The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mississippi

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As of year-end 2015, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported 21,630 members and 44 congregations (wards and branches) in Mississippi.[1]


Missionaries John D. Hunter and Benjamin L. Clapp arrived 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 Nauvoo from 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 Saints in Winter Quarters that was then planning to travel to the Rocky Mountains. This group was led by John Brown, who had been a leading missionary in Alabama and Mississippi. They instead became the first group of Mormons to cross the plains, wintering with fur trappers in Pueblo, Colorado that 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).[2] They also helped found San Bernardino and were involved in other colonies along the Little Colorado in Arizona. Alice Rowan,[3] 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.[4]

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 missionaries. This historic rodeo in Columbia is now known as the world's first night rodeo held outdoors under electric lights.[citation needed]

The first two stakes in Mississippi (Jackson and Hattiesburg) were created in 1965. The Jackson 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.[5]

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, Sand Hill and Seminary branches were also organized into that stake.[6]

A monument at Mormon Springs (where many of the early saints were baptized) was dedicated in memory of the early pioneers from Mississippi, known as the Mississippi Saints.[7] Also that year, a program was held commemorating the temporary colony in Pueblo, Colorado established by the Mississippi Saints.

On March 1, 2003, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to 6,000 members at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Mississippi. With no assignments for that weekend, President Hinckley said he wished to visit an area where he had never been.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, several thousand Latter-day Saint volunteers, from a seven-state area (including Mississippi), went to the hurricane-devastated areas. Many of them took time out of their jobs or came down on the weekends to help anyone needing assistance (Mormon and non-Mormon).[8][9]

In September 2008, Mississippi Latter-day Saints went to the Baton Rouge area to aid cleanup efforts following Hurricane Gustav.

Year Membership
1839 6
1890 123
1906 1,018
1930 2,170
1970 6,527
1980 10,403
1990 13,000
1999 17,578
2008 20,811


Mississippi is currently part of 9 stakes. 4 of those stakes have their stake center within the state. Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have no paid clergy, stake presidents, bishops, etc. have their own occupation.

Mississippi Stakes
Stake Organized Wards/ Branches in Mississippi Stake President Occupation
Gulfport Mississippi Oct. 10, 1982 5 Robert P. Garrett Sr.[10] Retired US Naval officer and part-time librarian
Hattiesburg Mississippi June 27, 1965 10 Neal T. Holm [11] General Surgeon
Jackson Mississippi May 2, 1965 13 Van J. Bodin[12] Purchasing Manager for Columbus Lumber [4]
Tupelo Mississippi June 9, 1991 10 Gary W. Pettus[13] Business Owner
Other Stakes with units in Mississippi
Stake Organized Wards/ Branches in Mississippi Stake President Occupation
Alexandria Louisiana August 27, 1978 1 Dwigth J. L. Epperson[14] business owner
Denham Springs Louisiana April 19, 1981 2 Raymond Vail Burkart Jr[15] safety manager/security at Kaiser Aluminum
Memphis Tennessee April 18, 1965 3 Steven Moyle Dorius[16] tax attorney at International Paper
Mobile Alabama October 8, 1978 2 Harlan George Spencer[17] service director for Empire Truck Sales
Monroe Louisiana August 18, 1985 1 John A. Heim [18] Facility Manager for the Church


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.

Mission Mississippi Stakes in Mission
Alabama Birmingham Tupelo Mississippi, Mobile Alabama
Arkansas Little Rock Memphis Tennessee
Louisiana Baton Rouge Denham Springs Louisiana, Alexandria Louisiana
Mississippi Jackson Gulfport Mississippi, Hattiesburg Mississippi, Jackson Mississippi, Monroe Louisiana


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