7 Conversion and Leadership

                                William Warner Major


Jill C. Major, Author

Letter from Lorenzo Snow to William Warner Major - BYU Studies

The Major family and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Richard Major, Jr., the brother of William, was the first to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Major family. He and his wife, Martha Ann Harvey Major, were baptized on April 3, 1842. Seven days later William Warner Major and Sarah Major joined the new American Church. Both families were baptized by Elder William Lewzey, a shopkeeper by trade who lived and worked in Hackney, London.1 The Major brothers and their families were members of the Theobald Road Branch, London Conference, British Mission.2 Little William Warner Major Jr. was almost 6. His brother, Henry Coles Major was 4, but would soon turn 5.

Elizabeth, the sister of Richard and William, also lived in London. Elizabeth and her husband John Robert Terry, an upholsterer, joined the Church, as well. John and Elizabeth Terry became active in the same branch in which the rest of the Major family attended.

London Journal

London was a difficult mission. When Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith arrived in August 1840 they found the mega city "full of evry thing but righteousness". 3 They baptized only nineteen people before Christmas that year. Still the work began to prosper and when they left London the Apostles called twenty-six year old Lorenzo Snow to preside over the conference and act as President of the London Branch.

When the Marylebone Branch was created on July 27, 1842 by Elder Lorenzo Snow, the first meeting of the branch was held in William and Sarah Major's apartment on 13 Quickset Row, New Road, St. Pancras, London.4  The move back to his rural teenage home shows a change in fortune for the Major family. In the 1841 census they lived in a more affluent area on the Strand in St. Clement Danes. From 1837 to 1842 England was plunged into a devastating depression, making work scarce.1   The Major family was in financial difficulty along with their fellow countrymen.


Marylebone Branch Records, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

This is a partial record.  The entire record reads, "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.  this Branch Marylebone Established in the Year one thousand Eight Hundred forty two July twenty Seventh. 

Elders in the Church

Pres. Elder Major 13 Quickset Row New Road    

Elder William Booth of West Street  St Martin's Lane

Elder William Benson 2d Dartmouth St Westminster


Thomas Margetts

Richard Major

William Benson  Promoted

William Booth  Promoted


After less than four months of membership, William Warner Major was called to preside as Branch President and kept a journal for three months. He recorded his first efforts to preach the gospel and his initial contacts with Church leadership:

  "Proceedings and Minutes of the Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints Organized 27 July 1842 Wensday under the hand of Elder [Lorenzo] Snow Presiding Elder over the conference London. The Church the first Sunday afternoon & Even met at the Presiding Elders house 13 Quickset Row the Preaching in the Park continued increased attention...On Sunday [August} 14th preached in the Park at 11 & Baptized 4 at one[.] confirmed them in the afternoon. August 28... on Thursday Even Elder Orson Hyde Preached[.] just Returned from Germany"


Painting Orson Hyde

Three years later in Nauvoo, Major painted a portrait of Orson Hyde along with Joseph Smith and other Church leaders (MCHA).5 The Kimball/Marsden history suggests that after Major moved to Nauvoo, he "soon became acquainted with the Authorities of the Church."6 From Major’s journal, it becomes apparent his acquaintance with Church leaders started while still residing in London.


Letter from Lorenzo Snow

Letter from Lorenzo Snow to William Warner Major - BYU Studies

Major’s London Journal continued "... Sunday [Sept] 18th Elder [Lorenzo] Snow was with us preaching from 7 this Morning and Even[.] Brother Snow stayed with us Till Sat Morning Preaching as usual in the Archery Rooms & the Park..."

In his capacity as Presiding Elder of the London Conference, Lorenzo Snow sent a letter to "Elders Wm Lewzey and Wm Major, Presedency Elders of London Branchs.."

The letter began, " Befordshire 5th November 1842, Elders Lewzey & Major, Dear Bretheren the intimate acquaintance and friendship which I have formed with you while in your society has so endeared you to me as ever to keep you allive in my remembrance..." Lorenzo Snow cautioned, "The nature of the Church is such is such, it gathering fish of all kind, that no Elder however wise can preside over any Branch of it without experienceing more or less unpleasitness. But much difficulty is not infrequently brought upon ourselves by not exercising proper wisdom and prudence..." After a lengthy discourse on his experience with a prideful Elder, Snow wrote, "The business or office of a Presiding Elder is not to see how he may best gloryfy himself, or get a great name name among his brethren .." Elder Snow signed the letter, "May the Lord bless you in my constant prayer

Affectionately L Snow"7

London Journal

After Lorenzo Snow returned to Nauvoo, Major continued in his work with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as noted in his journal:

"...Brother Snow Left us Wensday Morning 19 October on his Return to America...October 23 Baptized 2 W[illiam] Warner [probably William Warner Major's uncle or grandfather] & Jenkins Son. Archer our Landlord has desired us as Soon as we Can See a Room to Leave Because the people about him do not like the Sound of the Singing and Preaching."


Death of the Major Children

Because of over-crowding and poor sanitation, the city of London was an unhealthy place to live. Wilford Woodruff described it as "so smokey I cannot see but few yards." The open-air preaching on the streets and in the parks caused George A. Smith to injure his lungs so they bled frequently. After twenty-two days he was counseled by his fellow missionary companions to leave London and go to Staffordshire.8

London was also unsanitary with its ineffective sewage systems and manure-packed roads from horse-drawn wagons. Diseases such as cholera, (which had its first outbreak the year William Warner Major and Sarah Coles were married) small pox, and measles swept through the town, slaughtering London's population. These harmful conditions cost William and Sarah two children. Only four months after their baptism, on August 4, 1842, their son Henry Coles Major died of measles. Henry was five and a half years old.9 Fannie also died and was buried in the London area.10


Reads:  "Fourth of August 1842 1/2 past 12 at 13 Quickset Row, Henry Coles Major, Male, 5 years 1/2, Son of William Warner Major Portrait Painter & Sarah his wife, Measles, W.W. Major Father present at the Death 13 Quickset Row Road, Fourth of August (registered) Charles Spoug Register."