How Latter-day Saints Have Influenced Each of the 50 States


After its organization in 1830, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traveled across the United States. Whether they serve as the birthplaces for their leaders or the sites of wondrous miracles, each of the 50 states has a footprint left by Latter-day Saints.


Many early missionaries frequently passed through Alabama, but for one missionary, this state was not a checkpoint but a destination. When 17-year-old Elder John Brown arrived in ragged clothing, the community gathered to mock him. However, his testimony brought the crowd to a stunned silence and caused them to treat him very well after that. Thanks to the missionary efforts of men and women like Elder Brown, today the total membership in Alabama is 37,487.


Dr. Edward G. Cannon was a Latter-day Saint physician who moved from Ogden to Alaska during one of the 19th-century gold rushes. The 79-year-old did more than just live the gospel once he arrived—he made sure it could go with him wherever he went. In fact, reports indicate that he took a movable “tabernacle” from settlement to settlement in his efforts to establish the Church in Alaska. Today Alaska has 33,492 members.


The First Mesa Company was a group of 85 Latter-day Saints who were instructed by Brigham Young to settle in Arizona. When the company arrived, they decided against settling in the Salt River Valley with other groups who had also been sent to settle the area, instead stopping on the mesa top. In order to get water, these Saints carved out a 12-mile canal in 9 months. Their settlement would grow into what we know today as Mesa, Arizona.


President Wilford Woodruff was one of the first two missionaries to bring the gospel to Arkansas. While there he and his companion were received with anger and hostility until a man named Jonathan Hubble told them that he and his wife had read the Book of Mormon and believed. Hubble offered shelter and food, which the missionaries gladly accepted. Mr. and Mrs. Hubble were later baptized, becoming the first converts in Arkansas.


In 1846, 238 Latter-day Saints from New York, determined to follow the Saints to Utah, pooled their money together and charted a sea voyage from New York City to Yerba Buena, later renamed San Francisco. Their arrival nearly tripled the size of the small town. While there, the Saints introduced several of the first English services to California, such as the first English newspaper (the California Star) and the first English-language school. They left for Salt Lake City in 1848.


The ship Brooklyn, image from Wikimedia Commons


Lawrence M. Petersen and his older brother were emigrants from Denmark on their way to the Great Basin. When Peterson got lost, his company was forced to move on. Petersen was found by a caravan of Spanish traders who took him in until 21 years later, when he finally traveled to Utah and was reactivated in the Church. Lorenzo H. Hatch later reported that Petersen began proselyting in Trinidad, Colorado, and baptized about 40 of the Spanish settlers there. 


On April 15, 1837, President Woodruff received his patriarchal blessing and was promised that he would bring his father’s household into the kingdom of God. On July 1, 1838, he returned to his home state of Connecticut, determined to fulfill that promise. He preached to his father’s household and they readily believed. Despite opposition, the entire household was baptized later that day. Today Connecticut is home to over 15,000 members.


In the 1930s, Delaware became one of three states to participate in a radio missionary program. The program was pioneered by James H. Moyle, the mission president over the Eastern States Mission at the time. The radio broadcast took place every Sunday morning and contained a scripture, music, and spiritual messages. These continued until 1960 when stations no longer gave free airtime.


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The Deseret Ranch was first suggested by a man named Henry Moyle. He longed to create a cattle ranch that the Church could use as a resource to feed people in times of need. In 1949, Meeks found 50,000 acres, cleared of trees and covered in swampland. One year later, Moyle had acquired the first parcels for the Church and he and his team got to work establishing what would one day become the largest cow-calf operation in the United States.  Deseret Ranch now supports the Church’s charitable efforts.


Elder LeGrand Richards wrote the outline for A Marvelous Work and a Wonder in Atlanta, Georgia, during his time as mission president of the Southern States Mission. A Marvelous Work and a Wonder was originally a guide meant to assist his missionaries, however, it was later expanded and published, becoming one of the most widely read books in the Church.  


The Laie Hawaii Temple was the first temple dedicated outside of the continental United States and took a lot of effort to build. Often, temple construction stopped while contractors sought necessary materials. One particular time, construction was halted due to a lack of lumber. After praying for help, temple contractor Ralph Woolley was approached by the captain of a stranded freight ship who miraculously offered him lumber in return for help in unloading his ship. Work continued shortly after, and the temple was dedicated in 1919.


When the first Latter-day Saints were being sent to settle Idaho, the Shoshone chief Washakie received several messages from President Brigham Young, who assured Chief Washakie that the Saints were there to help. Although many of the tribal leaders did not want the help of the Saints, Chief Washakie believed that they were sent from God, and was later baptized.


When the Saints were driven from their homes in Missouri, they fled to Illinois. They found an ally in Governor Thomas Carlin, who was outraged by what the Saints had endured in Missouri. Carlin helped them by granting the Saints power to organize their own legislative body and create a subset of the state militia. With these legal powers, the Latter-day Saint city of Nauvoo quickly grew to rival Chicago in size. 


In 2010, members of the Indianapolis Indiana North Stake were issued a challenge by their stake presidency to index one million names by the end of the year. These faithful members put their shoulder to the wheel. Within days of accomplishing their goal, their efforts were met with an outpouring of blessings as President Thomas S. Monson announced plans to construct the Indianapolis Temple. 


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When the Saints were forced to begin their journey westward, Iowa was potentially the most difficult part of that journey, taking 131 days to cross only 300 miles; with challenges ranging from lack of food to sickness, severe winter weather, and disorganized camps. Iowa was also the state where Brigham Young officially became the second President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 


When the Church agreed to join the United States in the war against Mexico, the Mormon Battalion was formed. Over 500 men were trained and equipped for battle in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, before setting off on what would become the longest infantry march in the history of the United States.


While every temple is made with care and dedication, the Louisville Kentucky Temple construction was especially meticulous in everything from the regulations to the temple stones. Over 40% of the incoming stone was rejected; only the whitest pieces were selected. In fact, one building inspector even joked that he would never have to worry about the temple because the Church had much stricter building codes than the city did. The Louisville Kentucky Temple was dedicated on March 19, 2000.


In response to a request from the Saints in Louisiana, Joseph Smith sent a man named Harrison Sagers to New Orleans in the 1840s. Sagers faced such strong opposition that a courageous group of Latter-day Saint women once came to his aid by forming a protective circle around him in a mob. 


For over a century, Maine struggled to gain new members. When Annie Marr joined the Church in 1919, she was one of only four or five members in the entire area. Several years later, a man named George McLaughlin was called to serve as branch president. Led by the Spirit, he instructed the members of his branch that they needed to pray constantly and share the gospel to help the Church grow in their area. That year the branch was blessed with 450 convert baptisms and 200 the year after, organizing two stakes in only five years. 


Erastus Snow was 13 years old when he first heard of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ from Elders Orson Pratt and Lyman Johnson. He immediately believed their message, but it was a year before his father would let Erastus be baptized in February of 1833 in icy Lake Derby. Four years later, while serving his own mission in Maryland, Snow gladly did the same for another convert, cutting through 18 inches of ice to baptize an 89-year-old man. 


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The home state of Joseph Smith’s ancestors, Massachusetts is the place where a Smith homestead was passed down through four generations, starting with Joseph Smith’s great-great-great-grandfather Robert Smith and ending with his grandfather Asael Smith. Although the original homestead in Topsfield was razed in 1875, a Smith Homestead monument was later erected in its place and can still be seen there today.


During the first month that the Detroit Michigan Temple opened, the Saints in the area performed over 10,000 ordinances. The demand was so high that there were not enough workers for the daily operations, meaning that patrons were asked to help, sometimes wiping down the baptismal font after doing baptisms or helping with the laundry. Whatever they were asked to do, by helping to take care of the temple the Saint’s enjoyed a much more personal experience.


When Wayne M. Howell was asked to create two paintings for the St. Paul Minnesota Temple, he knew he needed a sunny day to paint and prayed for sun. The day he needed to paint was a cloudy day, but when he was ready to begin, the clouds parted into sun just over where he was, despite the rest of the area remaining covered in clouds.  


When Mississippi Saints in Monroe County were called to join the Saints fleeing Nauvoo, they headed to the Platte River join the rest of the Saints. Upon arriving, they were disappointed to no one waiting. Assuming the Saints had pressed on, they followed only to discover later that they were actually ahead of everyone else.  After wintering in Colorado, they rendezvoused with the rest of the Saints and were part of the first group to arrive with Brigham Young. 


In 1831, President Joseph Smith declared Jackson County, Missouri, the first gathering place for the Latter-day Saints. Obedient to their prophet’s direction, the Saints flocked to Jackson County from all over. This influx raised many concerns with the other citizens of Jackson County and surrounding areas. Tensions grew and mobs eventually drove the members from Missouri altogether. 


Though not necessarily under Church leaders’ directions, many Saints settled in Montana after crossing the plains. Wanting to be involved, Church members in organizations such as Mutual and Primary performed plays and minstrel shows in their church buildings and invited the community. The shows were so successful that there were not enough seats for everyone who wished to attend, and a resident of the Drummond, Montana, area raised money that allowed them to buy more pews for these events.


Nebraska is home to Winter Quarters, which temporarily served as Church headquarters and an in-between point for pioneers preparing for the trek west and waiting for better weather. However, over 700 Saints died in the first winter there, and almost a year after its establishment, the settlement was abandoned as the Saints went to Utah.


In April 1855, President Brigham Young called 30 men to serve a mission at the Las Vegas Springs. Almost two years later, the missionaries were recalled. However, Fort Baker, known as the “Old Mormon Fort,” remains the first non-native building in what is now known as Las Vegas.


Old Mormon Fort, image from Wikimedia Commons by David Stanley

New Hampshire

While living in Lebanon, New Hampshire, 8-year-old Joseph Smith contracted typhoid fever, which left his leg infected. Doctors recommended that his leg be amputated, but at the request of the family, they instead performed an experimental surgery with just the boy’s father holding him still and comforting his pain. The leg healed, but Joseph Smith was forced to use crutches for the next three years and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. 

New Jersey 

Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, finished her high school years in New Jersey. While there, the Washington D.C. Temple was announced. As donations were needed, the teenager determined to help, including donating the $75 she had saved from her after-school job. Years later, she moved to Illinois with her husband, where she was able to attend the temple that she helped build.

New Mexico

On their way to the Pacific Ocean, the Mormon Battalion followed what was known as the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico. However, upon reaching Santa Fe, they were forced to blaze their own trail the rest of the way. Their path followed the Rio Grande near present-day Albuquerque. Today a 20-foot monument between Albuquerque and Santa Fe honors their journey.

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New York 

In addition to being the location of the First Vision and the burial place of the Book of Mormon record, New York is also home to the Hill Cumorah Pageant, America’s largest outdoor theatrical event. This event brings life to the stories in the Book of Mormon, and at its peak had some 73,000 people attend, including thousands who wanted to know more. The Hill Cumorah Pageant recently celebrated its 80-year anniversary.

North Carolina 

In order to prepare for the groundbreaking of the Raleigh North Carolina Temple, a youth of the Church in the surrounding area were asked to clear away the brush and logs. On the day chosen for the clearing, however, weather services predicted a 100 percent chance of rain. Undaunted, more than 1,000 young Latter-day Saints arrived to help, where not a drop of rain was seen until five minutes after the final group was finished. The Raleigh temple was dedicated in 1999. 

North Dakota 

In 1976, the Church purchased a plot of land for a chapel for the Bismarck Branch. The land, however, was L-shaped, and the Saints wondered what to do with the extra leg. Though many Church leaders thought of selling the land, each one felt inspired not to. Years later that “extra” plot of land would become the location for the Bismarck North Dakota Temple.


When Elders Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt passed through Ohio on their way to preach to the American Indians in 1830, they decided to visit Elder Pratt’s former religious leader, Sidney Rigdon. Though initially skeptical of their message, Rigdon agreed to read the Book of Mormon. Several days later, he and many members of his large congregation were baptized. Sidney Rigdon would go on to play an important role in the restoration of the Church. 


In the dedicatory prayer of the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple, the temple was blessed that its walls and windows would be protected against the storms of nature. Nine years later, a major tornado outbreak in Oklahoma City left 29,000 homes without power, 50 people injured, and nine people dead. Miraculously, however, the only damage on the temple grounds was to several exterior lights and the cars in the parking lot. 


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When the prophet Joseph Smith visited Washington D.C., Senator Henry Clay advised him to take the Saints to the Oregon Territory instead of the Great Basin. But because the United States and Great Britain governments had both claimed the territory and neither would provide the support needed for the Saints to settle there, a large-scale Latter-day Saint settlement would not grow in Oregon until 1887. Today, Oregon is home to 153,955 Latter-day Saints, two temples, and three missions.


The prophet Joseph Smith received the golden plates while living with Emma in Harmony, Pennsylvania. It was also in Pennsylvania that most of the Book of Mormon was translated with the help of Oliver Cowdery and others over the course of three months. During this translation, Joseph Smith received a revelation that led to both his and Oliver Cowdery’s baptism in the nearby Susquehanna River. 

Rhode Island 

Rhode Island is the birthplace of Truman O. Angell, the architect behind the Salt Lake Temple. He was born in Providence and was baptized in 1833 with his mother, sister, and wife. It wasn’t until 34 years later that he would be called to serve as the Church architect, despite his poor health. Not only did he direct the building of the Salt Lake Temple but he also directed the building of the Lion House, the Beehive House, the Utah Territorial Statehouse, and the St. George Utah Temple. 

South Carolina 

The oldest continuous branch in South Carolina started when Catawba tribal leader James Patterson and 31 others were baptized. A branch was created, and despite a brief period of mob threats, the Catawba Tribe provided armed men to stand guard during Church meetings.  By 1950, 97 percent of the Catawba nation was converted.

South Dakota 

In 1949, the Sioux Falls Branch was organized. Soon after, approval was given for the building of a chapel. In order to raise money to pay for the building, the Relief Society sold hand-dipped chocolates for five dollars a box. 


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Nashville, Tennessee, is home to many talented musicians, including Latter-day Saints Jason Deere and Dan Truman. The two collaborated on an album along with other religious artists and soon became the Nashville Tribute Band. This band aims to produce faith-promoting albums and regularly collaborating with other well-known artists. They recently released a new album, Redeemer, in the hopes of reaching other Christian faiths.


When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, even the temple was affected. Dropping 52 inches of rain in late August of 2017, the hurricane eventually flooded the entire Houston Texas Temple annex building, temple basement, and the main floor with more than a foot of water. In response, Church leaders officially closed the temple until it could be repaired and rededicated in April of 2018.


Home to Church headquarters, hundreds of early Latter-day Saint Church history sites, and dozens of modern-day Church leaders, Utah is also the home to the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the largest auditorium-style building in the world: The Conference Center. 


Image from Wikimedia Commons by Ben P L


In order to commemorate the centennial of President Joseph Smith’s birth at his grandfather Solomon Mack’s farm, a 50-foot granite monument was constructed in Vermont. His birth would mark the beginning of a new gospel dispensation. Vermont is also the birthplace of over a dozen of the early leaders of the Church including President Brigham Young and Elder Lyman E. Johnson. 


With 159 operating temples worldwide and 81 of those functioning within the United States, Virginia has been one of only 18 without a temple. That changed in April 2018 general conference when President Russell M. Nelson announced plans for a temple in Richmond, Virginia. 


In 2008, a group of 2,200 Latter-day Saint youth performed several dance shows paying tribute to the early pioneers. After seven months of practicing, they performed these impressive, honorary shows in the Tacoma Dome which seats up to 23,000 people.


Image from Shutterstock

West Virginia 

West Virginia is the birthplace of former Relief Society President Bathsheba W. Smith—one of the youngest women present at the organization of the Relief Society in 1842. She would later marry George A. Smith, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  In 1901, she was called as general Relief Society president and served until she died nine years later. 


In order to find white pine suitable for building the Nauvoo temple, a group of Latter-day Saints led by Bishop George Miller traveled to Wisconsin to find it. There they gathered timber and floated it down the Black River to Nauvoo where it was used in the construction of the interior and roof of the temple. 


While most remembered as the place where the Martin and Willie handcart companies met an early blizzard and suffered tragic pain and death on their way to the Salt Lake Valley, Wyoming is also home to the Latter-day Saint ferry. Operated by members of the Church, it was potentially the first commercial ferry on the Platte River. A few miles north of Casper, Wyoming, the ferry brought travelers seeking gold in California across the river. The business did very well for itself until the construction of John Richard’s toll bridge in 1853, after which the ferry was discontinued.

Lead image from Shutterstock

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