I want to tell you more about the Church History tour, because last time I didn’t have time to write much about it.
This picture of me standing is where the Cock Pit used to be. It’s no longer standing, but we got to see the place where it was, and it was a wonderful experience to think that we were standing in that place where so many of the great apostles did.
The white building is where Heber C Kimball and the others were staying when they were attacked by the angels of darkness. It was strange to stand there and look at it. No one has lived in it since then. The owners tried to sell it with an ad in the newspaper, that said, “Devil House for Sale.” Someone has bought it, but no one will live in it.
This is one of me in front of the River Ribble where the first baptism was performed. It’s beautiful and peaceful, and there are dozens of lovely swans just floating around in it.
The next is a SUPER bad picture of me, but it is in front of the house Gordon B. Hinckley lived in in Preston when Grandpa Bryant sent him the letter telling him to forget himself and go to work. I’ve tried to duplicate pictures of him in these same places, but I don’t know how good of a job I am doing.
This cathedral and this sweet looking house are in Downham. The other places were very nice to be, but Downham was the most wonderful. Is is truly a very hallowed place. Like I said last time, we sang Called to Serve inside the Cathedral, and the Spirit was very strong. I think not just THE Spirit, but many spirits. Heber C. Kimball went back and told Joseph Smith about that place, and how it was a special one, and Joseph Smith said, (and I’m probably quoting it wrong), “Ancient Prophets have stood in that place and prophesied. Of course it is hallowed.” Strange that we can’t know exactly who those were, but I’ve no doubt many important people have been in that very spot, and I got to stand on it too.
Now for some background of the places Marie has taken pictures of and mentioned in her email. The history of the church in England is something we should all become familiar with as many of the pioneers and early members of the church were converted and baptized in England. The first apostles in this dispensation were sent on a mission to England by Joseph Smith and so there are very good records and journal entries they kept about their missionary experiences. Marie learned about many of these by reading the book Men With a Mission: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1837-1841.
The Cock Pit
Named for the sport it was built for (cock fighting) it eventually became used as an outdoor auditorium perfect for political events and religious gatherings. Heber C. Kimball gave a good description of the cock pit:
“The place for cock-fighting was an area of about twelve or fifteen feet in the center, around which the seats formed a circle, each seat rising about a foot above another, till they reached the walls of the building. When we leased it the area in the center was occupied by the singers, and our pulpit was the place where the judges formerly sat, who awarded the prizes for cock-fights. We had to pay seven shillings per week for the use of it, and two shillings per week for lighting; it being beautifully lit up with gas. The building was about twenty-five feet from ‘the Old Church,’ probably the oldest in Lancashire.”
The early apostles used it as a meeting place to preach the gospel. The cock pit fell down in 1884.
The “Devil House”
The building on St. Wilfred Street in Preston where the 1837 missionaries lodged still stands. Here, in the early morning of July 30th, the day that the first English converts were to be baptized, a host of evil spirits attempted to thwart the work of the Restoration. Elders Kimball and Hyde occupied the top of the three-story house, and the other four missionaries were on the second floor. Isaac Russell, who had earlier been troubled by evil spirits, ascended to the third floor early in the morning seeking a blessing because he was again being tormented. Elder Kimball recorded that while laying his hands on Elder Russell, “I was struck with a great force by some invisible power, and fell senseless on the floor.” When Elder Kimball regained his senses, he fell to his knees in fervent supplication for relief. When he sat back on the bed, a vision opened to him, and he “could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us.” Elder Kimball explained, “They appeared to be men of full stature, possessing every form and feature of men in the flesh, who were angry and desperate; and I shall never forget the vindictive malignity depicted on their countenances as they looked me in the eye. . . . We distinctly heard those spirits talk and express their wrath and hellish designs against us.”
For a good detailed account of what happened read this post. It takes all of the missionaries accounts and puts them together in order. Pretty scary!
On Sunday, July 30, 1837, a crowd gathered at the river’s edge curious about the baptisms taking place there. They watched George D. Watt, who had changed his clothing a short distance away, race an older gentlemen to the river, claiming the honor of being the first Latter-day Saint to be baptized in England.
Because baptizing by immersion was somewhat novel, a crowd of between seven and nine thousand people assembled on the banks of the river to witness the ceremony. A total of nine people were baptized.
15 Wadham Road
This is where President Gordon B. Hinckley lived when he served in Preston, England as a missionary. Here are his own words describing how discouraged he was as a missionary.
“I was not well when I arrived. Those first few weeks, because of illness and the opposition which we felt, I was discouraged. I wrote a letter home to my good father and said that I felt I was wasting my time and his money. He was my father and my stake president, and he was a wise and inspired man. He wrote a very short letter to me which said, “Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.” Earlier that morning in our scripture class my companion and I had read these words of the Lord: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35.)
“Those words of the Master, followed by my father’s letter with his counsel to forget myself and go to work, went into my very being. With my father’s letter in hand, I went into our bedroom in the house at 15 Wadham Road, where we lived, and got on my knees and made a pledge with the Lord. I covenanted that I would try to forget myself and lose myself in His service.
“That July day in 1933 was my day of decision. A new light came into my life and a new joy into my heart. The fog of England seemed to lift, and I saw the sunlight. I had a rich and wonderful mission experience, for which I shall ever be grateful, laboring in Preston where the work began and in other places where it had moved forward, including the great city of London, where I served the larger part of my mission.” (Taking the Gospel to Britain, Ensign, July 1987)
Marie’s great grandmother is Sylvia Bitner Hinckley Wadsworth, youngest sister of Pres. Hinckley, which is why she wrote “Grandpa Bryant” in her email home. Bryant Stringham Hinckley is President Hinckley’s father.
Although warned by members in Preston that the people in these villages had been unresponsive to other ministers, Elder Heber C. Kimball preached to them and found an immediate and overwhelming response. He returned three times, and felt overpowered each time by the spirit of these people and of the countryside itself. On his final visit, the children linked arms and walked with him for a distance, singing the songs of Zion. He recorded in his journal that he was so affected he had to leave the road three times to bathe his eyes in the stream because he was weeping so profusely. This incident left a profound impression on Elder Kimball, for, he said, “I felt as if the place was holy ground. The Spirit of the Lord rested down upon me and I was constrained to bless that whole region of country” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, Salt Lake City: 1967, p. 187). He later reported, “I went through the streets of that town feeling as I never before felt in my life. My hair would rise on my head as I walked through the streets, and I did not then know what was the matter with me. I pulled off my hat, and felt that I wanted to pull off my shoes, and I did not know what to think of it. When I returned, I mentioned the circumstance to brother Joseph, who said, ‘Did you not understand it? That is a place where some of the old Prophets travelled and dedicated that land, and their blessing fell upon you.’” (JD, 5:22.) (The Kingdom Builders, Ensign, December 1979)