This article originally appeared in Pioneer Magazine, 2010 Vol.57 No.3

On Saturday evening, July 29, the Mormon missionaries agreed to baptize 15 of the eager investigators the following morning in the River Ribble.

Heber C. Kimball

Heber C. Kimball estimated that between seven and nine thousand people were sitting and standing on the bank, watching the open-air baptisms. He records:

“Two of the male candidates, when they changed their clothes . . . were so anxious to obey the Gospel that they ran with all their might to the water, each wishing to be baptized first. The younger, George D. Watt, being quicker of foot than the older, outran him, and came first into the water” (in Whitney [1967], 135).

In 1842, Watt left England to join the gathering of the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1846, Brigham Young sent Watt and his wife back to England as Church missionaries. Watt used his skill at Pitman shorthand in serving as a clerk to mission president George Q. Cannon. In late 1850, the Watts returned to America and joined the new gathering of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah Territory.

George D. Watt was on a committee called by President Brigham Young as part of a project to help simplify spelling in the English Language. The came about on January 19, 1854, when the Board of Regents of the University of Deseret announced that they had adopted a new phonetic alphabet. The new alphabet consisted of 38 to 40 characters and was developed mostly by George D. Watt.

Excerpts from Ronald G. Watt, “Sailing the Old Ship Zion”: The Life of George D. Watt,” BYU Studies, 18.1. George Watt photo courtesy LDS Church Archives.

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