Ronald D. Dennis, trans. and ed., Defending the Faith: Early Welsh Missionary Publications (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), xi-xii.
Mormon imprints were generally limited to newspapers and scripture until 1836, when missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began entering into the larger towns and cities of eatern Canada and the United States. There they found that it was not possible to personally talk with each person who wished to know more about the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Beginning in 1836 pamphlets and other printed items began to emerge from the pens of missionaries and Church leaders. The trend was firmly established during the important missions of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1837–41, when a variety of imprints came to be an important ingredient in their missionary success that brought into the Church over 5,000 converts. Joseph Smith was kept current about these missions and was himself a strong force in encouraging the “publishing” of the glad tidings of the Restoration.
We do not know if Dan Jones, the first missionary to Wales, knew of Joseph Smith’s 1843 advice to John Taylor, but his approach to missionary work in Wales surely suggests he might have. President Smith tolf John Taylor in April, “I believe you can do more good in the editorial department than preaching. You can write for thousands to read, while you can preach to but a few at a time” (History of the Church, 5:367). Dan Jones’s work among his fellow countrymen suggests that, if he did not know of Joseph Smith’s counsel, he surely came to the same conclusions.
Between 1844 and 1857, the Mormon Welsh press issued 118 separate titles, including two newspapers. Until recently, the contents of these items have been unavailable to readers who lacked the Welsh language. Carefully over the course of many years, Ron Dennis has been working to translate these items. He has already given us a comprehensive guide to this liturature: Welsh Mormon Writings from 1844 to 1862: A Historical Bibliography (1988). This work whetted our appetite for the full texts of the writings he described. He had also translated and published the Welsh Mormon newspapers, the Prophet of the Jubilee (1997), the first volume of Zion’s Trumpet (2001), and has told the story of the first Welsh Mormon migration to the Mormon Zion in the American West: The Call of Zion: The Story of the First Welsh Emigration (1987). He has thus established over the years his command of the Welsh Mormon experience, and he only further demonstrates his expertise with this new volume, Defending the Faith: Early Welsh Missionary Publications.
This new work contains seventy-five items, representing the work of both Dan Jones and his colleague and successor John Davis. These items span the years 1845 to 1856, almost evenly divided between the work of Jones and Davis. These imprints provide the reader a window into the early Welsh Mormon experience. Through them the modern reader can sense the deeply felt defenses of their religion or read the more practical guide for the soon-to-emigrate convert. These works show how fully established the fundamental teachings of Joseph Smith were quite early in Mormon history. In addition, they reveal the borrowing that went on between a number of the earliest Mormon authors. Above all, they show how central the printing press was in the establishment and development of the Church.
Through all these works we can now more fully enter into the spiritual and mental world of the early Welsh members. No longer will these publications try to speak to us through both a difficult language and the dust of the shelves in the few Special Collections libraries that are fortunate enough to own copies of these rare works.
Both Ron Dennis and his publisher, the Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, are to be commended for this important addition to Latter-day Saint literature.
David J. Whittaker
Curator, Mormon Manuscripts
L. Tom Perry Special Collections
Brigham Young University