"The Goliath of Their Cause" : The B. H. Roberts and William Jarman Debates in England, 1887-1888
Journal of Mormon History
University of Illinois Press; Mormon History Association
In July 1887, B. H. Roberts found himself on a speaking platform at Hoyland Common in Yorkshire, England, thousands of miles from his Utah home. He rose to challenge the assertions of one of Mormonism’s fiercest critics, an apostate named William Jarman, who had been making attacks against the Saints for many years accusing them of murder, blasphemy, and immorality. The local newspaper said that Roberts had accepted an invitation to debate after there had been several attempts to interest “the Mormon elders, who have been constantly visiting the neighborhood for the past few months” to take on their critic. As a result of his willingness to accept the challenge, the paper labeled him the “Goliath of their cause.”1 This effort in Yorkshire represents the beginning of a campaign against Jarman that would take Roberts throughout England and Wales over the next eighteen months. These forays were widely read in Utah through reports in the Deseret Evening News and the Millennial Star. In this article, I will explore Jarman’s assertions, Roberts’s response to them, and, in the process, shed light on a crucial period in the history of Mormonism in Victorian England and on the career of B. H. Roberts as well.