Sunday, September 19, 2010
Isaac Wardle History: Chapter Three: Conversion: "I Was Baptized into The Church of Jesue Christ of Latter-day Saints"
Ye Elders of Israel
Cyrus H. Wheelock
Ye elders of Israel, come join now with me
And seek out the righteous, where'er they may be:
In desert, on mountain, on land, or on sea,
And bring them to Zion, the pure and the free.
The harvest is great, and the laborers are few;
But if we're united, we all things can do;
We'll gather the wheat from the midst of the tares
And bring them from bondage, from sorrows and snares.
We'll go to the poor, like our Captain of old,
And visit the weary, the hungry, and cold;
We'll cheer up their hearts with the news that he bore
And point them to Zion and life evermore.
Chorus: O Babylon, O Babylon, we bid thee farewell;
We're going to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell. (Hymns, 319)
Mormon missionaries first went to Great Britain in 1837. Seven missionaries, including Apostles Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde were called to Britain while the church was struggling in Kirtland. “Despite difficult times in Kirtland, the Prophet, [Joseph Smith] through revelation, called the first missionaries to England.” (Hales) In a talk, celebrating the sesquicentennial of the church in Britain Gordon B. Hinckley said:
The opening of the British Mission a century and a half ago was a declaration to the world; it was a declaration of a great millennial vision; it was an expression of tremendous faith; it was a demonstration of personal courage; and it was a statement of everlasting truth… There was a vision in the hearts of these men. It was a millennial vision that the gospel was to be preached to every nation before the end should come. (Hinckley)
Expressing this millennial vision, Parley P. Pratt, who was a part of the second wave of missionaries to England in 1840, penned this thought in his classic hymn, “The Morning Breaks:”
The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Lo! Zion’s standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day
Majestic rises on the world.
The clouds of error disappear
Before the rays of truth divine;
The glory, bursting from afar,
Wide o’er the nations soon will shine…
Angels from heav’n and truth from earth
Have met, and both have record borne;
Thus Zion’s light is bursting forth,
To bring her ransomed children home. (Hymns no 1)
Ironically when the missionaries first traveled to England it was at the same time when Queen Victoria was crowned. (Isaac was one-year-old.) The missionaries traveled to Preston, England, where the brother of one of the missionaries was a priest. Queen Victoria had called for new elections, and the missionaries saw a political banner: “Truth will Prevail.” This they adopted as the motto for the mission. (Hinckley)
Heber C. Kimball explained that, “We opened the door to that nation in great simplicity.” (Walker quoting Heber C. Kimball) The message of the gospel was simple; the original Christian Church had been reestablished upon the earth.
The first Millennial Star (Church publication published by the British Mission) announced the message of the Church:
The long night of darkness is now far spent—the truth revived in its primitive simplicity and purity, like the day-star of the horizon, lights up the dawn of the effulgent morn when the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. It has pleased the Almighty to send forth an Holy Angel, to restore the fullness of the gospel with all its attendant blessings, to bring together his wandering sheep into one fold, to restore to “the faith which was once delivered to the saints…” (Millennial Star I p 1)
The church, from its inception was a proselyting church, having the duty to carry the Gospel to the world. “And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days. And they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them.” (D&C 1: 4-5)
Within a year of establishing the church in England, there were 1500 members. In 1840 a second wave of missionaries arrived, led by Brigham Young with six other apostles. Shortly over 6000 persons were added to the church and “…by the end of the decade the Church was claiming fifty thousand English conversions.” (Walker) Eventually over 55,000 British Saints would migrate to Utah. (Taylor, P.A.M.)
Ronald Walker explained that the reason for the success of the church in Britain was two-fold, first the social conditions of the time and second the qualities of the religion itself. “Mormonism… was a youthful and vibrant faith that spoke to the British industrial and preindustrial vernacular. Its message fit perfectly… with the social religious upheaval of the time.” (Walker) Numerous changes were taking place during this time in Britain. These included: rapid population growth, over 50 percent of the population being urban for the first time in history in any society, industrialization in manufacturing and transportation, political reform, public safety reform, religious reform, increase in trade unionism, and changes in public health. “There, in the squalor of his new environment, the English laborer found the certainties of his old life-style were lost. No longer was his behavior reinforced by the scrutiny of village acquaintances... Britain seemed convulsed with agitation and transition.” (ibid)
The people were prepared for the message:
In England the missionaries immediately found that many souls were ready and waiting for their message. England in the mid-nineteenth century was at the zenith of the Industrial Revolution. Those most attracted by the missionary message were the casualties of social change, the poor, the unemployed, and the illiterate. (Hale)
The quality of the church was based on its being the restoration of the original Christian Church, with the same authority, powers and priesthood. Joseph Smith was visited by ancient disciples, including John the Baptist, and Peter James and John. They brought him priesthood authority and keys. The church thus spoke “with the voice of authority.” (Walker) P.A.M. Taylor noted, “The Mormon Church claimed authority on the ground that it had a living prophet, who had been inspired to recover and translate a sacred book, and who thereafter had received and would receive equally authentic revelations. (Taylor, P.A.M.)
A third reason for the success of the missionaries may have been the unhappiness of the people with their current religious instruction. In a letter dated, 16th May 1848 Winter Quarters to G.D. Watt, the first British convert in 1837, Willard Richards talked of this preparation:
From the accounts of the proceedings in Great Britain, it is certain that the people are discontented with their old precepts and creeds, and are seeking after something they know not what; but the Elders are sent to tell them how it is, and, I would say, thrust in your sickle, preach the gospel, call men to repentance, proclaim aloud that and angel has flown through the midst of heaven and committed the everlasting gospel to men on the earth… (Millennial Star Volume XI p 9)
Brigham Young and Willard Richards echoed these thoughts, “We find the people of this land, much more ready to receive the gospel, than those of America, for their priests have taught them but little, much of that is so foolish as to be detached at a glance.” (Walker quoting Brigham Young and Willard Richards)
Marguerite Cameron espoused that the dedication of the missionaries had an influence on the number of converts. “No missionaries were filled with greater courage or lofty enthusiasm, none were so indifferent to scorn and insult. In the British Isles they made a lasting impression which resulted in larger migrations than those from any other country. Mormonism came as a saving grace to hundreds and thousands of poor for whom working condition were hard and wages low.” (Cameron)
In this environment the church flourished, mostly among the poor and urban. Almost 90 percent of British converts were from urban areas. Additionally the converts included more than their share of laborers. Church shipping records indicate 20 percent of Mormon emigrants in the 1840s were considered middle class. However this percentage went down to 10 percent for the next decade, and lower in subsequent decades. (Taylor, P.A.M.) “If the typical British convert was urban, he also was drawn from the lower social levels.” (Walker)
The conditions surrounding Isaac prepared him to receive the message of the gospel. There is a story in the Book of Mormon where Alma is trying to restore the Zoramites, who had become apostate because of their pride and their many riches. Alma had no success until the poor people of the community approached him and asked him what they should do to worship God. Their poverty had prepared them to receive the Gospel. Alma turned towards them and began teaching. It is interesting to note, that in a similar manner to England, the hearts of the poor people were ready. (See Alma 32)
The Mormon missionaries took their message to the poor of England, who were prepared for the gospel because of their poverty and the conditions in England. As mentioned in the hymn “Ye Elders of Israel,” “We’ll go to the poor like our Captain of old, And visit the weary, the hungry, and cold; We’ll cheer up their hearts with the news that he bore And point them to Zion and life evermore.” (Hymns, 319)
John Lyon, an early Mormon poet penned in the last stanza from the poem, “Exodus” the sentiment that the Church attracted those despised:
Then, the despised and trodden down
Shall rise to glory and renown;
And nations in earth’s midst shall flow
To Zion, and a kingdom grow,
To swell the restoration. (Lyon)
Isaac described his conversion and baptism in this manner, “In September 23, 1853 I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by Elder Fredrick Smith. I was confirmed the next day by Elder Smith.” (Wardle, Isaac) Fredrick Smith was a local Elder rather than a visiting missionary from the United States. (Smith, Sherry) It was not unusual for local lay clergy to carry a great deal of the proselyting load. “The American missionaries might take the lead, but duly ordained English converts carried the ministerial load. This allowed Mormonism to shed whatever image it might have possessed as a foreign intruder.” (Walker)
Uncle Orrin, wondering about Isaac’s motivations for baptism, wrote. “Isaac, as likely was true of many other thoughtful and energetic young men of England who were trapped by their social origins, must have been somewhat mentally ready to hear an opportunity for change and improvement, ready to hear a message that would offer them hope of a better life in the present world, and, if that be possible, in the worlds to come.” (Wardle, Orrin p. 2)
Mary Rupp described Isaac’s conversion. “It was while living at Coalville that the elders of the Latter-Day Saint Church came to the home of John Wardle and my Grandfather Isaac John Wardle was baptized… He was the only member of the family to accept the church at this time. However at a later day the rest of the family, with the exception of his half brother Thomas Martin, joined the church.” (Rupp)
The facts as put forth by my great-aunt Mary are not accurate. In the letter I received from Kathy Taylor she indicates Thomas Morton [aka Wardle or Martin] was baptized. “Thomas belonged to Whitwick branch, baptized in 1847 by Henry Platts. Whitwick Branch records film # 087038.” (Taylor, Kathy) According to New.FamilySearch Isaac’s parents were also baptized during this time, Mary Wardle 14 Feb 1845, John Wardle 14 Nov 1845 and William Wardle 15 Sept 1848. (New.Familysearch) According to this, Isaac’s mother was the first in the family to be baptized. All members of the family were baptized, with the exception of Isaac’s sister Hannah. (Call, Patti)
The following was recorded in the Millennial Star after a conference in Whitwick, Coalville area. Isaac, although not yet baptized, likely attended with his family, members of which had been baptized:
SECOND DIVISION OF THE DERBYSHIRE CONFERENCE. Held at Whitwich, Jan. 7, 1849.—At this conference were represented 6 branches, containing 232 members, including 24 elders, 14 priests, 5 teachers, and 8 deacons. During the last quarter 15 have been baptized, 5 received by letter, 9 removed, 1 cut off, and 1 dead. LEWIS ROBINS, President. JOHN VAUGHN, Clerk. (Millennial Star; hereafter MS XI p __)
Because of the limited literacy of the family, it may have been difficult for family members to gain testimonies and desire baptism. They would have been dependent on the spoken word and prayer. Although others may have read from tracts to them, often the Church was promoted by the spoken word, and less frequently through tracts or the Book of Mormon, which were costly.
Whitwick and Coalville pertained to the Derbyshire Conference, even though they were in Leicestershire. “We suggest that you search the membership records for the Derbyshire Conference. Coalville was a part of that Conference.” (Smith, Sherry) The basic unit of organization in the church in England was a branch. A group of branches were organized into a conference; generally three conferences were a district or pasturage. In the case of Coalville it was part of the Derbyshire Conference which was part of the Nottingham, Derbyshire, Leicestershire District, with the headquarters of the district in Nottingham. The leader of the District was referred to as a pastor. The leadership of the conference was called a president. These positions were usually taken by visiting missionaries from the U.S. while branches would have local leaders. (Taylor, P.A.M. p 20)
After his baptism Isaac moved away from the family home. “In a short time I moved to Worcel, [Walsall] Staffordshire. (At that time Walsall was part of Staffordshire County and today is in West Midlands County.) I stayed there until I had saved enough to emegrate [emigrate] to America.” (Wardle, Isaac) Walsall is about 50 miles from Coalville. The train had reached there in 1849. (Wikipedia) It is more urban than Coalville.
I must assume that Isaac continued in the coal industry after he moved, as his occupation is given as a collier on the ship manifest two years later when he left England. (Handcart) There was a coal mine in Walsall at the time. Walsall is also known for leather work and saddle making. (Wikipedia)