The Field Is White: 11 Years in the Making

Carol Wilkinson has spent the past 11 years writing a book that shares the stories of early converts from the Three Counties in England.

The Field Is White: Harvest in the Three Counties of England by Carol Wilkinson, McKay School associate professor, and Cynthia Doxey Green hit bookshelves mid-June. The book shares the inspiring stories of English converts throughout the Three Counties area of England: Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire. The book also discusses the crucial work that Wilford Woodruff and other missionaries did as they taught the United Brethren and other early converts.

 

Wilkinson is the program coordinator of Physical Education Teacher Education in the Department of Teacher Education. She was also a transfer religion professor from 2002 to 2012, and during that time she wrote several religion articles. She was approached to write the book in 2005 by the associate dean of religious education at Brigham Young University. Wilkinson originally declined the offer, since the subject was outside of her primary research area as a physical education professor.

 

Paul Peterson, the department chair of Church History and Doctrine, was then selected as the primary author. He approached Wilkinson, hoping she would agree to be a coauthor alongside Green and himself. After reflecting on spiritual experiences she’d had two months prior when she wrote an article about the Gadfield Chapel in the Three Counties, she agreed to help write the book.

 

From start to finish, The Field Is White took 11 years to write. The team began gathering data and conducting research in 2006, but the writing process faced several challenges along the way. Unfortunately, in 2007, Peterson passed away from cancer, leaving Wilkinson and Green to finish the project. A year later, Green moved to North Carolina, leaving Wilkinson as the only author still at BYU, where she worked on the book during her Christmas vacations and summer breaks. 

 

“There were times when I thought, Are we ever going to get this done? It was interesting. There were a couple of times when I had this feeling [that] these people who had been converts from that area [were saying,] ‘Tell our story. . . . Finish this and tell our story,’” said Wilkinson. 

 

Wilkinson estimated that two-thirds of the 11 years was spent conducting research. The coauthors decided in the beginning as they considered convert stories that they would only be using primary sources, specifically journals from the actual Saints. Extensive time was spent in the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they were able to track down numerous journal entries. The $20,000 grant to help the team conduct research allowed them to hire student employees, who helped gather research and data. 

 

Over the course of the 11 years, Wilkinson traveled to England four times. These trips were used to conduct research, locate and visit historic sites such as homes that belonged to members of the United Brethren, take photographs that have been used in the book, and more. These trips helped Wilkinson foster the connection she feels to the book and to the individuals she has written about.

 

Writing this book was a learning experience for Wilkinson. She joked that writing this helped her to fully realize what a very long project is truly like. On a more serious note, she discussed what she had learned from a spiritual perspective. 

 

“Pay attention to what Heavenly Father wants you to do. . . . He places us in different situations and He prepares the way, just as He did with those United Brethren,” shared Wilkinson. 

 

Wilkinson is originally from York, England. She is an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education in the McKay School of Education. She has taught at Brigham Young University for 22 years. Prior to teaching, she served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the England, Bristol Mission. She earned her BEd from Durham University, an MS from BYU, and an EdD from BYU.

 

Writer: Camilla Nielsen

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922