Standing on Giants

by Freda Entwistle

In November 1922 the Millennial Star reported that Elder James H. Western, President of the Welsh Conference represented the Church in a debate with the Varteg Debating Society in south Wales.  He delivered his gospel talk for an hour on ‘The Philosophy of 'Mormonism,' and then  answered many questions put to him for a further two hours.   In the article President Western said,  “I was never treated better by an audience in my life.  At the close of the meeting the chairman said, ' Mr. Western, I came here with my pockets filled with anti-'Mormon ' propaganda, but after listening to your talk I did not have the heart to bring it out.' Another gentleman said, 'Well, if that is 'Mormonism,' it is good enough for me!'  I was tendered a hearty vote of thanks and given an invitation to address another meeting of the society.”

James Hutchinson Western was born on 1 May 1898 to loving parents, Samuel Winsborough and Mary Alice Western, in Deseret, Millard, Utah. James was 6th in a family of twelve children and knew a caring Latter-day Saint home.  On his eighth birthday, he was baptised by his father.   During his growing years, he probably experienced fulfilling Aaronic priesthood duties and becoming a Melchizedek priesthood holder.  Before his mission call, he served his country in the military during 1917-18, stationed in Utah and Missouri. At the age of 22, Elder James H. Western set sail for the British Isles to serve as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

James H. Western

On arrival at Liverpool in February 1921, Elder Western was assigned to the Liverpool Conference.  He was transferred to Wales in March of the following year and though just 23 years old he was appointed, sustained and set apart as the president of the Welsh Conference under the direction of  President Orson F. Whitney, Apostle and President of the European Mission.  President Western was invited to bear his testimony at the conference, which is recorded as:

“Elder Western bore a strong testimony, and pointed out the necessity of co-operation in order to carry on the work of the Lord.”   

The headquarters of the Welsh Conference were established where he resided, at 11, De Burgh Street, Riverside, Cardiff.

There were many duties for President Western to perform. 

In those days of the Church, there were quarterly Branch Conferences to attend and assist in the four existing branches of the Church at the time, situated in Cardiff, Varteg (Pontypool), Newport and Merthyr Tydfil.  It is recorded, the people “listened to forceful Gospel discourses delivered by President James H. Western,” and his “giving much encouragement” to both members and missionaries.

There were baptisms and confirmations, where President Western was called upon to speak, “exhorting the newly baptised converts to strive to live worthy of the name they had taken upon themselves, that of Latter-day Saints.”  In monthly Priesthood meetings, he gave much encouragement and timely counsel, which was imparted to those brethren who in turn would provide care and compassion to the needs of the membership.

Among his many duties, a compassionate President Western found the time to attend funerals, in his talks bringing comfort and solace to the bereaved, whilst bringing hope in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection.


This was a time of dedicated service for President Western, one in which he put his total committment, sharing his leadership skills and gospel experiences, providing training to both local leaders and missionaries in developing growing branches.  Also, continually caring for the needs and encouraging the full-time travelling missionaries throughout the district, who were also in his care, giving guidance and direction in spreading the gospel to many areas of South Wales and the West.

He became a defender of truth.  A letter  written by him appeared in the Cardiff  Echo, the South Wales Daily News, the Cardiff Express, and the Western Mail:”


I noticed through the columns of your paper that Lulu L. Shepherd is in South Wales at the present time for the special purpose of warning against 'Mormonism' the mothers and daughters of South Wales, who seem, according to the lady, to be lacking in intelligence and good judgment to the extent that they need a Shepherd to care for them.

It seems strange to me that in these days of comparative enlightenment, reckless agitators, with no regard for truth, reason, or the commonest rights of man, can have in their power to awaken against an unoffending people such a bitter and hostile sentiment as now prevails in this section of the country towards the grossly maligned Latter-day Saints.

Strange that men and women in a civilised Christian country can be so humbugged and misled that they will rise in wrath, and without a scintilla of evidence to justify such conduct, basely slander, threaten, and even offer violence to a few harmless missionaries, whose only offence is a peaceable promulgation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

. . . The 'Mormon' elders have been in Great Britain for the past eighty-five years; never once in that time has one of them been taken into the courts and a misdemeanour proved against him. Even the British Government, after thoroughly investigating the matter can find nothing against them. By a decision of the Lord Chief Justice, the Church is legally recognised in the United Kingdom, and is also recognised by the Governments of the British Dominions.”

At the Welsh semi-annual conference held in Stacy Hall, Cardiff on the 22 October 1922 it was reported in the Star that:

“President Western hoped the brethren would put into practice the good counsel they had received. He invoked the blessings of the Lord upon them.”

“. . .President Western expressed his pleasure at seeing so many saints and visitors present.  He explained the organization of the Church by the Saviour, in the meridian of time, and showed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized according to the primitive pattern.  In presenting the authorities for the vote of the conference President Western said:

'Let no one sustain these officers by his uplifted hand who

 is not willing to sustain them by his works.'


By unanimous vote the general, mission, and conference authorities were unanimously sustained.”   Also at the conference, President Western as part of a trio sang,

'School Thy Feelings,' and 'My Father Knows.'

At a special meeting with President David O McKay, and the travelling elders of the Welsh Conference on 3 January 1923, President Western reported progress in the Welsh Conference over the past months and the missionaries gave their reports, followed by President David O. McKay who addressed them and presented a plan of work for the year ahead (1923).

After a very busy and gospel promoting period, Elder James H. Western was honourably released as president of the Welsh conference.  He travelled back to the USA, arriving in Salt Lake City on 20 January 1923.

Sadly for many, our story does not have a ‘happily ever after’ ending.  After spending a few days with his brothers and sisters in Salt Lake City, Elder Western went to the hospital to consult with his doctors who confirmed his case was a very serious one.  That weekend James went home to his parents in Millard for the weekend.  On Sunday, he reported his missionary labours before returning on Monday to Salt Lake City.

Three weeks later, on Saturday the 17 February 1923 the surgeons operated to remove a tumor on the spinal cord, but to no avail.  James died the following Wednesday with his parents at his side.  Their beloved son, not yet 25 years old, had served his country and served a mission for the Church.   Now they must part with him again until their passing, when they will reunite together in the eternities.

 In a letter to President McKay and the British people, his parents wrote:

'Funeral services were held in the Deseret meeting house, on Sunday, February 25th, Bishop Damron presiding. Elders George A. Smith, Wilford O. Woodruff and President A. A. Hinckley were with us, and spoke words of love and peace to us, and told of the good work James had done. Although it was cold and stormy - snowing and blowing all day - there were nearly five hundred people present at the services. Truly he was beloved by all.

'We surely do miss him, but we say the Lord's will be done. We know he was wanted on the other side. Just before James left Liverpool he went down to the land of my fathers, Tiverton, Devonshire, and got the names of our ancestors back to the 15th century. We now have them, and are getting them compiled in a Temple Record, and will be doing the Temple work for them while James is preaching the Gospel to them on the other side.”

David O. McKay

President David O McKay wrote,

“Sorrow made heavy every heart in the Welsh conference last Monday, when the announcement was received of the death of Elder James H. Western. On the previous day a series of inspirational meetings had caused all to rejoice. The fruit of the successful labors of missionaries during the last six months was manifest. Elder Western's influence and the results of his untiring efforts were apparent. All were happy in the realization that their earnest endeavors had not been in vain. But the rejoicing of the elders was turned to mourning -when the news came that their former much-beloved president, who had cheered them so recently, had received his final summons.

Elder Western was a missionary in Great Britain from March 6th, 1921, to January 4th, 1923.  He presided over the Welsh conference from March 6th, 1922, until he was honorably released. His labors were characterized by zeal, courage, and indefatigable effort; his daily life, by sincerity, undeviating integrity, dignified humility, and an earnest desire to make better and happier all who came within the radiance of his life. His appreciation of his parentage, his loyalty to the Church, his unclouded realization of possessing pure desires, gave him a strength of character that was admirable. In dealing with his own short comings or physical ailment, he was stern and unyielding; when dealing with others, he was kind and charitable.

During the intensity of the recent anti-'Mormon' tirade here in the British Isles, he proved himself an able and fearless defender of the Truth. His frank, open nature, sound judgment, and clear exposition of the principles of the Gospel won the respect and admiration even of those who opposed him.

To his associates, who loved him dearly, to whom his taking away has brought poignant grief, and especially to his beloved parents, brothers and sisters, to whom his companionship was so dear and precious, we offer sincere and heart felt sympathy. It is gratifying to know that the comforting influence of the Holy Spirit has given them the divine assurance that all is well with Elder Western. Death has no claim upon such as he. To him it is ''but passing through a dark entry, out of one little dusky room of his father's house, into another that is fair and large, lightsome and glorious, and divinely entertaining.' As a true servant of Christ, he has won the welcome:

“Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'

That Elder Western's pride in his parentage was justified, and that his noble parents have found that peace and comfort which come from a testimony of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

We can easily picture the heartfelt sorrow when the news of President Western’s passing hit the Welsh Saints, his brothers and sisters and friends in Christ mourned the sudden loss of their beloved leader, teacher and friend.  Though young, he accepted the mantle of leadership and with all diligence and committment fulfilled his calling with love, dignity and an ever faithfull heart to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the people he loved so dearly.

“Memorial Services.  Sunday, the 18th March (1923) memorial services were held in all the branches of the Welsh conference, in behalf of Elder James H. Western, former president of this conference, who passed away February 22ud, in Salt Lake City. Many saints and friends were present to pay their sincere respects to their departed brother.”

Are we not blessed, to stand on the shoulders of those ‘giants’ who have given faithful and tireless service for our benefit?  May we ever be thankful for the richness of our heritage and may we always cherish the written word that has preserved ‘Our Story.’


Freda Entwistle

From Millennial Star Archives