What a remarkable day we had today. We began, of course, by meeting at the Liverpool Stake Centre to load the bus and bid our hosts a fond goodbye. We are so grateful to the host families and sponsors of the concerts; they work for months to make their part of our tour a success, and we truly could not be touring without them.
Stan and Vickie Taylor joined us this morning, having flown over just to guide us through this part of tour (and have a little vacation after we leave.) They are experts on the Church in the British Isles, and we learned a great deal this morning. Brother Taylor gave us a very interesting and entertaining view of British history, the monarchy, their government, WWII, and the LDS Church’s beginnings in this area. I’m not sure he meant to discuss so much, but our coach was stuck in horrible traffic for most of the morning, and he had a captive audience. And the drive was beautiful.
We first went to Benbow Pond, where the first missionaries baptized hundreds. These converts brought much-needed new blood and enthusiasm into the Church at a crucial time. It’s a very interesting and exciting time in Church history, but I’ll leave it to you to fill in the details.
From where the coach parked, we could see the Herefordshire Beacon, where Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young and Willard Richards went often and where they determined to publish the first hymn book. We had to forego the hike to the top as we lost so much time in traffic.
We grabbed a very quick lunch and food for the next two breakfasts in a marvelous little 17th century market town, Ledbury. There is a Baptist church here with a plaque commemorating sermons preached there by Brigham Young.
Gadfield Elm Chapel was our next stop: the oldest extant chapel built by the church. It is locked in a fun way: there is a guide by the front door to tell you how to “break in, ” using Mormon Clues on the combination lock such as “Heber Kimball’s middle initial; how many chapters in Enos; at what age are children baptized?” It worked, and we could enter. It was restored in the 1990s, and is so very pretty and peaceful. There is a great spirit there. Brother and Sister Taylor spoke to us of its significance, then Brother Staheli spoke briefly of the importance of the work the choir has accomplished on this tour. We ended by singing “The Morning Breaks,”—and surely the morning did break in this area of England in the late 1830s through 1850s.
After another drive back through traffic, we saw the spire of the Preston Temple rising above the trees and knew we had arrived. Of course, the Preston Temple is actually located in Chorley. And so are we for two nights; we are staying in the temple’s patron accommodations. It was so refreshing to walk into a clean, non-tobacco-smelling room today.
The Young Single Adult group in the stake hosted a tasty dinner for us, and the choir and the YSAs mingled and visited while eating. Then there was a wild game to get further acquainted; I won’t even try to describe that to you.
It was a good time; now I can hear the choir returning in preparation for an early morning at the temple tomorrow.