In 1852, John Bozarth, a Church member who had lived in Nauvoo, Ill., settled on the Lewis River in Washington Territory. In 1854 four missionaries serving in California, John Hughes, Clark Faben, Alfred Bybee, and Silas Harris, were sent to labor in the Washington and Oregon territories. Hughes found the Bozarth family and other “lost Mormons” and organized a branch, but generally a spirit of intense persecution impeded the work. In 1857 David M. Stuart, Silas G. Higgins, Lorenzo F. Harmon, and John H. Winslow were sent to Oregon. During that time, Stuart reorganized the Lewis River Branch, ordaining John Bozarth an elder and “teacher of the branch.” Among those who came forth to renew their covenants and to be rebaptized was Louisa A. John. Despite persecution, Louisa was faithful throughout her life. When she died in 1911, animosity against the Church was still so pronounced that her grave was dedicated secretly at night near Woodland, Wash.
Many Church members worked on the construction of the Northern Pacific and Oregon Short Line railroads in the 1880s and a few later moved into the Northwest. In 1896 a mission effort was organized under the direction of George C. Parkinson, president of the Oneida Stake in southeastern Idaho. Elder Edward Stevenson of the First Council of the Seventy was called to visit the states of Montana, Oregon, and Washington, and also the northern part of Idaho and start a mission. He took with him Matthias F. Cowley (later called as an apostle on 7 October 1897) and together they set out from Salt Lake City on 4 June 1896. After traveling through Montana, they took up missionary labors in Spokane, Wash., on 31 August 1896. They also worked in Palouse and Walla Walla before returning to Salt Lake City.
A second Northwestern States Mission was created under the direction of the Oneida Stake presidency on 26 July 1897 (the first Northwestern States Mission, created in 1878, had its headquarters in Chicago, Ill.). Of the initial six missionaries called, Gaston L. Braley and James R. Smurthwaite were sent to Walla Walla. The mission was initially comprised of the Oregon, Washington, and Idaho conferences. Mission President Franklin S. Bramwell established mission headquarters in Baker, Ore., in 1898, (later the mission was moved to Le Grande on 5 June 1900). By 1900, Washington had two conferences, the Eastern (Spokane) and Western (Tacoma) Washington conferences. In 1902, Nephi Pratt was called to be mission president. He established mission headquarters in Spokane on 14 May 1902. He later moved mission headquarters in Portland, Ore., on 1 January 1905.
While always endeavoring to preach and baptize new converts, missionaries also sought out scattered Church members, soliciting Church members in Utah to furnish them with addresses of relatives and friends living in Washington. The first branch in Washington was organized in Tacoma on 24 December 1899 with 21 members. A branch was organized in Seattle on 14 December 1902. A Sunday School was organized in Spokane on 9 September 1906 and a branch was organized 10 years later on 12 March 1916. In Walla Walla, where missionary work first began, a branch was not organized until 14 November 1927.
In 1930, membership in the state was 1,855 in eight branches, with chapels in Everett, Spokane, Seattle, and Olympia. The Seattle Stake, the first in Washington, was created on 31 July 1938. In 1940 membership in the state reached 5,000, and during World War II a great influx of members came to Washington to work in defense industries.
The completion of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in the early 1940s opened the way for additional farming in the Columbia River Basin, and many members flocked to the state to farm. By 1960 membership had increased to 11,000. The Pacific Northwest Mission was created from the Northwestern States Mission in 1968, and was renamed the Washington Mission in 1970 and the Washington Seattle Mission in 1974. The Washington Spokane Mission was created on 1 July 1978 and the Washington Tacoma Mission was created on 1 July 1990. The Seattle Washington Temple was dedicated by President Spencer W. Kimball on 17 November 1980. In 1992, Washington became the fifth state in the United States with at least 50 stakes. The Spokane Washington Temple, located in the Spokane suburb of Opportunity, was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley on 21 August 1999. The Columbia River Washington Temple, located in Richland, was dedicated by President Hinckley on 18 November 2001.
The Washington Everett Mission was created on 1 July 2001 and the Washington Kennewick Mission was created on 1 July 2002, bringing the total number of missions in the state to five.
Membership was 240,593 in 2003.
Sources: Andrew Jenson, “Washington,” Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1941; Leonard J. Arrington, “History of the Church in the Pacific Northwest,” Task Papers in LDS History, No. 18.; Lois Kullberg, “Louisa John, LDS Pioneer of the Pacific Northwest,” unpublished manuscript, 2002, Church Archives; Kullberg, “Saints to the Columbia,” L-K Publications, 2002; North American Northwest Area annual history and historical reports, Church Archives; Northwestern States Mission annual history and historical reports, Church Archives; Washington Everett Mission annual history and historical reports, Church Archives; Washington Kennewick Mission annual history and historical reports, Church Archives.
- Washington List of Stakes of the Church
- United States Temples