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Reader voices: My early memories of the LDS Church in the United Kingdom

By Peter Lee

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Aug. 5 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wythenshawe, South Manchester, England, in December 1958 at age 17 with my parents and two sisters. We were excited to join the church and keen to grasp the opportunities for growth and progress provided by the LDS Church.

Feeling the fellowship and love of the more established members gave us strength and we soon felt part of the branch.

At the time the church was led by beloved President David O. McKay, and he was often quoted as saying that there would be a “new era” in the British Mission. Many individuals and families joined the church and stakes were created, commencing in 1961 at Manchester.

We grew to love the full-time Mormon missionaries, who were mainly from the United States at that time, for their efforts in establishing the church in the area.

During my early years, I much enjoyed the early district conferences, including talks given by the mission president, T. Bowring Woodbury, and then-London Temple President Selvoy J. Boyer, which were of exceptional standard and they strongly influenced me, and I am sure others, for good. The spirit was always strong at those conferences.

As a member of the Wythenshawe Branch, I soon learned that some of the members were keen on hiking and I became “hooked.” I was involved, often as the organizer, in many hikes to different places for years to come. Vigorous exercise and the pristine beauty of countryside, lakes and mountains were always a tonic to me. Audrey Bailey, my wife of 49 years, was a participant in the first hike.

About three or four years later, I arranged an overnight hike in early December for young men and young adults. I decided we would walk from the village of Hayfield in the Peak district via Kinder Scout (a mountain topped by an extensive plateau) to the village of Edale and then catch an early train to return to Manchester.

Of course, night hiking is quite different than walking in daylight, especially in winter months. However, we climbed safely and steadily up the western side of Kinder Scout and reached the top of the plateau not too far from the Kinder waterfall, then commenced our walk across deeply rutted peat bogs.

At the top, the weather was significantly colder, with a penetrating wind and falling snow that threatened to become heavy. The night was cloudy, so we could not navigate by moon or starlight, and my compass seemed not to work. It was soon evident that we had lost our direction. One young man started to cry and another complained that he had hurt his ankle and started to walk with a limp.

There, amid the peat bogs and buffeted by wind and flurries of snow, we decided to form a circle and kneel in prayer. One young man humbly petitioned the Lord to safely guide us to Edale.

Immediately I felt the Lord’s guiding hand and then confidently led the group to the southern edge of the plateau and to safety in Edale, then eventually home. We learned a valuable lesson in the power of prayer spoken in faith.

One of the young men involved was David Shuttleworth. I first became acquainted with David at around the time he joined the church in South Manchester in 1964. David was a fun-loving, lively young man and everyone enjoyed his zest for life.

When David was about 14 years old, I organized a youth and young adult camping trip, this time to Snowdonia, North Wales. We drove up into the mountains and decided to camp near the top of the Llanberis Pass, where we found a grassed area just off road adjacent to cliffs.

In those days, the traffic flow was quiet and we were relatively undisturbed, except for lots of heavy rain, and somehow we were able to remain dry inside our tents. To escape the rain, we drove to a beach on the nearby isle of Anglesey, where we enjoyed some sunshine and played beach games.

On Sunday morning, we had a testimony meeting. David bore his testimony publicly for the first time in his life. I was pleased to learn about David's faithful service in later years. Between 1976 and 1980, when I was serving as bishop in the Oldham Ward, David was the stake Young Men president and he enthusiastically promoted the cause of youth. From 1980 to the present day, I have lived in Chester, so I saw very little of David from then on. However, I am aware that he continued faithful service, including a term as a bishop.

The above experiences are just a few of the rich tapestry of memories I have accumulated during my years in the church.

Peter Lee is a professional family history researcher in the United Kingdom and is working on a not-for-profit compilation of inspirational family history stories. His website is furnissfamilysearch.co.uk. His email is pflee@hotmail.co.uk

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