The religious fervor of The Great Awakening was a catalyst to massive emigration from Europe to America. One of those religions to spread on the North American continent all the way across the pond was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons, led by Joseph Smith, Jr., whom the Mormons believed to be a prophet from God.
Despite bitter persecution, the Latter-day Saints pressed forward, proselyting to every person who would lend a listening ear to the message of The Book of Mormon, which was called another Testament of Jesus Christ, and was said to contain the fulness of the Restored Gospel. Upon the untimely death of Smith, who was murdered by an angry mob at Carthage Jail near the Latter-day Saint-populated city of Nauvoo, Illinois, his predecessors moved forward with prophetic succession and were determined to carry out Smith’s vision of the building up of Zion in the West.
One of those predecessors was Dan Jones, a Welshman and a convert to the Mormon faith. Jones was an immigrant living in Missouri in the early 1840s, and had become a steamboat captain (Enders 321), which placed him right in the area where much controversy surrounding the people known as “the Mormons” moved about from place to place, fleeing persecution. Jones’ curiosity ultimately led to his conversion, and he soon became acquainted with Smith. In fact, he became one of his most devoted followers, and was at his side before his martyrdom (Christensen 4-15).
MISSION TO WALES
The night before Smith’s death, while in Carthage jail, Smith alluded to knowing of his impending ill fate. With hushed voices, Smith asked Jones if he was afraid of dying. Jones said that he was not. Smith then pronounced his last prophecy upon the head of Jones: “You will yet see Wales, and fulfill the mission appointed you before you die.” (Smith 6:601).
After little missionary success in North Wales, missionaries began to proselyte in South Wales, paving the way for widespread conversion in the years to come. In 1845, Jones was asked to preside over the Welsh Saints in Merthyr Tydfil, an industrial hub of Glamorgan, South Wales. Jones published a monthly periodical called Prophwyd y Jubili (Prophet of the Jubilee), which was written in Welsh and was widely circulated (Dennis 1-2).
For the next several decades, the newly-baptized converts of Wales and the British Isles would emigrate from Liverpool, England to various ports in the United States by ship. The first wave of Welsh Mormon immigrants began to arrive in the late 1840s and continued for a number of years, fulfilling the desires of many Welsh saints expressed with the phrase, “Pa bryn y cawn fyned i Seion”, which translated to English is “When may we go to Zion?” (Center for Family History and Genealogy).
Christensen, R. L. “The Life and Contributions of Captain Dan Jones” (1977). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations, Paper 847. Merrill-Cazier Library, Utah State University, Salt Lake City, Utah. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1843&context=etd Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.
Dennis, Ronald D. The Call of Zion: The Story of the First Welsh Mormon Emigration. Vol. 2, Religious Studies Center Specialized Monograph Series, Religious Studies Center, Provo, Utah, 1987.
Enders, D.L. BYU Studies, Spring 1979, pp. 321-35. byustudies.byu.edu/content/steamboat-maid-iowa-mormon-mistress-mississippi. Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.
Smith, Joseph. History of the Church, vol. 6 pg. 601, 26 June 1844. https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/volume-6-chapter-32 Accessed 12 Apr. 2017.
Welsh Mormon History, Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University, 2012-2017. http://welshmormon.byu.edu/About.aspx Accessed 12 Apr. 2017.