Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How the American West was Won - With Help from Great Britain

View from the top of the Malvern Hills

Plaque at Benbow Farm

Gadfield Elm Chapel

We just returned from a short, but memorable trip to some very historic areas of England. In 1840, Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints traveled from their headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois, to the three counties of Gloucestershire, Worchestershire, and Herefordshire in England and taught the local people the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During the next 9 months, 1,800 people were converted including almost the entire membership of a local Christian organization, known as the United Brethren. In less than two years most of the converts had left their homes and sailed across the Atlantic to gather in Nauvoo. From there, driven out by angry mobs, they set off on their long migration across the plains of North America with wagons or handcarts, following their prophet, Brigham Young, on the arduous pioneer trek west. They settled over 600 towns and cities in the "Wild West" including Las Vegas, San Francisco, St. George, and Salt Lake City. Many of them walked 1300 miles and suffered severe hardship on the way. Over the next few years over 65,000 more followed, to start their new lives in the shelter of the Rocky Mountains.

Our trip to the English Church Historic Sites included: The Ancient City of Ledbury where Brigham Young preached, The small village of Dymock, where Wilford Woodruff and Brigham Young healed Mary Pitt who had been lame for eleven years, The Malvern Hills where Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and Willard Richards met and decided to print the Book of Mormon and a new hymnbook in England, Benbow Pond on Hill Farm where Wilford Woodruff stayed with John and Jane Benbow and baptised many converts in the farm pond, and Gadfield Elm Chapel, the oldest LDS chapel in the world. This chapel was originally built by the United Brethren in 1836 and it served as a centre for the rapidly growing congregation of Mormons from 1840-1842. After the new converts emigrated to America the chapel fell into ruin. Over 150 years later, local church members purchased the chapel and restored it. In May 2004, the chapel was given to the Church and President Hinckley personally received the deeds of the chapel.

What a wonderful trip this was for us. We could truly feel the Spirit of the Lord as we traveled the narrow roads of this beautiful area of Northwest England. England was a promised land to those early missionaries as they sought for the pure in heart to recognize the true Gospel of Jesus Christ when it was presented to them by these great missionaries. We still have many wonderful missionaries who serve unselfishly and proudly as they proclaim the Gospel to all who will listen. What a privilege it has been to serve here and be a small part of this work. We look forward to seeing many of you soon. Hope all is well with you and yours.