Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Dan Jones: Welsh Missionary Responsible for the Foundation of the Choir

Dan Jones was born the sixth of eight children in a mining area of Wales on August 4, 1810. He was plagued with chronic lung diseases throughout most of his life, which leads some to believe he spent time in the lead mines where he grew up. Because no journal or diary has been found, not much is known about his early life.

As a teenager, Jones became a mariner and would eventually marry Jane Melling on January 3, 1837. A few years later, they immigrated to the United States and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where Jones became a captain of several steamer ships on the Mississippi River.

When Jones started hearing negative things about the Mormons, he began to sympathize with them and was convinced he needed to learn about the Church. Jones was later baptized and developed a strong friendship with the Prophet Joseph Smith. Their friendship would continue until the very end of Joseph Smith’s life in Carthage Jail, where the two were together. The night before the prophet was murdered, Smith asked if Jones was afraid to die; Jones replied, “Has that time come think you? Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.” In his last recorded prophecy, Smith then said, “You will yet see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed you ere you die.”

The very next day, Jones left Carthage to deliver a letter to a lawyer from Joseph Smith. On the way, he escaped a mob that chased him while firing bullets all around him. The following day, Jones heard of the Prophet’s death. 

In two months' time, Jones was sailing to Wales to fulfill the prophecy of Joseph Smith. While his first year of missionary work was not as successful as he’d hoped, membership eventually grew from 250 members to 4,000 by the end of his four-year mission.

When Jones and his wife returned to the United States, he brought 250 converts, who were the first group of non-English-speaking members of the Church. Among them were many singers who eventually would become the foundation of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. John Parry, the first conductor of the Choir, organized 85 Welsh converts to sing musical numbers for the general conference in October of 1849.

Jones died in 1862, in Provo, Utah, from the lung ailment that had troubled him for so long.

Below, Welsh guest artist, Bryn Terfel, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform "How Great Thou Art."