Flanked by high, chalk-white cliffs and topped by an ancient castle on the hill, the city of Dover has played a significant part through history.
As England's nearest city to France, Dover is at the mouth of a tunnel being constructed between Britain and Europe.Well before A.D. 640, the Romans built a lighthouse, fortress and church on the white cliffs of Dover. Since then, this point has been a strategic center of British defense. During World War II, constant air raids and shelling earned it the name of "Hellfire Corner." Within the cliffs 200 feet below the castle, a secret fortress was used to monitor the evacuation of 300,000 troops from Dunkirk, and later to mastermind the Battle of Britain.
Today, another landmark stands in Dover – a new ward meetinghouse at nearby Walmer that serves a missionary-minded ward. Leaders here believe that not just the cliffs, but the "field is white with harvest" as new members are being converted and the promise of industry and growth lie around the corner.
"We are striving to become a stake," explained David Hagger, a member for 28 years and the first local branch president. "There is no question that the Church is growing. The construction of the tunnel connecting France and England will bring an influx of commerce and people in the area."
Dover Ward began as a branch some 30 years ago, he explained. "Members such as Brian Price, Lelian Milner, Eileen Bruce, Dorrie Richards and others were all part of the original branch, and still serve in the ward."
Brother Hagger, who served as district president and counselor in a stake presidency, observed that the home study seminary program had a good influence in preparing members to be good missionaries.
Their missionary success has brought in members of more recent vintage. Ward mission leader Dennis Baker said that in doing missionary work, members capitalize on President Ezra Taft Benson's "Keys to Successful Member Missionary Work" (See Ensign, September 1990.)
"We follow President Benson's counsel," said Brother Baker. "First, we strive to obtain the Spirit; second, we strive to acquire humility; third, love the people; and fourth, work diligently. The philosophy about the gospel is to love it, live it and share it.
"Some feel that it is hard to do missionary work. They claim to be timid, but my feeling is that everyone should have an opportunity to know about the gospel. We need to show real love, even love to those who persecute us."
Brother Baker added, "I remember that it took five sets of missionaries before I realized the gospel was true. So we keep trying."
His wife, Shirley, who describes herself as a "keen gardner," takes a bouquet of flowers when she wants to talk to someone about the Church. Among those with whom she has discussed the Church is the local vicar.
"It just depends on how we behave toward friends," Sister Baker said. "Even the Queen has a copy of the Book of Mormon."