Joseph Smith Sr. (1771-1840) and Lucy Mack (1775-1856) met and courted in Tunbridge, Vt. After their marriage they lived on several Vermont farms and were renting from Lucy’s father when their son Joseph was born at Sharon in 1805. Other early Church leaders born in Vermont include Oliver Cowdery and five members of the original Quorum of the Twelve — Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Luke S. and Lyman E. Johnson and William Smith.

The first Latter-day Saint to visit Vermont was Jared Carter, who in October 1831, returned to his hometown of Benson to preach to relatives and other members of a Free Will Baptist congregation. Twenty-seven members of the group were baptized and a branch organized before Carter’s mission ended in January 1832. Later that year, he preached in several other communities on both sides of the Green Mountains and baptized over 100 more. Also during 1832-1833, Orson Pratt and Lyman Johnson visited numerous Vermont towns and baptized more than 40 people.

By July 1835, when several members of the Quorum of the Twelve met at St. Johnsbury to organize the Vermont Conference, there were about 150 members in good standing in the state with branches at St. Johnsbury, Danville, Charleston, Andover and Benson. During the next 10 years, numerous missionaries worked in Vermont and other branches were organized. But from the beginning the state’s Latter-day Saints were encouraged to gather to Kirtland, Ohio, and later centers farther west. After 1850, few Church members remained in the state and there was only limited contact with the Church until the Eastern States Mission was re-opened in 1893.

Junius F. Wells came from Utah in 1894 to visit Joseph Smith’s birthplace. After viewing the ruins of the farmhouse, Wells felt moved to say, “Sometime we ought to mark this place with a monument to the faith of our people in Joseph Smith.” In the spring of 1905, he returned to Vermont on assignment from the First Presidency to buy the site and in July, after suggesting the idea to President Joseph F. Smith, was commissioned to erect a monument there. President Smith, with one of his counselors, five members of the Twelve, and others came to dedicate the monument on 23 December 1905, the centennial of the Prophet’s birth. By that time, a “Memorial Cottage” had been built, and in years to come, in one of the Church’s earliest experiences with a visitors center, missionary couples welcomed visitors and made friends with area residents.

In July 1909, the Vermont Conference was organized and 16 elders were assigned to the state. A year later, a Sunday School was organized in Barre and eventually a branch, which was closed in 1921 after all but one of its families moved to Utah. In that year, the eight elders and two sister missionaries in Vermont were assigned to Bennington, Rutland, Montpelier and White River Junction, visited people in many other communities, and reported there were about 60 Church members in the state.

In late 1927, the Vermont Conference was transferred to the Canadian Mission, and in October 1937, became part of the newly-established New England States Mission. Three years later, the 10 missionaries assigned to Vermont were living in Burlington, Barre, and Rutland. Church membership had doubled to 120. By 1950, there were branches at Burlington and South Royalton, but half the Latter- day Saints in Vermont were not members of organized branches.

By 1970, there were half a dozen branches, most of which were raising funds to build meetinghouses. A new residence was built at the Joseph Smith Memorial, along with a separate bureau of information. After those facilities were dedicated in 1961, a meetinghouse was also built there for the South Royalton Branch. Other branches subsequently found building sites and raised sufficient money to begin constructing their own meetinghouses.

By April 1976, there were enough members of the Church that the Montpelier Vermont Stake was organized by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve, who a decade earlier had presided over Vermont as president of the New England States Mission. The new stake had 2,116 members and included the Burlington, Montpelier, Lyndon, and South Royalton wards and the Middlebury and Rutland branches in Vermont, as well as a ward in New Hampshire and another in New York. By 2004, the stake included 10 units in northern Vermont and a branch just over the New York state line at Westport. The southern portion of the state was divided between the Albany New York, Concord New Hampshire, and Springfield Massachusetts stakes.

Latter-day Saints in Vermont tend to identify closely with early Church history, in part because of renewed emphasis in recent years on the Joseph Smith Memorial. In December 1988, to give added prominence to the site, an annual Christmas lighting program was begun, while in June 1998, a lodge, covered pavilion, 15 log cabins, and other facilities were dedicated as a place for Latter-day Saints from across the United States to stay while visiting the site, as well as for priesthood leadership meetings, youth conferences, and other activities sponsored by Church units in New England and eastern Canada.

In 2002, membership reached 4,091.

President Gordon B. Hinckley lead a Churchwide celebration 23 December 2005 on the 200th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth by visiting the Prophet’s birth place in Sharon where he and Elder M. Russell Ballard addressed the Church in a broadcast. “I feel as if I am straddling the centuries,” he said. “Two hundred years ago, on this very day, in this very place, there was born a child who was prophetically named Joseph, after the name of his father.”


Andrew Jenson, “Vermont Conference,” Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; “Family Faced Struggles,” Church News, 12 December 1992; Vermont District and South Royalton Ward, Manuscript histories and historical reports, Church Archives; Eric Barnouw, “The Benson Exodus of 1833: Mormon Converts and the Westward Movement, Vermont History, Summer 1986; Richard S. Williams, “The Missionary Movements of the LDS Church in New England, 1830- 1850,” thesis, 1969; Richard O. Cowan, “Yankee Saints: The Church in New England During the Twentieth Century,” in Donald Q. Cannon, ed., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: New England, 1988; Darel P. Bartschi, “The Joseph Smith Memorial: A 1905 Tribute to the Prophet and His Work,” Ensign, February 1988; Proceedings at the Dedication of the Joseph Smith Memorial Monument, 1906, and Dedicatory Services for the Director’s Residence and Bureau of Information at the Joseph Smith Birthplace, 1961, both in Church History Library; “1st Stake Formed in State of Vermont,” Church News, 24 April 1976; Sheridan R. Sheffield, “Vermont: Members Reflect Spirit of Pioneers in State Rich in Church History” and “Joseph Smith Memorial Serves As Focal Point for The Church,” both in Church News, 21 December 1991; Elder and Sister Wayne Bell, “Prophet’s Birthplace All Aglow As Lights Go on for First Time,” Church News, 24 December 1988; Linda S. Miller, “Camping Facilities Built at Birthplace of Joseph Smith,” Church News, 25 July 1998; Gerry Avant, “Joseph, the Seer,” Church News, 31 December 2005.

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