This is the first of a six part series about the influence of the Fielding family.
The three siblings Joseph, Mary and Mercy Fielding were all born in Britain, emigrated to Canada, and converted to the restored gospel through their associations with John Taylor and Parley P. Pratt. The Fielding trio began writing to their family members, who still lived back in England, about the new gospel they had found. Those letters were read out by their brother James to his Preston congregation in the Vauxhall Chapel even before any missionary arrived in Britain. Joseph wrote:
As my Brother had previously read to his Congregation a letter which we had sent from Canada, they were much interested. It appeared that Brother [James] had raised their expectations very high by said letters. (Fielding, 1:18)
Joseph Fielding was chosen as one of the first seven missionaries sent to open the British mission in 1837. Those first missionary efforts concentrated on three main areas, the first two of which were selected because of the Fielding family links:
- Preston– where the first British converts were harvested from the congregation of their brother James Fielding
- Bedford– where more converts were found in the congregation of Reverend Timothy Matthews – the Fielding’s brother-in-law. He had married their sister Ann Fielding.
- Alston (Lake District)– where fellow Englishman and missionary Isaac Russell was born.
At the end of that first mission (July 1837 to April 1838) five of the missionaries returned to the USA leaving Joseph Fielding as Mission President with Willard Richards and William Clayton as counsellors. They served in these positions until the next main missionary group started to arrive in 1840.
While he was Mission President Joseph had the chance to visit the Bedfordshire area to carry on the work Willard Richards had started and to visit other members of his family. He preached six times in Bedford:
“The Saints are much encouraged; they look like new People since I came to Bedford.” (Fielding, p.52)
He visited Goldington, Peters Green, Silsoe, Whaddon, Hitchen, Baldock, Bassingbourn calling on saints converted by Willlard Richards as he went. His next visit was to Papworth to visit his brother Thomas and the family of his brother John who had recently died in a farming accident. They were “pleased to see” him, but would not entertain talk about his new found faith.
I had now been at my Brother’s 2 or 3 Days and he would not so much as look at or hear my testimony. If I asked him if he would read my Books, the Voice of Warning in particular, he said “no,” he might as well read Pain’s Books, an Infidel of the Last Century. He had never asked me to pray or even bless the Food. We [c]ould not walk together while were [sic] not agreed, and I told him I had not been treated so by any one of my Friends; that he treated me as an Infidel and I could not be comfortable to stay with him, and went to Bravely. Here I was the Priest in the House and should have been more welcomly [sic] received, but for the Prejudice entertained by my Bro. John, so that his Wife was fearful of doing contrary to his desire. But I told her &; Bro. T, [Thomas] that if they would take the Responsibility upon themselves and forbid me speaking in their Houses, I would hold my Peace, as they were the Heads of their Families. Bro. T. [Thomas] soon agreed to this, but Mrs. F. [Fielding] was neuter; she only said she wished to do as her Husband had directed, or according to his Views. But when I came to see Bro. T. [Thomas] Wife, she would ask Questions which I had to answer. She said she would wish to do anything that God required of her, and was very kind. (Fielding, p.55, 56)
His family’s rejection weighed heavy on Joseph’s mind.
This Sabbath was a gloomy [day]; no Sacrament, no Preaching, no Communion of Saints. Went to the Meeting at My Bro. John’s House. Heard a Methodist Preach from a Portion in the Revelation on those next [to] the Throne, but it was wide astray. I made myself as friendly as I could to get the good feeling of the People, expecting to have a Chance to preach to them soon.
This coldness towards his new faith was a result of the bitter feelings generated from his brother James in Preston who had lost nearly all his Preston congregation to Mormonism. Joseph lamented:
I have received a Letter from my oldest Brother; he is very severe, gives me an Invitation and terms which he knows I shall not agree to. I am become a stranger unto my Brethren and an Alien to my Mother’s Children (Fielding 1:50)
23rd. It is remarkable that hundreds of Strangers receive my testimony and none of my Friends do; yet they all say they love me and believe me sincere.
Back in America Joseph’s sister Mary shared his regrets.
I have just received a short Letter from my Sister Mary in Kirtland. She is much troubled about our Friends in England because they have rejected our Message (Fielding 1:44)
In our next post we will continue this Fielding story by returning to their roots in Bedfordshire.