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Why Liverpool is so big in Mormon history books; City played major part in Church's pioneering mission.

Byline: GARY STEWART

IT'S been a big month for Merseyside's Mormons.

April has seen members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) celebrate Jesus's birthday (it's on the 6th), welcome famous church member Jimmy Osmond to the Empire, and mark the 179th anniversary of their founding.

Today, the Liverpool Daily Post reveals how deep their roots run in the city and why Merseyside is more Mormon than Salt Lake City.

It was in July, 1837, that the first Mormon missionaries (Mormon is actually a nickname not used by church members) came to Liverpool aboard the merchant vessel, The Garrick.

The ship broke the record for a trans- Atlantic crossing with a journey time of 18 days and 18 hours (and won a $10,000 bet doing so, though you can bet the missionaries didn't get involved in that).

Just seven years earlier, their Prophet, Joseph Smith Jnr, had set up the Mormon church in America, having revealed that he had been visited by God and Jesus, and an American angel called Moroni.

He said he had been led to a set of gold plates and from them translated The Book of Mormon, a secret history of a Jewish family which left Jerusalem around 600BC and went to America, becoming Christians.

It would become the LDS's third testament. Back in 1837, the missionaries, led by Heber C Kimball, disembarked in Liverpool, just then becoming one of the dominant ports in the world, seven men who went on to conver t 2,000 people in the next eight months, and more than 42,000 by 1850.

They set up branches of the church in Preston and the Ribble Valley, and baptised their first European converts in the River Ribble, near Preston.

But, by 1846,their Prophet Joseph Smith was dead, martyred by a Mississippi mob after he shut down a newspaper which accused him of having multiple wives, and the Mormons headed west.

Between 1840 and 1870, for ty-two thousand church members emigrated to North America, many through Liverpool. Today, there are more than 2,000 church members in Merseyside..

As local church leader David J Hoare says: "Liverpool is very big in the church's history.

"The church's first UK headquarters were at number 42Islington. And it was there that the church magazine, The Ensign, was first published in the 1850s.

"Our first European headquarters were on Edge Lane, where the Devonshire House hotel is today, and our longest established branch is in Preston, not America, as the Church in America was still being persecuted and moved on at the time." Mr Hoare, whose father was a docker and who works at Charente Ltd, the for mer owners of the Harrison shipping line, is as Scouse as they come. Not the typical image of a Mormon as an American in a suit.

He said: "If you mention you come from Liverpool to a church member from America, they are impressed. They'll mention the first missionaries. And then the Beatles next!" A more recent "missionary" to Liverpool is Marcus Bailey.

He is a recent signing for Everton Tigers basketball team from Wyoming, USA, and a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints who helped the Tigers storm to a record BBL Cup win in January.

After damaging his knee playing college basketball, and thinking his career was over, he served a mission for the church in Hamburg in 2005.

He said: "It was the best thing I could have done.

"Through a British friend of mine, I was finally given the opportunity to play professional basketball for the Everton Tigers.

" It has been a fantastic experience so far. Had I not served a mission I don't think it would ever have been possible." TO LEARN more about The Church of the Latter Day Saints, visit mormon.org

CAPTION(S):

The Liverpool Stake Presidency David Hoare, centre, with councillors Ian Mackie, left, and Craig Oliver Four generations of the Oliver family, from Merseyside, outside the church Heber C Kimball
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 28, 2009
Words:669
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