On October 6, 1840, the British Mission held a conference in Manchester. During the conference, Henry Royle and Frederick Cook were called to preach in Flintshire, North Wales. They met with immediate success. “We arrived in Wales on the sixteenth of October … in a village in the County of Flintshire Cloy Overton,” Cook reported, “and on the eighteenth of the same month we commenced Baptizing there in the River … Dee.” On October 30, Royle reported 32 baptisms and the establishment of a branch in the area.
The successes of the missionaries drew the attention of other preachers and ministers in the country. On October 31, 1840, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles traveled to the village of Hawarden, just north of Cloy. At the request of six Methodist preachers, Young and Kimball delivered several sermons, administered to the sick, and healed a young man sick with a fever and a blind woman. Between October and December 1840, nearly 100 people were baptized in Flintshire.
Bitter opposition followed. Preachers and ministers from other denominations opposed Latter-day Saint doctrine in sermons and published unflattering accounts of Latter-day Saint meetings in local newspapers.
Many of these sermons and articles were in Welsh. None of the first missionaries and few of their converts spoke the language. This barrier made it difficult for Latter-day Saints to respond to their critics and to preach to many of the people of Wales. Missionary success in the country soon lagged.
In 1843, William and Mary Ann Henshaw relocated to Merthyr Tydfil. While William did not speak Welsh, Mary Ann, a native of Wales, did. Together the Henshaws taught and baptized several families in the area and established a small branch. Among those who joined the Church in Merthyr Tydfil were William R. and Rachel Davies and their three children.
William Davies was almost immediately called to preach among his Welsh-speaking neighbors and to dispute their negative perceptions. Through his preaching, the Merthyr Tydfil Branch grew to nearly 50 members by the end of 1843.