On the afternoon of Sunday, July 23, 1837, in Preston’s Vauxhall Chapel, Heber C. Kimball preached the first Latter-day Saint sermon to be delivered in England. Heber presided over England’s first baptisms one week later, after which he and his six companions parted company to cover more territory. People flocked to hear the missionaries’ message, and by the time Elder Kimball left England nine months later over fifteen hundred people had been baptized in and around Preston. A more fertile land for missionary work could hardly be imagined.
The growth of the Church in the British Isles continued under the direction of Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles, who baptized over five thousand people between January 1840 and April 1841. As persecution against the Saints in America increased during the early and mid-1840s, conversions in England, Scotland, and Wales continued, with over forty-seven hundred converts having emigrated to America by 1847. By 1850 some thirty thousand Saints lived in the British Isles—almost three times as many as lived in the western United States—and by 1870, almost a quarter of Utah’s population had been born in the British Isles.