One-Family ‘Branch’
October 1975

“One-Family ‘Branch’” Ensign, Oct. 1975, 66

One-Family “Branch”

When we first arrived in western Wales over a year ago, we were, as far as we knew, the only members of the Church within at least a 50-mile radius. Traveling long distances had not prevented us from attending our meetings in a small branch in Kansas where we often made a 200-mile round trip to church. But here in Aberystwyth, with no car and no bus service on Sundays, we foresaw a bleak year without organized Church meetings.

Yet before we left America my husband had commented: “We’re not going to Wales just so I can attend the university. I feel the Lord has some work for us to do.”

We soon developed a fairly organized system of worship in our home by using the lesson manuals and other materials we had brought with us. On Tuesdays I held Relief Society. I would read the appropriate lesson, sometimes sharing with my husband the concept being taught. Occasionally a thorough discussion would be prompted that fixed the lesson as firmly in my mind as a class discussion would have. I began to realize the joy of having the support of an active priesthood leader in the home.

Wednesday was Primary day. Equipped with manual and teaching aids, I would teach our four-year-old and our two-and-a-half-year-old daughters the gospel principles. Although pictures from a meetinghouse library or personal file were nonexistent, somewhere in a family home evening manual or Ensign there would be just the picture I needed. And the children enjoyed getting down on the floor to touch and lay out the pictures.

Our Sunday School meeting was actually a Junior Sunday School. Bert conducted the meeting, I directed the singing, and one of the girls offered the prayer. With permission from mission headquarters, Bert blessed and passed the bread and water following the sacrament hymn. At first the girls giggled, but by the second week reverence had returned. To avoid too many interruptions (we had 11-month-old twins besides), Bert and I had our Sunday School lessons while the children were napping. We alternated giving the lesson. One week I would teach the girls while he prepared our lesson, and the next week he took the girls.

And, of course, on Monday we held family home evening.

Prepared to settle into a year of home Primary, home Sunday School, and home sacrament, we felt like pioneers.

Upon arriving in Wales, we had sent a letter to mission headquarters telling them of our arrival and asking for any counsel they might have for us. Three weeks later two Latter-day Saint missionaries were on our doorstep with news that another member family had recently moved to the Aberystwyth area, that there was a Latter-day Saint male student at the university, and that another inactive but interested family lived a short distance from us—all of whom were anxious to get together and hold church meetings. Tremendous news! Also, the mission president was considering sending missionaries to Aberystwyth to teach the gospel and hopefully organize a branch. Overwhelmed with this turn of events, we joyfully agreed to hold priesthood and sacrament meetings in our home the next day.

It was a small group: our family, the two missionaries, the university student, and a recently arrived businessman (his family wouldn’t arrive for a month), but the Spirit of the Lord was with us.

Now, as an organized branch of three families (a total of 18 members and missionaries laboring here), every Sunday will find us in the village hall of Penparcau, just south of Aberystwyth, where we hold priesthood meeting, Relief Society, Sunday School, and sacrament meeting.

  • Shirley Rawlins, mother of five children, serves as music coordinator, Relief Society spiritual living leader, Primary teacher, and institute teacher, Aberystwyth Branch, England Birmingham Mission.