the building programme that had been initiated, made the following remarks, “There is not anything marvellous about this programme at all. It is the one that the Lord used when we first started to build the kingdom in the valleys of the Rockies. Now with this programme returning to build Zion here, it simply means that we call together all of the forces of our missionaries. Whether they be proselyting missionaries, whether they be missionaries called to do labour, to build chapels, there is no differentiation as far as service is concerned. Labour missionaries will be called to build the buildings; proselyting missionaries are called as you are here represented, to bring the people into the Church. The combination of these two great forces will accelerate the work, and it will accelerate the work to the point that you cannot begin to imagine.

Many of these former church builders are now spread across the globe and some of them are travelling from the USA and Canada to be at the reunion.  Frank Blease and Sylvia Brown, members of the committee, have taken on the monumental task of tracking these missionaries down, and as you would expect, a number have passed away.  The building missionaries service to the Church after their missions is a testament to their continued commitment to the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We need their memories in order that many details of the history of this great building programme can be recorded and passed on to those that follow.

The reunion is being held at the Preston Temple site on the 18th of August, 2018.

A website linked with the reunion has been developed by James Perry, one of the committee members, and can be found at ldschurchbuilders.org.

These purpose-built chapels enhanced the worship of the saints and provided a place where the full programme of the Church could finally be undertaken.  Hats off to all these young men and women!.