It’s 50 years ago that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was re-established in Jersey and commemoration services with The Bailiff of Jersey, William James Bailhache and Mrs Bailhache in attendance were recently held. In 1848 Thomas B. Stenhouse came to the Channel Islands and left a legacy of memories of his mission in his diaries and letters. The Church was very successful and at one time there were four branches on the island and around two hundred members. A prominent founder member was Philip de La Mare, who, in partnership with his father Francis, was responsible for building the harbours of St. Helier. Whilst engaged in building the Albert Quay, Philip met up with a Dutch blacksmith named Jan de Coog who introduced him to the Church, so that Elder Stenhouse already had one member awaiting his arrival.
At that time, and for many years after, the call was ‘Come to Zion’ and by 1900 all the members, including Philip de la Mare and his family had left Jersey and settled in Utah, USA.
In 1965, Thomas Wills and his wife Enid, known as Judy, returned to the Island from New Zealand, where they had both joined the Church. Tom discovered that there wasn’t a branch in Jersey, so he contacted the South British Mission President and missionary Elders were sent to the Island. The first meeting place was The Oddfellows Hall!
Since then the Church has grown and now occupies a substantial building in a lovely setting in Rue de la Vallee, St. Mary. Fifty years of church growth and of faithful service has been celebrated by a number of very enjoyable events including a showing of ‘Meet the Mormons’ and a service project at St Mary’s School on the 26 September. In the evening there was a public lecture at the chapel, given by Barry de La Mare, a descendent of Philip, who painted a portrait of his ancestor, his faith, family and story well beyond its Island roots. In Utah, Philip established a sugar refinery in Sugarhouse near Salt Lake City and raised a large family.
Last autumn the Sacrament service started at 10am as always, with invited guests, including The Bailiff of Jersey, William James Bailhache and Mrs Bailhache. Also attending were President Crossland of the London Temple Presidency with Sister Crossland, Assistant to the Temple Matron, President and Sister Gubler of the England London Mission, Poole Stake President John Crew and his 2nd Counsellor, Michael Winkworth. A special meeting followed when the history of the Church in Jersey, goals, opportunities and blessings were discussed.
Members and visitors all agreed that this commemoration of an important period in the history of the Island was both educational and entertaining. From the 1850s onwards, Jersey’s sons and daughters left this tiny island as members of a relatively new Church to live their faith in what was to them a huge and alien environment. Hence families with surnames like Le Feuvre, de la Mare, Coutanches, Langlois and Carterets are scattered throughout the USA.