The early Church from 1850
Adjacent to Priory Fields in Taunton, lies a peaceful stretch of the River Tone. Many walk their dogs here unaware that this was the scene of a turbulent period in the religious history of Taunton. The infant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (founded 1830) had arrived in Britain in 1837. Reaching the West Country in the 1840s, resulting in the formation of a Branch in Taunton on 3rd September 1854 with eight members. Some of whom were already established in North Newton. Sixty nine were baptised in the first three years, and emigration records show the majority of them emigrated.
William Charles Dunbar was blown up by an explosion on the river steamer 'Saludia' in 1852, losing his wife and children in the process - but returned to Taunton as a missionary, and was the first Branch President.
Princes Street 1855. It was in this little street near the centre of Taunton where the small Branch met in an upstairs room. The ground floor was the tenanted home of Theophilus William Cox (born 1831), a boiler maker and the Branch President at the time. Recently twenty four had been baptised in the river and it is thought this may have been the cause of what followed. In January 1855, the police had to quell a riot here when a mob of 200 gathered to throw stones and broke many windows, resulting in court action and reports in the Somerset Gazette and West of England Adviser.
In June 1855 the Taunton Branch had thirty six members, a number of them serving as Branch President.
1854 William Dunbar aged 29
1854 Henry Lunt aged 25
1854 Theophilus Cox aged 24
1856 Charles Burrell
1857 S W Lucas
By 1863 the Branch was reported as being in 'a prosperous and pleasing condition'.
Of the ninety four baptised in the first four years, Theophilus Cox (along with 50 Taunton members) emigrated to America from Liverpool on the ship 'Thornton', which sailed 4th May 1856. He joined the James G. Willie handcart Company and commenced upon the great trek West. Sadly he died aged twenty five on 7th November 1856 and 'was carried to Cottonwood Grove, East Canyon and there beried' just two days journey short of the Salt Lake Valley.
After the second World War the Church in Taunton was revived through the service of travelling missionaries until 1961. At this time two missionaries Elder Scott Romney (brother of Mitt Romney) and Elder James Moss took up permanent lodgings in the town. With the help of a few members, they re-established the Church here.
Missionaries have, since 1961 been permanently based in the town.
Missionaries voluntarily serve for two years and rotate through various towns every few months during their service.