LDS sesquicentennial is observed in Wales
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In the fall of 1840, LDS missionaries preached their first sermons of the restored gospel in Wales, located west of England on a peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean.
Recently, 50 members of the Church from the United States, most of whom are of Welsh ancestry, joined with Welsh Latter-day Saints to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of missionary work in that part of the United Kingdom.Ronald Dennis, author of two books about Latter-day Saints in Wales, organized and directed a tour July 19-31 that included visits to sites of Church historical significance. He is a great-great-grandson of Dan Jones, a native of Wales who joined the Church and was associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Ill. Jones returned to Wales as a missionary during the 1840s and 1850s.
One of the early Church sites in Wales is now a restaurant adjacent to the Bull Inn in Abergele. The building was a meeting place for Latter-day Saints between 1849 and 1856. The U.S. visitors and some local Welsh members placed a plaque inside the establishment to note the significance of the site in Church history.
The plaque's inscription contains a brief history of the organization of the Church in New York in 1830 and the arrival of the first missionaries to Wales in 1840.
The plaque notes that in 1848, John Parry Jr., a convert from Newmarket, began to preach at the home of Jane Roberts on Crown Street in the town of Abergele. Jane Roberts, Jane Parry, Elias Morris and Barbara Morris were baptized. Over the years a number of others in and around the area of Abergele converted to the Church.
On April 30, 1849, the addition that is now the restaurant was built onto the Bull Inn by Elias Morris as a place of worship for the Abergele Branch of the Church.
The plaque was unveiled by Elaine Wride, a member of the tour group. She is a descendant of John Parry Sr., the Welsh convert who eventually became the first conductor of the Tabernacle Choir.
A musical dimension was brought to the tour by the Vaughn Thomas family who performed at five concerts, some of which were sponsored by the Church and others held in conjunction with traditional Welsh music festivals. The Thomas family line is traced back to Thomas John Rees, a convert from Merthyr Tydfil, who for several years presided over the 800 members of the Church there. At each concert, Church members gave audio cassettes of a Tabernacle Choir broadcast featuring Welsh songs.
In Aberystwyth, the LDS tourists attended a meeting where Brother Dennis presented a copy of a 416-page volume of an 1852 Welsh Mormon periodical to the National Welsh Library. The periodical, Udgorn Seion (Zion's Trumpet), was a Welsh publication similar to the British LDS periodical, The Millennial Star.
At Merthyr Tydfil, the LDS visitors and several local members went to the cemetery where Abel Evans was buried. Evans, who was born at Merthyr Tydfil, was a convert who emigrated with other members. He returned to Wales in 1860. The visitors made arrangements for the tombstone marking his grave to be cleaned and straightened.
The visitors also attended and participated in firesides at LDS meetinghouses.
"One highlight of our sesquicentennial tour was a banquet held in a hotel in Cardiff," said Brother Dennis. "A member of the Wales House of Commons, Dafydd Elis Thomas, attended. All members of our tour attended the banquet as did about 100 local members and friends."
Brother Dennis, who has gone to Wales nearly every year for the past 15 years to research the books he has written, said the tour seemed to help visitors and local members to catch the spirit of the rich Latter-day heritage in Wales.