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Watch: New Video exploring Wilford Woodruff’s Mission to England

Post contributed by Scripture Central
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May 11, 2023
Video thumbnail for YouTube video about Wilford Woodruff's mission.
Video thumbnail for YouTube video about Wilford Woodruff's mission.



In 1838, a revelation given to Joseph Smith (Doctrine & Covenants 118) called the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on a mission to the British Isles. This revelation came shortly after Apostle Heber C. Kimball returned from a successful first mission to Great Britain the year before. Among the Apostles traveling to England were Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, and others from the original quorum called in 1835.

Also among the missionaries were John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, two brand new apostles called in the revelation. John Taylor was returning to the home of his youth, while Wilford Woodruff was traveling to a completely new country. These apostles embarked from the boundaries of the American frontier to the heart of the most powerful empire in the history of the world to that time. In the British Isles they would encounter some of the richest and most powerful people in the world. They would also find a poor and humble people prepared for the coming of the Restored Gospel.

The Church would never be the same after the Mission of the Twelve to Great Britain. Thousands of British subjects joined the Church adding their unique and beautiful culture to the Church. The Twelve would encounter opposition at every turn, but also see the hand of God as they were led to a people ready to hear the liberating cry of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. The outcomes of this mission still reverberate in the Church today, almost two centuries later.

Wilford Woodruff Papers

To learn more about the life and history of Wilford Woodruff, explore the resources at the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation.

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Further Reading


Allen, James B., and Malcolm R. Thorp. "The Mission of the Twelve to England, 1840–41: Mormon Apostles and the Working Classes." BYU Studies Quarterly 15, no. 4 (1975): 499-526.       


Though the mission of the Twelve to England ended in 1841, the harvest would continue for years to come. In a period when Britain was experiencing chronic economic and social difficulties, the Mormon apostles and their co-workers presented an attractive alternative for many working-class Englishmen. More appealing to them … was the gospel message of a millennial world government headed by Jesus Christ. Poverty and hardship could be set aside for the hope of building God’s true Zion in the New World. The gospel principles preached by the representatives of Zion were readily believable for they were mostly familiar, and they satisfied an inner longing among some members of the working classes that they seemed unable to find in previous wandering from sect to sect. This, as much if not more than the uniqueness of Mormon doctrine, would seem to account for the impressive missionary success in 1840–41.

England, Eugene. "A Modern Act of the Apostles, 1840: Mormon Literature in the Making." BYU Studies Quarterly 27, no. 2 (1987): 79-95.

“Some of the most appreciated parts of the Bible have been the acts and letters of the Apostles, which give us the crucial story, movingly expressed, of the remarkable adventures and teachings of those who established the foundations of Christianity and thus profoundly influenced the ideas, the feelings—the lives—of a large portion of the people on earth who lived after them.

In 1839–40, eight modern Apostles, claiming the same authority and purpose as Peter, Paul, James, and John, embarked on a mission to carry the restored gospel of Jesus Christ across the sea to the most advanced and powerful nation in the Western world—much as the ancient Apostles had done in their journeys to Greece and Rome. And the modern Apostles, like the ancient, gave sermons and wrote diaries and letters. In other words, they produced literature. I believe that literature will eventually stand as a modern Acts of the Apostles—a valued part of Mormon literature that will be increasingly valuable to the world.”

Heaton, Tim B., Stan L. Albrecht, and J. Randal Johnson. "The Making of British Saints in Historical Perspective." BYU Studies Quarterly 27, no. 2 (1987): 119-135.

“On 19 July 1837, Heber C. Kimball and his companions arrived in Liverpool to establish the British Mission. The personal and institutional costs of this mission were monumental. Separation from loved ones, illness, and poverty seemed the common lot for the missionaries. Staffing the mission took many of the most influential leaders at a time when the Church was struggling against financial crisis and the threat of internal disintegration in the United States. Subsequent events, however, proved the benefits were well worth the efforts devoted to the British Mission.”

Walker, Ronald W.. "Cradling Mormonism: The Rise of the Gospel in Early Victorian England." BYU Studies Quarterly 27, no. 1 (1987): 25-36.

“Why had Victoria’s subjects found this imported religion from America so compelling? The answer lay partly with the cradling social conditions of the time. Too, the reason for Latter-day Saint success was the result of the qualities of the religion itself. ‘Mormonism’ as it was first preached in Great Britain was a youthful and vibrant faith that spoke in the British industrial and preindustrial vernacular. Its message fit perfectly (some would say providentially) with the social and religious upheaval of the time.”


Whitney, Orson F.. Life of Heber C. Kimball, An Apostle; The Father and Founder of the British Mission. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888.

A powerful biography written by one of Heber C. Kimball’s grandsons – later to be an apostle himself – Elder Orson F. Whitney. Chapters 39 (XXXIX) through 45 (XLV) are especially important, recounting some of the events of the Second British Mission.

Firsthand Letters

Allen, James B.. "To the Saints in England: Impressions of a Mormon Immigrant." BYU Studies Quarterly 18, no. 3 (1978): 475-480.

“The reader will find several items of interest and importance in this tender yet powerful letter: the deep feelings Clayton had for the Saints in England, which was probably typical of the Latter-day Saint spirit of the times; comments on the hardships of the journey; the determined faith of the Saints; brief comments on the new country and words of advice to prospective emigrants. But perhaps as important as anything else to the Saints in England were Clayton's comments on Joseph Smith, the prophet, whom they had never seen and yet whose words had brought them to a dramatic turning point in their lives. Clayton's immediate attachment to the American prophet and his powerful conviction of the divinity of Joseph Smith's mission is an important central theme in this letter to his friends in Manchester, England.”

Walker, Ronald W.. "The Willard Richards and Brigham Young 5 September 1840 Letter from England to Nauvoo." BYU Studies Quarterly 18, no. 3 (1978): 466-475.

“A visitor strolling down a Salt Lake City street in 1870 would have heard a clipped British accent almost as frequently as a flattened Yankee drawl, as a third of the people in Salt Lake County in that year were British-born. Why had the English ground proven so fertile for the Latter-day Saints? An 1840 letter written by two prominent Latter-day Saint apostle/missionaries provides partial answers.”


Hall, Randall L.. "Gadfield Elm Chapel." BYU Studies Quarterly 27, no. 2 (1987): 12.


A short poem about the chapel at Gadfield Elm, the first meetinghouse owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Great Britain.

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