The first missionaries to go overseas were sent to Britain in 1837, only seven years after the Church was founded. A total of seven missionaries were sent, including two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the highest governing body of the Church). The group arrived in England on July 19, 1837, preached in Preston on July 23, and held baptismal services for nine new converts on July 30 before an audience of more than 8,000 curious onlookers. By the next week, 50 more converts were baptized. The teachings of the Church attracted more than a thousand converts in the first few years in the United Kingdom, despite mounting opposition from ministers and the press.
Between 1837 and the turn of the century, as many as 100,000 converts emigrated to join the main body of the Church in the United States. In fact, by 1870 nearly half of the population of Utah were British immigrants. Missionary work in the United Kingdom has continued to be successful in the 20th century despite setbacks during World War I and World War II. In the 1950s, Church membership in Britain increased as Church leaders encouraged new members to avoid further mass emigration and to build the Church in their native lands.
In the late 1950s, a temple was dedicated in London. In June 1998, another temple was opened in Preston, the site of the first preaching more than 150 years ago. Preston is the home of the oldest continuous branch (a small congregation) of the Church anywhere in the world, dating back to 1837.
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