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In 1830, Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in upstate New York. The church is commonly known as the Mormon Church, because of the Book of Mormon, which its members consider to be another testament of Jesus Christ. Mormons affirm that the church is the restoration of biblical Christianity and feel obligated to carry this message throughout the world. The first Mormon missionaries entered Cabell County in 1832 and by year’s end more than 40 individuals had been baptized in the county. However, during most of the 1800s church leaders counseled Mormon converts to travel to the headquarters of the church in Utah, which left few if any Mormons in West Virginia during those years. A permanent Mormon presence in the state began in 1886 with the creation of the West Virginia Conference, which brought about a small but steady increase in converts. Unfortunately, such success often produced distrust and hostility toward Mormons in West Virginia and elsewhere. Missionaries were beaten and shot at; meetings were disturbed by angry mobs; and members were ridiculed and harassed. Such persecution hastened the Mormon converts’ emigration to Utah. This animosity lasted until the early 20th century, when it subsided.

After the turn of the century, church leaders began asking members to stay and build up local congregations. By 1930, there were nearly 2,500 Mormons in West Virginia, organized mainly into three congregations at Huntington, Charleston, and Fairmont. Each passing decade saw the growth of the church, and on August 23, 1970, the first ‘‘stake’’ (congregations administered within a specific geographical region) was organized at Charleston with a membership of nearly 4,000. For the Mormon Church the organization of stakes represents the maturation of the church in a region. In 1979, a second stake was organized at Fairmont and a third one followed in Huntington in 1982. At the beginning of the 21st century there were some 13,000 Latter-day Saints in the state, organized into three stakes with more than 30 congregations. By 2022, those numbers had increased to 17,294 members with four stakes and 35 congregations, making it one of the few religious denominations in West Virginia to gain membership during the 21st century during a time of overall population decline.

Over the years the Mormon Church has provided its Mountaineer members with many programs designed to build individual spirituality and to strengthen families. Missionaries continue to take a message of the restored gospel throughout the state. The church has also been active in humanitarian efforts throughout West Virginia, responding to emergency situations, such as floods, as well as supplying tens of thousands of pounds of food and clothing to underprivileged families.

This Article was written by Lisle G. Brown

Last Revised on July 21, 2023

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Deseret News 2004 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 2003.

Zimmerman, Diane Hill. "Almost Heaven:" A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in West Virginia. Parsons: McClain, 1998.

Cite This Article

Brown, Lisle G. "Mormons." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 21 July 2023. Web. 02 March 2024.


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