Joseph Fielding

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Joseph Fielding was an early missionary in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He was born on March 26, 1797, in Honeydon, Bedfordshire, England, and was active in the Methodist faith with his parents and nine siblings, which included sister Mary Fielding. Later, he moved to Preston, accompanied by two of his sisters, Mary and Martha, where he preached in the Semi-Episcopalian and Primitive Episcopalian churches.

In 1832, he immigrated to Canada with his sister Mercy, where they established a farm in York, Upper Canada. Later, their sister Mary joined them. They joined a religious study group in Toronto, which included John Taylor and his wife Leonora. The Fieldings were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ and Joseph was baptized on May 21, 1836, by Parley P. Pratt. They joined the body of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, in May 1837.

Fielding served as a missionary to England with Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, and other missionaries. He later served as president of the British Mission (April 1838–July 1840). The success of the British missionaries was due largely to the willingness of his brother, James Fielding, who invited the missionaries to preach in his church.

The decision of the missionaries to go first to Preston, Lancashire, was because Joseph and his friend John Taylor had written about this new, restored gospel to James Fielding. James had read those letters to his congregation at the Vauxhall Road Chapel, but kept back the parts that talked about baptism, as his non-conformist congregation, known in Preston as Semi-episcopalians, did not practice baptism. He was aware that the missionaries were coming to England and eagerly awaited their arrival in Preston. According to Joseph his brother had, "raised their expectations very high." In this way, James laid much of the groundwork for the conversion of his members to the Mormon faith when they were invited by him to preach in his chapel, which they did for the first time on Sunday 23 July 1837, speaking at two services and again during the week. When the missionaries preached, many came forward desiring to be baptized. Learning of the proposed baptisms, and foreseeing correctly that he was going to lose his flock, James visited Apostle Heber C. Kimball, the mission leader, the night before, forbidding him from doing so. Elder Kimball simply replied that God was no respecter of persons and he would proceed with the baptisms. Those first baptisms east of the Atlantic took place the following Sunday, 30 July 1837, in the River Ribble near the Old Tram Bridge, in what is now Avenham Park, Preston. The nine baptized were all from James Fielding's congregation.[1]

In losing his congregation, James Fielding suffered financial reversals and left his church in March 1839. He never joined the Church of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Fielding married Hannah Greenwood in 1838. After he completed his mission to England in September 1841, he traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois, with his wife and two children, leading a company of over 200 Saints. He described his view of Nauvoo for the first time: “When we came within two miles of our journey's end, we began to see the effects of that industry for which the Saints are so remarkable: fences of rails and of pickets, houses and gardens on the edge of the prairie, such as we had not before seen. This said Brother [Lorenzo] Young, is Nauvoo, but we had two miles to go yet, so extensive had this settlement of the Saints become in so short a time! We soon passed the sacred place and foundation of the temple. The arches of the vault windows were not all finished. The sight of this though by the light of the moon only gave me peculiar feelings. The idea that it was done at the special command of the Almighty was a new thing in this age. It seemed to fill the mind with solemnity and to give a sacredness to the whole place.”[2]

Joseph found his sister Mercy now a widow. The house her late husband Robert Thompson had commenced for Joseph and his family had been left unfinished. Joseph was ill and unable to work much. Eventually, he began to labour for his brother-in-law Hyrum Smith, who allowed him some land to farm on shares. Unexpectedly, Joseph and Hannah received a substantial loan of money from her brother in England, George Greenwood. This enabled them to purchase some 20 acres of land on the prairie about two miles from the Temple site and by 1843, they had built a home. That summer, their son Heber was born. A fourth child, Joseph, followed on 13 July 1846. In his journal, Wilford Woodruff recorded that Fielding received his temple endowment in the same session as William W. Phelps, Levi Richards, Lot Smith, and Cornelius P. Lott in the office over Joseph Smith’s store on December 9, 1843.[3]

Fielding took an additional plural wife, Mary Ann Peake Greenhalgh in either 1843 or 1846. He traveled to Salt Lake City with the Saints, arriving in 1848. He died on December 19, 1863.