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The Welsh and the Gospel


The Welsh and the Gospel

by Ronald D. Dennis


To identify the first native-born Welshman to receive the gospel in this dispensation presents a difficult and probably impossible task.  The sparse and patchy records kept in the early days of the Welsh Church simply do not give that information.  There are, however, several early converts who had inescapably Welsh surnames, such as Frederick G. Williams, converted in November 1830; Joshua Lewis, who was baptized by the missionaries sent to the Lamanites of Missouri in the winter of 1830-1; Selah J. Griffin, ordained an elder in June 1831; and Hiram Griffith, ordained a teacher in October 1831.  There is no indication that any of these individuals had been born outside the United States, but their names are a strong indication of ancestral roots in Wales.

When Wilford Woodruff experienced his amazing success in Herefordshire in 1840, he was labouring only about 20 miles from the border of Wales.  Amongst his converts were John Davis, William Evans, Samuel Jones, William Williams, John Powell, John Parry and James Morgan.  Given the ‘Welshness’ of these names and the geographical proximity to Wales, at least some of these converts probably had relations across the border in Wales.  Certainly they would have been inclined to take the gospel to their kin soon after converting to Mormonism themselves.

James Morgan, for example, had family members in the little castle town of Skenfrith, located just over the border in Monmouthshire.  Morgan was baptized on 18 May 1840 in Dymock, and on the same day was ordained a priest and baptized three people himself.  It is not difficult to imagine him a short time later, perhaps in June or July, exhorting his family to follow his example and that of his sister Margaret, whose baptism preceded his by five weeks.

The first missionary to preach in Wales could well have been James Morgan or any of several others in similar circumstances.  The first official Church missionary to Wales, however, was Elder Henry Royle, who was called at a conference in Manchester on 6 October 1840 to ‘to to Cly(sic), in Flintshire’.(MS 1:168)  ‘Cly’ is no doubt ‘Cloy’, located about 2 miles from Overton.  Cloy was hardly more than a string of farmhouses situated on the outskirts of Overton.  And Overton itself consisted of fewer than 2000 inhabitants.  Perhaps Cloy was chosen to receive Mormon missionaries because a new convert had invited them to visit his friends and relations who lived there. Or there may have been a connection between Cloy and the in-laws of Frederick Cook, a priest assigned to accompany Elder Royle.  (Sister Cook’s maiden name was Davis, a name which suggests roots in Wales, but available records offer no further detail.)

Whatever the reason for the choice of area, Royle and Cook met with immediate success upon their arrival in Flintshire.  Elder Royle reported that by the 30th of October a branch with 32 members had been established in Overton, certainly an impressive beginning for just 3 weeks’ work. (MS 1:192)  By the next month Royle and Cook had been joined by Elder James Burnham who reported that the converts then numbered 56 and that the opposition was increasing.  (MS 1:212)  After another month Burnham wrote that the number in that ‘region’ had risen to nearly 100 and that he had been ‘stoned’ twice, ‘only once receiving harm’.  He also said that some of the local priests had followed the missionaries around and tried to disturb their meetings.  ‘They call us robbers and infidels, declaring that we rob other churches.  If the opposition continues to increase, as it has done for some time past, we shall perhaps loose(sic) our heads soon.’(MS 1:238-9)  Burnham’s third and final letter to appear in the Millennial Star was dated 10 February 1841, about 4 months after Royle and Cook had received their assignment.  Burnham reported that if they held their meetings at any private house that had not been licensed, the priests would enter a complaint and have the home owner fined.  He also wrote, ‘I have organized two branches of the church, consisting of about 150 members.’ (MS 1:284)

One hundred and fifty converts in four months was a rather dramatic opening for such a small area.  Hence the opposition is less surprising when one imagines the priests seeing their own congregations so quickly diminished.  After Elder Burnham’s third  letter, the Millennial Star is silent as to further developments in Overton, except for the 6 April 1841 conference report of 170 members. (MS 1:302)  At this time the Overton Branch became part of the Liverpool Conference, and its statistics were no longer reported separately.

During this early period of Church growth in Wales, an Elder James Burgess was in Overton for a short time and wrote about the local reaction to Mormonism in his journal.  “At night we went to a preaching and a very rough meeting.  We had some men come and (they) tied the door and smoked some sulphur through the keyhole and when we came out they followed us and rung old cans and hinges after us.  But we were not afraid of them.”  (Burgess, 8 Jan 1841.)

About a year later, Elder Charles Smith, a convert from Ellesmere, was in Lightwood Green, about a mile from Overton, and in his journal on 27 January 1842 he recorded the fracas which had taken place that evening during a meeting held at the home of Brother William Cross.  While Elder Smith was speaking, a handful of townpeople sneered at what he was saying.  When Cross’s son-in-law ‘collared one of them to put him out of doors (the) rest began striking the brethren’.  Finally Cross’s son-in-law fired a gun to disperse the mob.  They retreated but threatened revenge.  (Charles Smith, 27 Jan 1842)

The Overton saints are rather a mystery in Welsh Church history, as no existing records make further mention of them.  Even Dan Jones, upon his arrival in the area as a missionary in 1845, gave no indication that there were any members of the Church in the North Wales Conference.  However, one possible explanation as to what may have become of them is given by Elder Charles Smith in his brief but informative journal:  ‘I went…to meet with the brethren and sisters (in the Overton area), the greatest part of them being about to start for America.’(ibid)  Thus it appears that many of the Overton converts were quick to follow the counsel of Church leaders and emigrated about a year after their conversion.  This would explain why, nearly 3 years later, Elder Robert Martin reported that there were but 75 members scattered throughout North Wales. (MS 5:74)  Their names, however, remain unknown because of incomplete records of that period.

At the time when these missionaries were having such success in North Wales, those proselytizing in the borderlands of South Wales had yet to establish a Welsh branch.  Elder James Palmer, who was baptized on 13 April 1840, a convert from the United Brethren, recorded in his journal some of his early proselytizing visits to South Wales.  One entry (that appears to be for some date in November 1840) reads, ‘I preached at Skenfrith.  Was opposed by a Roman Catholic.’  A short time later he wrote that he and Elder Martin Littlewood ‘visited Skenfrith again…We were opposed again by the same Roman Catholic who brought others with him and a newspaper and read therein a tissue of falsehood against our principles.’  (Palmer.)  Between this visit and the next, some new missionaries arrived in the area, and Elder Palmer reported:  “We now visited Skenfrith again with our reinforcement of young troops.  On the Monday following I baptized John Preece and William Williams in the River Monnow and delivered a public discourse the same evening at Brother Reed’s.”

Palmer also recorded that missionary attention was then focused on the ‘fair town of Monmouth’, where he and Elder James Morgan ‘obtained a house for public worship’.(Ibid)

Neither Elder Burnham in the north nor Elder Palmer in the south comments about any language barrier in teaching the Welsh.  Since these initial proselytizing efforts were just over the Welsh border, it seems likely that those who listened to the elders were bilingual.  In his journal entry of 19 February 1841, Elder Palmer describes his first encounter with some Welsh folk who were less than fluent in English:  “I crossed the Black Mountain to Llanthony with the view of preaching the gospel but all doors were closed against us.  I felt that thereafter if that people wanted my ministerial labours they would have to come and invite me after such cold treatment.  They are what might be rightly called ‘mongrel Welsh’, as but few of them can speak the English or Welsh language correct(sic.)(Ibid)

Strangely enough it was only a short time before Elder Palmer underwent a major change of attitude towards the people of Llanthony.  After preaching in nearby Longtown, he was approached by one Jacob Watkins, who questioned him about the gospel until 3:00 a.m. and was back at daybreak with more questions.  A resident of Llanthony, Mr. Watkins promised to have a houseful of listeners if Elder Palmer would come back for a second visit.  Thus, on 1 March 1841, just 10 days after his initial ‘cold treatment’ in Llanthony, Elder Palmer was ‘invited’ back to a house full of eager listeners—so many in fact that he had to preach in the doorway so that people both indoors and out could hear his message.  He later recorded:  “The Lord blessed me with great liberty of speach(sic) and his Holy Spirit thrilled through my system from head to foot, accompanying his word, manifesting to my understanding most assuredly that there were those present before me that would respond to the call as soon as they were properly instructed in God’s divine law.  The people here speak the Welsh as well as the English language.(Ibid)”

Nearly two years of proselytizing in the border towns of South Wales produced only 45 members—a discouraging number when compared to the many conversions in North Wales during this same period.  Eventually, however, these growth rates would reverse, and South Wales would yield large numbers of converts—as much as 15 times as many as the North.

The last area of Wales to see LDS missionaries was the centre.  In early 1843 an Englishman from Cornwall, Elder William Henshaw (who had been baptized 2 years earlier in Wolverhampton) was called to labour in Wales.  He began in the Merthyr Tydfil area, in Penydarren.  As Elder Henshaw spoke no Welsh and the people of Penydarren were not so bilingual as those nearer the border, he had to approach people who did speak English and then rely on bilingual converts to teach the gospel to their Welsh-speaking countrymen. Still, Elder Henshaw achieved some success, baptizing his first family—William Rees Davis, his wife Rachel and their two sons—on 19 February 1843.  The Davises were followed by others, and by June there was a thriving branch of 32 members in Penydarren.  Before the year was out, the Penydarren Branch grew to 50 members, and another branch was organized in nearby Rhymni.

As the early missionaries had reported, opposition in Wales generally grew as the Church did.  Although most Welsh religious periodicals prior to this time had remained silent about the Mormons, there was one Baptist publication, the Seren Gomer (Star of Gomer) that had printed 3 articles on Mormonism.  These presented a view of the Mormons as ‘religious hotheads’ who had been deceived into believing ‘the most shameful superstition which has ever been proclaimed in a Christian country’ and who, if properly ignored, would soon die out.  One of the articles mentioned ‘Thomas Margretts’ (Margetts) and his ‘escape’ from Nauvoo earlier that year, but in none of them was there any reference to contemporary Welsh converts, and most of the writer’s information had probably been gleaned from English publications.  (Seren Gomer, Jan 1841, pp.6-8; Dec 1841, pp. 373-4)

Another Welsh religious periodical, Y Diwygiwr (The Reformer), published by the Congregationalists, carried an article about the supposed attempt of Joseph Smith to walk on water (Y Diwygiwr, Dec 1843, pp. 370-1), but the first publication to comment on Welsh Mormons was apparently Y Bedyddiwr (The Baptist) in an article written by ‘Tobit ger y Bont’ (Tobit near the Bridge), a pseudonym for the Rev. W. R. Davies.  Mr. Davies was a Baptist minister in Dowlais, about two miles from Merthyr Tydfil, and was the most vociferous opponent of Mormonism in Wales until his death in 1849.  When his first article appeared in March 1844, the Mormons in the Merthyr Tydfil area numbered just over 100, enough to provoke the alarmed Davies into action.  He warned the people:  “The foolish and madmen who call themselves ‘Latter-day Saints’ have arrived in Pendaran (sic).  They profess to work miracles, to prophesy, to speak in unknown tongues, yea, in a word to do everything which the apostles did.  I am sorry to say that a number of the dregs of society are now believers.  They baptize at night, and those receiving baptism must undress for them and go into the water stark naked! (Y Bedyddiwr, Mar 1844, p 99: all Welsh-to-English translations are by Professor Ronald D. Dennis, Brigham Young University).”

As the Rev. Davies’s article preceded the establishment of a Mormon periodical in Wales by over two years, Elder Henshaw and his new converts had no official vehicle through which they could defend themselves.  Evidently some saints attempted to rebut these charges by writing letters to the editor of Y Bedyddiwr but their letters were never published there or in any other religious periodicals of the time.  Ironically, for lack of extant journals or records containing information concerning this early period of the Welsh Mormons, it is chiefly to the Rev. Davies and his series of articles in Y Bedyddiwr  that we owe thanks for our present knowledge about these early events.  Despite their heavily antagonistic bias, Davies’s four articles contain valuable information about this otherwise unknown era of Church history.

In his second article, published in April 1844, Davies presented what he called ‘an account of their (the Mormons’) failure together with their success’, the ‘failure’ being that the missionaries had not won any converts from amongst the Baptists, and the ‘success’ being that they had been able to baptize a few ‘men of the sprinkle’, as Davies calls them.  He continued:  “With respect to this group of subjects of his Majesty (meaning Satan)…Penydaran is their main church:  here dwells the head prophet (meaning Elder Henshaw?).  They have striven and continue to strive to expand their boundaries and win proselytes, and among other places they are attacking in Merthyr, and they have set up their camp in an area of that place which is called Georgetown, near Nant-y-Gwenith.) (Y Bedyddiwr April 1844, p 123).”

Davies then related how Dafydd Oliver, a Baptist in the Georgetown area, and James Wilkins, a Baptist minister, met the Mormons head-on in a series of three debates.  According to Davies, the Mormon debater was easily shown to be a ‘satanic and presumptuous wretch’.  The minister’s son, Henry Wilkins, later joined the Church, however.  Davies further stated:  “Next they moved their miraculous persons to Dowlais, and made their encampment in a residence near the Caersalem house of worship, where bodies and souls were fattened on the ministry of St. J---y T---m and St. J---m C---r. (Ibid)”

But their stay was short, said Davies, because of the strength of the many Baptists in that area.  (Caersalem, incidentally, was Davies’s own chapel.)  He continued by relating tow more ‘campaigns’ by the Mormons—in Twynyrodyn near Sion Chapel in Merthyr, and in Cefncoedycymer, about three miles from Merthyr—both again unsuccessful because they were opposed by the Baptists.  Finally, they ‘camped near the men of the sprinkle, or the church of the Independents by the name of Bethesda,  Merthyr’.  Here they were opposed by ‘an intelligent and gifted young man, a member in Bethesda and a deacon in the Sunday School.’  The evidence indicates that this was Abel Evans, who later became a stalwart missionary for the Church.  Mr. Davies labelled this phase of the Mormon ‘campaign’ a success because the debate centred on infant baptism, a position the Independents were unable to defend.  The result was that the ‘intelligent and gifted young man’ went from the scene of the debate to the river and was baptized by the Mormons.  The young man’s father was greatly distressed, but four days later he and another son and daughter were converted to Mormonism as well.  ‘Had they been Baptists,’ observed Davies, ‘they would have won the battle.’  (Y Bedyddiwr Apr 1844, pp 124).

For his third and fourth articles, Davies used ‘I’ as his pseudonym.  The third appeared immediately following the second in the April 1844 issue of Y Bedyddiwr, and the fourth was printed the following month.  These two, somewhat briefer than previous articles, dealt with the supposed failure of the Mormons to heal the diseased leg of a recent convert, and concluded that the Mormons were therefore ‘nothing but heretics, wolves, false prophets, and deceivers’. (Ibid:  see also May 1844, p 160).

Whilst Davies was attaching such epithets as ‘Quack Henshaw’, ‘the great prophet’, ‘the high deceiver’, and ‘the Chief Apostle’ to Elder William Henshaw, Church leaders in the April 1844 Liverpool conference voted to call him a conference president.  (MS 4:197).  Seven Welsh branches, all results of Elder Henshaw’s efforts during the previous 15 months, were to form the Merthyr Tydfil Conference:  Beaufort, Tredegar, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare, Abersychan, Pennydarren, and Rhymni.  The Abergavenny Branch was taken from the Garway Conference and added to the new Merthyr Tydfil Conference.

Y Bedyddiwr was silent about the LDS Church for two years following Mr. Davies’s articles. Y Diwygiwr however took up the attack in July 1844, publishing a letter from one Thomas Williams, originally from the Merthyr area, now living in Ohio, USA.  He had written to his Welsh friends, he said, to warn them about the ‘damnable and destructive heresy’ of Mormonism that he had heard was being preached in h is homeland by some ‘cabbage-faced pygmies’.  (Y Diwygiwr, Jul 1844 p 213).  Also, the Seren Gomer in its September issue, printed a paragraph about the assassination of Joseph Smith, in which the editor promised to give a full account of this ‘deceiver’ and his sect in the following issue.  (Seren Gomer, Sep 1844, p 287).

The editor fulfilled his promise and did publish a 7-column history of Joseph Smith and the Mormons in the Nov 1844 issue of Seren Gomer.  There is but brief mention, however, of the saints in Wales:  ‘These men have made their appearance lately in some places in Wales, and we heard one of them preaching a few nights ago in this town.’  (Seren Gomer. Nov 1844, pp. 327-31.)  ‘This town’ apparently referred to Carmarthen, since the Seren Gomer was published there, and thus it appears that by late 1844 the elders had begun to preach outside the Merthyr Tydfil area—as far away as Carmarthen, 45 miles distant.

The year 1844 marks not only the expansion of the Welsh proselytizing effort beyond the counties of Monmouth and Glamorgan, but also the publication of the first Welsh-language materials printed by the Church.  In a letter dated 3 Sep 1844, Reuben Hedlock wrote, ‘The Church in South Wales is progressing rapidly.  I have published a small pamphlet in the Welsh language on the first principles.’ (JH, 3 Sep 1844).  Unfortunately no further details about this pamphlet are known, as no copy of it has been found.

The year 1844 also marks the utterance of Joseph Smith’s last recorded prophecy before his death—a prophecy that was given to a Welshman and had to do with the Church in Wales.  The Welshman was Captain Dan Jones, and the prophecy was that he would live through the events at Carthage and fulfil the mission to Wales to which he had been called.  Dan Jones was baptized in the icy waters of the Mississippi River, USA, in January 1843, just about the time William Henshaw began his mission in South Wales.  Contrary to most printed accounts of Jones’s conversion, it was 3 months before meeting Joseph Smith that he investigated the Church and was baptized.  In May 1843, just a month after Brother Jones met the Prophet, he was called to serve a mission to his native land.  But because of business details involving the Maid of Iowa (Jones’s steamboat, which was eventually purchased by Joseph Smith), he did not leave for Wales until 28 Aug 1844, two months after Joseph’s death.  Dan Jones later wrote to Thomas Bullock about the Prophet’s purchase of his boat:  “Brother Joseph never paid me the first dollar for the boat…A few days previous to being arrested he told me ‘I have a check in the house for $1200:  as soon as I can get it cashed you shall have $1100 of it, and then start for Wales, not with your fingers in your mouth but prepared to buy a Press and do business aright.’ (D. Jones, letter to Thomas Bullock, 20 Jan 1855, p. 23).”  With Joseph’s martyrdom and the resulting confusion, Jones never received his money, but he remained philosophical: ‘Thrilled with prospects of my mission I left all, rejoicing in the exchange of a steamboat for an Eldership on the deck of the never-sinking ship of life.’ (Ibid. p 24).

Captain Dan Jones was with the Prophet at Carthage gaol, just hours before Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed.  The previous night Dan and Joseph had lain side by side in the upper room of the gaol, and the others were apparently sleeping when Joseph had asked Dan in a whisper if he was afraid to die.  ‘Has that time come, think you?’  Dan asked.  ‘Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.’  ‘You will yet see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed you were you die.’  Joseph told him. (Ibid. p 10:  see also BYU Studies 24:95-104.)

In the following 48 hours, Dan Jones was delivered from the hands of his enemies three times.  His first escape occurred in front of the Carthage gaol, where his horse was saddled and awaiting his departure with a letter he had received from the Prophet for a solicitor in Quincy, Illinois, some 60 miles down river from Nauvoo.  The men in the mob, thinking the message to be a call for the Nauvoo Legion to come to Joseph’s rescue, demanded that Jones hand over the letter.  In the confusion that resulted when he refused to do so, Jones jumped on his horse and rode off, with bullets whistling on either side of him.  He was unharmed.

Jones’s second deliverance was just moments later, as he rode on his way towards Nauvoo, 20 miles to the northeast.  He wen, as it were, ‘between two fires’—some of the mob from Carthage having gone off into the woods with rifles to waylay him, and another group of about 300 ‘painted assassins’ waiting ahead on a prairie ridge for the opportune moment to ride into Carthage. Without knowing it, Jones threaded his way right between these two dangers.

But he was not safe, even then.  Later that night, after reaching Nauvoo, Jones boarded a steamboat for Quincy.  It was when the boat stopped at Warsaw that he first heard of the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, from a mob who were trying to convince people to prepare to defend themselves against a retaliatory attack by the Mormons.  When Jones spoke up to explain that there was no need for such a defense, he immediately became a marked man.  Nevertheless, he continued on the steamboat to Quincy, where he again lifted up his voice against the members of the mob, who were now trying to get the militia to go upstream to Warsaw.  As he was about to take a steamer back to Nauvoo, Jones was warned by its captain to wait for the next boat, as some of the mob had concocted a plan to kill him.  Accordingly, he took passage on the next steamer, the Ohio but even on that boat were people who planned to hang him when they reached Warsaw.  At Warsaw Jones waited breathlessly underneath a mattress while the mob shouted, ‘Where is Capt. Jones: where is he: bring him out: out with the d—d Mormon.’  He could hear those on the shore also shouting ‘Bring him out, hang him up.’  Captain Atchinson of the Ohio declared, however, that he had put Jones ashore below the town, and finally convinced the mob to desist.  The gallows prepared for Jones on the shore went unused, and he was delivered from death a third time since Joseph’s prophecy less than 48 hours earlier. (Ibid. p. 18)

Two months later, Dan Jones and his wife Jane were on their way to Wales.  They traveled in company with Wilford Woodruff, Hiram Clark and their wives, reaching Liverpool in early January 1845.  Captain Jones, now Elder Jones, was first assigned to Wrexham in North Wales, an area he was well acquainted with, having spent his childhood just a few miles from there.  Unable to purchase the press that Joseph Smith had wanted him to have, Elder Jones hired the press of William Bayley in Wrexham to print his first pamphlet, a 48-page work in Welsh, entitled Y farw wedi ei chyfodi yn fyw: neu’r hen grefydd newydd (The dead raised to life, or the old religion anew).  For his later publications, however, he used the press of his brother, John Jones, who was a printer and Congregationalist minister in Rhydybont.

The date of the preface of Elder Jones’s pamphlet, 4 Apr 1845, coincides with the date of the first meeting between Elders Jones and Henshaw—the date of a conference in Manchester.  Elder William Henshaw, who still spoke no Welsh, reported the opening of 5 more branches in his conference during the previous year, and an increase of 195 convert baptisms, or about 16 per month.  Jones, fluent in both Welsh and English, had neither baptisms nor branches to report, but he addressed the conference with such eloquence that, after taking down a few lines, the clerk wrote:  “We would here remark that we are utterly incapable of doing anything like justice to the address of Captain Jones, for though delivered while struggling with disease, such was its effect upon ourselves, and we also believe upon others, that we ceased to write, in order to give way to the effect produced upon our feelings. (MS 5:170; the disease was probably Elder Jones’s chronic lung ailment.)

During the next 8 months, an average of 20 convert baptisms per month were reported in south Wales, under Elder Henshaw’s leadership.  Meanwhile, Elder Jones’s efforts in North Wales, despite his gift for oratory in both Welsh and English, and despite his 48-page pamphlet, brought only 3 new members into the fold.  His lack of success amongst his countrymen must certainly have caused some reflection on Jones’s part.  Having traveled from Nauvoo with Wilford Woodruff, he was no doubt aware of the phenomenal results Elder Woodruff had seen in Herefordshire some 4 years earlier, and that he had anticipated a similar experience himself is evident in a letter he wrote to Elder Woodruff after about 7 weeks in North Wales; ‘I have neglected writing until now, expecting to have better news to give you, because I had some forebodings of glorious consequences.’  (D. Jones, letter to Wilford Woodruff, 24 Feb 1845.)  Elder Jones’s ‘glorious consequences’ would come, but not until he had spent nearly a year of frustration in North Wales.

In August 1845, some 4 months after the conference in Manchester where Elder Jones had first met Elder Henshaw, he went to South Wales for a visit.  ‘The reason for his visit is not clear from the surviving documents—perhaps he went to call on his brother John in Carmarthenshire, or perhaps he went to observe William Henshaw in action—but while Elder Jones was in Merthyr Tydfil, there was a colliery explosion in neighbouring Cwmbach, which claimed the lives of 28 men and boys.  Elder Henshaw later reported that ‘many of the Saints were at work in the pit at the time of the explosion, not one of whom was injured, for which they felt truly thankful to the Heavenly Father’. (MS 6:94.)  Elder Jones, however, had a much more spectacular report concerning the tragedy.  Reporting to Church leaders in Liverpool a few weeks later, he told them that the saints who were regularly employed in the pit were not there at the time of the explosion because they had been warned of the impending catastrophe in a vision.  He also reported that those who had been killed had “particularly distinguished themselves by disturbing a meeting of the Saints, and crying out for a sign, little deeming that their request would be granted so speedily, and in so awful a manner…(And) the service of the Saints…were (then) called into requisition to bring up the bodies of those that were destroyed, nor would the agents, or overlookers of the works attempt it, unless preceded and assisted by the Saints. (MS 6:110).”

Both Henshaw and Jones, however, agreed in their accounts that no Church members were hurt in the accident, even though several were employed at the pit.  This fact alone would have caused members of the community to take notice of the growing numbers of Latter-day Saints in their midst.

The next occasion where Elders Jones and Henshaw met was the Manchester Conference in Dec 1845.  During that conference, Elder Wilford Woodruff proposed that Dan Jones be appointed to preside over the branches in Wales, nearly all of which had been established by Henshaw.  This proposal received unanimous approval (including Elder Henshaw’s, even though it would put Elder Jones in a position of leadership over Elder Henshaw, who was to continue as president of the Merthyr Tydfil Conference.)

When Elder Jones became the president of the Church in Wales (the title used at that time for mission president) there were approximately 500 members, most of them in the Merthyr Tydfil area.  One of Elder Jones’s first objectives as their new president was to defend them and their faith against the increasing opposition from the Rev. Davies and his colleagues of the clergy.  In addition to his eloquent verbal rebuttals, Jones also made use of the press to ensure that the Church was portrayed accurately to the reading public.  One example of this phase of his defence was Jones’s response when his pamphlet was attacked in 32 pages of invective published by a lay preacher named David Williams.  Williams’s title, Twyll y Seintiau Diweddaf yn cael ei ddynoethi (The fraud of the Latter Saints (sic) exposed), was mild compared to some comments in his text.  His statement about Annerchiad y Deuddeg Apostol (Jones’s Welsh translation of the 1845 Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles), is one example:

“By the time I had glanced over the above treatise on the kingdom of God (Jones’s pamphlet), yet another one (Jones’s translation of the proclamation) came to my attention, one so presumptuous as if it had been written by the fingers of the devil, who had dipped his pen in the venom of dragons or in the fiery furnace itself, and had it printed in the gates of hell.  (David Williams, p. 29).”

It is difficult to think of Rhydybont, the picturesque little village near Llanybydder where Annerchiad had been printed (on the Rev. John Jones’s press), as ‘the gates of hell’.  Another anti-Mormon spokesman later attached the epithet ‘prostitute press’ to Mr. Jones’s Rhydybont operation, as it was the only press in Wales that printed LDS literature.  (Seren Gomer, Dec 1847, p. 375).

Elder Dan Jones’s reaction to Williams’ vitriolic pen was simply to put his own pen to paper and have his brother print a rebuttal.  A translation of his title suggests the nature of the treatise: ‘The scales, in which are seen David weighing Williams, and Williams weighing David: or David Williams, from Abercanaid, contradicting himself, caught in his deceit, and proved deistic’.  The following segment illustrates Jones’s style throughout all 16 pages of his pamphlet:  “Who says that?  Williams, I think, for David in the previous two lines says the complete opposite to that in this admission…Which one do you believe?  David or Williams?  I believe David now…Well done, Williams!  Although he lost before, he wins now, and is closer to the truth than David. (D Jones, Y glorian (The scales), p. 5)”

In the March 1846 issue of Y Bedyddiwr, a headline proclaimed, ‘A Miracle!  A Miracle!  At last!’ and was followed by a 2-column article ridiculing the Mormons’ claim that William Hughes’s broken leg had been healed by the laying on of hands.  Although the article was signed with a pseudonym, the author obviously was the Rev. Davies again, this time on a rampage against ‘the Latter-day Satanists’ that would end only with his death 3 years later.  Elder Jones immediately responded by sending a letter to the editor of Y Bedyddiwr, complete with the sworn testimony of William Hughes himself and the signed affidavits of non-LDS eyewitnesses to the healing, but these were never printed.

Jones’s frustration at this and other editors’ refusals to print anything in defence of Mormonism soon prompted him to initiate his own periodical, Prophwyd y Jubili (Prophet of the Jubilee).  In the first issue (July 1846) Elder Jones declared to his compatriots:  “You know how we have been accused of every evil, fraud, yes, and of every foolishness.  To the periodicals which have accused us we have sent in the kindest manner convincing letters in defence of our innocence.  But have they been printed?  No!  Have we been accused in the Amserau (Times), Seren Gomer, Dysyedydd (Educator), Redyddiwr, etc?  Yes, indeed…Can everyone else raise up his magazine except us?  Is the press closed to us?  Is that the freedom of Wales in the 19th century?  Have the periodicals been locked up?  We shall open our own periodical, then.  Has the press been defiled by slandering us?  We shall cleanse it through defending ourselves, then.  (Prophwyd I:ii.)

This little periodical appeared regularly for the next 30 months, all but the last 2 issues being printed on the Rev. Jones’s ‘prostitute press’.  Much of the untold history of the Welsh saints is nestled in the nearly 600 pages of this remarkable defender of the faith—hidden behind the formidable barrier of the Welsh language, now spoken by only 20% of Wales’s 3,000,000 inhabitants.

The Welsh Mormons’ claims of miracles being performed, as well as their assertion that theirs was the only true church of God, were disturbing to the Welsh nonconformists.  To them, such claims were blasphemous, and they felt not merely justified but obliged to oppose and denounce the Mormons.  In July  1846 Dan Jones recorded the incident of a young man who had a sore leg, from which 20 pieces of bone had been removed.  For 6 months he had not been able to walk without a crutch, at which time Elder Jones reported:  “When he believed the gospel, I told him he would be healed if he would obey:  he walked about a mile with crutches.  By the river side we prayed that he might be enabled to dispense with his crutch, and he walked into the water (to be baptized) without it—out again, and home—and so far as I have heard has never used it since.  I carried his crutch home through the town on my back, the man telling them that he was healed, but strange to say they would neither believe him nor their own eyes, but cried out impostors, etc., and that he might have walked before!! Although they knew better: but however, the man got a blessing, and when I left, the wounds in his leg were closing finely, and free from pain. (MS 8:40).”

There is evidence that in Carmarthenshire a minister tried to prove the ‘fraud’ of Mormonism by setting up a blind man for baptism.  According to Thomas Jeremy, a convert from that area in March 1846, the blind man was a ‘prepared Judas’ who had been encouraged by his friends to request baptism and restoration of his sight.  Then, when the Mormons were unable to restore his sight, it would prove that they were frauds.  Suspecting the plot, Elder Jones announced a public baptism—a departure from the normal procedure of quiet, private serves.  He later reported: “It was astonishing to see the crowds that came from the regions round about: both priests, preachers, persecutors, and people.  Oh, what an opportunity that was to explain the whys and wherefores of Mormonism, sign seeking, etc.  They all listened with the greatest attention for about 2 hours, although many had come on purpose to oppose, but I could not get a try out of any of them.  I shewed them that our religion was true, whether the blind man got his sight or not; it was true before the blind man was heard of, that it would remain as true when he was dead and forgotten, and that it is eternally true, and I knew it.  But after the baptism, while walking up to the house to be confirmed, it was amusing to hear the remarks as the crowd followed, crossing and re-crossing to peep at his eyes, to see whether his sight was restored; some said it was, some that he was blinder than before, and that was difficult. (MS 8:4l).”

If it was true that the blind man was part of a plot to discredit the Church, it is also true that the plan backfired.  For upon confirming him, Elders Dan Jones and Abel Evans anointed him and gave him a blessing, after which ‘he shouted for joy in the presence of all, and testified that while hands were on his head he could “see the candle in the candlestick on the table’: that he was more than satisfied’. (Ibid)

But the story did not have a happy ending. Following his baptism the man, whose name was Daniel, attended only 2 Church meetings and then proceeded to malign the Church.  One of his ‘backers’ according to Elder Jones, was the Rev. Josiah Thomas Jones, editor of Y Drysorfa Gynnulleidfaol (The Congregationalist Treasury), and one of the results of Daniel’s faithlessness was a vicious 12-page pamphlet, the publication of an interview between Daniel and the Rev. Josiah Thomas Jones.  An 8-stanza poem at the beginning of the pamphlet stated Daniel’s position and his obligation.  Here is a translation of the last stanza:

            Now I must testify

            That the Saints do but deceive

            If you buy this, you shall have the complete story

            Of the way in which I was charmed.

In characteristic fashion, Elder Jones responded with a pamphlet of his own, entitled ‘Haman’ yn hongian ar ei grogbren ei hun! (‘Haman’ hanging from his own gallows.  No long afterwards, Thomas Jeremy and Dan Jones were on their way back to Llanybydder when they had a chance meeting with Daniel on the road.  Elder Jones asked him why he had become such a persecutor of the saints, and Daniel offered not a single reason in answer but only made it plain that he chose to remain an enemy.  Brother Jeremy later wrote:  “Capt. Jones told him that if he continued to persecute and malign the Saints the hand of God would be upon him and his fate would be hotter than that of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (the 3 who were swallowed up in the earth for opposing Moses).  He sternly told him the danger of persecuting and maligning the people of the Lord…(Afterwards) Daniel was stricken with a severe illness which caused him to feel his bowels igniting within him. He drank large quantities of water to extinguish the supposed fire from within, and also he would rush outside to immerse himself in water to cool down; but all was in vain.  He died in this painful condition. (Prophwyd 3:171).”


In spite of such opposition, the Church in Wales continued to grow.  It was about this time, in fact, that a particular Welsh family joined the Church under rather unusual circumstances—a family that would later furnish the first conductor of what would become the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Long before the missionaries arrived in Great Britain to preach the restored gospel, the Rev. John Parry was doing considerable preaching of his own, first as a Baptist, then as a Campbellite minister.  North Wales was well acquainted with john Parry and his family of musically talented sons and daughters.  In 1841 John’s eldest son, Bernard, a portrait painter and piano teacher, contracted a fatal illness.  His brother John later wrote about the extraordinary predictions that Bernard made just before his death: “Two nights before he died he was very quiet in his bed about midnight while father and myself were sitting up with him:  after a while he called father and myself to his bedside, and told us that the Lord had showed him great and marvelous things that should come to pass in our time.  But he should not see them as he was to die very soon.  Said he, ‘The Lord is going to make a great work and a wonder upon the earth, and you shall be called to it, father, and you shall preach the everlasting gospel to thousands in Wales even yet.’  And he said, ‘And you, John, shall be called to it.  And you shall preach the gospel to tens of thousands, and shall baptize many, even in the Vale of Clwyd here.’  (Parry, pp.4-5)”

It was another five years, however, before Bernard Parry’s family came to understand the full implication of his mysterious prophecy.  Once again it was a deathbed scene—that of Sarah, Bernard’s younger sister.  While living in Cheltenham with some relations, Sarah became converted to the Church but had declined baptism out of deference to her father.  Again, he brother John wrote:  “And while upon her deathbed, she accused me and father in the following words: ‘Father,’ she said, ‘your religion is worth nothing in the h our of death.  I have lived it as faithful as mortal could do, and it is of no good to me now in death.  I am going to utter darkness, even to hell.  Therefore, look unto yourselves, and seek a religion that will support you and enable you to face death fearless, as the one that you have is of no value.  You and John did persuade and hinder me from going to the Church of Jesus Christ.  And now I am going to utter darkness.’  I then fainted and fell down.  (Ibid. p.6)”

Five weeks later, Sarah parry’s brother John and their parents took her advice and were baptized.  A sister and two other brothers soon followed.

The conversion of the Parry family in North Wales caused much jubilation amongst the Welsh saints.  Dan Jones commented on it in the Prophwyd, expressing the hope that those who had followed the rev. John parry ‘from darkness to degrees of light through frown and scorn’ would follow Elder Parry further, ‘to the midst of the fervent light of the eternal gospel.’  In fulfilment of Bernard’s prophecy 5 years earlier, both father and son were called to serve missions in North Wales, and they did indeed preach to thousands of their fellow Welshmen.  Eventually, the senior John Parry’s musical ability resulted in an invitation from President Brigham Young for him to institute a choir—the one that would evolve into the Tabernacle Choir.

Although record-keeping in the early days of the Welsh Church was irregular at best, and few of even those irregular records have survived to this day, it appears from the statistics in the Millennial Prophwyd and the Prophwyd y Jubili that about 20 converts per month joined the Church during 1845.  In 1846 and the first half of 1847 this number doubled, and during the latter half of 1847 it more than trebled.  Figures for the 2-year period from July 1847 to July 1849 show an average of 140 convert baptisms per month in Wales.  Of the many conversion stores recorded in the Prophwyd and the Star, there follow three that may serve as a representative sample.  In mid-July 1847 a Hindu, ‘late from Bengal’ and in his native dress, called at Dan Jones’s door in Merthyr Tydfil for charity.  President Jones felt an immediate attachment to the man, inasmuch as he had been in India as a youth—a stranger without a friend.  Using the little Hindi that he could recall, Jones invited him in and began to preach the gospel to him.  Somehow, in the midst of the Hindu’s broken English and Jones’s pidgin Hindi, communication took place well enough for the newcomer to request further information about the Church.  At Elder Jones’s invitation, he returned for several days in succession and ‘appeared very thankful for the instructions he received’.  In a letter dated 22 July 1847, Jones wrote to British Mission president Orson Spencer as follows:

“I took him to our church meetings on Sunday, and requested the Saints to pray that the great dispenser of all spiritual gifts would cause him to be instructed in a language which he understood, and that it should be for a testimony to him.  The gifts, and ‘tongues’ in particular, are profusely enjoyed here generally, but this time more abundantly, so that before the close of the meeting I knew, and all the Saints indeed knew, that he had heard a language which he understood, and great was our joy when he said that he had heard the great things of God taught him in that meeting in 8 different languages of the east, which he understood more or less of.  But what astonished him the most was, a song which one of the sisters sung (sic) in the Malabar language (as he called it), and another in the Malay:  this so animated him, that he pulled a Hindoostance hymn-book out of his pocket, and fain would sing in the meeting with them, supposing they could follow him in that too.  (MS 9:238).”

One of the sisters who sang in tongues was Margaret Morris Mathews, a convert of about 3 years.  The story of that event was preserved in her family, and years later her daughter recorded it as follows:  “In the congregation there was a Hindu who, when my Mother started singing, took a small book from his pocket and sang with her, the tears streaming down his checks.  After the meeting he asked my father who the lady was who sang so perfectly the song his mother sang to him when he was a boy. (Mathews.)”

The next day Elder Jones felt impressed to ask to his house several of the elders and brethren ‘that had the gifts’ and, as he recorded: “We covenanted in prayer to seek his conversion in the Lord’s way further, and for the space of 4 hours the brethren, through the gifts of the spirit, taught him the gospel so plain and forcibly, that before he left the room he requested to be baptized.  Sometimes he interpreted in English as well as he could, and the speakers again, by the gift of interpretation, in Welsh, in some instances almost verbatim.  (MS 9:238).”

To test the depth of the Hindu’s sincerity, Elder Jones invited him to live in his house free of cost and eat at his table, but he replied that all he wanted of Jones was ‘good religion to please the great “Shurinah”’.  On Wednesday 21 July 1847, the man was baptized by Elder Dan Jones, thus becoming the first Hindu convert to the Church.

Another Welsh convert from this period became the first missionary to France.  William Howells, a merchant and Baptist lay minister living in Aberdare, about 7 miles from Merthyr Tydfil, had often heard the Rev. Davies and other pounding their pulpits and shouting about the ‘great fraud, devilish hypocrisy, and miserable darkness of the Latter-day Satanists’.  (Ugdorn Seion 1:93).  He had also read their pamphlets but had decided to suspend judgment until he could obtain better information than the invective of Davies, ‘whose brain had no doubt been softened by the fire of the angry passion which was working to the point of boiling the frothy sweat of his forehead’. (Ibid.)

Mr. Howells’s grandson later wrote that, since Howells was too bashful and proud to go to any LDS meetings or speak with the missionaries, his first positive contact with the Church came when a widow who was supported by the poor fund of his parish presented him with a pamphlet written by Elder Dan Jones.  (Howells, p.3)

The pamphlet was Jones’s reply to the opposition of yet another Baptist minister, the Rev. Edward Roberts of Rhymni, who had thunderously promised to kill Mormonism and bury it by Christmas.  Howells later described the impact that Jones’s pamphlet had on him:  “In a few hours (it) proved the religion I professed to be no other than a sandy foundation—all my false hopes fled, all human traditions that I had cleaved to appeared folly.  I was convinced that the Saints were the only true church of God. (MS 10:175).”

Elder Jones was exultant as he wrote to president Orson Spencer:  “He came 4 miles purposely to be baptized, though he had never heard a sermon, only (read) my publications:  especially my last reply…finished him entirely, and he came in as good a spirit as any one that I ever saw, and has just returned on his way rejoicing.  (MS 9:364).”

And William Howells himself declared:  “The first few hours I spent after having been baptized for the remission of my sins, by a servant who knew that he was sent by God to administer the ordinance, gave me more pleasure and knowledge of spiritual things, than during the 20 years with the Baptist connexion.  (MS 10:175)

Because Howells had served a short mission to France as a Baptist lay minister, the Church leaders in Liverpool soon called him to go back to France, this time as an LDS missionary.  During the year and a half before he began his mission on the Continent, he managed to baptize nearly 100 of his Welsh compatriots.  And when he stepped on to French soil on 9 July 1849, he also stepped into the history books as the first LDS missionary to France.  (An account of his experiences in France is contained in Cannon and Whittaker, pp. 43-81).

The most triumphant conversion story of the time, however, was that of Rees Price, a former Baptist who had worked closely with the Rev. Davies himself.  It caused a good deal of excitement amongst the saints to have a high-ranking officer of the enemy camp defect from the Baptists and seek religious asylum with the Mormons, and Dan Jones was unabashedly exuberant as he wrote about it in the March 1848 Prophwyd y Jubili:  “There have been 9 baptized (in Dowlais, the home of Mr. Davies’s congregation) since the beginning of January, one of which was the ‘right hand man’ of the Rev. W. R. Davies!  He was a scribe in his meeting-house, one of the ‘trustees’, etc., and very staunch in their sight.  Their persecution and their endless lies are what caused him to look into Mormonism; and the honesty and the love which he has toward the truth caused him to embrace it as the treasure of all treasures.  Two others of Mr. Davies’s members were baptized after him (the ‘right hand man’) and several before that, although Mr. Davies maintains that only one old woman left him for the Saints. (Prophwyd 3:4-5)

Later Brother Price, a 33-yer-old miner at the time of his conversion, also offered his viewpoint in the pages of the Prophwyd:  “I was a member with the Baptists for close to 9 years, living as righteously and zealously as I could and striving to the best of my ability to get a grasp on the comfort of the Holy Ghost, as promised in the scriptures.  I received the best counsels of the Rev. W. R. Davies, Dowlais, for years.  I heard his persecution and his continuous false accusations against the Latter-day Saints in meetings, from the pulpits, through the periodicals and throughout the houses and the streets: and I examined them carefully and without bias as well as I could: eventually I became convinced that they were baseless and derived from a bad principle.  And I perceived also that Mr. Davies could not to my satisfaction disprove the principles espoused by the Saints. (Prophwyd 3:131)”

Price said he had also listened with interest to the anti-Mormon lectures of the Rev. Edward Roberts when Roberts came to Dowlais to ‘kill Mormonism’.  He similarly attended Dan Jones’s rebuttal lecture and later read the 40-page pamphlet which Jones published about Roberts’s shallow reasoning.  He stated:  “I heard and read the Saints’ defense in the face of it all, whereupon I requested my excommunication from the Baptists and received baptism from the Saints. (Ibid. p. 132).”

Over the years, the Welsh saints had come to expect all kinds of continual opposition.  However, like Rees Price, many new members bore testimony that their conversions had come after observing unfair treatment of the Mormons by their own religious leaders and by the press.  The opposition to the Latter-day Saints caused them to be all the more desirous of leaving ‘Babylon’ to go to their ‘Zion’ in America.  Since Dan Jones was assigned to lead a group of Welsh emigrants in early 1849, a conference was scheduled in Merthyr Tydfil for his release.  President Orson Pratt was to be there to reorganize the leadership in Wales.  But when President Pratt did not arrive, president Jones went right ahead and conducted the business himself.  According to instructions he had received from his leaders at Liverpool, he organized a presidency for Wales, as follows:  ‘Elder William Phillips, a sterling and tried man, president; Abel Evans, an indefatigable veteran, his first counselor…’ Elder John Davies (actually Davis), who is a faithful man, to be his second counselor’. (Ibid)

For some months before this ‘changing of the guard’, extensive encouragement and instruction had been offered to potential emigrants in the Prophwyd.   Many of the specifics of this life-changing venture were spelt out in nearly every issue of 1848, in an unmistakable spirit of optimism and enthusiasm on the part of the editor, Dan Jones.  The attitude of their leaving Babylon for the promised land is plainly evident in Henffych California’ (Hail to California), a song that appeared in the October issue and which was to be sung by the Welsh as they sailed away.  (The name ‘California’ then applied also to the Rocky Mountains.)  Perhaps the following 2 verses (in translation) will serve as a sample:

            When pestilence is harvesting the countries,

                        Harvesting man like the grass of the field;

            When its foul breeze blows,

                        Laying waste the green earth,       California

                        Yonder across the distant seas, for me.


            When the sharp, shining sword

                        Is bathed in blood:

            Yes, blood—the warm blood of men

                        In the worst battles ever fought     California

                        Yonder to the Rocky Mountains I shall go.

One comment by a non-believer just before the departure of the first Welsh emigrants was particularly amusing to the saints.  It was published in the October 1848 issue of the Seren Gomer:  “After receiving enough money to get a ship or ships to voyage to California, their Chief-President (Dan Jones) will sail them to Cuba, or some place like it, and will sell them as slaves, every jack one of them.  It would serve them right for having such little respect for the book of Christ and giving it up for the books of Mormon. (Seren Gomer  31:305).”  The emigrants must have had a hearty chuckle as they went past Cuba on their way to New Orleans and thought of that ominous prediction.

Not all the anti-Mormon opposition could be met with a chuckle, however.  Thomas Jeremy described a sort that required bodyguards and secrecy:  “The life of our dear Brother Captain Jones was in such danger that his house was attacked almost every night for weeks before leaving Merthyr, so that his godly life was not safe in sleeping except between guards from among his brethren; and there were scoundrels so inhuman who had been paid to kill him as he left, so that he had to leave secretly the day before.  (Udgorn 1:57).”

The emigration plan called for all Welsh saints to meet in Liverpool by 15 Feb 1849; saints from South Wales were to gather the day before in Swansea, to travel from there to Liverpool by steamer.  Over 300 people packed trunks with all their remaining possessions and headed for Liverpool to board the Buena Vista bound for New Orleans.  Only 249 of these, however, would fit on board this rather small vessel; the remainder waited another week and traveled with some English saints on the Hartley.  A group of Welsh ministers went amongst their emigrating compatriots at Liverpool in one last-ditch attempt to convince them of their folly.  But these efforts did not yield them any results.

On 26 Feb 1849, after a few days’ delay, all was ready for the Buena Vista to set sail.  William Phillips and others who had gone to Liverpool to see off their fellow saints had brought oranges to hurl to the outstretched hands of the passengers as the ship was being towed from the Waterloo Dock.  When the ship had gone too far to throw any more oranges, handkerchiefs were then waved as a final farewell.  Tears of friendship and brotherhood flowed freely.

Fifty days later there were hearty cheers when the Buena Vista docked at New Orleans.  There the saints boarded the Constitution, a steamer that would take them up the Mississippi River to St. Louis. When they docked at St. Louis, all gave thanks for having escaped the cholera epidemic that was raging up and down the shores of the Mississippi.  The voyage from St. Louis to Council Bluffs, on board the Highland Mary proved tragic, however; over 20% of them died of cholera.  And the percentage was about the same for the Welsh saints who had crossed on the Hartley.  Grief and mourning engulfed the survivors as they gathered at Council Bluffs.

The many who did not have enough money to continue directly from Council Bluffs to the Salt Lake Valley that summer remained in Council Bluffs to work and save.  About 80 were able to get themselves ‘outfitted’ to cross the plains that same year, traveling in the George A. Smith company.  In characteristic Welsh fashion, they sang their way to their promised land, and it was there that President Young asked John Parry to form a choir to sing at the next general conference.  It was this choir, with its nucleus of Welsh saints, many of them non-English-speaking, that was the beginning of the far-famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

In the meantime, back in Wales the reins of leadership had been given into the hands of William S. Phillips, a 34-year-old father of 4.  He had been baptized 5 years earlier, when the Church was in its infancy in South Wales, with about 80 members.  Now he was called to preside over nearly 4000 Welsh Mormons.  William Howells, in comparing President Phillips with Dan Jones, characterized him as ‘another Samson brought up amongst his brethren, flesh of their flesh, bone of their bone, who would fight the Philistines and cause their Dagon to fall more perplexed than ever’.  (MS 12:90)

President Phllips selected as his first counselor one of his contemporaries, a stalwart by the name of Abel Evans.  Evans, a 37-year-old bachelor, had distinguished himself as a highly successful missionary, and one who had the gift of healing.  President Phillips’s second counselor was John S. Davis, a 27-year-old bachelor and master printer, who owned his own press.

With these three as the new leaders of the Church in Wales, the conversion rate continued at the same high level that had begun about 18 months before.  For unexplained reasons, however, perhaps because of the weakening effect of emigration, the numbers dropped considerably during 1852. And at the official announcement of the practice of polygamy (1853), even fewer baptisms were recorded.

With the change in leadership came a change in the title of the church’s Welsh publication. The Prophwyd y Jubili became Udgorn Seion (Zion’s Trumpet), with Elder John S. Davis serving as both editor and printer.  In his time as editor of this periodical, Elder Davis made several outstanding contributions to the growth of the Church in Wales, such as increasing the circulation of Udgorn Seion to 2000 and printing it weekly during 1853.  He also published three hymnals, some poetry, letters from the Welsh emigrants, and a host of doctrinal pamphlets.  Perhaps his greatest contribution, however, was the translation of the scriptures into Welsh.

In August 1850 Elder Davis announced in the Udgorn: ‘We have been counseled to translate the Doctrine and Covenants and we shall give further information about it.’  By November, he had a plan to finance the publishing costs; all the book distributors in the branches throughout Wales were to take subscriptions from amongst their members, who would receive the book in 16-page installments to appear every other week.

The first installment came out on 22 Feb 1851, and the succeeding ones appeared almost weekly rather than bi-weekly, until the last one 6 months later, on the 23rd of August.  A similar approach was used for the Book of Mormon.  The first segment was off the press by 20 Sep 1851, and by the 17th of April, just 7 months later, 2000 copies had been printed.  As soon as the work was completed a copy was sent to the editor of the Seren Gomer, with the request that he give his opinion as to the accuracy of the translation.  He returned it with the comment that ‘it was a pity such valuable labor in producing so perfect a translation had been bestowed upon so worthless a work as the Book of Mormon’.  (Whitney, History 4:352).

All told, more than 800 pages of scripture were translated into Welsh, printed and bound.  In only 20 months’ time—an amazing feat when one considers that 9 months were required just to set the type for the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon in English.  A few months later, in October 1852, the Pearl of Great Price was off the press also, making Elder John Davis’s Welsh translation of the standard works complete.

Meanwhile, the constant opposition tot he Mormons became particularly intense in the Merthyr area in 1850, when a Baptist minister began to practice the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Furthermore, he was re-baptizing Baptists, the second baptism being for the remission of sins.  As might be expected, these ‘heretical’ practices came quickly to the attention of his fellow ministers, and they called a council and excommunicated him.

This colorful character was ‘Dewi Elfed’ Jones, his real name being David Bevan Jones.  Beginning in early 1850, he had traveled and preached extensively to raise money for the building of a Baptist chapel in Cwmaman, a small town near Aberdare, both about 7 miles from Merthyr Tydfil.  It was shortly after the dedication of this building, which was called the Gwawr (Dawn) Chapel, that Dewi Elfed was investigated by his peers, judged guilty of heresy, and excommunicated.

Even after being excommunicated, however, he continued to preach from his pulpit for another 6 months before he accepted baptism and the laying on of hands from those who he decided truly had the authority to perform such ordinances—the Latter-day Saints.  In early March 1851 Dewi Elfed requested a visit from the presiding elder of the Church in Wales, President William Phillips.  A few days later, President Phillips wrote excitedly to President Franklin D. Richards of the British Mission: “Last week the minister sent for me and I went to him.  He wanted us to take the chapel, as it was his, or rather he had a  lease of it.  I found therein a clause, stating that the Baptist doctrines were to be preached in it during the course of every year.  We went to the landlord and talked with him about the clause: he said he would take his pen and strike that clause out, put Latter-day Saints doctrine in its stead, or renew the lease. (MS 13:110).”

A few weeks later, on the 27th of April, President Phillips returned to Cwmaman and baptized David Bevan Jones, David Rees (another Baptist minister) and three of their flock.  Following their baptisms, a meeting was held to proceed with their confirmations, the most curious feature of the meeting being that it was held in the formerly Baptist Gwawr Chapel.  President Phillips wrote: “At 2 o’clock we entered the chapel again.  I retook the minister’s chair under the pulpit, and after opening the meeting we confirmed the two ministers, and the three others, in the large seat under the pulpit.  Afterwards I moved, and it was seconded, and passed unanimously, that brother David Jones and David Rees be ordained priests, so we ordained them in the large pew also. (MS 13:173.)”

Gwawr Chapel was used as a Mormon chapel for the next several months, until a large group of Baptists, having established legal ownership, stormed the building, led by the Rev. Thomas Price, the chief of the Baptist ministers in that area.  Price’s biographer, the Rev. Benjamin Evans, gave a blow-by-blow account of the event: “On the 4th of Nov, 1851, about 2000 men came together to see the chapel re-possessed by the Baptists: but the wicked man, David Jones, together with some other false apostle, had locked themselves inside the chapel, and since the sheriff did not have the right to break the door, it appeared that the Saints might keep the chapel, although the law was against them.  But Price, having fought a successful battle until then, was not about to be defeated by the 2 devil-saints who were keeping hold of the chapel…

“Dewi (Welsh diminutive of David) and the apostle had locked and bolted the chapel door making it as secure as possible.  Also they had nailed shut each of the windows, which were quite difficult to reach from the outside.  The people were waiting expectantly for the scene, feeling to some extent angry with the usurpers who were in the temple.  Then Price came, a wild look in his eye, walking quietly, a look of determination, and his every movement said the Gwawr Chapel would shortly belong not to the Saints rather to the Baptists. (B. E vans p. 110)”

Price tried the door, but to no avail; whereupon he shouted ‘in an authoritative manner’ to one of his deacons, Phillip John, and to David Grier, a carpenter, who happened to have a few tools with him at the time, and told them to open a window so he could ‘to in after the devils’.  All 3 men went into the chapel through the window.  “The first thing they (the deacon and the carpenter) saw was Price chasing after Dewi and the apostle, around the chapel, up to the pulpit and down again.  And after going around 2 or 3 times he trapped them in the lobby.  Price grabbed them with a giant’s grasp.  He told Grier and John to open the door, which they did with considerable effort.  At that the two rascals were literally kicked out of the chapel one after the other by Price, and they disappeared in the distance in the midst of the hurrahs of the large crowd which were eyewitnesses of the deed. (Ibid. pp. 110-11).”  Dewi Elfed, according to Price’s biographer, made further attempts to regain legal possession of the Gwawr Chapel for the Mormons, and even threatened to sue Price for assault and battery, but nothing ever came of it.

During the 5 years of William Phillips’s presidency (1849-53) the membership peaked at 5,244, in Dec 1851.  Although there were about 88 convert baptisms per month during this period, the branches in Wales, as in other parts of Britain, were very much affected by the large numbers of Saints who continued to emigrate to America.

The issues of Udgorn Seion are filled with interesting information about this period of Church history.  A topic that the editor, John Davis, deemed to be of continual importance was emigration, a goal of every convert in Wales.  And to encourage Church members to emigrate, Davis printed numerous letters from those who had arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley, all of which gave glowing reports of the blessings that awaited those who could ‘gather to Zion’.

There was great celebration amongst the Welsh saints when it was announced in Udgorn Seion that 3 of their brethren who had sailed on the Buena Vista in 1849 were now returning as missionaries to Wales.  Dan Jones, Thomas Jeremy and Daniel Daniels were called by President Brigham Young in August 1852 to return to their native land.  Dan Jones of course had already served as president of the church in Wales, and both Thomas Jeremy and Daniel Daniels would serve in that position later on.

The Welsh saints expected that Dan Jones would replace President Phillips.  Elder Jones, however, was called to serve as President Phillips’s first counselor until both Phillips and John Davis emigrated in early 1854, along with 262 other Welsh saints on board the Golconda .  Just before their departure, Dan Jones was called as president of the Church in Wales and also as editor of Udgorn Seion, thus replacing William Phillips and John Davis just as they had replaced him 5 years earlier.

The Rev. W. R. Davies had died of cholera in 1849 and thus was no longer around to oppose Mormonism.  The Rev. Edward Roberts, who had threatened to kill Mormonism back in 1847, had since been excommunicated by the Baptists for drunkenness and hence was far less visible.  But other articulate individuals with antagonistic feelings toward the Mormons preached, published and politicized against them.  President Dan Jones and his missionary force proceeded to respond in kind.

In Sep 1854 the headquarters of the Church in Wales were removed from Merthyr to Swansea.  The presses for printing Udgorn Seion and other Church publications, mainly pamphlets, were also removed.  Reasons for this removal are not clear, but it may have been to place the headquarters in a more advantageous position to assist future emigrants, most of whom had to pass through Swansea on their way to Liverpool.

By the mid-1850s the work of the Church in Wales was beginning to wind down. The last great emigration of Welsh saints was in April 1856 on the Samuel Curling, when Captain Dan Jones, newly released from his second mission in Wales, led a group of 560 of his compatriots to the ‘promised land’. After the departure of President Jones and this last large emigrant group, numbers of convert baptisms dwindled, but the publication of

Udgorn Seion continued for another 6 years.  At that time, 9 Apr 1862, William Ajax, the last editor of the Udgorn, wrote in his journal: ‘The 14th No. of the “Udgorn” was the last issued, and no more will be issued until I will have become sufficiently strong in body, or a substitute can be found.’ (Ajax, p. 61).  Ajax recovered from his illness but decided to emigrate to Utah rather than resume his publishing activities.  No one took his place.

The demise of Udgorn Seion is somewhat symbolic of the near-demise of the Church in Wales during the 19th century.  Although there would be missionaries there for the remainder of the century, they would not experience anything like the success and excitement of the 1840s and 1850s.

From the mid-1860s until the middle of the 20th century, very few Welsh converts would come into the Church.  Yet, because of the extraordinary success of the Church’s early proselytizing efforts in Wales, there are today tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who can point with pride to a Jones, Thomas, Davis or Williams line on their pedigree charts and thank the Lord for the courage of their ancestors who accepted the restored gospel somewhere in the hills of Wales.


[The foregoing is Chapter 8 of Truth Will Prevail: The Rise and of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, 1837-1987, Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1987.]


Jones, Dan


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