From the Archives: Mormonism in Barbados (Almost), 1853

By March 13, 2018

(detail from John Arrowsmith, Map of the Windward Islands, 1844. Click on image for original)

Last month, Elder Dale Renlund visited the West Indian island of Barbados, which he dedicated for the preaching of the gospel. The timing of his doing so carries with it some special significance. As Elder Renlund noted in his remarks, the West Indies Mission was first dedicated thirty years ago, in 1988. And it was, of course, forty years ago this summer that the temple and priesthood ban denying black women and men certain blessings and opportunities in the church was lifted, which opened up Barbados and the other predominantly black Caribbean islands for full-fledged missionary work. 

Not mentioned in the article, however, is that the dedication of Barbados comes 165 years after the first Mormon missionaries attempted to preach the gospel on the island. At the now famous 1852 missionary conference, Brigham Young dispatched approximately 100 missionaries to travel throughout the British Empire. Among that number were six Elders sent to the Caribbean: four were assigned to Jamaica and two to British Guiana (in South America). The missionaries arrived in Jamaica in January 1853. After a less-than-warm welcome from local officials, planters, and Protestant preachers, they held a council on January 22, in which they determined that “A.B. Lambson and Jesse Turpin” would leave Jamaica and “go to Barbadoes I[s]land,” where they would be joined briefly by James Brown and Elijah Thomas on their way to British Guiana.

After arranging passage on a British vessel leaving for Barbados and boarding the ship, the four missionaries were surprised to be approached by “the Harbour agent[,] a Naval officer” who “ordered us all put on Shore,” insisting that “no such Men could go to any English Islands on any boat he controled.” The agent (and other British officials) regarded the Mormons as “Phanaticks and Poligamists,” and deemed them unwelcome in their corner of the British Empire. Lambson, Turpin, Brown, and Thomas were joined by one of the two remaining missionaries in Jamaica (Aaron Farr), who all left their assigned mission in early February and set sail for a return trip to the United States.[1]

Missionaries would not make their way to the West Indies again until 1978 and would not arrive in Barbados until 1979.


[1] Darwin Richardson remained in Jamaica for another two months, departing the island for England in early April.

Article filed under Categories of Periodization: Territorial Period Christian History Cultural History Current Events From the Archives International Mormonism Politics Polygamy Race


  1. Good work, Christopher.

    Comment by JJohnson — March 13, 2018 @ 10:49 am

  2. Thanks, Christopher. Was it common elsewhere in the world for missionaries to be denied passage at this time? I don’t seem to remember this being a thing (but could just be forgetful or unaware).

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 13, 2018 @ 10:59 am

  3. Thanks, Janiece.

    I don’t know about missionaries in particular, Stapley, but I’ve certainly seen other Americans denied passage on British ships (and vice versa) during heightened moments of crisis and conflict. And that’s what seems to be going on here with the Mormons: British officials are denying them passage to anywhere else in the British Caribbean, forcing the missionaries to return to the US on an American ship much earlier than they had initially planned.

    Comment by Christopher — March 13, 2018 @ 2:07 pm

  4. This is fun, thanks Chris.

    Comment by David G. — March 14, 2018 @ 7:00 am

  5. Nice, Chris. I imagine there are a number of these “almost” stories that don’t generally make it into historical narratives. Great that you’ve recovered this one.

    Comment by Ryan T. — March 14, 2018 @ 7:58 am

  6. Cool, Chris. “Poligamists.” Publicity reached far and wide!

    Comment by wvs — March 15, 2018 @ 8:54 am

  7. I find the lateness of dedicating the island for Mormon proselyting work simply astounding, given its close proximity to the US and the Church’s long history of missionary work in the British empire. Amazing.

    Comment by Tona H — March 18, 2018 @ 3:32 pm


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