President Gordon B. Hinckley returned to the "sceptered isle" where he walked as a young missionary more than seven decades ago. While in England, he spoke May 25 at a member meeting in Chorley, where the Preston England Stake Center is located on the same grounds as the Preston England Temple, reminiscing with fondness and expressing unmeasured love "for the strong-hearted, wonderful people of this part of the world," he said.
"I have wandered around a little today through Preston, peered at the old digs where I once lived, went down into Avenham Park and walked on the old tram bridge and places that were familiar when I was here 72 years ago," he said.
With gratitude, the Church president noted he has had the opportunity "of laboring in the oldest continuous congregation in the Church in all the world, the Preston Branch, which has become the Preston Ward. . . . Preston supersedes by 12 years any congregation in Utah or Salt Lake City or any place of that kind."
President Hinckley spoke of the British Church members of the past who were taught by such men as Heber C. Kimball, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and Orson Hyde.
"My dear wife's ancestry is all English," he said. "All of her predecessors were English. . . . They (went) to the States in 1856. They were able to afford a wagon and an ox team. Can you imagine somebody out of England trying to drive a team of oxen? . . . They were assigned to travel with the Martin Handcart Company. They shared their sorrows and their disappointments and their tragic sufferings. That mother lost first one baby, then a little girl, then a son, and then she herself died after they were rescued, traveling in a wagon into the Salt Lake Valley. The little girl lost her toes, frozen. How great was their suffering. How tremendous their sacrifice!"
He expressed gratitude that those days are in the past. "How blessed we are! How fortunate, my brothers and sisters, to come forth into the world in this great and marvelous and wonderful age. With that comes a tremendous responsibility that each of us has to stand up for the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . .
"There is materialism that has come into our society, a forsaking of the ways of the Lord, putting those ways behind us. And yet I am satisfied, I know it is so, there is in the hearts and minds of millions of people in this land an innate desire to worship the true and living God if they knew where to find Him."