Richard and Kathleen Walker were called to relocate from Utah to Chorley, which is just outside Preston in the United Kingdom, and run the LDS Missionary Training Centre located within the Preston Temple's 15-acre estate. They were well-prepared, since they had previously run the Salt Lake Temple. However, Kathleen Walker also happens to be one of the children of the late President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley. President Hinckley himself served as a missionary in Britain from 1933 to 1934. The Walkers were reportedly ecstatic when they received the call. Regarding her famous father, the 73-year-old Sister Walker shared the following:
"[My father] used to stand at the pulpit, and I could almost see when that Spirit kicked in and he began to speak with power. That is a form of revelation; there is no question in my mind the prophet is inspired. But we all have a sense of that in life, when we get thoughts we need to respond to: that is a Spirit whispering to us."
The Preston MTC, one of 15 worldwide, is primarily for British members of the Church who are called to serve missions. The young men and women travel to Chorley to study for three intense weeks on how to invite people to their faith. During the first week, they are taken to Manchester and turned loose to proselytize. There are a reported 900 missionaries assigned to the U.K. at any given time, but they face a few restrictions which don't exist in the U.S.; namely, they're asked not to proselyte while riding aboard public transport. The 75-year-old Richard Walker had this to say about the missionaries:
"The missionaries here are pure, clean, worthy, loving young people. We love them dearly. We believe that every one of us are spirit children of our heavenly father, that He created the world for the purpose of giving us a place where we can receive a physical body and learn how to walk in His paths. We believe that a person can become a god – but we will never be equal with God."
The latter statement shows that even if we're ordained to Godhood in the far distant future, we will always honor our Father as our God. He will never cease to be our Heavenly Father, so we won't try to supersede Him.
The article also quotes from several Mormon and ex-Mormon sources. Two ex-Mormons were cited; one of them, Steve Bloor, a 48-year-old podiatrist from Cornwall who was raised a Mormon and served as a bishop for nearly seven years, said he resigned because of uncorrelated Church history, the Priesthood ban against Blacks, and the Church's opposition to the practice of homosexuality. On the other hand, one convert to the Church, Cherilee Olmstead, said it was the all-encompassing Mormon philosophy of living a family-minded, pure life – no alcohol, no caffeine, modest dress – that won her over to the Church, and she's never looked back. She ended up emigrating to Utah.
But why does the Independent suggest that the town of Chorley may have saved Mormonism from extinction? It's because so many of the early Saints came from the area. In 1837, just seven years after the Church was formally organized, the first missionaries to Britain arrived in the Liverpool docks and spread out across Lancashire from there. Within 13 years the church had more members in England than in the US: 30,747 to 26,911, according to its records. With the religion facing persecution and an uncertain future in its homeland, British converts were encouraged to emigrate and secure the original community – and they did so in their droves. The idea back then was to pack one's kit and move to America to establish Zion there.
Many of these people were working class folks who labored for long hours under trying conditions for a mere pittance; unions were unknown back then. Thus the invitation to come to Zion and start anew in an instant community was a powerful motivator. But their tough upbringing gave these sturdy Lancashire lads and lassies the character to weather the storms that would beset the Church until it established itself in relative peace and safety in the Intermountain West in 1847.