Though missionary work spread through neighboring states during the 1830s and 1840s, it appears the first elder to preach in Minnesota was Ralph Joung, who in 1854, “preached at Spring Grove,” according to a Minnesota county newspaper.
In 1857, missionaries baptized Minnesota settlers Robert and Sarah Pope in Morristown, along with Edwin Theodore Pope and his wife, whose name was not recorded. These converts soon gathered with the saints in Utah. The next missionary to Minnesota was Silas Hoyt in September 1868 and two years later Ariah C. Brower and Eli Whipple worked in Minnesota and adjoining states.
Minnesota had a high percentage of Scandinavian immigrants in the 1870s, so in 1875 Bengt P. Wulffenstein, who spoke Swedish, German and Danish began a systematic and successful effort to teach the many Scandinavians in the state. That same year, Wulffenstein organized Minnesota’s first branch, a small group of converts in Freeborn County. By 1877, five more branches were organized in the cities of Princeton, Monticello, Farmersville, Burns and Isanti, and by February 1882, Minnesota had 74 members.
The town of Monticello became a center for the work as Deborah Houghton Riggs, the wife of its founder, Ashley C. Riggs, joined the Church. The Riggs family helped support the elders, boarded them, and because of the family’s prominence deflected criticism of the elders and the Church. By the end of the 1870s and early 1880s, groups of Latter-day Saints began to migrate to Utah including a group of 70 from Monticello. In 1886, about 227 members belonged to the Minnesota Conference, which also included Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Iowa.
By the turn of the 20th century, most Minnesota converts had left for Zion. The handful who remained worked to build the Church. Minnesota Conference headquarters were established in Minneapolis in 1900 and on 20 May a Sunday School was organized in Minneapolis and another was organized in St. Paul on 5 August. The Sunday Schools were combined in 1902. The new unit had an average attendance of 50. Mission president German E. Ellsworth served from 1904-1919, and under his leadership, the first Church-owned building in Minnesota was purchased on 9 May 1914 for the St. Paul Branch. A baptismal font was installed in its basement for baptismal services for converts from the entire state. By 1919, membership had increased to 4,000 in 30 branches. A meetinghouse was dedicated in Minneapolis on 26 October 1924 by President Heber J. Grant and Elder George Albert Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve. By 1930, there were three districts in the state: the North, South and Lake.
The Minnesota Stake, the first in the state, was organized in Minneapolis on 29 November 1960 with six wards and five branches, and a membership of 2,600. When the name of the Minnesota Stake was changed to the Minneapolis Minnesota Stake in 1974, it had 4,936 members. Two years later, the St. Paul Stake was created. The Minnesota-Manitoba Mission was created in 1970. Boundary changes occurred creating the Minnesota-Wisconsin Mission in 1973. Three years later the Minnesota Minneapolis Mission was created.
A temple was dedicated in St. Paul on 9 January 2000.
Membership reached 26,333 in 2003. In 2005, membership reached 28,042.
Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Fayone B. Willes, Minnesota Mormons, a History of the Minneapolis Minnesota Stake, 1990; The Church in Minnesota, unpublished, Church Archives; “Minneapolis Stake Organized in North Central States,” Church News, 3 December 1960; “5 More Temples for Canada, U.S.,” Church News, 15 August 1998; Janet Kruckenberg, “First Temple in the Year 2000,” Church News, 15 January 2000.