USA # LDS # Title Country Status Announce Date Dedication Date Stakes/ Districts Web Link Map Notes
001 xxx
Richmond Virginia Temple Virginia Groundbreaking 1 April 2018 date4 / web [map] Virginia:


The first Latter-day Saints to set foot in Virginia were Luke S. Johnson and William E. McLellin, who were sent to the “south countries” to preach the gospel in January 1832. Jedediah M. Grant is likely the first missionary to preach and baptize in an area that is now part of Virginia. He reported that in 1839 and 1840 he worked in the southwestern Virginia counties of Grayson, Patrick, Smyth, Washington and Wythe. Joshua Grant, Jedediah’s brother reported 25 baptisms in Rich Valley, Smyth County, and that there were 80 Latter-day Saints scattered throughout the county. Missionaries laboring in Tazewell County reported that there were 175 Church members by February 1843.

In September 1843, Jedediah M. Grant was appointed to preside over the Virginia Conference — as mission districts were then known. Four branches of the Church were mentioned: Little Nauvoo, Wythe County; Burke’s Garden, Tazewell County; Rich Valley, Smyth County; and a Patrick County branch. At this same time several of the early Virginia Latter-day Saints began to gather with the Church in Nauvoo.

Following the death of Joseph Smith, and because of the increasing persecution in Nauvoo, a circular letter was issued by the Quorum of the Twelve calling missionaries home and local men were appointed to lead the congregations. Again, many Virginia converts moved to Nauvoo and prepared to move west.

While the Church moved to Utah, little missionary work was done in Virginia. In 1855 one missionary, Absalom M. Young, preached and cared for Church members in Virginia and North Carolina. In 1857 missionary David O. Rideout reported that “‘Mormonism’ is spreading in this country [Tazewell County] fast amidst great persecution.” He reported being tarred and feathered while attempting to spread the gospel. Missionary work stopped at the outset of the Civil War in 1861 and did not resume until the Reconstruction era.

Between 1865 and 1874, a few missionaries preached in the American South. In the late 1860s two missionaries, Henry G. Boyle and Howard K. Coray, canvassed rural areas along the North Carolina-Virginia border and baptized 200 converts. However, missionary work became more organized after 1875 when the Church formally established the Southern States Mission with Henry G. Boyle, an 1843 convert from Virginia, as president.

Missionaries serving in Virginia during this time usually traveled without “purse or scrip,” meaning that they had to rely on the hospitality of the local people for food and lodging. Missionaries often found it easier to live this principle in the rural areas rather than in the cities because of the hospitality of the country people, resulting in a predominantly rural membership. J. Golden Kimball, later called as president of the Southern States Mission from 1891 to 1894 and to the First Council of the Seventy in 1886, served in the Southern States Mission from 1883 to 1885 and labored in several rural Virginia counties.

In 1902, the First Presidency divided the Southern States Mission. Virginia was briefly placed in the Middle States Mission until the next year when it was returned to the Southern States Mission because of the sudden death the Southern States Mission President Ephraim H. Nye, who served from 1902 to 1903. Before he died in 1903, Nye assigned missionaries to work in cities. The change required some reduction in traveling without purse or scrip. By 1919, branches or Sunday Schools existed in Danville, Petersburg, Portsmouth and Richmond.

In 1928, the East Central States Mission was created, which included Virginia. And in 1947, the Central Atlantic States Mission was organized with headquarters in Roanoke, Virginia. In 1970, this mission was renamed the North Carolina-Virginia Mission. It was renamed the Virginia Mission in 1973, and the following year it became the Virginia Roanoke Mission. The Virginia Richmond Mission was created in 1992.

Following World War I and during the Depression many Latter-day Saints moved east to work in government positions in Washington D.C. In 1933, President Heber J. Grant dedicated the Washington D.C. Chapel, which became a focus of missionary work. By 1937, there were 1,800 members of the Church in the Washington area. A branch in what became the Capitol District was organized in Arlington, Va., in 1938. On 30 June 1940 the Washington Stake was organized with Ezra Taft Benson as president. It included parts of northern Virginia and the Arlington Branch became the first ward in Virginia. In October 1945, the branch in Richmond, which was transferred to the Washington Stake, became the Richmond Ward.

The Church in central and southern Virginia grew in the post-World War II era as the result of increased missionary work. On 30 June 1957, at a conference held in Portsmouth presided over by Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve, the Virginia Stake was organized with Cashell Donahoe Sr. as president, the first stake with all but one ward in Virginia. In March 1963, the Potomac Stake was organized. It took in the wards in Washington, northern Virginia, and southeastern Maryland. By December 2003, there were 17 stakes in Virginia.

In the 1960s and 1970s many urban families in America moved to the suburbs. Ethnic populations moved into inner city areas. Foreign language-speaking missionaries were called to serve in American inner cities. As the result, groups and branches holding worship services in foreign languages were formed. In 1984, the Mekong Branch of the McLean Virginia Stake was organized to meet the needs of Cambodian and Laotian Latter-day Saints. A year earlier the Dulles Branch, also called the Asian Branch, was formed in the Oakton Virginia Stake. As of June 2004, there were also seven Spanish-speaking units — three branches and four wards — in Virginia.

The growth of the Church in central Virginia was greatly accelerated by the creation of Southern Virginia College, located in Buena Vista, which was founded to fulfill the spiritual, intellectual and social potential of Latter-day Saint students, though the college is not owned or operated by the Church. The college, then known as Bowling Green Female Seminary, was ready to close its doors in 1996 when a group of LDS educators and businessmen reorganized it to become an institution serving the Latter-day Saint community. The influx of staff, students and faculty led to the organization of the Buena Vista Virginia Stake in June 1999, consisting of two branches and 10 wards, four of which are student wards.

Membership was 75,907 in 2003. In 2005, membership reached 80,592.


Sources: Journal History of the Church, 31 January 1832, Church Archives; Virginia District, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; LaMar C. Berrett, History of the Southern States Mission, 1831-1861, thesis 1960; Heather M. Seferovich, History of the LDS Southern States Mission, 1875-1898, thesis 1996; J. Golden Kimball, Journals, Church Archives; Ted S. Anderson, The Southern States Mission and the Administration of Ben E. Rich, 1898- 1908, thesis 1976; Richmond Virginia Stake, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Julian C. Lowe and Florian H. Thayn, History of the Mormons in the Greater Washington Area: Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Washington D.C. Area, 1839-1991, 1991; Southern Virginia College: General Information, 2 February 2001; O. Kendall White Jr., “Overt and Covert Politics: The Mormon Church’s Anti-ERA Campaign in Virginia,” The Virginia Social Sciences Journal, vol. 18 (winter 1983), 11-16.

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