Companion to controversy wherever it appeared in the early days,
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nevertheless grew
at a phenomenal rate. Hundreds of converts were baptized each month
in 1850s England and Wales. But Brigham Young's Zionand the
new proselytes' surest refugewas in America. As noted by Arthur
King Peters in his Seven Trails West, "the Mormon Trail of
those years stretched all the way from Liverpool to Salt Lake City,
making it by far the longest of any trail west" (, 137).
Worldwide Gathering to "Zion"
"And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out
from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs
of everlasting joy." (Doctrine and Covenants 45:71).
Inherent to the belief of early Latter-day Saints was the
spirit of gathering. They sought to build a centralized
"Zion" community with fellow Saints, safe from ridicule and
As the Church spread through Europe, tens of thousands of new converts
emigrated to America, leaving everything behind them for their faith
and desire to be with fellow members. Of the 60,000 to 70,000 Saints
who emigrated to the Salt Lake Valley in the late 1800s, more than
98 percent of the survivors were from Europe, and 75 percent were
from Britain. The British converts began to emigrate with the arrival
of Brigham Young to Britain in 1840. As American members faced persecution,
new European members brought strength and refreshment. "They have
so much of the spirit of gathering," Brigham said, "that they would
go if they knew they would die as soon as they got there or if they
knew that the mob would be upon them and drive them as soon as they
got there" (quoted in Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American
Moses , 94).
First Missionaries to Europe
In 1837, just seven years after the establishment of the Church, Heber
C. Kimball and Orson Hyde went to England as missionaries. Elder
Kimball felt inadequate with his assignment.
"O, Lord," he said, "I am a man of 'stammering tongue,' and altogether
unfit for such a work. How can I go to preach in that land, which
is so famed throughout Christendom for light, knowledge and piety
. . . and to a people whose intelligence is proverbial?" (President
Heber C. Kimball's Journal , 10).
Pushing doubts aside, Elder Kimball trusted in God and left for
his mission. When the boat approached Liverpool, Elder Kimball enthusiastically
leapt ashore, becoming the first missionary in Europe. Nine people
sought baptism after one week. About 1,500 were baptized during
his missionary service. A result of his efforts, the Preston branch
(congregation) was established in 1837. Today it still functions
as the oldest continuous branch in the Church, predating the Salt
Lake branch by 10 years.
Apostles Visit England
Just when Church President and Prophet Joseph Smith was facing
great persecution, he sent those closest to him across the ocean
to build the Church abroad. Beginning in 1839, members of the Quroum
of the Twelve Apostles left to preach the gospel in England. They
went without money or provisions, relying on God for their keep.
According to Brigham Young's reports, from 1839 to 1841 they baptized
between 7,000 and 8,000 people; printed 5,000 copies of the Book
of Mormon, 3,000 hymn books, and 2,500 volumes of the newspaper
Millennial Star; and established a shipping agency for emigrant
Saints. The Apostles helped 1,000 European converts emigrate to
America during that time.
On 6 June 1840, the first official emigration company left on the
ship Britannia. These 41 Preston Saints were led by John
Moon and blessed by Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young before they
left for New York. They arrived on 20 July. In all, Brigham Young
organized 800 emigrants into seven companies for the journey overseas.
For the next five years, New Orleans became the preferred destination
for the emigrant companies, who would then take a steamboat up the
Mississippi River to Nauvoo.
Funding for the Journey
To pay for the trip, many Saints worked several months or years
prior to their trek or after arriving at their port of entry in
America. Some immigrants paid passage for half or all of their way,
while others relied heavily upon the Perpetual Emigration Fund provided
by the Church for its members journeying west. The fund was replenished
by repayment of loans or donations from members. In 1852, Church
leaders opened the fund to the 30,000 Saints in Britain and other
converts in Europe (prior to that year, the fund was mainly used
by the pioneers' trek in America). European members used the fund
with the promise to payback that loan through money or labor. Because
of the high price of travel, it took several years for immigrants
to pay their debtmany were unsuccessful.
Typical Day Onboard Ship
The historian Leonard Arrington wrote:
"The companies arose at an early hour, made their beds, cleaned
their assigned portion of the ship, and threw the refuse overboard.
At seven they assembled for prayer, after which breakfast was had.
All were required to be in their berths ready for retirement at
eight o'clock. Church services were held morning and evening of
each day, weather permitting. Many of the companies had excellent
choirs which sang for the services. During the time of passage,
which occupied something like a month, concerts, dances, contests,
and entertainments of various types were held. Schools were held
almost daily for both adults and children. The classes were particularly
popular with Scandinavians who learned English en route" (Great
Basin Kingdom , 103).
Other journals record that on sunny days women and
children would busy themselves on deck. The children would
play while the women would sew wagon covers and tents for
the upcoming journey in America.
Charles Dickens Visits an Emigrant Ship
A visitor to the ship Amazon, leaving the London dock in
1863, was the novelist Charles Dickens. "I . . . had come aboard
this emigrant ship to see what eight hundred Latter-day Saints were
like," he wrote. "Indeed, I think it would be difficult to find
eight hundred people together anywhere else, and find so much beauty
and so much strength and capacity for work among them" (The Uncommercial
Traveler , 446).
Fully expecting to "bear testimony against" the Latter-day
Saints, Dickens changed his opinion after observing the passengers:
"To my great astonishment," he said, "they did not deserve it" (449).
In Dickens's book, The Uncommercial Traveler, he describes
the scene he beheld with wonder:
"Nobody is in an ill temper, nobody is the worse for drink, nobody
swears an oath or uses a coarse word, nobody appears depressed,
nobody is weeping, and down upon the deck, in every corner where
it is possible to find a few spare feet to kneel, crouch, or lie
in, people in every unsuitable attitude for writing, are writing
Early Newspaper Reports
An article from a Philadelphia paper recorded in the Millennial
Star describes the 536 Latter-day Saints aboard the ship Tuscarora.
According to the article, two-thirds of the passengers would remain
in the Pennsylvania until they earned enough money to complete the
trek to Salt Lake.
"It is unfair to characterize these Mormons as unlettered, or charge
them with embracing the creed for the mere sake of promised happiness
in an ideal country. On the contrary, they seem fully to realize
the hardships before them and to have their eyes open to the fact
that they must earn their bread by patient toil, upon arriving in
Utah" ("Another Herd of Mormons," 5 Sept. 1857, 572).
The Edinburgh Review of January 1862 recorded:
"The ordinary emigrant is exposed to all the chances and misadventures
of a heterogeneous, childish, mannerless crowd during the voyage,
and to the merciless cupidity of land-sharks the moment he has touched
the opposite shore. But the Mormon ship is a Family under strong
and accepted discipline, with every provision for comfort, decorum,
and internal peace. On his arrival in the New World the wanderer
is received into a confraternity which speeds him onwards with as
little hardship and anxiety as the circumstances permit, and he
is passed on from friend to friend, till he reaches the promised
home" ("Burton's City of the Saints," 199).
12 February 1856
believed in the principle of the gathering and felt it my duty to
go although it was a severe trial to me in my feelings to leave
my native land and the pleasing associations that I had formed there,
but my heart was fixed. I knew in whom I had trusted and with the
fire of Israel's God burning in my bosom, I forsook home" (Jane
Charters Robinson Hindly, "Jane C. Robinson Hindly Reminiscences
and Diary," Family and Church History Department Archives, The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Jane Rio Griffiths Baker
4 January 1851
this day took leave of every acquaintance I could collect together;
in all human probability never to see them again on earth. I am
now (with my children) about to leave for-ever my Native Land, in
order to gather with the Church of Christ, in the Valley of the
Great Salt Lake, in North America.
"I can hardly describe the beauty of this night. The moon nearly
at full with a deep blue sky. Studded with stars; the reflection
of which makes the sea appear like an immense sheet of diamonds,
and here are we walking the deck at nine o'clock in the evening
without bonnet or shawl.
"At half past five p.m. my dear little Josiah breathed his last.
He had sunk rapidly since Tuesday, when he partially lost his speech.
"Sunday. A beautiful morning. The body of my dear boy is removed
to a snug little cabin . . . where the male adults of my family
have watched it all night. The second mate, with the assistance
of Uncle Bateman have just sewn up the body of our dear little fellow,
ready for burial. At eleven o'clock the tolling of the ship bell
informed us that the hour had come, that the mortal part of my dear
Child was to be committed to the Deep.
29 September 1851
"I ascended the hill before us and had my first view of the city
which is laid out in squares or blocks as they call them here. .
. . I stood and looked, I can hardly analyze my feelings, but I
think my prevailing ones were joy and gratitude for the protecting
care over my and mine during our long and perilous journey" (Jane
Rio Griffiths Baker [Pearce], Journal, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham
22 July 1840
feel myself glad to find my feet upon the land of Joseph after so
long and tedious a journey; we have had a very long voyage. . .
. The captain said we had a very hard voyage for the season. . .
. On the 8th [June] we had a very high wind and water came over
the bulwarks all that day and all was sick. I never saw such a day
in all my days. Some crying, some vomiting; pots, pans, tins and
boxes walking in all directions; the ship heaving the sea roaring
and so we passed that day.
"I feel glad that we have got so far on our journey. I feel
somewhat sorry for all those who have to come after us . . . you
must expect great tribulation on the way to Zion" (Quoted in
a letter by William Clayton to Brigham Young, 19 August 1840, Brigham
Young Papers, Family and Church History Department Archives, The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Jens Christian Andersen Weibye
27 May 1862
"Some of the emigrants carried the measles with them [from]
home which soon spread around all over the ship. . . . Most of the
emigrants suffered from diarrhea, . . . which exhausted
us a lot. And besides almost all of us lost the taste for the crackers. . . .
At the close of the journey we soaked them in cold water or tea
water. After 8-12 hours we intended to eat them and they would be
soft like a loaf of bread. . . .
They danced on deck almost every day . . . so we had much joy when
we don't think about the many deaths from measles. Up to this time
3 grown ups and 43 children have died, almost all of them from measles"
(Jens Christian Anderson Weibye, Reminiscenses and Journals, Family
and Church History Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints).
courtesy of Infobases, Inc.