The Newsroom Blog

Church Historians Gather and Preserve Australian Church History

The year 2015 is the 175th Anniversary of the beginning of the Church in Australia.  The first member and missionary in Australia was William James Barratt.  He was born in 1823 in Burslem, Staffordshire, England, and was converted to the Church while living in England.  In 1840, at the age of seventeen, he was ordained an elder.  His mother and step-father were planning to go to the colony of South Australia, and prior to going with them he was commissioned to preach the Gospel in Australia.  He arrived in Adelaide on 16 November 1840.  His only known convert was Robert Beauchamp.

By 1844, the year Joseph Smith was martyred, Barratt lost contact with the authorities of the Church, and he probably knew nothing about the progress of the Church after that time.  He married Ann Gibson in 1846, and they had seven children.  He settled in the area near Victor Harbor, South Australia, and worked as a farmer.  He was a lay preacher for the Congregational and Methodist Churches.  He died in 1889 and is buried at Victor Harbor.

From these humble beginnings the Church has grown in Australia to a membership of over 140,000, with five temples and six missions.

The foremost church historian in Australia is Marjorie Newton, who now lives in Tasmania.  Through her research, the knowledge of William Barratt’s later life and the site of his grave have become known.  Sister Newton is the author of numerous articles about the history of the church in Australia, and her book, Southern Cross Saints: The Mormons in Australia, is the definitive work on Australian Church history.

The Church History Department in Salt Lake City is decentralizing Church history, and Australia is one of the countries where church history will be gathered and preserved locally.  Allan and Joy Murrin are the country Church history advisers for Australia. Carolyn Haynes is the local Church history adviser for Queensland, and Ken Read is the local Church history adviser for Tasmania.  A senior missionary couple, Elder Steven Dinger and Sister Alene Dinger, have been called to be full time Church history missionaries in Australia.  Their office is at the Australia Service Centre in Sydney.

Browse the Blog

About The Blog: This blog is managed and written by staff of the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The information here is reliable and accurate but should not necessarily be viewed as official statements from the Church. The purpose of this blog is to provide journalists, bloggers, and the public with additional context and information regarding public issues involving the Church. For official news releases and statements from the Church, visit

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.