A Welsh Story

Here is a talk I gave in church back in January 2003.   

A Welsh Story

In 1846 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fled their City Beautiful. Nauvoo Illinois, a former swamp land on the banks of the Mississippi River. After nearly 7 years the Saints gathered their meager possessions and took what they had with them. At the time those that sought to destroy that small gathering of Saints took pleasure. They had two years previous killed Joseph Smith Jr. founder and beloved Prophet of the Church. Now they had driven out the all but a few disaffected and poor Saints from that city into the vast wilderness labeled Indian Country.

Under the leadership of Brigham Young the Church grew and prospered. But just as importantly Saints from this land [The United Kingdom] helped to flood the membership of this church at that time. They gave up the industrial places such as Liverpool, and London. They left the mines of Wales and farms of the West Country and helped in Utah to found and spread forward the Kingdom of God. Today I want to share the story of some of those Welsh Saints.

Bound for America in 1856, Nathaniel Edmunds boarded a ship and left behind his native country of Wales, not knowing what he and his fellow Welshmen would be doing just that they were doing what the Lord had commanded and moved to Utah.

An early convert to The Church, Edmunds was one of thousands of Mormon pioneers with European roots who helped colonize the American West, and who brought their heritage to the places they settled.

Nathaniel Edmunds left Wales determined to aid in the establishment of “Zion”. Nathaniel like most of the other Welsh Saints was from Merthyr Tydfil where the great mining industry of Wales in the 1800s was founded.

His 167-day journey from Europe to America was typical of the sacrifices made by many converts who crossed land and sea to heed the call of Church founder Joseph Smith, and later Brigham Young.

Edmunds and other Welsh Saints were among these immigrants. He, along with his wife and son, sailed to America with other Welsh Latter-day Saints on the Samuel Curling in April 1856.

Dan Jones said regarding that voyage that he led on the S. Curling:

[We] continued to be quite a devotional people. At 5 a.m. each day the bugle called the men out to clean their wards, and then to retire on deck while the ladies were dressing for morning prayers, at a quarter to six o’clock. At dusk the bugle called all hands to prayer again, by wards, and it pleased me much to see, by the almost universal willingness to go below, that the call was duly appreciated, nor was the scene less interesting to see seven hundred Saints on their way to Zion, pent up in so small a space, all bow the knee . .

Our evenings , after meetings until bedtime, were spent in singing the songs of Zion; after which the men retired on deck, while the females retired to a better place . . .

Aboard that square-rigged vessel, these Welsh immigrants arrived in Boston in May 1856. From there, a majority of them traveled via train to Iowa City, Iowa, under the direction of Church agents. Many of them traveled in cattle cars.

Prior to leaving Wales, the Edmunds and others received counsel to carry only “smallest practicable amount of luggage” — instruction that would prepare them for pushing and pulling handcarts as they traversed the American frontier.

When the immigrants reached Iowa City, Church agents organized them into their own handcart company, or group. This company was the third to depart in 1856 and the last to reach the Salt Lake Valley before winter, arriving on 2 October 1856.

But Salt Lake City was not the journey’s end for Edmunds and the other Welsh Latter-day Saints.

The Welsh pioneers were among those sent by Brigham Young to establish settlements outside the Salt Lake Valley. Fifteen Welsh families, including the Edmunds, established a community in Sanpete County, Utah, called Coalbed.

The work performed in nearby coal mines sustained the early settlement of Coalbed — situated close to the mountains. Settlers patterned their new community after similar mining towns in their homeland of Wales, closely spacing corrals and houses along the road.

Troubles with American Indians forced the town to evacuate for a time in the 1860s. When peace resumed, most of the families — the Edmunds among them — returned to Coalbed in 1868.

Upon their return, they relocated the town farther east, approximately 110 miles south of Salt Lake City. Given its settlement by Welsh families, the town received a new name: Wales.

Welsh pioneers established other communities in Spanish Fork and Willard, Utah, and in Malad and Samaria, Idaho.

Now why am I giving you this history lesson on one incident?  Why is this so important to us here in Cardiff Central Branch in 2003.  The reason is because this demonstrates how the faith of a people of a foreign land, speaking a different language from the majority of Utah settlers who relied on the Perpetual Emigration Fund to help them get to Utah scratched and clawed their way to founding and creating a brand new life and made something even better of that life.

For us in our time our struggles are different. We are a small Branch of Saints. We are in a largely godless society speaking loudly about things that some would rather not hear. As we grow together like those Saints of 150 years ago, as we perfect ourselves and help others to become like our Saviour. We will become more than what we are, we will become like those who went before us. We will be Saviours on Mount Zion not just to ourselves but to a whole host of people.

As J Reuben Clark said when describing the Pioneers:

“In living our lives let us never forget that the deeds of our fathers and mothers are theirs, not ours; that their works cannot be counted to our glory; that we can claim no excellence and no place, because of what they did, that we must rise by our own labor, and that labor failing we shall fail. We may claim no honor, no reward, no respect, nor special position or recognition, no credit because of what our fathers were or what they wrought. We stand upon our own feet in our own shoes. There is no aristocracy of birth in this Church; it belongs equally to the highest and the lowliest; for as Peter said to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, seeking him:
“‘. . . Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.’ (Acts 10:34, 35.)

We as Saints in Cardiff are expected to work, to scratch, and claw toward a better life as them that went before. We are called to do the work here in this country that was so nobly started in the 1840s and carry it forward. It is up to us and no other. With Gods help, with Christ’s mercy we will accomplish this and remember that we are just as much pioneers in our day as those Saints from so long ago.

I bear record that I know Jesus is my Saviour. Without his mercy love and sacrifice there would be no Church today and I am ever grateful to him for that. May we always remember and strive to better ourselves as Saints. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Just a thought for Sunday.

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