UK and Ireland Church history

by Arnold Jones

Elder Steven E. Snow
Elder Steven E. Snow

In a recent newsletter from the Europe Area office the Church historian and recorder, Elder Steven E. Snow was quoted as saying: 

“To me, Church history is one of the most exciting aspects of the gospel.  I gain strength from what others have done that have gone before me.  While I might not be asked to pull a handcart across the plains, we all figuratively pull our own handcarts in life.  We all have trials and challenges to deal with that are unique to us and sometimes very difficult.  I love the examples of our forefathers, our pioneers who went before and gave so much to establish the gospel and raise their families in the Church.  Their devotion, courage, and sacrifice help me believe I too can do hard things.  Their example helps me want to do better.”  

Most of the first missionaries sent to Britain, including the early apostles, had been looking for something better even though they believed in God and Jesus Christ.  They had not been happy with the Christian churches around them; they felt principles and ordinances were missing that had once existed in the Church in the meridian of time.  

In Great Britain Queen Victoria reigned; the class system reflected the wide gap between rich and poor; the Industrial Revolution had changed working conditions.  Of the six million men that then lived in Britain, only 850,000 could vote.  The poor economic conditions contributed to the emigration of thousands.  In 1830, 55,000 people left Britain.  By the late 1840s and early 1850s the annual figure was as high as 250,000 at times.  This was the setting for introducing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  

The first mission to England, led by the apostle Heber C. Kimball, began in July 1837.  By the time he returned to America in April 1838, 1,500 people had been baptised into the Church.  He left a mission presidency of Joseph Fielding, Willard Richards, and William Clayton.  

Elder Kimball returned to Britain in 1840 with others.  There were nine apostles who served in Britain that year: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Willard Richards.  Not only was missionary work established in the four countries that then constituted the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but the Quorum of the Twelve also learned their duty in the missionary field and became united.

These missions not only changed the lives of those who embraced the gospel in those early days, but their effect reaches to our present days.  This is part of our heritage, that encourages us to gain spiritual strength and improve our lives.

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