Volume 4 Chapter 16 | BYU Studies

Volume 4 Chapter 16


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Chapter 16

The First Foreign Mission of the Church 1837-1841

Tuesday, March 23, 1841.—Elder Young returned to Liverpool, and Elder Richards wrote the following history of the "Mission to England, or the first foreign mission of the Latter-day Saints."

History of the British Mission.

About the first of June, 1837, Elder Heber C. Kimball was called by the Spirit of Revelation, and set apart by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then at Kirtland, Ohio, North America, to preside over a mission to England, accompanied by Elder Orson Hyde, who was set apart for the same work at the same time. In a few days Brother Joseph Fielding, Priest, was set apart; and on the eve of the 12th, Elder Willard Richards, (having been absent several months on a long journey, and having returned the day previous) was called and set apart for the same mission.

The following morning, Tuesday, 13th, these brethren gave the parting hand, bid farewell to home, and, without purse or scrip, started for England. They were accompanied twelve miles to Fairport on Lake Erie by Elders Brigham Young, John P. Greene and Brother Levi Richards, and Sisters Kimball, Greene and Fielding (Brother R. B. Thompson and wife accompanied the mission to Buffalo, and Brother Fitch Brigham to Utica) and others with whom they parted in the afternoon, and went on board a steamer for Buffalo; where they arrived next day.

At this place the brethren expected to receive some means from Canada, to assist them on their journey, but they were disappointed. In the evening they took passage on a canal boat, and arrived in Albany on the 19th (Elder Hyde having gone forward to New York from Rochester.) Brother Fielding proceeded to New York, and on the 20th Elder Kimball accompanied Elder Richards to his father's house in Richmond, Massachusetts, thirty miles east, where they spent one day, and having received some assistance from his friends, bade them farewell for the last time (his father and mother having since died, also a sister whom he had left in Kirtland) and on the 21st returned to Albany, and arrived in New York on the 22nd, where they found Brothers Orson Hyde and Fielding, also Elders John Goodson and Isaac Russell, John Snider, Priest,(who had come from Canada to join the mission) anxiously awaiting their arrival, so that they might take passage on the United States, which was to sail next day, but they arrived too late.

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In New York Elder Richards received some further means, quite providentially, and on the 23rd the brethren engaged passage to Liverpool, on board the Garrick, which was to sail on the 1st of July.

In the meantime the brethren received every possible assistance from Elder Elijah Fordham. At that time he was the only member of the Church residing in the city [New York], and having no house of his own, he procured his father's storehouse for the use of the brethren, where they lodged on the floor, amid straw and blankets, one week, eating their cold morsel, and conversing with the people as they had opportunity; for no place could be procured to preach in, and there was no one to receive them into their houses.

Sunday, the 25th, the brethren held a council at their lodgings (Mr. Fordham's store), and organized ready for taking their departure.

On the 29th the brethren sealed, superscribed, and forwarded one hundred and eighty of Elder Orson Hyde's "Timely Warnings" to the ministers of the different denominations in the city, and went on board the Garrick, which hauled out into the river and cast anchor.

July 1st, the ship weighed anchor and was towed to Sandy Hook by a steamer, where she spread sail, and in four hours and a half was out of sight of land. With the exception of a strong wind on the 12th, there was generally a gentle breeze from the northwest during the voyage. On the 16th, Elder Orson Hyde preached on the aft quarter deck. On the 18th Cape Clear was visible (eighteen days out of sight of land;) and on the morning of the 20th, the brethren landed in Liverpool twenty days from New York. Here Elders Kimball, Hyde, and Richards found themselves on a foreign shore, surrounded by strangers, without the first farthing in their possession; but the brethren unitedly took lodgings in a private house in Union Street, till after the inspection of the ship; and on Saturday, the 22nd, took coach for Preston. When they had alighted from the coach, and were standing by their trunks in front of the hotel in Preston, a large flag was unfurled over their heads on which was printed in golden letters, "Truth will prevail;" at the sight of which their hearts rejoiced, and they cried aloud, "Amen, thanks be unto God, Truth Will Prevail."

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Brother Joseph Fielding lodged with his brother, Rev. James Fielding, then a preacher in Vauxhall-road Chapel, and the remainder of the brethren took lodgings in St. Wilford Street, Fox Street. The same evening the Elders visited the Rev. Mr. Fielding, by his request at his lodgings. He had previously been apprized of the coming forth of this work in America, through the medium of letters from his relatives and others and had requested his church to pray that God would send them His servants, and exhorted his people to receive their message when they should come.

Sunday the 28th. As they had no place in which to preach, the seven brethren went to Vauxhall Chapel to hear the Rev. Mr. Fielding; and at the close of the morning service, Mr. Fielding gave public notice that an Elder of the Latter-day Saints would preach in the afternoon in his pulpit. This was voluntary with Mr. Fielding as no one had requested the privilege; and in the afternoon, according to the notice, Elder Kimball gave a brief history of the rise of the Church and the first principles of the Gospel, and Elder Hyde bore testimony; after which the Rev. Mr. Fielding requested the brethren to give out an appointment for the evening, when Elder Goodson preached, and Elder Joseph Fielding bore testimony.

At the close Mr. Fielding again gave leave for preaching at the same place on Wednesday evening, when Elder Hyde preached and Elder Richards bore testimony; and from that time the Rev. Mr. Fielding closed his doors against the Elders and began to oppose the work, and stated that the Elders promised to say nothing about baptism in their preaching before he ever consented to let them preach in his pulpit; whereas the subject of the Elders preaching in his chapel had not been named between the parties, before Mr. Fielding gave out the public appointment before referred to: much less (if possible) that they would "say nothing about baptism."

Nine of Mr. Fielding's members offered themselves for baptism; and Mr. Fielding presented himself before the Elders, and forbade their baptizing them, but he received for answer, that "they were of age and could act for themselves." On Sunday, the 30th, they were baptized under the hands of Elder Kimball; Brother George D. Watt being the first who offered himself for baptism in England, and is now an Elder laboring in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Elder Russell preached in the market place in the afternoon, and from that day the doors of private houses were opened on almost every hand for the Elders.

July 31st, a council of the Elders decided that Elders Goodson and Richards should go on a mission to Bedford, and Elder Russell and Priest Snider on a mission to Alston, Cumberland; and after a night of prayer, praise and thanksgiving, the brethren took their departure on the morning of the first of August for their several stations.

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The Rev. Mr. Fielding continued to oppose the doctrine of baptism for a season; but finding that he was likely to lose all his "best members," he offered to baptize them himself; but they being aware that he had no authority, declined his friendly offer, whereupon he engaged the Rev. Mr. Giles, a Baptist minister in Preston, of as little authority as himself, to do the baptizing for his flock; but this iniquitous scheme succeeded little better than the other—only one coming forward to his baptism, so far as we have heard. Mr. Fielding's people also stated that he acted the part of a hypocrite and deceived them, when he read the letters to them in public, which he received from America, by keeping back that part which treated on baptism, which, since the foregoing failure he has opposed.

Elders Kimball and Hyde, and Priest Fielding continued to preach daily in different parts of Preston, and on Wednesday and Thursday (August 2nd and 3rd), the meetings were attended by Miss Jeanetta Richards who was visiting her friends in Preston, and on Friday she requested baptism, which was attended to by Elder Kimball, after which she was confirmed at the water side by Elders Kimball and Hyde, it being the first confirmation in a foreign land in these last days.

The day following Sister Richards returned home to her friends, and informed her father, the Rev. Joseph Richards, an Independent minister at Walker-fold, Chaidgely, whom she had found at Preston, what she had done, and requested him to send for Elder Kimball to preach in his chapel. Mr. Richards complied with his daughter's request. Elder Kimball arrived at Walker-fold Saturday eve, August 12, and the day following preached three times in Mr. Richards' pulpit, to crowded assemblies; also twice during the week, and twice the Sunday following, being most kindly and cordially entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Richard's for nine days, during which time Elder Kimball baptized several in the neighborhood.

After a short visit to Preston, where Elder Hyde continued to preach and baptize, Elder Kimball returned to Walker-fold, and continued to receive the hospitality of Mr. Richards' house for some days, while the work spread in the neighborhood; and from thence the work went forth to Clitheroe, Waddington, Downham, Cathburn, Thornley, and Ribchester, through the labors of Brothers Kimball and Fielding.

Elders Goodson and Richards arrived in Bedford on the 2nd of August, and having letters of introduction to the Rev. Timothy R. Matthews from Brother Joseph Fielding (Mrs. Matthew's brother), they immediately waited on Mr. Matthews, who expressed great joy at their arrival, and manifested his sincerity by walking arm in arm with the Elders through the streets of Bedford, calling on the members of his church, and inviting them to attend the lectures of the Elders at his chapel vestry that evening. Mr. Matthews had previously been apprized of the Saints in America through the medium of the Rev. James Fielding of Preston and the letters from America, before referred to. In the evening, his church assembled in the vestry, and Elders Goodson and Richards continued to lecture and testify of the work of God, on that and the three following evenings in the same place, with the entire approbation of Mr. Matthews, who, at the close of the lectures, publicly bore testimony to the truths advanced, and called upon his people to know why they did not come forward for baptism; while they in return wished to know why he did not set them the example.

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After this Mr. Matthews engaged another house in the neighborhood for the Elders to preach in, under the pretense that some of the proprietors of the chapel might not be pleased with the Elders occupying the vestry, and Mr. Matthews continued to attend the preaching of the Elders, and also spent a great share of his time, from day to day, in conversation with them.

Mr. Matthews told the Elders that he had received two ordinations, one from Bishop West, whom he had proved to be an impostor, and another from the Church of England, which he acknowledged to be descended from the Church of Rome, and he further acknowledged that he had no authority from God for administering in the ordinances of God's house.

On the 10th Mrs. Braddock and four others were baptized by Elder Goodson. Soon after this, Mr. Joseph Saville, member of Mr. Matthews' church, being very desirous of receiving baptism at the same time with Mr. Matthews, waited on him at his house, in company with Elders Goodson and Richards and Mr. Matthews, and Mr. Saville mutually agreed to meet the Elders on the bank of the river Ouse at a specified hour in the afternoon, and attend to the ordinance of baptism. At the hour appointed Mr. Saville met the Elders at the place previously designated by Mr. Matthews; but as he (the latter) did not make his appearance according to promise, after waiting for him an hour, Mr. Saville was baptized, when the Elders repaired to Mr. Matthews' to learn the cause of his not fulfilling his engagement, and were informed by Mr. Matthews' family that he had gone out into the country to preach.

In a day or two it was currently rumored that Mr. Matthews had baptized himself, and this rumor was afterwards confirmed by Mrs. Matthews, who stated to Elder Kimball at Preston, that Mr. Matthews had baptized himself, reasoning upon this principle within himself: "If I have authority to administer the sacrament to my people, why not have authority to baptize myself," &c—and all this after Mr. Matthews had acknowledged to Elders Goodson and Richards that he had no authority to administer in the ordinances of God's house; and altogether regardless of the words of the Apostles (Heb. 5:4), "No man taketh this honor unto himself but he that is called of God as was Aaron."

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By the foregoing it is plainly to be seen, that Mr. Matthews has attempted to take that upon himself which was never conferred upon him by the spirit of revelation, either by God, His angels, or His servants; viz., the holy Priesthood; and from that period, Mr. Matthews began to preach baptism, and baptized those who felt it their duty to be baptized, and then invited them to the penitent form to get remission of their sins; but finding that would not answer all the design which he intended, he afterwards began to baptize for the remission of sins.

Mr. Matthews appears to have well understood that counterfeit coin is more current the nearer it approximates to the true, and governed himself accordingly; for he continued to preach faith, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, the second coming of Christ, &c., &c., adding one thing to another in imitation of truth, as fast as it answered his purpose, from those doctrines which he had heard from the Latter-day Saints; but it was some time before he arrived at that heaven-daring conscience-seared hardihood, to lay hands on those whom he had baptized for the reception of the Holy Ghost, and at the same time he acknowledged that he had not got the Holy Ghost himself, by praying that he might receive it—(Query. How can a man communicate that which he is not in possession of?) and he now calls his church "The Church of Latter-day Saints."

Thus has Mr. Matthews been running about from Bedford to Liverpool, from Liverpool to Northampton, from Northampton to Bedford, and other places, crying aloud in public and private, that the Latter-day Saints and their doctrines came from hell; at the same time he has been preaching the same doctrines, calls his church by the same name, is administering in the same ordinances, just as though he fully believed that the doctrines and sacraments of hell would be sanctified and made holy and heavenly, when administered by the tongue and hands of an impostor.

About the time that Mr. Matthews rejected the truth in Bedford, his son (as Mr. Matthews called him), the Rev. Robert Aitkin, commenced his attack on the principles of righteousness in Preston; and while furiously pounding his pulpit with the Book of Mormon, and warning his people to beware of the Latter-day Saints and their doctrines, saying, that they and their record came from hell; called upon his people to use all their efforts to put down the work of God, or stop the progress of the Latter-day Saints; and, if it could not be put down without, prayed that God would smite the leaders; and from that time to the present, his prayer has been answered on his own head.

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After Mr. Aitkin had preached against the corruptions of the Church of England for years, and established many flourishing chapels in Liverpool, Preston, Manchester, Burslem, London, &c.; after he had been visited by the Elders of the Church of Latter-day Saints, and acknowledged to them at one time that baptism was right, but he could find no man who had authority to baptize; and at another time, that he was afraid of them, and rejected their testimony; and last of all would not receive the Elders into his house; after all this, and deserted by a part of his flock, he has fled from the remainder because he was an hireling, and cared not for the sheep; yes, he has deserted his "Christian Society"—ceased to be an Aitkenite, and dissolved his co-partnership with Father Matthews, as may well be supposed, returned, and, taken "holy order" in "Mother Church," against the corruptions of which he testified so diligently from year to year, and is now about to enter on his parochial duties in St. John the Evangelist's Church, Hope street, Liverpool, for no other reason, that the writer knows of, only that he could find no one who had authority to baptize for the remission of sins, and not possessing the faith of his father, Matthews, to believe that the doctrines of the pit would become holy and gospel doctrines when taught by the tongue of wickedness and imposture, he has concluded thus publicly to acknowledge himself a servant of those very errors he has so long contended against, for the sake of filthy lucre.

About the 12th of September, Elder Goodson and Priest Snider returned to Preston, and soon after sailed for America.

Some years previously, the principles of the Temperance Society (originally established in America), were introduced into England, and Preston was the first town to receive them. Among the many interesting and valuable items held forth by the Temperance people, it was often remarked by them that Temperance was the fore-runner of the Gospel, which prophecy proved true; for when the fullness of the Gospel came from America to England, it was first preached in Preston, and through the influence of the Temperance Society, the Latter-day Saint, procured the use of the Temperance Hall in Preston (a commodious building, originally erected for cock fighting) for their chapel, and commenced meeting therein on the 3rd of September, 1837, and continued until they were ejected through the influence of others, the Temperance Society not having it entirely at their control. Similar favors have been received from several other Temperance Societies in England, for which the Lord reward them.

Elder Richards continued to labor against much opposition in Bedford, and the region round about, until the 7th of March, 1838, when he returned to Preston, leaving about forty members in charge of Elder James Lavender. Elder Russell continued to labor in Alston, Brampton, &c, and returned to Preston near the same time, leaving about sixty member in the care of Elder Jacob Peart.

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At Christmas, 1837, Priest Joseph Fielding was ordained Elder, and several were ordained Teachers, &c., at Preston; and in March, 1838, the Church had extended from Preston to Penwortham, Longton, Southport, Eccleston Whittle, Hunter's Hill, Chorley, and the intermediate region, through the labors of Elders Hyde, Kimball, and Fielding, and the members amounted to several hundreds in the regions of Preston and Clitheroe. During this month, Elders Kimball and Hyde were diligently engaged in organizing the different branches; and on the first of April a general conference was called at Preston, when the organization of the churches was completed, and many were ordained, among whom were Elders Joseph Fielding, Willard Richards, and William Clayton to the High Priesthood, [i.e. they were ordained High Priests], and set apart by Elders Kimball and Hyde to preside over all the churches in England.

On the 9th, Elders Kimball, Hyde and Russell took leave of the Saints in Preston, and went to Liverpool, where they were visited by Elders Fielding, Richards, Clayton, and others, and on the 20th of April, sailed for New York, on board the Garrick, the same ship they came out on to England.

When Elders Fielding and Richards had returned to Longton, they found a pamphlet, purporting to be written by the Rev. Richard Livesey, a Methodist minister, who had spent some time on a mission to the United States, as he says, and having nothing more important to attend to during his mission, it appears that he spent his time in gathering up a heap of lies and filth from the American papers, and imported them to England on his return; and finding that the work of God had commenced in his native land, and was likely to destroy his craft, set himself at work to condense his heterogeneous mass of trans-Atlantic lies, and form the wonderful production of the Rev. Richard Livesey's tract against the Latter-day Saints; it being the first thing of the kind that the enemy of all righteousness had found means to export from America, and circulate in England; but since which he has found servants in abundance, to assist in this nefarious merchandise of his heart's delight.

The Church at this time was in its infancy, and needed much instruction, which necessarily occupied the attention of the presiding Elders to a great extent; and as there were few laborers in the field, the spread of the work was not very rapid for some time.

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Sister Alice Hodgin died at Preston on the 2nd of September, 1838; and it was such a wonderful thing for a Latter-day Saint to die in England, that Elder Richards was arraigned before the Mayor's Court at Preston, on the 3rd of October, charged with "killing and slaying" the said Alice with a "black stick," &c., but was discharged without being permitted to make his defense, as soon as it was discovered that the iniquity of his accusers was about to be made manifest.

October 19, 1838, Elder Clayton gave himself wholly to the work, and soon after commenced preaching and baptizing in Manchester, and from thence the work spread into Stockport, and other places in the neighborhood, through the labors of Elders Clayton, Fielding, John Moon, and David Wilding. A small church had previously sprung up in Bolton, through the labors of Elder David Wilding, and was continued by Elder Amos Fielding.

In the summer of 1839 Elders Clayton Richards, and John Moon, labored in Burslem, with some success, and a small church was planted in Burnley by Elder Thomas Richardson, besides many who were added in the older branches, through the instrumentality of the local Elders and Priests, who were generally very faithful.

December 8, 1839, Elders Hiram Clark, Alexander Wright, and Samuel Mulliner arrived in Preston from America; and on the 25th, Brothers Wright and Mulliner started for Scotland and soon commenced preaching and baptizing in Paisley and vicinity.

January 13, 1840, Elders Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and Theodore Turley arrived in Preston, from America; and on the 18th Brothers Woodruff and Turley started for the Potteries in Staffordshire, passing through Manchester; and on the 22nd, Elder Taylor left for Liverpool.

April 6, 1840, just ten years from the organization of the Church, Elders Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, and Reuben Hedlock, landed in Liverpool from New York; and on the 9th Elder Kimball arrived in Preston, just two years from the day he left for America.

The arrival of the Elders caused the Saints to rejoice exceedingly, for it had been prophesied by many (not of the Church), that they would never come, and that Elders Kimball and Hyde would never return, but they are both now in England, Elder Orson Hyde having arrived in Liverpool on the 3rd instant from New York.

Heber C. Kimball,

Orson Hyde,

Willard Richards.

Preston, March 24, 1841.