The Gadfield Elm Chapel: The First House of Worship for Latter-Day Saints

The Gadfield Elm Chapel: The First House of Worship for Latter-Day Saints

This article originally appeared in Vol.53, No.1 (2006) of Pioneer Magazine.

by Angus Belliston

During the lifetime of Joseph Smith, no chapels for worship were built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It was as though every resource, every effort, and every dollar available for Church buildings was to be devoted to the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. These sacred edifices were the symbols of the Restoration. The fulness of the gospel was being restored, and the ordinances and most sacred teachings were to be found only in holy temples.

In the early months of 1840, the Spirit directed Elder Wilford Woodruff to the valleys of Worcestershire and Herefordshire south of Birmingham. He had met John Ben bow, a wonderful saint, who went with him to the south and introduced him to Thomas Knighton and other leaders of the United Brethren, who for some time had been diligently seeking the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ultimately all but one of the United Brethren—including their 45 preachers—joined the new church from America and became stalwart members. With the new converts from this amazing group came a deed to their lovely little chapel. Thus Gadfield Elm became the first house of worship owned by the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days and was one of the forums used by Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, and other elders as they preached to the people.

On Sunday, June 14, 1840, prior to leaving for their homes, the Brethren met with a large congregation at the small Gadfield Elm Chapel. Here they organized 12 branches of the Church and created a “conference,” with Thomas Knighton as president. The following Sunday, a conference of 20 branches was organized in the nearby Froomes Hill area. The little chapel continued to be used until it was sold to provide funds for saints emigrating to America.

For many years the Gadfield Elm Chapel stood unoccupied in the quiet countryside of the Malvern Hills. Finally, 150 years later the chapel was bought by the Gadfield Elm Trust, a group of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded in 1994 to preserve the chapel. Local members raised about $12,000 to purchase the chapel. Contributions from several individuals in the United Kingdom and the United States also provided the means for the chapel’s complete renovation.

On April 23, 2000, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the chapel. Elder Holland is a descendant of William Carter and Ellen Benbow, who joined the Church near Gadfield Elm. In 2004, President Gordon B, Hinckley accepted the deed to the chapel from the Gadfield Elm Trust.

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