Concert will mark anniversary of Mormon baptisms in Preston

The Preston Temple of the Latter Day Saints in Chorley
Image caption The Preston Temple of the Latter Day Saints in Chorley

About 10,000 people are expected at a celebration concert in Preston to mark the anniversary of the first Mormon missionaries to arrive in the UK.

The missionaries sailed from America to Liverpool before settling by the River Ribble in Preston in 1837.

They claimed to have brought the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and began holding baptisms in the river.

The concert - in July at Avenham Park - will mark the 175th anniversary of the baptisms which drew huge crowds.

Dr James Holt, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), said: "There were 8,000 onlookers that day; we hope to exceed that number in July."

The church has had a varied history in Lancashire.

Many do not see them as true Christians claiming their beliefs are too at odds with "mainstream" Christianity.

There have been allegations of them being too secretive and cultish.

Wonderful opportunity

There were protests from local faith groups when the Preston Temple of the Church, the largest of its kind in Europe, was opened in Chorley in 1998.

Dr Holt said he believes the church has allayed those worries.

"I think things have settled down a lot now that people see members of the church and have got to know them," he said.

"They realise that we follow a saviour, but also that a lot of the values we have are shared with them.

"Any stories they may have heard from other people dissipate once they get to know people from the church."

The church said the concert in Avenham Park is their contribution to the Preston Guild 2012 celebrations.

"We see this as an integral part of what's going on in Guild Year," Dr Holt said.

"Because Preston is so synonymous with the church in the UK we just want to be involved as much as we can."

The concert will be addressed by LDS church leaders and will also feature a choir of church members from around the North West who will be singing well known Christian hymns.

Dr Holt said: "This will be a wonderful opportunity for the Mormons in Britain to remember their heritage and celebrate the history of the church on these islands.

"It will be a time to look back, a time to rejoice together as hymns are sung by the congregation and a large LDS choir.

"We shall also have the opportunity to enjoy the words of past and present church leaders.

"We want people from all over Lancashire to bring their blankets, bring their picnic baskets and join us in the park."

Joe Wilson presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 06:00 each Sunday.

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