Chapter Eighteen

The Mission of the Twelve

“Chapter Eighteen: The Mission of the Twelve,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 225–39

As the Saints were settling Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith was planning further overseas expansion of the Church. This expansion had begun with the call of Elders Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde to England in 1837. As early as 1835 the Lord had instructed members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that they were to be “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” and that they were to “build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations.” They were given the keys “to open the door by the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ” to all the world (D&C 107:23, 33, 35). The Twelve were further promised that “in whatsoever place ye shall proclaim my name an effectual door shall be opened unto you, that they may receive my word” (D&C 112:19). This promise was fulfilled the very day it was revealed, 23 July 1837, when Elder Heber C. Kimball and his companions were invited to preach in the Vauxhall Chapel in Preston, England, an invitation resulting in the first baptisms in the British Isles. As the work went forward in that land with great success, even more participation from the Apostles was anticipated.

Herefordshire Beacon

Herefordshire Beacon, the most prominent hill in the region was the site of an old British fort that had been overrun by the Romans.

Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, and Willard Richards retired to this ancient and revered British landmark to pray and counsel together regarding the publishing of the Book of Mormon and a hymnbook for the use of the British Saints. After receiving a confirmation to proceed, they used three hundred pounds that they had received from John Benbow and Thomas Kington to accomplish the project.

Museum of Church History and Art

The Twelve Called to Britain

Shortly after Joseph Smith settled in Far West, Missouri, in March 1838, he had begun preparing for an expanded missionary effort by the Twelve to Great Britain. One of the Apostles, David W. Patten, was instructed by revelation to prepare for a mission the next year (see D&C 114:1). On 8 July 1838 another revelation called John Taylor, John E. Page, Wilford Woodruff, and Willard Richards to the Twelve. The Apostles were charged “to go over the great waters, and there promulgate my gospel, the fulness thereof, and bear record of my name” (D&C 118:4). The Lord also told them the exact day, 26 April 1839, they were to leave Far West to depart for England.

When the revelation was received, the brethren anticipated little difficulty in fulfilling these directions, but the subsequent persecutions and the expulsion of the Saints from Missouri made an April departure from Far West extremely dangerous. Many mobsters harassed the remaining Church members in Missouri and openly boasted that the revelation would not be fulfilled. But Brigham Young urged his colleagues to go to Far West as the Lord had directed and promised that the Lord would protect them.

Shortly after midnight on 26 April, Elders Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John E. Page, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and George A. Smith gathered with about twenty other Saints at the Far West temple site. In the moonlight they recommenced laying the foundation of the Lord’s house by rolling up a large stone near the southeast corner. Brigham Young reported, “Thus was this revelation fulfilled, concerning which our enemies said, if all other revelations of Joseph Smith were fulfilled that one should not, as it had day and date to it.”1 In the early morning hours Theodore Turley, one of the Saints who had been at Far West with the Twelve, went to the home of apostate Isaac Russell to say good-bye. Russell was astounded that his friend was in Far West with members of the Twelve and speechless upon learning that the prophecy was fulfilled.

Missouri. Caldwell Co. Far West. Temple Site

On 26 April 1838 the Lord directed the Church to build a temple in Far West, Missouri.

The cornerstones were laid on 4 July 1838, and the site was dedicated by Brigham Young. The Twelve left from there for their mission to England on 26 April 1839 in fulfillment of the command of the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 118:3–6.

The Church now owns the property and in 1968 landscaped it, erected monuments and markers, and preserved the cornerstones.

There were no further preparations for the mission to Great Britain until the Saints had found a gathering place at Commerce (Nauvoo). On 27 June 1839 the First Presidency and the Twelve met in a special conference. After making a humble confession of his follies and sins, Orson Hyde was restored to fellowship with the Twelve.2 The Prophet Joseph Smith instructed the brethren about the basic principles of the gospel to better prepare them to fulfill their missions. A week later in Montrose, Iowa, following additional instructions, the First Presidency blessed each Apostle and his wife individually. Concerning those who were blessed, Wilford Woodruff recorded that “if we were faithful we had the promise of again returning to the bosom of our families and being blessed on our mission and having many souls as seals of our ministry.” After the blessings, Joseph Smith instructed them that they were “not sent out to be taught but to teach—let every man be sober, be vigilant, and let all his words be seasoned with grace, and keep in mind that it is a day of warning and not of many words.”3

On Sunday, 7 July, the Twelve spoke at a farewell meeting held in their behalf. Each one bore powerful witness of the work they were engaged in. Clearly they were anxious to be on their way to England; unfortunately, they were not able to leave immediately. The next week a malaria epidemic hit the Nauvoo vicinity. The Apostles were stricken, and their mission was temporarily postponed. But after the “‘day of God’s power’” on 22 July, “all of the Twelve were … determined, ‘sick or not,’ to fulfill their mission. On Sunday, August 4, a day of fasting and prayer, the Prophet renewed his instruction to ‘go forth without purse or scrip, according to the revelations of Jesus Christ.’”4

The Missionaries Depart

John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, still sick from malaria, determined to depart immediately. Wilford Woodruff wrote, “Early upon the morning of the 8th of August, I arose from my bed of sickness, laid my hands upon the head of my sick wife, Phoebe, and blessed her. I then departed from the embrace of my companion, and left her almost without food or the necessaries of life. She suffered my departure with the fortitude that becomes a saint, realizing the responsibilities of her companion. …

“Although feeble, I walked to the banks of the Mississippi River. There President Young took me in a canoe … and paddled me across the river. When we landed, I lay down on a side of sole leather, by the postoffice, to rest. Brother Joseph, the Prophet of God, came along and looked at me. ‘Well, Brother Woodruff,’ said he, ‘you have started upon your mission.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘but I feel and look more like a subject for the dissecting room than a missionary.’ Joseph replied: ‘What did you say that for? Get up, and go along; all will be right with you.’”5

Woodruff, Phoebe Carter

This primitive painting of Phoebe Carter Woodruff, wife of Wilford Woodruff, and her son Joseph Woodruff is attributed to Thomas Ward, an LDS immigrant from Liverpool, England. This picture was probably painted in Nauvoo about 1845.

Museum of Church History and Art

John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff struggled on their journey to the east coast. In Indiana, John Taylor became deathly ill, and Wilford had to leave him behind, committing him into the hands of the Lord. After a miraculous recovery, Elder Taylor continued on his journey. He was stricken again, but finally met Elder Woodruff in New York.

The departures of the other brethren were similarly difficult. Brigham Young was prepared to leave on 14 September, just shortly after his wife, Mary Ann had given birth to a daughter. When he left Montrose, however, he was so ill that he could not walk the five hundred feet to the river unaided. Three days later, Mary Ann, still weak from childbirth, arranged to cross the river and care for her husband, who was staying at the home of Heber C. Kimball in Nauvoo. On 18 September, Brigham and Heber decided it was time to start on their appointed mission. Both men were so ill that they had to be helped into a wagon. All of the Kimball household were bedridden except four-year-old Heber Parley, who could just manage to carry water to the sick.

As the men drove off, Heber said he felt that “my very inmost parts would melt within me at leaving my family in such a condition, as it were almost in the arms of death. I felt as though I could not endure it. I asked the teamster to stop, and said to Brother Brigham, ‘This is pretty tough, isn’t it; let’s rise up and give them a cheer.’ We arose, and swinging our hats three times over our heads, shouted: ‘Hurrah, hurrah for Israel.’ Vilate, hearing the noise, arose from her bed and came to the door. She had a smile on her face. Vilate and Mary Anne Young cried out to us: ‘Goodbye, God bless you.’”6

Elders Young and Kimball were joined en route by George A. Smith. As they traveled, Brigham reached into his trunk and always found just enough money for the next stagecoach fare. He thought Heber was replenishing the fund but later discovered that he had not. The brethren had started their trip with $13.50 in donations, yet they spent more than $87 on coach fares. They had no idea how the additional money had gotten into the trunk “except by some unseen agent from the Heavenly world to forward the promulgation of the Gospel.”7 The brethren stayed a few weeks in upstate New York due to sickness. Brigham Young became sick in Moravia, New York, and was nursed to health by the Caleb Haight and William Van Orden families. Brother Van Orden also made an overcoat for George A. Smith, who had only a quilt around his shoulders to keep him warm.

Seven of the Apostles arrived in New York City during the winter. There they preached the gospel, conducted other Church business, and obtained funds for their passage to England. Parley P. Pratt remembered, “During the few days that we were together in New York we held many precious meetings in which the Saints were filled with joy, and the people more and more convinced of the truth of our message. Near forty persons were baptized and added to the Church in that city during the few days of our brethren’s stay there.”8 Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and Theodore Turley were the first to sail for England, leaving 19 December 1839 and arriving twenty-three days later. The others left in March and arrived in Liverpool on 6 April 1840, the tenth anniversary of the Church’s organization.

The need for the Twelve in Britain was soon apparent. After the first mission there in 1837 many members had fallen into apostasy and had left the Church due to persecution and lack of mature local direction. Attacks on the Church in local newspapers grew in number and intensity, and ministers of various denominations aroused opposition through sermons and lectures. Within the Church, some had challenged the authority of the mission presidency—Joseph Fielding, Willard Richards, and William Clayton—and had led small factions of the Saints astray, slowing missionary success.

Elder Heber C. Kimball had written several encouraging letters from America that buoyed up the Saints and identified those disrupting the progress of the work in England. But if the Church was to remain in Britain, there was a pressing need for strong preachers and teachers who were firmly grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel and for mature and experienced leaders who could set the branches in order.

Church history in the fulness of times

During the mission of the Twelve to England, many parts of Great Britain were introduced to the gospel.

Edinburgh, Scotland. The first missionaries arrived here in December 1839. Elder Orson Pratt arrived on 18 May 1840; the following morning, at Arthur’s Seat, a prominent hill overlooking the city, he prayed that the Lord would help him find two hundred people to baptize in Scotland.

Bishopton, Scotland. Here, on 14 January 1840, Alexander and Jessie Hay became the first converts baptized in Scotland.

Castle Frome, England. Wilford Woodruff preached here and at the Hill Farm between March and July 1840. He baptized many of the members of the United Brethren, including John and Jane Benbow.

Douglas, Isle of Man. John Taylor dedicated this island in 1840 and held a celebrated debate with a local minister. He preached to relatives of his wife, Leonora Cannon Taylor, aunt of George Q. Cannon.

Herefordshire Beacon, England. Here, on 20 May 1840, with Elder Brigham Young presiding, a council decided to publish the Book of Mormon and an LDS hymnbook in Britain.

Liverpool, England. The first LDS missionaries landed here in 1837. As the headquarters of the Church in Britain from 1842 to 1929, Liverpool housed the mission, emigration, and printing offices. The Millennial Star was published here, as were other important Church publications. By 1900, eighty-five thousand Latter-day Saints had emigrated to America through Liverpool.

London, England. Missionary work started here on 18 August 1840. London was the birthplace of several General Authorities, including Charles W. Penrose, George Teasdale, and George Reynolds.

Loughbrickland, Ireland. John Taylor baptized the first Irish convert, Thomas Tait, here on 31 July 1840.

Milnthorpe, England. This was the birthplace of President John Taylor.

Newchapel, England. Site of the London England Temple, which was dedicated by President David O. McKay on 7 September 1958.

Manchester, England. This city was the headquarters of the Church in Britain from 1840 to 1842. Elder Brigham Young served most of his mission here. The first stake in Great Britain was organized by Elder Harold B. Lee on 27 March 1960, and the first area conference of the Church convened here in August 1971.

Preston, England. Heber C. Kimball preached the first gospel sermon here on 23 July 1837. A branch was organized that August. Preston served as Church headquarters in Britain from 1837 to 1840. Willard Richards was ordained an Apostle at a conference held here in April 1840.

The British Isles were ripe for the coming of the members of the Twelve as missionaries. Most British subjects shared language, culture, and heritage with the missionaries from America. Freedom of religion was a strong tradition in Britain. There was not the strong reliance upon clergy typical on the European continent. The people loved to read the Bible, taking pride in the King James translation that the Apostles used in their preaching. England also had a strong central government that ensured uniform application of the laws respecting the practice of religion. This meant that the missionaries were legally equal with other ministers wherever they went in the country. Moreover, the industrial revolution had shattered the social standing of the lower classes and left them feeling they had been abandoned by their ministers. Many were seeking spiritual and temporal satisfaction and support in their lives.

This was the preparation the Lord provided to take the gospel to Great Britain.

The Twelve in Great Britain

Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor, the first of the Twelve to arrive in England, hastened to Church headquarters in Preston to meet with the mission presidency. There they decided to separate; Elder Taylor returned to Liverpool with Joseph Fielding, and Elder Woodruff traveled south with Theodore Turley to the Staffordshire Potteries, so called because of the industry carried on there.

Elders Taylor and Fielding began working in Liverpool on 23 January and baptized their first converts on 4 February. Also in February they baptized the entire family of George Cannon, brother of John Taylor’s wife, Leonora. George Q. Cannon, then but a boy of twelve, would become a noted missionary in the Hawaiian Islands, a member of the Twelve Apostles, and a counselor to four Presidents of the Church, including his uncle John Taylor. The work in Liverpool grew steadily, and by the time the remaining members of the Twelve arrived in England in April, a branch of the Church was functioning in that port city.

In the Potteries, Elder Woodruff successfully organized several branches in the small towns of the area and placed Elder Turley in charge of them. In March, Wilford was inspired to go further south to Herefordshire, accompanied by one of his converts, William Benbow. They contacted William’s brother and sister-in-law, John and Jane Benbow, and a group of six hundred people who had formed their own religious society called the United Brethren. Eventually the leader of the group, Thomas Kington, and all but one of the six hundred members accepted the restored gospel and were baptized. Hundreds of others in the vicinity also joined the Church.

Although the work prospered, success did not come without opposition. A local constable was sent to arrest Elder Woodruff for preaching without a license, but instead he was baptized following an inspiring sermon. On another occasion, two clerks sent to discover what Wilford was teaching were both baptized. The clergy in the area finally wrote to the archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, requesting that he use his influence to ban the Mormons from Britain. Recognizing the laws of religious tolerance in the nation, the archbishop counseled the ministers to solve the problem themselves by becoming more dedicated pastors. Instead the clergy preached anti-Mormon sermons and agitated the local press to harass the Latter-day Saints.

Opposition grew as the Church prospered in the area. While preaching in the village of Hawcross, Wilford Woodruff was surrounded by a hostile mob. When some of the villagers requested baptism, Wilford told them that if they had faith enough to be baptized, he had sufficient faith to administer the ordinance, in spite of the threatened physical violence. The small group walked down to a pond and was soon surrounded by a mob armed with stones. Wilford Woodruff reported, “I walked into the water with my mind stayed on God and baptized five persons while they were pelting my body with stones, one of which hit me on the head and came very near knocking me down.”10

On another occasion the minister in the village of Dymock led a mob of over fifty men in stoning the house where the Saints were holding a prayer meeting. Although such experiences were relatively rare in Britain, they reminded Elder Woodruff that there was strong opposition to the restored gospel.

Through the efforts of Wilford Woodruff and others, some eighteen hundred people were converted in the three-county area of Hereford, Worcester, and Gloucester. Visiting the market town of Ledbury, Elder Woodruff was invited by the Baptist minister to preach to his congregation. Afterward the minister and several of the congregation requested baptism. On another occasion, while he was baptizing, some ministers rode up in a wagon, gratefully accepted baptism, and went on their way rejoicing. Reflecting on this extraordinary period of his life, Wilford Woodruff wrote, “The whole history of this Herefordshire mission shows the importance of listening to the still small voice of the spirit of God, and the revelations of the Holy Ghost. The people were praying for light and truth, and the Lord sent me to them.”11

In April 1840, when the other Apostles arrived in the British Isles, Brigham Young, who had assumed leadership of the Church in the British Mission, summoned the brethren to Preston for a general conference of the Church. Nearly sixteen hundred members, representing thirty-three branches, came to the conference. The first order of business was the ordination of Willard Richards to the apostleship in accordance with the 1838 revelation. Brigham Young was also presented and sustained as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. There were now eight members of the Twelve in the British Isles, namely Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Willard Richards. Two others, William Smith and John E. Page, did not fulfill missions in Britain. Orson Hyde arrived later, labored with his brethren for several months in England, and then proceeded to Palestine to dedicate that land for the return of the Jews. One vacancy in the Twelve still remained open at that time.

At the conference President Young’s proposal to publish the Book of Mormon, a hymnbook, and a monthly periodical for the English Saints was also approved. At Elder Woodruff’s suggestion, the new publication was to be called the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star. Elder Parley P. Pratt was chosen as its editor. The Twelve concluded the conference by encouraging the Saints to emigrate to Nauvoo.12

Millennial star

The first issue of the Millennial Star came off the press 27 May 1840 in Manchester, England. It began as a monthly publication edited by Parley P. Pratt. Over the years it changed to a semi-monthly, then to a weekly, and finally back to a monthly.

In 1842 the Church headquarters in Britain was moved to Liverpool, and the Star was published there until 1933, when it began to be published in London. Until its cessation in 1970 it was the oldest continuous publication in the Church. For much of its history it was edited by the president of the British Mission.

Brigham Young demonstrated great spiritual and administrative ability in his leadership of the Church in Great Britain. While visiting Wilford Woodruff and the converted United Brethren in the South, he exercised his priesthood power in a healing. Mary Pitt, an invalid for eleven years and the sister of musician William Pitt, requested a blessing. The Pitts had been baptized just the day before. Wilford Woodruff recorded, “We prayed for her and laid hands upon her. Brother Young was mouth, and commanded her to be made whole. She laid down her crutch and never used it after, and the next day she walked three miles.”13 Mary Pitt was one of the many Saints in England healed through the power of priesthood blessings given by Brigham Young.

President Young also expanded the missionary work in the British Isles. Under his direction, Heber C. Kimball visited the branches in northern England, where he had labored in 1837–38. He strengthened those who had remained faithful during the interim and worked to reconvert many who had fallen away due to persecution. Willard Richards was sent to assist Wilford Woodruff in southern England. John Taylor, having had some success in Liverpool with Irish immigrants, sailed with three Irish companions to Ireland to introduce the gospel there. Although they had little success, they laid an important groundwork. Returning to Liverpool, Elder Taylor felt impressed to expand the work to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, where many relatives of his wife, Leonora, lived. Soon he had baptized several people and organized a branch on the island.

Liverpool, England

This building, located at 42 Islington Street in Liverpool, served as the headquarters for the British Mission and office for the Millennial Star from 1855 to 1904.

Orson Pratt was assigned to take the gospel to Scotland. There he built upon the work of two native Scottish converts—Samuel Mulliner and Alexander Wright—who in 1839 had returned from Canada to their homeland to share the gospel with their families and friends; they had a group of twenty converts before he arrived. Elder Pratt organized the first Scottish branch in Paisley, a few miles from Glasgow, on 8 May 1840. Late in May he offered a prayer at Arthur’s Seat (a hill in Scotland) and asked the Lord for two hundred converts. The work in the capital, Edinburgh, was slow at first, with only eighteen people being baptized by August. But Orson, a vigorous missionary, worked hard for ten months, often holding as many as seven street meetings in one day. He published a pamphlet called An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, which contained the first published account of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s First Vision. Elder Pratt spent nearly his entire mission in Scotland, and by the time he left in March 1841 his prayer had been answered—the membership of the Church in the Edinburgh conference numbered 226.

In August 1840, Elder George A. Smith accompanied Elders Kimball and Woodruff to London, one of the world’s largest cities. They were denied the opportunity to preach in the Temperance Hall, and so turned to the famous open-air Smithfield Market. Informed that they could not preach there either, they were led by a local watchmaker to Tabernacle Square, just outside the city limits. There Elder Smith gave a sermon to a boisterous but interested audience. When a local minister informed the crowd that George A. Smith was a Mormon and they should not listen to him, British sympathy for the underdog asserted itself. The crowd gave increased attention, but none were willing to be baptized.

After several days of proselyting without success, the Apostles were finally rewarded when Henry Connor, the watchmaker who had befriended them, embraced the gospel. But the Church grew slowly in London. In reporting to Brigham Young, the brethren wrote, “In our travels, either in America or Europe, we have never before found a people, from whose minds we have had to remove a greater multiplicity of objections, or combination of obstacles, in order to excite an interest in the subject and prepare the heart for the reception of the word of God, than in the city of London.”14 Brigham Young visited London in December 1840 to lend support to the missionary work there, and by 14 February 1841, enough members had been baptized to organize a conference of the Church with a newly arrived young missionary from America, Lorenzo Snow, as its president. During the three years Elder Snow remained in London, he brought several hundred new members into the Church and presented two beautifully bound copies of the Book of Mormon to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Parley P. Pratt’s ministry in Britain focused mainly on the writing and editing of Church literature that was vital to the success of the missionary effort then taking place. He also wrote several tracts and edited the monthly Millennial Star, which provided the Saints in England with the first published material on Joseph Smith’s revelations and his history. It contained general news from the Church in the United States as well, thus linking the English Saints with their American counterparts. Throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, the Millennial Star was a leading periodical in the Church. It was replete with historical documents and addresses by Church authorities.

Impact of the Twelve’s Mission to Britain

Under the able and inspired leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve, the Church experienced phenomenal growth during 1840. At the October general conference held in Manchester, “ordinations were performed, disciplinary cases were acted upon, a fund was established to support missionaries with insufficient means [many of them native Britons], and missionaries were assigned to their places of labor. Total membership was reported to be up 1,115 since July, and there were 70 churches and 1,007 members at Herefordshire.”15

Emigration of British Saints to America had commenced prior to the conference in Manchester. On 1 June 1840, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball met with approximately forty-six Saints and organized them for their journey to Nauvoo. John Moon, a faithful member converted during Elder Kimball’s previous mission, was appointed en route to preside. When these Saints arrived in Nauvoo, they wrote encouraging letters back to their friends, supporting the gathering and contradicting the negative comments in the British papers about traveling to such a distant place.

Most of the English Saints needed no urging to emigrate. Even before the Apostles mentioned the gathering, they wanted to go to America to see the Prophet and to live among their fellow Saints. Brigham Young wrote to his brother Joseph, “They have so much of the spirit of gathering that they would go if they knew they would die as soon as they got there or if they knew that the mob would be upon them and drive them as soon as they got there.”16 Approximately one thousand Saints emigrated early in 1841, and a shipping agency was soon established to oversee travel arrangements. Homes in Liverpool were purchased to house the members waiting to leave, and the Millennial Star began publishing detailed instructions to help the Saints prepare for the long journey. During the next decade, over ten thousand British Saints sailed to America. By 1870 there were twenty-eight thousand more, and the majority of the adult Saints in Utah were former natives of the British Isles.

Courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia

The Britannia, a six-hundred ton, square-rigged packet ship, carried the first organized company of Latter-day Saints to emigrate to America. Forty members left Liverpool on 6 June 1840 under the direction of Elder John Moon, whose family had accepted the gospel message from Heber C. Kimball in 1837. The Moon family formed the core of this company, which arrived in New York harbor 20 July 1840 after a 41-day journey where they encountered three storms and considerable sickness.

The journey from New York to St. Louis via steamboat and train required nine months, including a winter layover near Pittsburgh. From St. Louis they took a river-steamer to Montrose, Iowa, arriving 16 April 1841. Two more companies left England in 1840. The last of these went via New Orleans, a more direct and less expensive all-water route.

The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to the Twelve in early 1841 and instructed them to return to Nauvoo in the spring. As the time for their departure drew near, the Apostles visited the regions where they had worked to strengthen the Saints. They held a series of meetings in Manchester in early April and culminated with a general conference on 6 April. Much joy was expressed at the conference because of the bounteous harvest the Lord had blessed them with. “The membership” was “5,864, up nearly 2,200 since the [October] conference and more than 4,300 since their first conference one year” earlier.18 This did not include those who had already emigrated. Most of the Apostles departed from England in late April and arrived in Nauvoo in July. Parley P. Pratt remained to preside over the mission and to edit the Millennial Star.

This mission was an important time of training and maturing for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Brigham Young was able to strengthen the leadership skills that he would soon be called upon to exercise in Nauvoo, particularly following the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. Through trials and sacrifices in Britain, as well as laboring for a common goal, the Twelve were united in a way that assured the Church strong leadership in the years ahead. With the addition of Lorenzo Snow in London, four future Presidents of the Church—Presidents Young, Taylor, Woodruff, and Snow—worked together in the British Mission. Furthermore, British converts who emigrated to Nauvoo provided vital support to the Twelve following the death of Joseph Smith.

The Prophet recognized both the leadership experience gained by the Apostles and the sacrifice that they and their families had made as a result of the Twelve’s mission to Britain. He recorded: “Perhaps no men ever undertook such an important mission under such peculiarly distressing and unpropitious circumstances. … However, notwithstanding their afflictions and trials, the Lord always interposed in their behalf, and did not suffer them to sink in the arms of death. Some way or other was made for their escape—friends rose up when they most needed them and relieved their necessities; and thus they were enabled to pursue their journey and rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. They, truly, ‘went forth weeping, bearing precious seed,’ but have ‘returned with rejoicing, bearing their sheaves with them.’”19

Missionary work to other parts of the world was also furthered as a result of the work in Britain. The British Empire became the avenue the gospel went through into many parts of the world when British converts emigrated or traveled on business or military duty.

Orson Hyde’s Mission to Palestine

Elder Orson Hyde had not recovered sufficiently from malaria to accompany his brethren of the Twelve in 1839 on their mission to Britain. Although he tried to do some missionary work in the United States, he could not shake off the fever and chills. He reported, “I took the ague, which lasted me for months, and which came well nigh killing me and also my family. At the April Conference in 1840, [I was] reduced to a mere skeleton.”20

At that conference Orson announced that for some time the Spirit had been prompting him to proceed with a mission to the Jews that the Prophet Joseph Smith had foretold nine years earlier. He referred to a vision he had received about a month earlier wherein he had seen London, Amsterdam, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. The Spirit had said to him, “Here are many of the children of Abraham whom I will gather to the land that I gave to their fathers; and here also is the field of your labors.”21 The Prophet Joseph called Elder Hyde and fellow Apostle John E. Page to go to the Jewish people in Europe and then to Palestine to dedicate the Holy Land for the return of the Jews.22

Hyde, Orson

Orson Hyde (1805–78) was one of eleven children. He accepted the gospel in 1831 in Kirtland, Ohio. He was a faithful missionary during his first years in the Church and was ordained an Apostle in 1835.

He was called to go to Jerusalem in 1840. After an arduous and lengthy journey he dedicated the Holy Land from the Mount of Olives on 24 October 1841.

For a time Orson Hyde edited the Millennial Star in England and later the Frontier Guardian in Iowa. After settling in Salt Lake City he participated in the colonization effort and in territorial government.

As Elders Hyde and Page traveled to the East they preached and collected funds for their mission, including money to translate the Book of Mormon and other Church literature into German, since they contemplated meeting German-speaking European Jews. Elder Page lingered somewhat in Pennsylvania, so Elder Hyde, who felt a strong urgency for the mission, continued on to New York alone. In this he was vindicated, when on 15 January 1841, Joseph Smith wrote in the Times and Seasons that “the Lord is not well pleased with them in consequence of delaying their mission, (Elder John E. Page in particular,) and they are requested by the First Presidency to hasten their journey.”23 Elder Page did not respond to this message, leaving Elder Hyde no alternative but to leave for Europe without him, which he did on 13 February.

Orson Hyde spent three and a half months in England with the Twelve, and after most of them had returned to America, he wrote a brief history of the origin of the Church. While in England he contacted Jewish leaders in London. In June he visited Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt, distributing copies of an address to the Jews before he sailed on the Danube River to the Black Sea. The trip from western Turkey to Beirut was extremely unpleasant. With only a week’s worth of provisions, the ship was forced to remain at sea for nineteen days. Elder Hyde recorded, “A number of days I ate snails gathered from the rocks, while our vessel was becalmed in the midst of several small and uninhabited islands, but the greatest difficulty was, I could not get enough of them.” He was “so weak and exhausted” that he could hardly make it from the boat to the shore at Jaffa.24

Elder Hyde arrived in Jerusalem on 21 October 1841. When he first looked upon the Holy City, his objective of the last nineteen months, he was moved to tears. He wrote to Parley P. Pratt that it looked “precisely according to the vision which I had.”25 Before daybreak on Sunday morning, 24 October, after several days of unsuccessful missionary work, Orson Hyde quietly passed through the open gates of Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley, and climbed the Mount of Olives. As he looked below, he asked himself, “Is that city which I now look down upon really Jerusalem, whose sins and iniquities swelled the Savior’s heart with grief, and drew so many tears from his pitying eye? Is that small enclosure in the valley of Kidron, where the boughs of those lonely olives are waving their green foliage so gracefully in the soft and gentle breeze, really the garden of Gethsemane, where powers infernal poured the flood of hell’s dark gloom around the princely head of the immortal Redeemer?”26

While in this spiritual, reflective mood, “in solemn silence, with pen, ink, and paper, just as I saw in the vision,” Orson Hyde wrote and offered up the prayer that officially dedicated the Holy Land for the return of the Jews and for the building of a future temple in Jerusalem. He pleaded with the Lord to “remove the barrenness and sterility of this land, and let springs of living water break forth to water its thirsty soil. Let the vine and olive produce in their strength, and the fig-tree bloom and flourish.” After this solemn experience, Orson erected a pile of stones as a witness of this occasion according to the ancient custom.27

Church history in the fulness of times

Orson Hyde’s mission to Palestine was one of the great missionary journeys of modern times. Leaving Nauvoo on 15 April 1840, Elder Hyde worked, preached, wrote, and published on three continents for nearly three years before his return on 7 December 1842.

  1. Nauvoo, Illinois

  2. Lima, Illinois

  3. Quincy, Illinois

  4. Columbus, Illinois

  5. Jacksonville, Illinois

  6. Springfield, Illinois

  7. Indianapolis, Indiana

  8. Dayton, Ohio

  9. Franklin, Ohio

  10. Cincinnati, Ohio

  11. Wellsburgh, West Virginia

  12. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  13. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  14. New York City, New York (4 Dec. 1840)

  15. Left New York City on ship (13 Feb. 1841)

  16. Liverpool, England (labored in England for four months); (3 Mar. 1841)

  17. Preston, England

  18. Manchester, England

  19. London, England

  20. Left for Rotterdam, Holland (20 June 1841)

  21. Arnhem, Germany (later became Holland)

  22. Mainz, Germany

  23. Frankfurt, Germany

  24. Regensburg, Germany

  25. Entered Black Sea from Galati

  26. Constantinople, Turkey

  27. Aegean Sea; boat docked at Smyrna (later Izmir, Turkey)

  28. Beirut (now in Lebanon)

  29. Jaffa (now part of Tel Aviv, Israel) (19 Oct. 1841)

  30. Prayer on the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem (24 Oct. 1841)

  31. East branch of the Nile River

  32. Dumyat, Egypt

  33. Cairo, Egypt

  34. West branch of the Nile River

  35. Alexandria (Egypt)

  36. Arrived at harbor of Trieste, Italy (21 Dec. 1841)

  37. Over the Alps to Munich (Germany) then to Regensburg (Germany)

  38. England, undoubtedly London (Sept. 1842)

  39. Sailed from Liverpool, England (25 Sept. 1842)

  40. Arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana (13 Nov. 1842)

  41. Arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois (7 Dec. 1842)

His mission accomplished, Elder Hyde toured some of the biblical sites and then sailed to Egypt, where he was forced to lay over at Alexandria. He met with many Jewish people there and sent a report of his mission to Parley P. Pratt, who published it in the Millennial Star. After arriving in Europe, he spent several months in Germany, where he published a 109-page treatise of the gospel in German titled A Cry Out of the Wilderness. Orson traveled back to the United States with a company of British emigrants and arrived in Nauvoo on 7 December 1842. He had fulfilled one of the longest (twenty thousand miles), most perilous, and most significant missions in the history of the Church, one which rivals the travels of the Apostle Paul in its hardships.

Missionaries to the Pacific

As soon as the Twelve returned to Nauvoo from Britain, the Prophet assigned them to direct the missionary work of the Church worldwide. The Apostles were now maturing in their ordained role. In the spring of 1843, four men were called to take the gospel to the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Two of them, Addison Pratt and Benjamin Grouard, had been sailors in the Pacific. They were joined by Noah Rogers and Knowlton Hanks. These missionaries, like the Twelve, left their wives and families behind. They sailed from New England in October 1843 and arrived in Tubuai, an island three hundred miles south of Tahiti, on 30 April 1844. Elder Hanks died of consumption (tuberculosis) during the voyage.

Pratt, Addison

Addison Pratt (1802–72) was ordained a seventy in 1843 and sent with three other men to the islands of the Pacific. He arrived in Tahiti in the spring of 1844 and labored diligently until 1847. He spent a brief period in Utah and then returned to the Pacific area, where he labored from 1849 to 1852, when the French government banished the missionaries. After his mission he went to California, where he remained until his death.

The missionaries intended to sail to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), but the islanders on Tubuai, who were already Christians and wanted a permanent minister, pleaded with Elder Pratt to remain with them. So he sent his two companions northward toward Tahiti. During his first year in Tubuai, he converted and baptized sixty people, a third of the island’s population, including all but one of the few Caucasian shipbuilders on the island. Caring for the new members of the Church became a demanding responsibility as they sought him out for advice on temporal and spiritual matters.

Meanwhile, the progress in Tahiti and other islands was much slower. Representatives from the London Missionary Society carried on a campaign of misrepresentation and harassment that hindered the work. Hearing vague reports about violence against the Church in Illinois, and fearing for the safety of his family, Elder Rogers sailed for America and returned to Nauvoo in December 1845.

Elder Grouard enjoyed considerable success on the atoll of Anaa, a small part of the Tuamotus Islands east of Tahiti. He learned Tahitian and soon adapted himself to the culture of the island. Its friendly inhabitants were especially receptive to his message; within four months he baptized 35 people. At a conference of the Church on 24 September 1846, Elders Pratt and Grouard brought together members from ten branches totaling 866 people. In November, Elder Pratt left for America, hoping to return with more missionaries.

The mission of the Twelve to the British Isles, the journey of Orson Hyde to Palestine, and the opening of missionary work in the Pacific began to fulfill the Lord’s revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith. In 1837 the Lord had promised, “Whosoever ye shall send in my name, by the voice of your brethren, the Twelve, duly recommended and authorized by you, shall have power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation whithersoever ye shall send them” (D&C 112:21). Through the Twelve Apostles, the word of the Lord was now going out to the nations of the earth.

Show References


  1. Elden Jay Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801–1844 (Salt Lake City: Elden Jay Watson, 1968), p. 39.

  2. See History of the Church, 3:379.

  3. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 2 July 1839, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized; this paragraph is derived from Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), p. 73.

  4. In Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 74.

  5. In Matthias F. Cowley, ed., Wilford Woodruff (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), p. 109.

  6. In Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 3d ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967), p. 266.

  7. In Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 77.

  8. Parley P. Pratt, ed., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Classics in Mormon Literature series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), p. 261.

  9. See Wilford Woodruff Journals, “A synopsis of the travels and labours of W. Woodruff in A.D.  1840,” entry following 30 Dec. 1840.

  10. “Elder Woodruff’s Letter,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1841, p. 330.

  11. In Cowley, Wilford Woodruff, p. 118.

  12. Previous two paragraphs derived from Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 81.

  13. In Journal of Discourses, 15:344.

  14. In History of the Church, 4:222.

  15. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 89.

  16. Previous two paragraphs derived from Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 94; spelling in Brigham Young’s letter has been standardized.

  17. M. Hamlin Cannon, Migration of English Mormons to America (Reprint, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), American Historical Review, Apr. 1947, pp. 436–55.

  18. Arrington, Brigham Young, American Moses, p. 95; see also Larry C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816–1831,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1971, p. 476.

  19. History of the Church, 4:390–91.

  20. Millennial Star, 10 Dec. 1864, p. 792.

  21. In History of the Church, 4:376.

  22. See History of the Church, 4:106, 109.

  23. Times and Seasons, 15 Jan. 1841, p. 287; see also History of the Church, 4:274.

  24. A Sketch of the Travels and Ministry of Elder Orson Hyde (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Office, 1869), p. 24; spelling standardized.

  25. A Sketch of the Travels, p. 20.

  26. A Sketch of the Travels, p. 13; spelling standardized.

  27. In History of the Church, 4:456–57; see also A Sketch of the Travels, pp. 20–22.