Thursday, January 13, 2011

Visiting Old Friends at Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is my all-time favorite haunt in England.  The history of the place fills me with a bit of awe.  

For those unfamiliar with the Abbey, it is the site of almost all of the coronations in English history back to and even preceding the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest in 1066.  It will be the site of the upcoming royal wedding, and most English monarchs up until recently are buried there, including Edward the Confessor.

It is also the burial or commemoration site of famous Britains throughout history, including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, William Wilberforce, and Shakespeare.  

I love visiting the commemorative stones in "poets corner," where Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Lord Byron (pictured above) are commemorated if not buried.  The latter two are especially important to me, as they were among the 100 "eminent men and women" who appeared to latter-day prophet Wilford Woodruff in the St. George, Utah temple in 1877.

Allow me to explain.  Latter-day saints such as myself believe that, as a just God, everyone is given the opportunity to hear of Christ and be baptized regardless of whether they had the chance to know Him in this life.  Thus, we believe that between His death and resurrection, Christ organized the preaching of the gospel to the spirits in heaven, instituting vicarious baptism for the dead for those who accept the gospel in the next life.  These baptisms we now perform in sacred temples.

In 1877, after the saints had migrated to Utah and the St. George temple completed, Wilford Woodruff, fourth prophet after Joseph Smith, had a peculiar vision, wherein the signers of the Declaration of Independence, other eminent men, and 100 women appeared to him.  On 6 September 1877, he recorded:

The women who appeared were recorded elsewhere (and their work performed by women). They include George Washington's mother, grandmother, and wife, Sir Thomas Moore's wife, and Catherine the Great.

Among the ranks of the "other" eminent men were Alfred Lord Tennyson and Lord Byron.  

One reason why Westminster Abbey fascinates me so is that I can't help but imagine what it will be like on Resurrection Morning.  Among the many interesting characters who could no longer dethrone and behead each other, I know that at least Tennyson and Byron would be there, resurrected bright and early.  And I have so many question to ask them: why they of so many were selected to appear to Wilford Woodruff--or was it more of a lobbying process? Who were your missionaries on the other side of the veil, and what prepared you in this life to accept the gospel in the next?

Suppose I'll just have to wait.  But in the meantime, I will take the chance to visit at every opportunity. 


  1. Nice work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the Next Blog button on the blue Nav Bar located at the top of my site. I frequently just travel around looking for other blogs which exist on the Internet, and the various, creative ways in which people express themselves. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You forgot one of the more fabulous composers that is buried there. Handel is buried in the abbey as well. At least that is what I read the other day.

  3. " I can't help but imagine what it will be like on Resurrection Morning. Among the many interesting characters who could no longer dethrone and behead each other"
    I love that bit! We just recently came back from the UK and got a chance to visit the abbey, sadly so much was not available to be seen due to them working on it and it was very oddly packed with visitors for a weekday morning - but I wish I had a million years to stroll through it.
    Thank you for your interpretation of it - very nicely said!