Monday, August 24, 2009

John Taylor Mission to England

Missionaries to England:

The next day, June 13, 1837, Kimball, Hyde, Richards and Fielding left Kirtland. Russell, Goodson and Snider met them in New York on June 22nd. They all sailed on the ship Garrick and arrived in Liverpool on July 20, 1837. Two days later they took a coach to Preston and Joseph Fielding took lodging with his brother, James Fielding [1], a preacher in the Vauxhall chapel.

On Sunday, July 23, 1837, all seven of the missionaries went to the Vauxhall chapel in the morning to hear the Reverend James Fielding preach. At the close of the morning service, the Reverend Fielding gave notice that “an Elder of the Latter Day Saints would preach in the afternoon.” In the afternoon, Heber Kimball “gave a brief history of the rise of the church, and the first principles of the gospel, and Orson Hyde bore testimony.” At an evening meeting, John Goodson preached and Joseph Fielding bore testimony. At the end of the meeting, the Reverend Fielding announced that the missionaries would again preach at a meeting on Wednesday the 26th of July. At that meeting, Orson Hyde preached and Willard Richards bore testimony, “and from that time the Rev. Mr. Fielding closed his doors against the elders, and began to oppose the work.”

First Baptisms in England:

Nine of the Reverend Fielding’s flock offered themselves for baptism and Fielding came before the missionaries and “forbid their baptizing” his members. The missionaries responded that the members were “of age, and could act for themselves,” and the nine were baptized in the River Ribble on Sunday, July 30, 1837. George D. Watt, the first to ask for baptism, was the first one baptized. [2] Joseph Fielding, in a letter to his sister, Mary Fielding, dated October 2, 1837, stated, “The people began to believe more & more” which “made Bro James begin to fear” and “to object.” The baptism of nine people, including George D. Watt, one of James Fielding’s “leading men,” had “a great effect on his mind, and he began to oppose.” [3]

The next day, the missionaries held a council and decided that Goodson and Richards should go to Bedford, and Russell and Snider to Alston, Cumberland. Kimball, Hyde and Fielding would stay in Preston.

Joseph Fielding Fruit and Sacrifice:

Goodson and Richards got a letter of introduction from John Fielding to his brother-in-law, the Reverend Timothy R. Matthews, in Bedford. Reverend Matthews “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 lecture of the elders, at his chapel vestry that evening.” That evening, Goodson and Richards lectured and testified, and did so again, three additional evenings. After that, Matthews secured another house for the elders to preach in and he attended their meetings. On August 10, 1837, five people were baptized. A short time later, the Reverend Matthews and another of his parishioners, Joseph Saville, were desirous of baptism and agreed to meet the elders on the bank of the River Ouse at a specified time. Matthews failed to arrive, and after waiting an hour for Matthews who failed to arrive, Saville was baptized. [4]

It turned out that Matthews baptized himself, called his church by the name of the Latter Day Saints, and began preaching the same doctrines and administering the same ordinances.

About this same time, the Reverend Robert Aitken, an associate of Matthews who Matthews called “his son,” began to attack the Mormons and warning his people to beware of them. Aitken had been preaching against the Church of England for years and had chapels in many areas of England, including Liverpool, Preston, Manchester, Burslem and London. Aitken visited with the missionaries, initially appeared interested, then lost part of his membership to the Mormon missionaries, dissolved his partnership with Matthews and returned to the Church of England at his parish in Hope Street, Liverpool. [5]

Eventually, most of James Fielding’s congregation joined the Church. Referring to the first three sermons in his chapel, which he saw as the “ruin” of his flock, the Reverend Fielding said, “Kimball bored the holes, Goodson drove the nails, and Hyde clinched them.” In a letter to his brother Joseph, sometime later, the Reverend Fielding stated, “With regard to your robbing me of my flock, I do not believe at all that you were sent of God to rend my little church to pieces. Were I to speak as ‘plain’ as you do I should boldly declare that it was not God but Satan as an angel of light sent you here.” The congregations of James Fielding and Timothy Matthews, the brother and brother-in-law of Joseph Fielding, were two of three congregations that provided the nucleus for LDS converts in England. Although providential for the Church, this had a devastating impact on the relationship of Joseph Fielding with his family in England. In his journal, Fielding reflected, “I am now as a Stranger in my Native land, and almost to my Father’s house. I am something like Joseph when sold by his Brethren. The Devil would suggest perhaps I am wrong, but it cannot be. I have too much Evidence of the Truth to give way to such a thought. May the Lord help me to stand fast in the Liberty of the Gospel and my Calling.” [6]

John Goodson and John Snider both felt the need to return home to the United States, against the wishes of Kimball and Hyde. They left England some time in late September or early October 1837. [7]

Joseph Fielding Presides Over Church in England:

On April 8, 1838, Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, at a general conference in Preston, set apart Joseph Fielding as president of the churches in England and Willard Richards and William Clayton, a convert from Penwortham, as his counselors. [8] On April 20, 1838, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde and Isaac Russell left Liverpool on the ship Garrick to return to the United States. [9] Joseph Fielding, as president of the mission, now presided over more than 1,500 members in Preston and the surrounding area. [10] Fielding also presided over the main branch in England established at Preston. [11]

John Taylor’s Mission to England:

In July 1838, Joseph Smith prophesied that the apostles should go on a mission to Great Britain. “Let them take their leave of my Saints in the city of Far West, on the twenty-sixth of April next, on the building spot of my house, saith the Lord.” [12]

On December 19, 1838, at Far West, Missouri, John Taylor was ordained an apostle under the hands of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. [13]

However, the Saints were forced out of Far West and many were looking at Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet. Among those was Isaac Russell, who determined that the commandment for the Twelve to leave Far West on their mission could not be fulfilled because they had all been driven out. Russell found 20 to 30 followers, many of them Canadian converts from the Toronto area, proclaimed himself a prophet and that he would lead them into the wilderness. [14]

With Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail and determined that his prior revelation be fulfilled, five of the apostles, including John Taylor, early in the morning on April 26, 1839, before daylight, were at the temple site in Far West. At this meeting they excommunicated Isaac Russell and his followers, including the Canadian converts John Goodson and Isabella Walton, and ordained Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith apostles. Alpheus Cutler also laid the southeast corner stone for the temple. [15] Included in the gathering of apostles, besides fellow Canadian John Taylor, were Canadian converts Theodore Turley and Hiram Clark. As they were leaving, Turley said “‘Stop a bit, while I bid Isaac Russell goodbye,’ and knocking at the door, called Brother Russell. His wife answered, ‘Come in, it is Brother Turley.’ Russell replied, ‘it is not; he left here two weeks ago,’ and appeared quite alarmed; but on finding it was Brother Turley, asked him to sit down; but [Turley] replied, ‘I cannot, I shall lose my company.’ ‘Who is your company?’ enquired Russell. ‘The twelve.’ ‘The twelve!’ ‘Yes, don’t you know that this is the twenty-sixth, and the day the twelve were to take leave of their friends on the foundation of the Lord’s House, to go to the islands of the sea? The revelation is now fulfilled, and I am going with them.’ Russell was speechless, and Turley bid him farewell.” [16]

On his way back from Far West, John Taylor met the Prophet Joseph in Quincy, Illinois. Joseph had just escaped from the Liberty Jail and approved of the apostles’ course of action. Taylor continued on to Montrose, Iowa Territory, where Leonora and their three children were living in a one-room log barrack, abandoned by the military, across the Mississippi from Nauvoo. On August 8, 1839, he left Montrose, leaving Leonora and the children in the care of the Lord. John wrote, “The thought of the hardships they had just endured, the uncertainty of their continuing in the house they then occupied – and that only a solitary room – the prevalence of disease, the poverty of the brethren, their insecurity from mobs, together with the uncertainty of what might take place during my absence, produced feelings of no ordinary character…But the thought of going forth at the command of the God of Israel to revisit my native land, to…make known the things that God had revealed…overcame every other feeling.” [17]

Taylor crossed the Mississippi River to Nauvoo to meet Wilford Woodruff who was to be his companion. He saw Joseph and Hyrum Smith administering to the sick. They told him he would find Woodruff at the stone house near the upper landing. They accompanied him and found Woodruff lying sick in the shade of the building. “Well, Brother Woodruff,” Joseph said, “you have started on your mission.” Woodruff responded, “Yes; but I feel and look more like a subject for the dissecting room.” Joseph responded, “What did you say that for? Get up and go along! All will be right with you.” Taylor and Woodruff, the first of the apostles to start on their mission, caught a ride on a wagon heading for Carthage. [18]

On their way east, they met Zebedee Coltrin who agreed to take them further east. Near Indianapolis, Indiana, Taylor “was taken with violent vomiting and afterwards fainted by the wagon in the road.” They continued on, but near Germantown, Indiana, Taylor’s “strength again failed him…and he advised…Woodruff and Coltrin to proceed…without him” and they did. After about five weeks, Taylor had recovered sufficiently to proceed. En route to Dayton, Ohio, fatigue overtook him and he was sick again. He stayed in Dayton about three weeks. Theodore Turley, George A. Smith and Reuben Hedlock, also enroute to England as missionaries, found Taylor at a Dayton inn. They invited Taylor to accompany them in their wagon. In Cleveland, Ohio, they met Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, traveling on the same mission. Taylor went with them by stage to Kirtland, where he was sick again for three weeks. However, he did get out of bed several times to preach in the temple. When the others were ready to continue, Taylor accompanied them to New York, where they arrived on December 13, 1839. It had taken Taylor over four months to get from Nauvoo to New York.

When Taylor arrived in New York, Wilford Woodruff had been there some time and was anxious to depart for England. The ship Oxford was scheduled to leave the following week. Taylor told him to go ahead and book his passage. Although he had only one penny in his pocket, he told Woodruff he had plenty of money to pay for it. Theodore Turley, who also had no money, desired to travel with them and offered to cook for them and wait on them if they would pay his passage. Taylor told Woodruff to secure passage for both he and Turley. Through donations from various persons, Taylor was able to obtain sufficient funds to pay for both prior to their leaving. They left New York on December 10, 1839. [19]

Taylor Meets the Cannons in Liverpool:

After 23 days on the packet ship Oxford, Taylor, Woodruff and Turley arrived in Liverpool. [20] Liverpool had a population of about 223,000. It was England’s main port through which nearly all emigrants from England passed. It was the export harbor for the rest of Lancashire, the center of British manufacturing. The docks were on the west side of town, on the east bank of the River Mersey. The area near the docks also had many warehouses and the poorer houses in the city, situated on narrow, busy streets. The richer east side of Liverpool had wider streets and squares with elegant houses, many of which were built with brick and slate roofs. The streets of the city were all paved and lighted. [21]

Queen Victoria had ascended the throne as an 18 year old in 1837 and would rule for the next 64 years. While the United States was mainly rural with an agricultural economy, Britain was experiencing the industrial revolution that made it the leading industrial nation of the world. It was moving rapidly away from an agricultural economy toward urban industrial employment. Textiles became Britain’s biggest export and textiles increased the demand for coal which hastened development of the railroads. The railroads reduced shipping costs which created larger markets and encouraged the building of more and larger factories and more sophisticated machinery. Migrants came into the cities more quickly than they could be absorbed, leading to high unemployment and privation. Industrialization led to pollution as factories spewed their refuse into the water and their smoke into the air.

Brigham Young and Willard Richards reported to the First Presidency in September 1840 about the economic and social conditions they found. They noted that English society was divided into three distinct classes, the Lords, or highest class, the tradesman, or middle class, and the mechanics or laborers, the lowest classes. They commented on child labor, low wages, factory lockouts, miserable living conditions and taxes on everything, “except cats, mice & fleas.” Poor economic conditions contributed to the emigration of thousands of British citizens to the United States and Canada, which helped the Mormon emigration push. More than 55,000 people emigrated in 1830 and by the late 1840s and early 1850s, as many as 250,000 people were emigrating each year. [22]

Upon arrival, John Taylor immediately made his way to 43 Norfolk Street, the home of George and Ann Cannon. [23] It was January 11, 1840, thirteen year old George Q. Cannon’s birthday. George Q. answered the door and John asked for Mr. George Cannon. George Q. invited him in. Ann came into the room and John told her he was her brother-in-law, married to George’s sister, Leonora, and that his ship had just landed from America. He showed Ann a letter of introduction from Leonora and they exchanged some family news. John needed to get his things off the ship and said he would come back the next day and spend some time with them. After he left, Ann said to George Q., "George, there goes a man of God. He is come to bring salvation to your father's house." The next day, Sunday, Taylor had dinner with the Cannons. He noted in his journal that he “unfolded briefly the first principles of the Gospel to them & left a Book of M[ormon] & Voice of Warning with them.” In a letter to his wife, Leonora, he indicated he had seen her “Br. George” and “found him to be an intelligent man & a Gentleman. He & his wife used me well.” They also made him think of her. [24]

Taylor, Turley and Woodruff went to the Cannon’s on Monday to deposit some belongings before traveling to Preston. Wilford Woodruff records in his journal: “I…went on board…the Oxford & found the passengers taking their trunks & goods on shore to go to the custom house to be examined… I found it to be a scene of the greatest confusion I ever pas[sed] through. But after much jam[m]ing[,] cro[w]ding & rocking about[,] we were permitted to depart with our things after paying 6 pense per lbs for all the Books we had[,] as duty upon them. The trunkman then took our trunks & Boxes to Mr[.] George Cannon[,] Norfork Street No 43. He was a Brother in Law of Elder Taylor[’]s. We deposited our provision chest & a box containing our bed & bed[d]ing with him. We took our trunks & went to the rail road depo & the[re] took a car for Preston[,] Lancashire[,] England.” [25] George Cannon accompanied them to the Lime Street station to see them off. [26] Woodruff noted, with some amazement, that “for the first mile the cars run under ground on a track that was cut out of…solid rock[,] while the[re] w[ere] building[s] & inhabitants over our heads…We started from Liverpool about 6 o[’]clock & ar[r]ived in Preston about 8 o[’]clock & called at Brother Greenwood[’]s. They immediately Sent for Elder Richards & in a few moments I had Elder Willard Richards by the hand & I truly rejoiced to once more behold his face.” [27]

While in Preston, Taylor, Woodruff and Turley met for several days with Joseph Fielding, William Clayton and Willard Richards, the presidency of the British Mission. Taylor noted in his journal: “I saw my old Friend Elder Fielding & was rejoiced to see him as he was also to see me. I thank God that he has preserved him & given him wisdom for the arduous duties devolving upon him. We felt something like Jonathan & David after an absence of 3 Years.” [28] Fielding, as president of the mission, presided, despite the fact that Taylor and Woodruff were both apostles. Taylor was assigned to work in Liverpool with Fielding, a nice assignment for old friends. Taylor was familiar with Liverpool as he had lived there from 1808 to 1814 while his father worked for a tax department (the Excise) of the British government. [29] Wilford Woodruff and Theodore Turley were assigned to the Staffordshire potteries, William Clayton to Manchester and Willard Richards wherever the spirit might direct him. [30] It is interesting to note that every missionary who had come to or left England in the past three years had done so through Liverpool, yet no one had engaged in missionary work in that city. In light of his connections in Liverpool, particularly with the Cannons, and the subsequent results, it appears that the missionary work had been reserved, by the Lord, for John Taylor. [31]

After visiting an uncle in Penwortham, John Taylor, along with Joseph Fielding, traveled to Liverpool on the evening of January 22nd. Fielding spent the night at a tavern and Taylor stayed that night at the Cannons. The Cannon home soon became the permanent Liverpool residence for both Fielding and Taylor. [32]


[1] James Fielding came from a Methodist background in St. Neats, Huntingtonshire. He was a local businessman until he was persuaded by his brother-in-law, the Reverend Timothy Matthews, to go to Preston and establish a Primitive Episcopal congregation. Apostles in the British Isles, pp. 343-344, n. 26.

[2] Letter from Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde and Willard Richards, dated March 24, 1841 in Preston, “From the Millennial Star, Mission to England, Or the First Foreign Mission of the Latter Day Saints”, Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 20, pp. 879-880 (hereafter “First Foreign Mission”).

[3] Apostles in the British Isles, p. __.

[4] First Mission, pp. 880-881.

[5] First Foreign Mission, p. 882. In 1823, Robert Aitken was a deacon in the Church of England. He became dissatisfied and was strongly influenced by Methodism’s emphasis on individual conversion. He was denied entry into the Methodist ministry and went on to establish his own Christian Society ministry and became one of the most popular revivalist preachers of the 1830s. He had many churches in the major towns of the north, including Liverpool, Manchester and the Staffordshire Potteries. His theology was an eclectic synthesis of ideas borrowed from the Methodists and Church of England. His ideas on personal salvation were similar to Methodism, but his notions of sacramental authority accorded with Anglican High Church tradition. In 1840, he became disenchanted with his own religious society and returned to the Church of England, accepting a vicarage in Cornwall. Apostles in the British Isles, citing Malcolm R. Thorpe, pp. 330-331. The nucleus of the first branch in Liverpool were converts from Aitken’s Hope Street Chapel. Alfred Cordon, president of the Staffordshire Conference, had been an Aitkenite class leader and John Greenhow, president of the Liverpool Conference, was an elder with the Aitkenites. Grant Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, p. __.

[6] Apostles in the British Isles, pp. __, __.

[7] First Foreign Mission, p. 882; Apostles in the British Isles, p. __, also n. 62.

[8] Apostles in the British Isles, p. __.

[9] First Foreign Mission, p. 883.

[10] Manchester Mormons, pp. 5 and 7; Apostles in the British Isles, p. __.

[11] Roberts, pp. 68-69.

[12] The Kingdom, p. 57.

[13] The Kingdom, p. 52.

[14] George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p. 115.

[15] The Kingdom, p. 59; Roberts p. [65__]. Included on the list of those excommunicated were Isabella Walton, a friend of John Taylor and the woman who welcomed Parley P. Pratt into her home in Canada, and her married daughter, Mary; Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949), Vol. 4, pg. 17 (hereafter “Modern Revelation”).

[16] Modern Revelation, Vol. 4, pg. 7.

[17] Roberts, p. 66__.

[18] The Kingdom, p. 61; Roberts, p. 66.

[19] The Kingdom, pp. 62-65; Roberts, p. 68.

[20] Paul Thomas Smith, “Among Family and Friends: John Taylor – Mission to the British Isles,” Ensign, March 1987, p. 37 (“Paul Thomas Smith”).

[21] Manchester Mormons, p. 95, n. 50; Apostles in the British Isles, p. __.

[22] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 19.

[23] Paul Thomas Smith, p. 37. While Taylor was at the Cannon’s, Wilford Woodruff and Theodore Turley “visited several Noted places the New Market, custom house, Lord Nelsons monument which is much Noted in England &c all of which were quite splendid. We took supper in white [depot] & logings in Church street at the Birmingham arms…” Susan Staker, editor, Waiting For World’s End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), pp. 23-24. John Taylor apparently spent the night with Woodruff and Turley at the Birmingham Arms.

[24] James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission, 1837-1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992), p. 366 (hereafter “Apostles in the British Isles” - check pg on cd), from a letter from John Taylor to Leonora Taylor, dated January 30, 1840, quoting from his diary, which is not available. Another version states that John Taylor came back that evening when George was home from work. Ann recalls her mother saying, “That is a man of God.” In another version of the first meeting, John Taylor called upon George at his place of employment, introduced himself, went home with him, stayed several days, preached Mormonism and left a Book of Mormon for their perusal. John Taylor gives the date of his arrival in Liverpool as January 11, 1840 and says he remained there only two days. CFHT, pp. 32-34, 159, 161, 310-314. In another version given by David Cannon, at the time only two years old, Ann and George Q. spotted John Taylor as they were walking down to the dock and he was coming up from the dock. Ann turned to George Q. and said, “There is the man who will bring the gospel and salvation to your father’s house.” When they returned home, they found John Taylor there. (Davis Bitton, George Q. Cannon: A Biography (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1999), n. 3 to Chapter 2 on p. 478 (hereafter “Bitton”))

[25] Kenney, Scott G., ed. Wilford Woodruff Journals: 1833-1898 Typescript, Vol. 1 (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983), pp. 404-405 (hereafter “Woodruff Journal”).

[26] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 366 (check pg. on cd) from Taylor’s letter to his wife Leonora.

[27] Woodruff Journal, p. 405. Taylor’s journal indicated the train left Liverpool at 4:45.

[28] Apostles in the British Isles, p. 366 (check pg on cd).

[29] Paul Thomas Smith, p. 37. Turley was born in Birmingham and later emigrated to Toronto, Canada, where he joined the Church. He was later directed to Birmingham he was able to preach to his relatives. Manchester Mormons, p. 237.

[30] Bitton, p. 33; The Kingdom, p. 66; Apostles in Great Britain, p. __.

[31] Richard L. Evans, A Century of Mormonism in Great Britain (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1937), pp. 96-97 (hereafter “Century of Mormonism”).

[32] Apostles in the British Isles, pp. 109, 366 (check page on cd).

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