Church History
“That Thousands in This Land May Rejoice”
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“That Thousands in This Land May Rejoice”

On July 9, 1849, at the port of Le Havre, a young Welsh man stepped off a steamer. William Howells, himself a convert of only six months, had come to France to preach the restored gospel. While he carried tracts in both French and English, Howells’s command of the French language was very limited. Fortunately for Howells, Le Havre was a cosmopolitan seaport. Howells spent much of his time among the expatriated Britons and American sailors who frequented the city. For most of 1849 and 1850, Howells split time between missionary efforts in the northern port cities of France and his home in Wales. After short stints in Saint-Malo and Saint-Servan, Howells began preaching in Boulogne-sur-Mer. In Boulogne, Howells found a small group receptive to his message. Howells baptized six new converts, and on April 6, 1850, the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Church, he organized the first branch of the Church in France.

Church leaders in Salt Lake City, seeing a need to broaden the Church’s global reach, looked to Europe for new fields in which to preach the restored gospel. At the general conference of the Church in October 1849, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and others were called on missions to Italy, Sweden, Denmark, and France. John Taylor, then an Apostle, was called to preside in France. Accompanied by Curtis Bolton, a French teacher from Salt Lake City, Taylor departed for France shortly after the conference.

When Taylor and Bolton arrived in France on June 18, 1850, the country was ablaze with political and social unrest. Many of history’s most prolific social thinkers—including Karl Marx (1818–83), Victor Hugo (1802–85), and Étienne Cabet (1788–1856)—called Paris home in the late 1840s. In 1848, for the third time since 1792, political revolution overthrew the government. The “Second Republic,” under the leadership of President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew of the famed emperor, was working to stabilize the political system. After assuring officials that their message was religious and not political, Taylor and his companions were granted permission to preach.

Eight days after arriving, Taylor traveled to a beach north of the city of Boulogne-sur-Mer and dedicated the country for the preaching of the gospel. Taylor called for the assistance of heaven in leading “many to a knowledge of the truth; that thousands in this land may rejoice in the fulness of the blessings of the Gospel of peace.” Shortly after, Taylor and his companions made the journey to Paris.