News Release

Missionary serving where ancestor sailed on the 'Mayflower'

Elder Dalton Bradford of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a good reason to be excited about serving a full-time mission in Plymouth. It was here on September 6th 1620 that his ancestor William Bradford, along with wife Dorothy May and their three year old son, sailed on the merchant ship ‘The Mayflower’.  He, along with a hundred and one others, sailed to the New World.

William was born in Austerfield, Yorkshire and was baptized on March 19th 1590 into the Church of England.

The Bradfords were a wealthy farming family and when, at an early age, William suffered a long period of ill health, he developed a love of reading classic literature and The Bible, later joining an English Separatist Church.  He and other separatists sailed to Amsterdam and later to Leiden, Holland in order to escape religious persecution; but after becoming disenchanted with (in their own words) the “ungodly” Dutch way of life, they fled to London.  Here they managed to finance their pilgrimage to the New World.

Once in Boston William was elected Governor, where he became a leading figure in the Plymouth Colony.  He served thirty terms as Governor and wrote the well known journal ‘Of Plymouth Plantation’, which is considered to be the definitive record of the founding of the Pilgrims Plymouth Colony.  He detailed their everyday lives between 1621 and 1646.

William Bradford is buried on Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts and his gravestone reads: "Do not basely relinquish that which our fathers have with so great difficulty attained." 

The number of people surviving the voyage and the subsequent winter was small, but as William Bradford also said, "Out of small beginnings great things have been produced.  One small candle may light other candles and its light is not diminished in doing so."

Elder Bradford says “I greatly treasure the opportunities to know of William Bradford and his followers' sacrifices. Without them we would not have the great legacy manifest in the holiday of Thanksgiving and also his posterity in the United States today and around the world, and as it says in Alma 37:7, ‘by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth the salvation of many souls.’ This in my humble opinion is the definitive legacy of William Bradford. Indeed, a true disciple of Christ.”

Plymouth began a countdown to the 400 year anniversary in 2020 by commemorating the sailing of The Mayflower in their ‘Illuminate’ celebration at ‘The Mayflower Steps’ on the Barbican, Plymouth.   Elder Bradford has been a tremendous advocate for the Church, appearing on BBC Spotlight TV, ITV, BBC Radio Devon, and in the Plymouth Morning News and the Plymouth Evening Herald. In an extraordinary coincidence, Elder Bradford’s companion Elder Gull can also trace his ancestry back to Pilgrims aboard The Mayflower and has been a great support during this busy period.

Both have been able to draw parallels between the pilgrimage of their ancestors seeking refuge from religious persecutions and the pioneers of the church in the early days (1847 onward) of the restored Church.

Elder Bradford, born in Norway, but also having lived in France; the US; Germany; Singapore and Switzerland said: “These were the thoughts that went through my mind as I represented both William Bradford and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the commemorative event.  This will remain with me forever.”

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.