Gadfield Elm Chapel | Following Wilford Woodruff's Steps in England

Videographer: James Dalrymple

Speakers: Peter Fagg, Bernard Haw, Wayne Gardner

Producer: Smith Family Foundation



This is the oldest Latter-day Saint chapel in the world. I know it's an old building, but it's very precious to us here in Worcestershire and Herefordshire. 

I'm standing here outside of the Gadfield Elm Chapel. This was one of the chapels of the United Brethren. Gadfield Elm Chapel was built in 1836 by a group of people called the United Brethren. They were a group of people that split off from the Methodists and formed their own group. And they were looking for the truth. They recognized that where they'd come from didn't have it.

So when Wilford Woodruff came here in the spring of 1840, they just, wow, grasped it. The United Brethren were a group that were looking for truth and light. And Thomas Kingston always said that he looked on the old church when Jesus was alive that had apostles and prophets. And as members, we often quote the scripture, “The field is white, all ready to harvest.”

And what a harvest they got in these surrounding villages and towns. When Wilford Woodruff arrived after two days, he baptized John and Jane Benbow and four others. After five days, we get 32 members. After four months, there's about 534 members. And by the end of eight months, almost around 1800 members, just this great conversion story, literally hundreds.

So you can just imagine there's this great excitement about this restored gospel that you brought over from the states. But sometimes we tend to forget when we see a white field that somebody had to till the ground. Somebody had to plant the seed. Somebody had to nurture it. So we're going to follow in their footsteps and see how these forerunners prepared the way for Wilford Woodruff so that when he arrived here, there really was a field.

Well, white and ready to harvest. So let's jump and step into the gate for the old chapel and see where that all began when Wilford Woodruff arrived in the area. He basically converted nearly all of the United Brethren. And in June of 1840, they had a meeting here and disbanded the United Brethren. And this building was handed over to the church.

Well, this is the Gadfield Elm chapel. And, you know, people of faith around the world, we manifest our faith sometimes in the buildings we use. Our temples, our synagogues, our chapels. And I love the simplicity of this small little chapel that could seat about 100. So this was their first purpose-built chapel. So, you know, it was almost like a Kirtland temple for those early saints.

And people gathered from the surrounding farms and communities to worship in this place. So delightful spot could seat about 100 people. And you can just imagine the likes of a Thomas Kington or John Benbow standing here and sharing their thoughts. Confidence was important to the church because it is the focal point of Wilford with this mission. It's just such a lasting memorial to so many pioneers that were prepared to leave there, their homeland, their families, just to put their faith in the Lord and to go and help build up Zion where it was desperately needed.

When Wilford Woodruff tried to summarize what was happening, not just hearing God for them, but for miles around, he wrote this just to say, you know, why have we had this unusual success? And he summarized it thus. He says, “The whole history of this Herefordshire mission shows the importance of listening to the still small voice of the Spirit of God and the revelations of the Holy Ghost. The people were praying for light and truth, and the Lord sent me to them. I declared the gospel of life and salvation and some 1800 souls received it, and many have been gathered.”

So the success that we've reported around here was incredible. What happened in the hearts and souls? This group of United Brethren and the people then they introduced the restored gospel is just a miracle.

Wilford Woodruff, for us, was our kind of hero missionary in the area. His message was just as plain, plain true to the gospel.

So thank you for joining us here at Gadfield Elm Chapel, but also all the historical sites that made the United Brethren such a wonderful missionary success story for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.