In the spring of 1837, Joseph Smith explained to Heber C. Kimball that he was called to lead the first group of missionaries to England. Fellow Apostle Orson Hyde accompanied Heber. Following a spiritual prompting, they and their companions preached in Preston and the River Ribble valley in Lancashire. This first effort set the stage for more missionary work as the Church moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.
While Heber Kimball and Orson Hyde were in England, a national financial crisis swept America, and the Church-sponsored bank in Kirtland failed. Many people, including Marinda Hyde’s own family members, left the Church in frustration. Marinda wrote to her husband about the chaos and confusion of those times and then shared her own testimony.
“My Dear Orson, I know not what to write if I had time and space, for such times in Kirtland you never witnessed as we now have. But, I have learned by experience that we must each one watch and pray and know for ourselves, for it seems that all confidence in each other is gone.”1
Heber C. Kimball’s second overseas mission was again appointed by revelation.2 This time, six other Apostles traveled with him from Far West, Missouri, to Liverpool and began spreading the gospel throughout the British Isles. In this group were Brigham Young, John Taylor, Parley and Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, and Wilford Woodruff, but not Orson Hyde. Orson came to England later, in April 1841. That month, at a Church conference in Manchester, Orson learned that Willard Richards had been called to the Quorum of the Twelve, more than 7,000 people had been baptized, and many families were making plans to gather in Nauvoo.
Vilate Kimball longed for news of her husband in England. In December 1840, she met some of the British sisters who had just arrived in Nauvoo. She wrote that she had “never enjoyed a visit better.” “They acted as glad to see me as though we had always been acquainted.”3 Vilate allowed 21-year-old Elizabeth Ravenscroft to live at the Kimball home, and the two women took “much comfort together” while Vilate waited for Heber’s return.
After the April conference, as Heber Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and other Apostles prepared to return home, Orson Hyde traveled alone across Europe to Palestine. Along the way, he met with religious leaders and shared the purpose of his mission. On October 24, 1841, he climbed the Mount of Olives and fulfilled his calling to dedicate Jerusalem for the gathering of Israel in the latter days, as foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
While Orson was away, Marinda joined the Nauvoo Female Relief Society and participated in efforts to care for those in need. In appreciation for Orson’s mission to Palestine, Latter-day Saints of Nauvoo donated labor and supplies to build a home for the Hyde family.
A final overseas mission came years later, following the death of Joseph Smith. As the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gathered in Nauvoo, they discussed ways to help Church members who lived far away from headquarters stay committed to the gospel. They agreed that one of them should go to Europe to preside over the growing branches there. Wilford Woodruff was chosen to serve. His wife, Phebe, was also called to accompany her husband as a missionary, setting a precedent for future leadership of missions in the Church.
Family members in Connecticut and new converts in England took care of the Woodruff children while their parents were away from home. Wilford’s sister Eunice Webster and her family lived in the unfinished Woodruff home in Nauvoo. While serving as her husband’s mission companion, Phebe Woodruff gave birth to a son named Joseph.
The homes of Orson Hyde, Heber C. Kimball, and Wilford Woodruff show just a few examples of the ways the Quorum of the Twelve worked to fulfill God’s commandment to make Nauvoo a cornerstone of Zion and help gather scattered Israel. The faith, courage, and sacrifice these Apostles showed to travel abroad were matched by neighbors and family members who lived their religion at home.
1. Heber C. Kimball collection, 1837–1898 (bulk 1837–1865) / Letters, 1837–1839 / Vilate Kimball letter: Kirtland, Ohio to Heber C. Kimball, Preston, England (Enclosure of note from Marinda W. Hyde to Orson Hyde), p. 3 (original), 17 (typescript) CHL Call Number: MS 12476.
2. Doctrine and Covenants 118:3.
3. Kimball, Vilate Murray, 1806–1867. Vilate M. Kimball letters, https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/1256a549-7c1a-4f08-abb1-8dcde0812ecf/0/7.