William A. Morton: From Ireland to President Hinckley

by James Perry

William A. Morton was a prolific author of missionary tracts for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

William A. Morton
William A. Morton

Born on 10 January 1866 in Banbridge, County Down, Ireland, the young man was one of a small number of people to accept the gospel after hearing about it from a co-worker at a printing establishment on 7 April 1888, at the age of 22, William was baptised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Harry M. Payne. Soon after his conversion William accepted invitations to serve in the Church and was eventually called as a Branch Presidency Counsellor in May 1891.

On the 1 October that year, however, William arrived in New York to begin his life in America with his young family. Fast forward to 1900 William could be found living in Sugarhouse, Utah, with his wife, Annie, their five children, and his mother. While there William worked as a Printer which related well to his passion for writing.

On 7 August 1906, and at the age of forty William was set apart as a missionary to serve in the British Mission. He was away from his young family for almost three years. During that time, William proclaimed the gospel and gave presentations across the country, although his primary responsibility was as Associate Editor of the Millennial Star. At the conclusion of his mission, on 27 May 1909, William sailed from Liverpool for his home in America and in so doing led a group of eighty-one emigrants with him. 

The call to serve a second mission came in 1921 and in May of that year, William and his wife, Annie, set off for Britain. Their two-year mission saw the Mortons spending a considerable amount of time in Liverpool where William served again as the Associate Editor of the Millennial Star. This magazine was the main church publication in Europe.

On Sunday 14 August 1921, William delivered a lecture to an audience in Burnley on the subject of ‘Why I believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God’. The presentation was built on his earlier work which revolves around the Book of Mormon. In a twist of fate, just over ten years later, a young Gordon B. Hinckley would arrive in Burnley and also proclaim the gospel to the local population.

William A. Morton
William A. Morton

Interestingly, it was Morton’s work 'Mother Stories from the Book of Mormon' that introduced Gordon B. Hinckley to the Book of Mormon.

Of the experience, President Hinckley declared:

‘This was my first introduction to the Book of Mormon. Reading from the Book of Mormon itself occurred when we were a little older and could understand the more complex thread of the story. It was in those initial circumstances that there developed within us a love for this sacred volume and for other wonderful pieces of writing that she shared with us.’

President Hinckley

William was a faithful member and worked tirelessly in building up Zion. Whether defending the church in the media or producing detailed tracts, he was ever committed to his faith.

As part of his legacy, Brother Morton has left dozens of publications that have been used in different areas of the world to share the gospel. In turn, these works have inspired and touched the lives of thousands of individuals and families. William passed away in 1930 after a lifetime of service and effort in building the Kingdom of God and influencing the lives of many.