Missions are Fun

Preston Temple photo taken 21 Nov. 2010

A missionary is someone who leaves his or her home for a little while so others can have their families forever.

Curious about Mormons? Go to the source and find real people at mormon.org--read what they believe and have live chats if you wish! (an official Church website)

Or, go to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, official web site: lds.org.

Note: The Blain's England Manchester Mission blog is a personal blog that is not endorsed, approved, or sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Our Mission Scriptures

Our Mission Scriptures:

"Oh, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart . . . Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth." Alma 29:1-2 (Book of Mormon)

" . . . be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (Bible)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Steer Next to the Steakhouse and Crabs in a Bucket

And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.  Doctrine and Covenants 29:7

Sunday, Patrick Kearon, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, spoke to us via live feed at the Chorley Stake building.  It seemed appropriate that he be the first speaker, since he was born in Carlisle, England and all of us in England like to hear a true Brit.  More importantly, his message carried impact.

First, he related that he'd eaten at a steakhouse not long ago and noticed a steer standing in the field next to it.  He wondered if the steer knew how close he might be to being barbecued.  He cautioned us not to become immune to danger next to us that could ultimately be the end of our spiritual life.  He suggested we surround ourselves with things that help us stay close to the Savior.
It looks like he is closing his eyes to things around him--as in, "What you don't know won't hurt you?"
 He asked us to examine ourselves to see what spiritually dangerous situations to which we might be tethered and admonished us to seek for the light of truth and not "stand by, "chewing our cud, and feed comfortably next to danger."  (Hum, food for thought--pun : D )

Elder Kearon also used the crab allegory, reminding us that everyone around us may be used to us being "down in the bucket" with them, but we need to fight off those trying to drag us down and believe in ourselves and have faith in what we can become.  We can change.  When we are strong, we need to reach out and help others to see their divine destiny.
I know, these are crabs in a basket.  Just wanted to see if you noticed.

Crab mentality

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither should you." The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crab could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at 
each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition (or sabotage) which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is that of a group that will attempt to "pull down" (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of jealousy, conspiracy or  competitive feelings. This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to "escape" a so-called "underprivileged life," but kept from doing so by others attempting to ride upon their coat-tails or those who simply resent their success.

Many people in the world are struggling with different trials such as mental illness, divorce, 
loss of loved ones, and a variety of other difficult things.  Elder Kearon assures us God does 
not leave us to fight alone.  He is there allowing us to be refined.  He does not push us 
through these things to just test us, but to help us become stronger, closer to him, and to 
reach our full potential.
Our trials do not have to stand in the way of our progression, but, instead, they can serve as 
stepping stones to spiritual progress.

Blackburn Ward History--1960s--Faith, Diligence, Patience

A Corner of the Vineyard, by Denise Johannsen

Neil Armstrong steps out of the space craft, Apollo 1, and makes a giant step for mankind.  It is 20 July, 1969.  He is the first man to walk on the moon.   Earlier saw the launch of the first communications satellite "Telstar,"  relaying television pictures around the earth.
The Beatles, lads from Liverpool, take America and the world by storm.  A whole new era of music begins.
 Wages were improving and there was plenty of work.  The government introduced the "home improvement grant" to enable home owners to bring their houses up to modern living standards.  For a minimum deposit, the government would fund the balance, or in some cases they were able to qualify for a 100% grant.  This mean't, finally, terraced houses would almost all now have bathrooms and the basic amenities of the middle nineteenth century.

The "swinging sixties," at it was dubbed, certainly changed the face of the British Isles and the rest of the western world.  Just as living standards improve, moral standards began to deteriorate.  Wide spread popularity of the use of drugs amongst the young; also sex out of wedlock was deemed natural and normal--all designed by Lucifer to lure the innocent youth of the nation unwittingly into his power.

Blackburn saints were waging their own battle with the "son of the morning," and his dominions, winning each campaign slowly but surely.  With faith, diligence, and patience, they fought on relentlessly with every strategy used against them foiled.  Oh, he might win a skirmish or two and halt the saints' progression for a little while, but, as always, the final battle was won by the faithful followers of Christ and His Church.  The member clinging to the gospel and words of Alma, (32:28 & 43)

"Now we will compare the word unto a seed.  Now, if we give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seen, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves--It must be a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious unto me."

"Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you."

President David O. McKay (Prophet)
Hugh B. Brown, 1st in First Presidency
N. Eldon Tanner, 2nd Counselor in First Presidency
 The First Presidency called for the British people to stay in Great Britain, where possible, and not emigrate as in the past, for now was the time to start building up the Church in these Isles.

The Blackburn Saints had moved again to a large Victorian house.  One of the dear sisters at this time (Prudence Irvine) recorded her memories of these times:

"I first came to live in Darwen when I got married in 1957.  I did not know where the L.D.S. chapel was.  It would be about two years later when I wrote to the Radcliffe Ward and asked them for the address of the Blackburn Branch.

Later, I received a letter off President Walker of Blackburn Branch telling me it was situated on East Park Road in a big house with a large stable at the side.

I went along the following Sunday and I met all the members.  There were not many at that time, but the gospel was still living in the Blackburn area, which now I am very grateful for.

It was not long before the big house was condemned and demolished, so we had to use the old coach house and stables.  So it had to be made habitable.  All the members helped.  There was bricking and woodwork to be done.

I remember one Sunday, I was giving a talk, when suddenly I saw this man sat in the congregation.  I looked at him all the time I gave my talk.  When the meeting had finished, I went up to President Rose and asked who the man was, who by now had disappeared.  President Rose said that he had not seen anyone sat in that seat.  I replied, "Oh yes there was, President Rose."  He then said if I had seen him, it must have been there for me, as no one else had seen him.  Anyway, I know he was there and I can still remember his face, and he did help me while I was doing my talk."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stake Conference Reflections

And righteousness I will send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place, which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.  Moses 7:62
At the Saturday night meeting of Chorley Stake Conference, we were able to sit next to two investigators who plan to be baptized 4 June.  They are the most sincere and diligent investigators we've met.  The young Elders had us go with them to teach last week, and these two know the stories in the Book of Mormon already!  They answer the questions in depth, and one of them has almost finished read all of the standard works through.  One of the two has large tattoos on her arms.  She said this is the only church she has been where she feels comfortable like she isn't being judged.  Whew!  I was happy to hear that.  The members in England are very accepting due to the fact there are so many converts from all walks of life.
You can barely see the little baby duck on the right.  They've been so small, they haven't showed up in the pictures I've taken.  This pond is just outside the Chorley Stake meeting house and on the Preston Temple grounds by the Missionary Training Centre.
The focus for the evening session was getting all members (through love and service) to the temple to receive their ordinances therein and be able to be fully on the path to Eternal Life.  Two converts bore beautiful testimonies of their progressions and joy since joining the Church.  One was a previous atheist, who has now been to the temple with his wife and family.  He said temple ordinances give him hope he can be with his family forever.
Here I am with one of my friends from the Blackburn Ward and YSA.  She's a sweetheart.
 Another lesson learned from the Saturday session is, don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, along with the parable of the prodigal son.  If we have something good, we should be patient and be thankful for the blessings we now have and not seek to gain everything at once and squander it, leaving ourselves nothing in the end.  We can be grateful for our blessings as they come.  We can choose to be like the son who stayed with his father, worked hard, and increased his inheritance, or we may choose to be like the son who took all of his inheritance and squandered it in riotous living.  Should we leave the fold and wander from God, there is always hope, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, for we can repent and return.  The main point of this talk was forgiveness and love.  We are loved by our Heavenly Father and His Son in the heights of our righteousness or in the depth of our sins.
Other tidbits of inspiration gleaned from this talk:  Yes, there is a price to pay for sin, and some opportunities are lost; some things cannot be restored (like health destroyed by destructive substances and family relations torn apart), so we must guard against Satan taking little snips here and there that drive us away from God an inch at a time (as with ivy getting its grips in a wall and destroying it if not caught in time).  Watch for the chinks in our spiritual armor that protects us against Satan and repair them before it no longer protects us.  Father is watching over us and waiting for us to return to Him.
Pond at MTC
 The Stake President talked about wounds and healing and scars that we receive in life due to our own choices and sometimes our own stupidity or bad judgement.  The Atonement can heal our spiritual wounds.  He suggested we think about the five people we might meet in heaven (as from the book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom) and examine if we have done the right thing by those people.  Are we treating them well now and sharing the gospel of love with them?  If they have passed on, is their temple work done for them to have the opportunity to choose the gospel?  Is one of those persons a less-active member just waiting for you to stop by for a visit and invite him or her back to church?
Sunday, we were privileged to join a multi-stake conference with a live broadcast from Salt Lake City.  We were able to hear from leaders of the Church, including President Thomas S. Monson.  All of Europe is being challenged to double church attendance within the next ten years through activation work and member missionary work.  People are called to rise to a higher purpose and become more gospel centered.  Heavenly Father desires for his children to be refined in their testimonies and reach a point in their conversion where they have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2-Book of Mormon).

President Monson talked about the  "lost batallion" that was rescued during WW 1, and asked us if there are lost batallions we need to man the life boat and rescue.  He quoted from the song, :Shenendoa," which states, "If we don't try, then we don't do; if we don't do, then why are we here?  He warned that we will be held accountable for those we do not find and help.  We must show individuals their eternal possinbiliters and love our neighbor as ourself.

We must believe that people can change.  President Monson related a story about prison Warden Duffy who reformed San Quintin Federal Prison years ago.  Someone said to him, wishing to criticize the good treatment he was giving the prisoners,  "You know, a leopard can't change it's spots."  The warden replied, "You need to know I don't work with leopards, men can change."

We must develop the ability to see Christ in every person, because he saw and treated them with lose.  He asked, "Who is lost in the crowd of life?"  "Go find the lost sheep who are stranded at sea.  Man the lifeboats and rescue them!"
 That evening, we had a couple of members from Madrid, Spain, drop in to visit on Sunday night in our Young Single Adult group.  Apparently, there is a singles conference going on for those 30 and older.  Elder Blain actually knew someone from Spain that one of the sisters knew.  Small world, but then, Elder Blain has been all over the world and has lived in Spain.  I thought it is nice that members from other parts of the world can stop in at any church building and find friends.
Flags flying in front of the MTC

Blackburn Ward History--1950s--The Glory of God is Intelligence

A Corner of the Vineyard
by Denise Johannsen

The Glory of God is Intelligence

"We're gonna rock around the clock tonight, rock, rock, rock, till broad day light."  Yes, the fifties and rock and roll had arrived by storm.  It was to change the face of popular music forever.
 Numerous boys and girls, able excitedly into the parlour.  An air of anticipation is present as they position themselves crossed legged on the floor and wait.  Heads raised, all eyes intent on the square box in the corner of the room.  Television, the4 wonder of the age.  Not many people were fortunate to own a set, hence the little crowd of neighbourhood children that came to watch the faint figures on the screne.  Although it had been invented before the war, by a Scotsman called, John Logie Baird, it was not developed until the early fifties.
Most terraced houses still did not have bathrooms, but on the whole conditions had greatly improved, and many had electric lighting.

Work, too, was in abundance; you could literally walk out of one joy, walk a little way up the road to the next factory, and straight into another.

The saints in Blackburn were holding their own and running the affairs of the branch quite proficiently, as we see from the ledger that remains of 1954-1959.  Such a treasure.  What we would have learn't if the others had survived.

The saints were at this time meeting in a large house up Preston New Road, just past Corporation Park.  Now, in Sister Dobson's own words, we get a small insight into the branch at the time she joined, and her first impressions (in the following):

"The services were held in a house, and the chapel it'self was just a sitting room, with a big coal fire, as it was the middle of winter.  On the mantle piece was a little log cabin on one side, and a caravan on the other. The end of the room facing was a platform with a banner over the top saying, "The Glory of God is Intelligence."  

I kept staring at the banner and couldn't understand what it mean't.  But was soon to learn, when I was given a Bible and Book of Mormon to study and learn.  It was a hard period in my life, when I look back.  I worked full time and was called to do many things, such as teaching children, teaching in Relief Society, and 1st councilor, speaking in church, visiting teaching--there was so much to do and so few of us.  The President made sure that we all had offices to hold.

When I look back, I saw little of my husband.  He worked nights and I worked days.  All my spare time was taken up at church.  He died at age 54 years.  I felt so sad at giving all my life to my church, as I had seen very little of him at that period of my life.  I felt the Lord was testing me, but I carried on with my church work.  

At this time, all the other branches and wards in Lancashire were bonded together.  We were all going to each other's branch or ward, having jumble sales, sales of work, dances, and all our activities were with each other.  They all seemed to hold their meetings in rooms, but there was a far closer bod then than there is now.  As the Church has grown now to such an extent, that this is sadly not possible any more.  We also used to sell potatoe pie for 6d a plate, and the money we made at these events was spend on cards and flowers, etc.  These things we took with us when we went visiting the sick or the poor.

When I was baptized, I was just recovering from a heart attack and rheumatic fever. I was taken to Burnley Chapel; it was freezing hard you couldn't see out of the train window for ice.  When we arrived, the water was frozen.  It was a little old building.  They had taken up the floor boards in the middle of the chapel floor.  There was this hole in the ground and they carried buckets of ice cold water from the kitchen.

I thought I would die when they put me in it.  There was no time to dry ourselves because the train was due for our journey home.  I was rushed out with my hair soaking wet.  I could never forget, and the road was all iced up.  I just thought, after my serious illness, I would not survive, but I did.

There were many happy times to be had.  Going to the Gold and Green Ball, and when we all went to see the Prophet Spencer W,. Kimball, at King Georges Hall, Blackburn, in 1975.  Again, when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir came to Manchester.  It was lovely being with friends with all the other church members.  When I look back through it all, I have met such wonderful brothers and sister through the Church.  I am an old lady who can live on her memories and thank my Heavenly Father for all the blessings I have received since the days two young men knocked on my door and brought me a message.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Accrington ward joined forces with Blackburn to strengthen the branch during this time period.  They were needed to support the existing members, to help cultivate this very special spot of the Lord's vineyard.  When you read the account of the 1980s, you will find that they were called upon yet again by Heavenly Father and the Savior to serve in Blackburn.  For their obedience, they were rewarded greatly, in 1992, to become a ward of their own.  The members worked diligently, they were patient and long suffering.  Although few labourers, they pulled together and kept the branch open.  With tender loving care, they looked after the precious olive tree.  It was growing stronger and stronger, with the branches ever reaching upwards towards their goal.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blackburn Ward History--1939-1945-The Saints at War

A Corner of the Vineyard
By Denise Johannsen

The Saints at War 

The time was around 6 p.m., the day, September 15, 1939.  Families sat around the wireless, waiting apprehensively for the statement which was promised the night before by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Nevil Chamberlain.  Suddenly his voice came through the air waves!  He spoke slowly and solemnly, proceeding to inform the listeners that Great Britain was now at war with Germany.  An overwhelming feeling of fear and gloom entered the hearts of the population as they tried to digest what they had just heard.  Mothers and wives, sensing the inevitable that their men folk would have to leave for foreign, and now hostile, shores, to fight a battle for human rights and freedom.  Some they knew would never return.
 The war brought full time employment, with factories working day and night to meet the demand.  Many more women came into industry, as the men went off to fight.  The skilled men were not allowed to join the forces, because they could not be spared.  Their expertise was needed at home.  Blackburn mills were producing parachutes, uniforms, medical supplies, ie. bandages, etc.  The foundries were making parts for aeroplanes.  The Royal Ordinance Factory at Guide, were making ammunition.  In fact, they still do up until this present moment in time.  Then there was the Women's Land Army.  These spirited, gutsy, young women went to help on the farms, as obviously they were short of manpower too.

There was money to spend, but alas very little to spend it on.  They were at last in the position to buy a few luxury food items, but fate had dealt them another blow.  Owing to the sinking of supply ships by the Germans, there was a shortage of food.  So everything was on ration; you were allowed, for instance, 2 oz. of butter per person per week.  They simply just could not win. 

Five gruelling years of World War II followed.  There was great relief, and much rejoicing on E. E. day (victory in Europe day) May 8, 1845, when the armistice was signed and the war was officially over.  Now they could work towards a brighter future.  Hundreds and thousands of men had been killed in the war, which inequitably left the country short of manpower.  The government had the brilliant idea of encourage men and women, mainly from war torn Italy, to work in the factories.  Enticed by the promise of free passage, good wages, (they were paid, in general, more than the average British worker), plus three years tax free.  Needless to say, they left their homelands in the thousands, hoping, and receiving a better life.

 Huge council estates were under construction.   Blackburn had not suffered much devastation through the bombing, unlike some cities such as London, Birmingham, and Coventry.  Nevertheless, they had numerous housing schemes in the pipe line, promising electricity, bathrooms and garden.  Most terraced houses still did not have these facilities, but by the end of the forties, almost every home had electricity.
Typical terraced houses in 1940s-1950s--and now ( :
At the outbreak of the war, the missionaries serving in Blackburn, British Isles, and Europe, were called home.  Many were to return as servicemen, so the saints were left alone.  They must have felt a little vulnerable without the physical support of their brothers and sisters in Utah, even though their prayers must have been a comfort to them.  Although, standing firmly, united in their faith, and in their purpose, with the rest of the saints in the area, they continued to hold conference, conducing their affairs as best they could.  There were very few members still.  

1947, by now the missionaries returned, also young men who had fought for their country. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mormon Missionaries : An Introduction

Temple Day for a Future Sister Missionary

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lore, with uplifted hands unto the Most High.  Doctrine and Covenants 88:119-120
Picture I got just inside the doors of the foyer at the Preston Temple
 A few days ago, a beautiful, pure, and faithful young woman (from Blackburn Ward) went to the temple in preparation to enter the Missionary Training Center on 3 June.  She comes from a family where the father and mother are not members of the Church.  Her family does not understand why she is going on a mission and have tried to discourage her from going.  She remains strong in her determination because of the love she has for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  She wants to share the gospel and bring happiness into the lives of those who seek truth.  She is naturally nervous about what lies ahead, but her faith takes her forward.  She will be blessed beyond her wildest dreams.

One other thing I might add is, this sister is not disappointed she didn't get sent somewhere exotic or to another country.  She is going to a mission that is about a two hour drive from her home.  Many missionaries now serve in their own countries.  They know it doesn't matter where a person serves.  Jesus Christ served his mission in his home area.  It is good enough to be a missionary wherever souls can be found--that means members of the Church of any age can be missionaries and share the gospel with friends and neighbors!

A happy missionary--her smile and sparkling eyes should help her get lots of teaching appointments.
She's ready to go!
Some lovely sisters from the Blackburn Ward there to support on this wonderful day.

It's a really windy day, hence my hairdo.  England may be a breezy & rainy place, but nothing can stop the work of the Lord!

An evening view with Elder Blain and sisters outside the temple

Blackburn Ward History--1933-Blessed by a Future Prophet

A Corner of the Vineyard
by Denise Johannsen

Blessed By a Future Prophet

Numerous pairs of feet shuffling restlessly; men and women quietly exchanging polite conversation with each other--a sea of troubled faces [with] eyes that are heavy and void of all expression.  It's as if the very light of dreams and aspirations had been snuffed cruelly from them.  Hundreds of hungry mouths, with pursed lips and jaws set into frowns of deep despair.  Line upon line of sullen drab figures seeming to form endless rows, stretching from the factory gates and flowing on into the nearby street; all they would be amongst the fortunate few to be hired that morning.  Finally the great gates creak open.  All eyes are fixed on the little sallow faced man who stands now in their midst.  Anxious bodies surge forward, with waving hands and bated breath, they hope against hope.  The hours of waiting over in an instant.  "You, you, and you over there," the little man points as he speaks.  The gates close once more, with hopes dashed, heads hung low, and shoulders hunched in despair, they move slowly away and disperse into the day, many of them off to form another queue, a queue of utter desperation--the dole queue.

The year is 1933.  Britain is in the grip of the Great Depression.  None harder hit than the inhabitants of Blackburn.  No line of business escaped unscathed, except for the undertakes who were enjoying a little boom due to numerous suicides owing to empires crumbling, and huge fortunes being lost almost over night.  Mill owners, finding themselves with fewer customers and failing profits, decided to leave, taking with them their cotton looms and a few of their most experienced weavers and spinners.  Like rats leaving a sinking ship, they headed for Shanghai.   Upon arrival, they found to their delight that the natives were eagre to work for virtually nothing.  That, coupled with cheap land, cheap fuel, etc., boosted their profits and kept them in business.  The irony of it was that this helped drive yet another nail into the massive coffin (describing at this time the Western economy).  Meanwhile, back in Blackburn, factories were closing week by week.  Nothing seemed to be able to stem the tide of disaster that was squeezing the very life force out of the town.
 Poverty held these wretched souls once more in it's merciless claws.  For some, all hope was gone, and finding themselves homeless and destitute, had no alternative but to submit their lives, together with their families, to the taskmaster and the dreaded workhouse.  The workhouse . . . the name alone was enough to send shivers down any spine.  A large, dismal Victorian building [with] huge blocks of sandstone which had been chiseled out of the mountain side.  [It was] situated high above the town, looming inauspiciously; warning all who dwelt below that this too could be their end.

Others subjecting themselves to the degradation of the Means Test.  To qualify for the grand total of 23 BPS a week dole money.  Those who applied had to succumb to an invasion of privacy and humiliation.  A member of the above mentioned department would come into the home and literally go through every cupboard making a note of all the possessions.  If the people had any items of worth, they could not qualify for payment.  The same applied if you had any amount of savings or even food.  No matter how minuscule the aforementioned,  you were not accepted.
Men and women who were travelling from town to town seeking employment could find a bowl of soup and shelter for the night at the soup kitchen.  These charity run hostels provided sparse accommodation and the amenities were basic.  Nevertheless, they found welcome refuge from the chill of the night air.  In return for this succour they were expected to work for a day in the quarry.
Dole line in Britian in 1930s
Housing conditions had not improved since the 1920s.  Terraced houses still did not have bathrooms.  The building trade had virtually come to a standstill .  Some people now owned gas cookers, and electric, if they were sufficiently affluent.  Needless to say, that meant most of the citizens of Blackburn still cooked on an open range, read by gaslight, and took their weekly soak in the tin bath by the fire.  The ranges and boilers [were] built into the side of the fireplace, so until they had a roaring fire, they had no hot water.  As the coal was rationed to three bags a fortnight, there was precious little of this luxurious commodity.  A substitute for coal could be purchased called briquettes, which comprised of coal dust, and cement dust formed into bricks which were designed to burn slowly.  Unfortunately, it was of very little use because it gave off hardly any heat.

 Yet, as usual, true to the character of the northern man and woman, Blackburn folk found time to smile.  They forgot for a brief moment the problems that surrounded them as they indulged themselves in the fantasy world of their heroes and heroins of the silver screen.  Amongst other forms of amusement were dancing and the 6d theatre.
"Scarface" (movie of the 1930s)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was still holding its own in Blackburn.  Although still a small branch, the members were united in their quest of building Zion in this part of the Lord's vineyard.  Despite the depression and the fall of the Wall Street stock exchange, the saints continued to emigrate in large numbers.  Blackburn saints were no exception in the desire to head for Utah, to be amongst the majority of Mormons, instead of the minority, as was the case in England, and even more so in their native town of Blackburn.  Those valiant souls who were left behind, laboured tirelessly to keep the branch open, continuing, as had their predecessors before them, to cultivate, nourish, and strengthen.

It was July of this same year (1933) that divine inspiration sent a young missionary from Utah to our shores.  How our Heavenly Father must love and respect his sons and daughter in England, for he sent yet another future prophet to gain part of his schooling for the great calling he would one day undertake.  He was to touch the hearts and bless many members in Blackburn--some who speak of him still today with love and admiration; also, of the impact he made whilst still a young man.  One of these members, Dorothy Shorrock, who at the time was just a little girl, recalls affectionately how this great man used to sit her on his knee.  So who better to describe the spirituaity of the Blackburn saints at this time than our present Prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley.  Yes, he was that young missionary of 1933.

The following was taken from a letter written to Sister Denise Johanssen, February 10th, 1995
by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
 My first visit to Blackburn was in July 1933.  I arrived in England a few days before that after      crossing the ocean on the ship S.S. Manhattan.  The first assignment of my mission was to Preston.  Preston was then the headquarters of the Liverpool District of the mission.

I arrived in Preston as the junior companion to Elder Kent S. Bramwell.  At that time the missionaries went on circuit, as it was called, that is, we visited the Sacrament Meetings and spoke in the various branches that comprised of the Liverpool District.  These included branches in Preston, Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley, Nelson, Wigan, Liverpool, and a branch across the Mersey River, the name of which escapes me at the moment.  These are the branches as I remember.

My first assignment, the Sunday following my arrival in Preston, was to the Blackburn Branch.  I was a total stranger to the area and the people.  I took the bus from Preston to Blackburn and found my way to the branch hall.  It was an upstairs room which was rented on Sunday.  It was not an attractive room.  I suppose it was the best the Elders could find.

The branch president, as I recall, was a Brother Dawson.  I do not recall his first name.  I remember him as a little man with black hair, dark, piercing eyes, and a black moustache.  He was a very earnest and sincere man who presided over a small congregation of Latter-Day Saints.

 This was 1933 in the bottom of the Great Depression.  Lancashire was terribly hard hit during the Depression.  Many of the cotton mills had been closed.  Very many of the people were on the dole.  Some who had been proud of their independence, had been subjected to the means test, which was a humiliating experience.  This was necessary to get on the dole.

Many were near the edge of poverty, and they looked it.  Their clothes were worn and they knew much discouragement, but they were faithful and true, these wonderful men, and women, and children who were converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I have no remembrance of what I may have said in my talk on the occasion, but I do have remembrance of that small congregation, and that remembrance was fortified as I had occasion to return to Blackburn a few times during the following months before I was transferred to London.  I served both in Blackburn and Nelson, but never resided in Blackburn.  My strongest impression is the strength of the people.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Church History in England Tour!!

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.  Ephesians 1:10
First of all, before I get into the historic site visit, I have to announce that our mission president, Sister B. (mission president's wife), and Elder Blain were the last ones standing with a young missionary in a game of lightening on the sports day held recently.  Though the younger Elder finally won, it says something for our senior missionaries, huh?  Unfortunately, I was ill that day and couldn't be there to take pictures.  The tour opportunity kind of made up for me missing the sports day fun.
 We were invited by the England Missionary Training Centre (MTC) to join all the missionaries in a tour of the historical sites of the Church.  We thought we'd better take the chance now, since we've been here almost 16 months and have never had the opportunity to see any of it.  Not only that, we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have the President of the MTC, and his wife (who happens to be President Hinckley's daughter) as our tour guides.  For those of you who do not know, President Hinckley, was our previous beloved prophet for more than 12 years until he died at 97, being actively engaged in the Lord's work all of his life to the very end.  Being able to hear his own daughter relate things he said about his mission here in England was a blessing.  We walked where he and the earlier first missionaries walked and saw the things they saw.  It was a moving and spiritual journey.

At the end of the tour, we were given a bookmark that had the famous quote that has gotten me through the two missions we have served, "Forget yourself and go to work."  President Gordon B. Hinckley was shy and it was a big challenge to get thrown right into preaching on the streets when he arrived alone in England (he was terrified, just like I felt when first arriving on these missions).  He wasn't having much luck getting anyone interested in the gospel.  He became despondent and, 'After he had taken as much as he felt he could, Elder Hinckley wrote his father and that he wasn't getting anywhere with missionary work, and that he couldn't see the point in wasting his time and his father's money.'  (Gordon B Hinckley, Man of Faith, Sheri L. Dew, p. 64).  That was when his father wrote the short letter that President Hinckley has often shared with others: 'Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter.  I only have one suggestion:  forget yourself and go to work.'

President Hinckley went to his room with letter in hand, got on his knees, and poured his heart out to the Lord.  He promised to try to forget himself, and lose himself in the Lrods' 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.  Everything good that has happened to me since then I can trace back to that decision I made that day in Preston.'
When I was struggling with anxiety in our first mission, a Zone Leader advised me to do just what this bookmark says.  It helped me overcome my fear of having to get up and do things in front of others without prior notice (which happens to missionaries quite often).  I will probably never be comfortable in front of people or in crowds, but this phrase is stuck in my mind forever, and so I cannot whine about it or feel sorry for myself, I just have to get past focusing on me and do the work!

Elder Blain is waiting and prepared for the day.  The Elder next to him asked where he was from.  They got to talking and found out that the Elder's grandfather was a good friend of Elder Blain's when they were children!  Small world.

In the front of this group are President Walker and his wife, Sister Walker (President Hinckley's daughter).

Nice coach to travel in
Comfy and colorful inside
President Walker told us this was "The Cock Pit" where they once had cock fights and it got turned into a Temperance Hall where a relative of his went for a meeting and met Mormons, later converting to the faith.  This is in downtown Preston.
A church near The Cock Pit.  It was one I took pictures of when we were in Preston, but I didn't know how close we were to historical stuff then.
This is the Obelisk that was in the Market Square in July of 1837, when the first missionaries arrived in England.  A local election banner proclaimed, "Truth Will Prevail."  This became the motto for their mission.
This was on the sign for the Temperance Society also, so I assumed it was some sort of Preston City logo.  Further research revealed that represents a Latin phrase--Agnus Dei, Lamb of God.  It is the Preston coat of arms or standard.  The 'PP' stands for Princeps Pacis, or Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God, Jesus.  It may also stand for 'Proud Preston' to some.  Since it is an old symbol, used back as far as recorded in Preston (1376), I would guess it started out as Princeps Pacis, due to the symbolic religiosity of that period.

This store was here on Market Square in 1837
The to upstairs room is where Elder Kimball was attempting to give a blessing to Elder Russell when forces from an unseen world made a terrifying appearance.
The rooms on the right are the rooms in which the first missionaries boarded.
Going into Avenham Park near the River Ribble where the first baptisms took place.
A friendly welcome as we went into the park.
Tiny frog we tried to convert.  He didn't want anything to do with us.
Looking down into the garden.  A plaque in the garden says:  "This areas (by the River Ribble) has become important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly know as Mormons.  Mormons are a branch of the Christian Church which began in around 1820 (incorrect information).  The first British and European baptisms took place in the River Ribble on 30th July 1837 and Preston remains the home of the oldest continuous branch of the Church anywhere in the world. 

A few tree were planted in this park in remembrance of the early English saints
Read what this plaque says below

The oak on the left is the Missionary Oak
The gold plaque behind Elder Blain reads:  The Missionary Oak.  Between 1837 and1897 over 20,000 "Mormon" missionaries labored in the British Isles in the service of their fellow beings.  This oak tree has been provided by the young men and young women of the Leeds Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to Honour the faithful LDS missionaries - past, present & future.
A nice walk over to the River Ribble baptismal site
River Ribble

On Sunday, 30th July, the first baptisms were performed.  The old bridge that was here at the time is gone and replaced with this one.  Two of the men to be baptized raced one another to be the first.  The novelty of this open-air baptism to be performed by American missionaries drew a crowd of seven to nine thousand from those enjoying the relaxation of Avenham Park.  George D. Watt was the first to be baptized.  He later became secretary to President Brigham Young and recorded much of the Journal of Discourses.
Where the dark shadow falls is the calmer water is most likely where the first baptisms took place.

It was really windy and a bit cold today with the baptismal site just over my shoulder on the right side of this picture.  Elder Blain was carrying a Book of Mormon in case there was a prompting to share it with someone.
Another view of the first baptismal spot
MTC missionaries posing over the River Ribble
I bet this tree was there at the baptisms

Sister Walker telling us about President Hinckley's experience here where he stayed as a missionary.  The room above was where he went to pray after he got the letter from his father.
There's Elder Blain, again with The Book of Mormon, looking a tiny bit like President Hinckley (people often tell him he reminds them of him and Primary children used to kiss and hug him, thinking he was the Prophet).
15, Wadham Road, Preston, England--made famous
A purple door for those who love that color.  One of the homes in Downham, a beautiful village in the Ribble Valley.  The local church here has existed for over 700 years.
This was one of the largest sheep I've seen (and not one of the lost sheep we are always looking for as missionaries).  It had intelligent, golden eyes that didn't show too well in the photo.
Elder Blain is walking were Elder Heber C. Kimball and Joseph Fielding walked.  Elder Kimball, while teaching with the other Elders in the Ribble Valley, was prompted by the Spirit to go to the two small villages of Downham and Chatburn.  The other missionaries tried to dissuade him, telling him they had heard there was no prospect for success due to the rumors they'd heard about the people being non-religious.  Instead, the people welcomed them with hungry hearts for the gospel message and the most amazing spiritual experiences occurred as hundreds of people were baptized.  Joseph Smith later said that the place was "holy ground";  that some of the ancient prophets had traveled in that region and dedicated the land, and that he, Heber, had reaped the benefit of their blessing.
The top of the manor where Lord and Lady Clitheroe live in Downham (which they basically own).
Overlooking the countryside.  All utilities in the village of Downham are underground, so everything can stay the way it was for hundreds of years.
The stream that feeds into a little known baptismal site that was discovered in 2006 in Chatburn.
Chatburn baptismal site and the missionaries.  We had a lovely testimony meeting with them on these banks.
Old building
Men's toilets used to be the stalls or pens for animals.
The Elder whose grandfather was Elder Blain's playmate when he was a young boy in Spring City, Utah.
Taking photos of the missionaries who leave the MTC next week.
The fountain at the baptism site
The wonderful trip is over as we get off the bus.  Elder Blain is getting the information to contact his old friend.