There are a lot of preconceptions about the Mormon faith, and many of these are negative.
American TV shows such as ‘Big Love’ paint of picture of a religion that still practises polygamy. But for members of the Mormon community in Shrewsbury this portrayal is simply not true.
“There is a lot of stigma around Mormons especially around the polygamy thing. Since day one we have never practised polygamy,” says Matthew Beharrell from Bayston Hill.
“It was introduced in the very early years of the church because of the American civil war. A lot of men died in the war which left women without someone to provide for them.
“But as soon polygamy was outlawed in America it was stopped by the Mormons.”
He added that people who continue to practise polygamy today are ex-communicated from the church.
“Another misunderstanding is the name of our church. The word ‘Mormons’ I guess is a name we have gained from the ‘Book of Mormon’, which we used hand in hand with the Bible. The correct name of our church is actually The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Matthew plays an active role in the church as executive secretary to his younger brother John, who recently became the youngest ever bishop of the Shrewsbury church.
Twenty-nine-year-old John Beharrell, also from Bayston Hill, took on the voluntary role as bishop on top of his day job as an audiologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. He is also husband to Carissa and father to two small boys.
The church, on the corner of Ellesmere Road and Mount Pleasant Road, is regularly attended by around 90 members and also holds a weekly youth group. Bishop Beharrell is keen for the church to become more involved in the local community and has encouraged activities such as entertaining the residents at local care homes.
He is eager to hear of any suggestions of future service projects from local residents.
The Beharrell brothers have been part of the church since they were born.
Their parents June and Gordon Beharrell joined after a visit from two Mormon missionaries who knocked on their door more than 50 years ago.
The church still encourages all worthy young men and women to give up two years of their life to serve as missionaries and spread the gospel.
Both Matthew and John spent time abroad on missions, which included knocking on people’s doors, street contacting and taking part in community work in the area.
Matthew said: “I spent two years in Ireland and John went to Canada, we weren’t forced to go and we had to pay for the trip ourselves, but it was a great experience and really boosted our confidence.”
“A lot of people think we are a cult, but this is definitely not the case as we are Christians and believe in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, like many other common religions.
“We are very willing to talk to those people who want to Matt and John in Paris. learn about our faith, but don’t force it upon themas we are all free to choose. You certainly won’t see us standing on top of soap boxes up Pride Hill preaching to people.”
As well as their roles in the church the brothers are following in the footsteps of their late father as keen charity fundraisers.
Before he passed away in 2009, Gordon Beharrell raised £100,000 for our Lingen Davies appeal and Severn Hospice.
The brothers recently continued their father’s efforts, completing a London to Paris bike ride in aid of the Severn Hospice.
John Beharrell is keen to welcome visitors to the 10am Sunday service at his church.
More information can be found at www.mormon.org
By Catherine Ferris