- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mississippi
As of year-end 2007,
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsreported 20,377 members, 4 stakes, 28 wards, and 16 branches in Mississippi. [LDS Newsroom (Statistical Information) [http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/contact-us/usa-mississippi] ]
Missionaries John D. Hunter and
Benjamin L. Clapparrived in Tishomingo County in 1839. On December 26, 1839, Hunter reported they baptized six people. Seven more were baptized in 1840 by Norvel M. Head. Five more people were baptized on December 1, 1841 by elders Daniel Tyler and R. D. Sheldon.
Escaping persecution, a group of 80-90 members in 40 wagons arrived in
Nauvoofrom Mississippi in April 1842. A small branch was organized in Monroe County in 1842 where others were converted. Other branches were created in Mississippi as membership increased.
On April 8, 1846, a company of settlers left Monroe County expecting to join the main body of
Latter-day Saintsin Winter Quartersthat was then planning to travel to the Rocky Mountains. They instead became the first group of Mormons to cross the plains, wintering with fur trappers in Pueblo, Coloradothat same year. These were the first to establish a religious colony in the west since the Spanish priests of 1769. Later, they founded a second colony at Cottonwood and Holladay in the Salt Lake Valley(once called the Mississippi Ward). [ [http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=e2cf1f26d596b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1 Mississippi Mormons] ] They also helped found San Bernardino and were involved in other colonies along the Little Colorado in Arizona. Alice Rowan, [City of San Bernardino, "The Area’s First Black College Graduate" [http://www.ci.san-bernardino.ca.us/about/history/pioneer_women/alice_rowan_johnson.asp] ] one of the children of these first pioneers who taught at Riverside California, was among the first African American women to teach at a public school in the U.S.
Missionary work in Mississippi halted during the Civil War. This was resumed in 1877 with the arrival of W. H. Crawford and others. The Baldwin Branch was organized on July 27 1877. In 1880, opposition tried, but failed to enlist the governor’s help in forcing Missionaries to leave the state. Missionary Alma P Richards was murdered in 1888, though a church investigation committee concluded that the motive was likely a robbery rather than persecution. [The Dennis Wendt Jr. Post [http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4521] ]
On July 24, 1935, the first "Pioneer Day" celebration in Mississippi honoring the Utah pioneers was held in Columbia. Members of the Columbia and Darbun Branches dressed in pioneer outfits and paraded down Main Street to the City Park for a pioneer picnic and activities. Townsfolk were invited and participated. An impromptu rodeo was held at the end of the day-long celebration when a missionary from Canada, Elder Weldon Bascom, showed his rodeo cowboy skills by riding a wild bucking mule for entertainment. This bucking exhibition sparked such interest in the town that a professional rodeo was organized a month later by Weldon Bascom and his brother Earl Bascom, assisted by other Mormon cowboys including Jake Lybbert, Waldo Ross, Ashel Evans, Horace and Lester Flake, and Don and Ferral Pearce. Some of these cowboys were still serving as missionairies. This historic rodeo is now known as the world's first night rodeo held outdoors under electric lights.
The first two stakes in Mississippi (Jackson and Hattiesburg) were created in 1965. The Jackson Stake stake was created on May 2,1965. It consisted of wards in Jackson, Meridian, Natchez, Columbus, Vicksburg, and Red Star, and a branch in Greenville. [Gulf States Get New Stake(May 8, 1965)LDS Church News]
The Hattiesburg Stake was created on June 27 1965 with wards in Biloxi, Columbia, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Liberty and Pascagoula. The Bayou La Croix, Darburn, Laurel, McNiel, Sant Hill and Seminary branches were also organized into that stake. [Gulf States Get New Stake (July 3, 1965) LDS Church News]
A monument at
Mormon Springs(where many of the early saints were baptized) was dedicated in memory of the early pioneers fom Mississippi, known as the Mississippi Saints. [Mormon Springs, Monroe County [http://hillcountryofmonroecountry.blogspot.com/2007/11/mississippi-saints-mormon-springs.html] ] Also that year, a program was held commemorating the temporary colony in Pueblo, Coloradoestablished by the Mississippi Saints.
On March 1, 2003, President
Gordon B. Hinckleyspoke to 6,000 members at the DeSoto Civic Centerin Southhaven, Mississippi. With no assignments for that weekend, President Hinckley said he wished to visit an area where he had never been.
Hurricane Katrinain 2005, several thousand Latter-day Saint volunteers, from a 7 state area (including Mississippi), went to the hurricane devastated areas. Many of them taking time out of their jobs or came down on the weekends to help anyone needing assistance ( Mormonand non-Mormon). [Latter-day Saints to Mobilize Another 4,000 Volunteers in Chainsaw Brigade’s Second Wave [http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/latter-day-saints-to-mobilize-another-4-000-volunteers-in-chainsaw-brigade-s-second-wave] ] [Joining Hands as Neighbors and Now Friends [http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/joining-hands-as-neighbors-and-now-friends] ]
In September 2008, Mississippi Latter-day Saints went to the
Baton Rougearea to aid clean up efforts following Hurricane Gustav.
Mississippi formed part of several church missions. Originally a conference of the Southern States Mission, it later became part of Central States Mission, Texas-Louisiana Mission, Gulf States Mission, Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission and ultimately the Mississippi Jackson Mission formed in 1979 with Frank W. Hirschi as president.
Parts of the state are located in the Alabama Birmingham, Arkansas Little Rock, and Louisiana Baton Rouge Missions.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints membership statistics (United States)
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