David W. Patten and Warren Parrish arrived in Tennessee shortly before 11 October 1834 and soon baptized 31 people; organizing a branch by the end of the year. These efforts were in Henry, Benton and Humphreys counties. In 1835, Parrish worked alone after Patten returned to Kirtland, Ohio.

On 27 March 1835, Wilford Woodruff, then a priest, came to assist Parrish. When Warren Parrish was called as a Seventy in July 1835, he ordained Woodruff an elder and placed him in charge of the work in Tennessee. Woodruff was assisted by Abraham O. Smoot and Benjamin L. Clapp. By February 1836 there were about 100 members in seven branches. By 1839, 12 branches existed in the state and by 1846, missionaries had preached in 26 counties. Following the exodus to the West, little work was done in Tennessee. Missionaries visited the state in 1857 to call the saints to gather in the West.

In 1870, Hayden Church resumed work in Tennessee. The Southern States Mission was formally organized in 1875 with headquarters in Nashville. They were moved to Chattanooga in 1882 and remained there until 1919. Henry G. Boyle established a branch at Shady Grove in 1875. Mob activity increased significantly in 1879. Some converts in the South left their homes and migrated to the West in 1883. In 1884, members were fired upon in separate incidents. The worst massacre of Church members in the South occurred on 10 August 1884 when a mob shot to death missionaries William S. Berry and John H. Gibbs and local members Martin Condor and John Riley Hudson during Church services near Cane Creek in Lewis County. Mission president Brigham H. Roberts donned a disguise, traveled to the tense area and retrieved the bodies of the slain missionaries. In 1888, a group of 177 saints left Chattanooga for Colorado and Utah.

By the 1890s, public opinion became more tolerant. The oldest existing meetinghouse in the Southeast was dedicated in Northcutts’ Cove on 24 October 1909 by Charles A. Callis. Ten years later branches were listed in Chattanooga and Memphis. On 16 November 1925, a chapel in Memphis was dedicated by Elder George F. Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve. By 1930, about 2,832 members lived in the Middle and East Tennessee districts. At the end of the World War II, many branches were meeting in rented halls. In 1946, the First Presidency approved a new meetinghouse design and in the next few years land was purchased and construction started on meetinghouses throughout parts of Tennessee including the cities of Memphis, Knoxville, Kingsport and Altamont. The 1950s, brought additional growth from the migration of Saints from westward states coming to study and work in Tennessee.

On 18 April 1965, the Memphis Stake, Tennessee’s first, with Richard Stoddard as president, was created by Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve. The Memphis Stake included two wards in Memphis and another in Jackson, plus wards in Mississippi and Arkansas. The Tennessee Nashville Mission was created in 1975, and in 1993, the Tennessee Knoxville Mission was organized. More than 6,500 people attended a meeting where President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke in the Knoxville Civic Coliseum on 15-16 March 1997.

On 12 November 1994, a letter sent to priesthood leaders announced plans to build a temple in Nashville. However, after three unsuccessful years of trying to gain approvals, Church leaders announced on 25 April 1998, they would move ahead with plans to build a temple somewhere else in the Nashville area, and said the temple would be substantially smaller in size. That fall, on 17 September 1998, the First Presidency announced that a second temple would be built in Tennessee, this one in Memphis. This temple, in the suburb of Bartlett, was dedicated 23 April 2000. The next month, on 21 May 2000, the Nashville Tennessee Temple, in the suburb of Franklin, was dedicated.

Membership reached 34,265 in 2003. In 2005, membership reached 38,842.


Southern States Mission directories, 1919-1935, Church Archives; Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Lamar C. Berrett, History of the Southern States Mission, thesis, 1960; Mary Elizabeth Stovall, Orthodoxy Versus Nonconformity: The Mormon Experience in Tennessee and Mississippi, 1875-1905, 1976 research paper, Church Library; Southern States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; East Central State Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; “Memphis Stake Is Organized,” Church News, 24 April 1965; “Eight Missions to be Organized,” Church News, 22 March 1975; “Historic Tennessee Chapel Rededicated,” Church News, 9 November 1986; R. Scott Lloyd, “Chattanooga: LDS in Tennessee Build on a Firm Foundation,” Church News, 25 May 1991; “We Expect Great Things of Our People,” Church News, 22 March 1997; “New Plans Announced for Nashville Temple,” Church News, 25 April 1998; “5 New Temples in U.S., Mexico Announced,” Church News, 24 October 1998; Gerry Avant, “Remembering Roots at Memphis Dedication,” Church News, 29 April 2000; R. Scott Lloyd, “Second Temple Adds to Tennessee Peace,” Church News, 27 May 2000.

See Also