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Christmas Lights at the Mesa Arizona Temple

As of December 31, 2017, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) reported 428,069 members in 895 congregations in Arizona, with 6 missions and 6 temples.[1]

History

Mormon Battalion
Main article: Mormon Battalion (sections: Battle of the Bulls and Capture of Tucson)

The first presence of Latter-day Saints in Arizona was the Mormon Battalion. They marched through what is now southern Arizona in 1846 on the way to California as part of the Mexican–American War. They encountered wild cattle bulls and killed several of them in defense. They passed through Tucson (then a town of 400–500 inhabitants) causing an attachment of Mexican Forces to flee. They camped at the mouth of the Gila River before entering California.

Northern Arizona settlements

The next time Latter-day Saints entered the area was in 1858 and 1859, when Jacob Hamblin and his companions camped at Pipe Spring in the northwestern part of present-day Arizona. They did this while journeying to and from their missions among the Moqui (Hopi) Indians east of the Colorado River.

During the 1860s and 1870s, LDS parties explored portions of the area searching for possible settlement sites. Also during this period, isolated ranches and small Mormon settlements were established at Short Creek (now Colorado City), Pipe Spring, Beaver Dam and neighboring Littlefield, and Lee's Ferry, all in the area between the Utah border and the Grand Canyon known as the Arizona Strip.

The first effort at large-scale LDS colonization came in March 1873 when a group of Latter-day Saints was sent from Utah to the Little Colorado River drainage under the direction of Horton D. Height. The colonizers turned back, discouraged by the poor prospects, but a few returned the following year and began farming among the Native Americans at Moencopi. Local hostilities forced the colonists to leave again after a month. A year later, James S. Brown led another small colonizing group that successfully settled at Moencopi, then began exploring the surrounding area. Following these explorations, a large group of settlers, led by Lot Smith, arrived in the spring of 1876 and established four settlements on the Little Colorado, which they called Ballenger's Camp (later renamed Brigham City), Sunset, Obed and Allen City (later renamed St. Joseph, and then Joseph City).[2]

Central and southern Arizona settlements
File:Maricopa Stake Tabernacle.png

The former Maricopa Stake Tabernacle (1896–1967), in Mesa

Daniel W. Jones was commissioned by Brigham Young to start a Mormon colony within the Salt River Valley of the Arizona Territory. The settlement party arrived at what would become Lehi, Arizona in March 1877. Jones' invitation to local Native Americans to live with them became a point of controversy, and half of the initial colony left, moving on to found St. David, Arizona.[3] In February 1878 the First Mesa Company arrived in Lehi. Rather than accepting an invitation to settle at Jones' settlement, they moved to the top of the mesa, and founded Mesa, Arizona. They dug irrigation canals, incorporating the original Hohokam canals in some places, and within a couple of months water was flowing through them.[4]

Pima was founded in 1879 by Mormon settlers relocating from Forrest Dale, after that location was declared to be on tribal land. Originally named Smithville, it was unlike other Mormon settlements of the era, not being planned by the leaders of the church.[5] Joseph K. Rogers was the first branch president at Pima, being appointed to this office before the settlers arrived. The branch was organized into a ward in 1880. In 1930 the total population of Pima was 980, 666 of whom were LDS, and a total of 1,260 people resided within the Pima ward boundaries.[6]

Membership history

LDS Membership in Arizona

Year LDS Membership
1920 14,813
1930 18,732
1940 25,272
1950 33,937
1960 60,457
1970 94,249
1980 171,880
1990 241,000
1999 305,034
2008 374,830
2012 395,296
2015 418,959
2017 428,069

Missions

On March 7, 1943, the Navajo-Zuni Mission was organized, and specialized with teaching Native Americans in their language. This was renamed the Southwest Indian Mission on January 1, 1949, and again the New Mexico-Arizona Mission on October 10, 1972. It was discontinued and transferred into the Arizona Phoenix Mission on July 1, 1984.

On August 1, 1969, the Arizona Mission was organized from the California South Mission, and was renamed the Arizona Tempe Mission on June 20, 1974.

Arizona is now home to six missions.

Mission Organized
Arizona Gilbert Mission July 1, 2013
Arizona Tempe Mission August 1, 1969
Arizona Phoenix Mission July 1, 1984
Arizona Scottsdale Mission July 1, 2013
Arizona Tucson Mission July 1, 1990
Arizona Mesa Mission July 1, 2002

Temples

File:HoneymoonTrail (3568775454).jpg

Route marker on House Rock Valley Road for the Honeymoon Trail, which included part of this road

On October 23, 1927, the Mesa Arizona Temple was dedicated. Until that time, members had traveled to the St. George Temple. Because of all the bridal parties that traversed the trail during the early years, the wagon road between St. George and the Arizona settlements became known as the Honeymoon Trail.[7][8] The Mesa Arizona Temple was the first temple in the Church to be rededicated (on April 15, 1975) after extensive remodeling and enlarging to accommodate increased attendance.

On March 3, 2002, a second Arizona temple was dedicated in Snowflake. Since then, a third, The Gila Valley Arizona Temple has been dedicated in Central, Arizona and three additional temples have been dedicated in Gilbert, Phoenix, and Tucson.


Communities

Latter-day Saints have had a significant role in establishing, settling, and/or populating communities within the "Mormon Corridor", including the following in Arizona:

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  • Beaver Dam
  • Brigham City (ghost town)
  • Central
  • Eagar
  • Fredonia
  • Gilbert
  • Heber-Overgaard
  • Joseph City
  • Layton (absorbed by Safford)
  • Lee's Ferry
  • Lehi (annexed by Mesa)
  • Littlefield
  • Maryvale in Phoenix
  • Mesa
  • Mormon Lake
  • Obed (ghost town)
  • Pomerene
  • Pima
  • Pine
  • Pipe Spring
  • Queen Creek
  • Safford
  • Scottsdale
  • St. David
  • St. Johns
  • Snowflake
  • Sunset (ghost town)
  • Taylor
  • Thatcher
  • Tuba City
  • Wilford
  • Woodruff

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Notable people

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  • John K. Carmack
  • Jake Flake
  • Jeff Flake
  • William J. Flake
  • Francis M. Gibbons
  • Jacob Hamblin
  • Charles E. Jones (judge)
  • Daniel Webster Jones (Mormon)
  • David Patten Kimball
  • Spencer W. Kimball
  • Rex E. Lee
  • Evan Mecham
  • Fred Mortensen
  • Charles Sreeve Peterson
  • Miles Park Romney
  • Eric B. Shumway
  • Jesse N. Smith
  • Lot Smith
  • Delbert L. Stapley
  • David King Udall
  • Udall family
  • Bob Worsley

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See also

  • Aztec Land & Cattle Company (1884–1902)
  • Arizona's 6th congressional district
  • Mormon colonies in Mexico
  • Mormon Corridor
  • State of Deseret
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints membership statistics (United States)
  • John Willard Young

References

  1. “LDS Statistics and Church Facts | Total Church Membership.” Www.mormonnewsroom.org, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/country/united-states/state/arizona.
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Further reading

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