Elders Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve ApostlesÃ¢â‚¬â€ along with Willard Richards, Joseph Fielding, John Goodson, Isaac Russell, and John SniderÃ¢â‚¬â€ arrived in England on 19 July 1837. Eleven days later, on Sunday, 23 July, Elder Kimball baptized nine converts in the River Ribble in Preston, an event that was viewed by some 8,000 inquisitive bystanders. A week later a total of 50 had joined the Church. Despite opposition from ministers and the press, within nine months the number of converts had reached 1,500.
Nine members of the Quorum of the Twelve, including Brigham Young, labored in England at some time from 1840 to 1841. During this time they baptized more than 5,000 people. They also arranged for about 800 of these converts to emigrate to America. The flow of British converts helped vitalize the struggling Church in America, both then and for years later.
In 1850 the membership of the Church in Britain reached 30,747, while the general Church membership was 51,839. During the 1850s Latter-day Saint emigration was at its highest, with 16,342 British Saints sailing from Liverpool. Almost 15,000 more followed in the 1860s.
The Church faced severe opposition over the next few decades, and the work was slow. After the turn of the century missionary work increased. During World War I, local sisters took over proselyting activities. After the war missionary work increased, and anti-Mormon activity waned. This resulted in a membership increase, and in the mid-1930s a large building program began. During World War II, local members began “home missionary work.” This increased the number of branches from 68 to 75, although these were later consolidated into 29 branches.
A temple was announced in 1953 for London. This, along with visits from Church leaders and the Tabernacle Choir over the following few years, lifted the spirits of the members. The London Temple was dedicated by President David O. McKay on 7 to 9 September 1958.
On 27 March 1960, the Manchester Stake was created and the British Mission was divided. The seminary program was introduced in the country in 1968. The Church continued to grow, and another large building program was inaugurated. There were 70,000 members by 1971, which increased to 91,000 by 1980.
The celebration of the Church’s 150th anniversary in Great Britain in 1987 underscored the maturity of the Church. President Ezra Taft Benson and President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency joined former prime minister Edward Heath at a banquet, where they viewed a videotaped message from former U.S. president Ronald Reagan. Eight public markers were dedicated to honor important Church sites in the British Isles.
The London Temple was remodeled and then rededicated on 18 October 1992, and another temple in Preston was announced by President Hinckley. The ground for this new temple was broken on 12 June 1994, and it was dedicated on 7 June 1998 by President Hinckley.
By the beginning of the year 2000, there were 36 stakes, 289 wards and branches, and 6 missions in England, with a Church membership of 135,748.
[Year-end 2005: Est. population, 59,093,000; Members, 139,914; Stakes, 37; Wards, 227; Branches, 46; Missions, 5; Temples, 2; Percent LDS, .23, or one in 427; Source: 2007 Church Almanac.]
Bloxham, V. Ben, James R. Moss, and Larry C. Porter, eds. Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, 1837-1997. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
1999-2000 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1998. 398-401.
From Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 337-38. Used with the permission of the Deseret Book Company. Copies prohibited by law.