|Female biker on the streets near London's 2010 Fashion Week Shows at Somerset House.|
Samuel Johnson once said that "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
I must have been pretty tired of life, as the noise, the constant state of motion, and the frequency of lewd pictures like those plastered in telephone boxes seemed to be weighing in on me all at once. Add the near-constant overcast of non-cumulus clouds, and my life indeed appeared very dreary from our little flat in central London.
Guilt plagued me a little for feeling this way, not only because I was familiar with Samuel Johnson's quote, but because I knew how proximate I was to charming shops, royal parks, and West End shows. Living in London sounds pretty glamorous to the outside observer, but there are many days when the loneliness, noise, and hedonism got to me. Today was one of those days.
I had picked up a copy of Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles 1837-1987 at the London Temple, but its drab beige cover had yet to tempt me into its contents. My calling (thank heavens for callings!) had driven me to it today, and I was admittedly enjoying reading about the first mission of Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, Joseph Fielding, and their companions in 1837, shortly after Queen Victoria's coronation.
It got more interesting with the second mission to Britain, this time by the full twelve in 1840, two years before Joseph Smith was martyred at Carthage. Hundreds and thousands of early British Saints joined the church during this mission, notably the United Brethren in Herfordshire, 26 miles outside of London.
When I began to read about the mission to London, I found myself comforted. After finding a room south of the Thames close to the Globe Theatre, Heber C. Kimball, George Albert Smith, and Wilford Woodruff had a difficult time sleeping. George Albert Smith described their experience as follows:
"The cries of pedlars, the noise of thousands of wagons, coaches and gigs, with the night songs of streetwalkers, served to keep [us] country men awake, till overcome by the labors of the day, we finally sank into forgetfullness."
That explained well our own attempts at sleep amidst the noise of taxis, lorries (big delivery trucks), pub crawlers, and night clubbers pouring out of "Whiskey Mist" and the Casino down the street.
A few pages later, Wilford Woodruff's journal read, "We had spent twenty-three days in the great Babylon of modern times [London at the time was the largest city in the world] and found it harder to establish the Church there than in any other place we had ever been."
I thought of the labors of the members here and of our leaders in attempting to establish the church now, and my own feelings of inadequacy amidst the grind of the city.
Finally, on February 14, 1841, a London conference was held where 106 members were gathered. Wilford Woodruff recorded:
"This was the day which we had desired long to see: for we had labored exceedingly hard to establish the Church in London, and at times it seemed as though we would have to give it up; but by holding on to the work of our Divine Maker and claiming the promises of God, we were now to leave an established London conference with a prosperous Church planted in the metroplis..."
Elder Woodruff's near-fatalism also had a familiar ring, as I remembered the many times when homesickness and the frustrations of work had nearly driven me to give up on it all, pack up, and move home. Then, finally, I read a passage which spoke to me from across nearly two centuries, recorded on the same day by Lorenzo Snow:
"I believe sincerely and strongly that a great work will eventually be accomplished in this vast city, but I can scarcely expect it will be done hurriedly..."
I wondered if, in my own small way, I could be part of that eventual "great work." Although London had the capacity to get me and some early apostles down and deprive us of sleep and nearly make us give up, the work of the Lord would not be hindered. Although the sun remained shrouded, my inner clouds parted, and I began to feel as if the Spirit could find me and help me press on, even amidst the whirl and hedonism of London.