First Mormon Missions
From 1830 to 1837, Mormon missionaries continued to preach as they traveled, often being called by revelation from the Prophet Joseph Smith to preach for an unspecified time, usually a few months, in New England, Canada, or the regions round about Kirtland, Ohio. In 1831 and 1832, Joseph Smith traveled on several short missions throughout Ohio to counteract rumors and scandalous reports being spread in local newspapers by an angry ex-Mormon named Ezra Booth. The Mormons also began printing their own newspapers in Kirtland and Missouri, hoping thereby to counteract the negative press that was circulating. Through these missionaries, some of whom, like Brigham Young, made literally dozens of multiple-month missions during this time, hundreds joined the Mormon Church. By 1837 there were already 16,000 Mormons, a phenomenal growth for the seven-year-old Mormon Church. In the summer of 1832, another group of Mormon missionaries began the first international mission of the new Church by traveling to Toronto, Canada, where they baptized many, including a young Englishman baptized in 1837 named John Taylor, who later became the third President of the Mormon Church.
In 1837, the first mission was organized. A mission in the Mormon Church is an organized missionary force led by a Mission president and usually covering a specific geographic area. The first Mormon mission president was Heber C. Kimball. Kimball, who had in 1835 become one of the first Apostles of Jesus Christ in the Mormon Church, was called to lead the first Mormon missionary efforts outside North America; this on in the British Isles. This was the first of two missions of the Twelve Apostles to England. He was accompanied by Orson Hyde, another Apostle, and they began in Preston, England, where lived relatives of Mormons converted in Canada. Mormon missionaries in England over the next few decades saw tremendous and even astounding success. During the following year they baptized 1,500 persons.
The onset of missionary work to England shows what revelation did for Joseph Smith, for the work was initiated during a time of the apostasy of several of his closest and most responsible leaders. As they turned vehemently against him, he sent his most loyal apostles to Europe to proselyte, instead of keeping them close by to offer support. This action was truly inspired; it was the oposite of logic, but its result was to bring thousands of strong, sincere converts into the Church. Indeed, they became the backbone of the membership.
The next wave of apostolic missions to England began in 1839. This mission lasted until 1841 and resulted in the baptism of more than 4,000 people. This time most of the Apostles went, including newly called apostles Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor. Woodruff became one of the greatest Mormon missionaries in Mormon history, personally baptizing more than one thousand people on this mission. They likewise began in Preston, but ventured through the rest of England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Early Mormons were encouraged to gather together, and most eventually moved to America, emigrating directly to Nauvoo, Illinois, which after 1839 became the center of the Mormon Church. Over the next few decades more than 50,000 Mormons emigrated from the British Isles to America. England also became the base of operations for further missionary work into Europe and the Middle East, and Mormons became so numerous in England that they published newspapers and hymnbooks, their own missionary tracts, and books (both in English and Welsh), and for a time in the 1850s Mormons in England outnumbered Mormons in America.