The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Michigan

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Michigan
The Detroit Michigan Temple

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in Michigan in the 1830s. It did not have an organized presence in the state from the late 1850s into the 1870s. However missionary work was reopened by Cyrus Wheelock and has progressed steadily since then.

Today there are over 40,000 church members in the state, and a temple that was dedicated in 1999.


Current statistics

As of year-end 2007, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported 42,422 members, 8 stakes, 65 wards, 1 district, 43 branches, 42 Family History Centers, 2 missions, and 1 temple in Michigan.[1]


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Michigan began with the Mack family. Almira Mack Scobey had gone to Kirtland, Ohio to visit her cousin Joseph Smith and there they joined the church.

On June 7, 1831 Doctrine and Covenants Section 52 was received which among other things commanded another one of Mack Scobey's cousins Hyrum Smith and also John Murdock to go to Detroit and preach the gospel on the way to Jackson County, Missouri. These two brethren went to Michigan in company with Mack Scobey and Hyrum's (and Joseph's) mother, Lucy Mack Smith. They were also accompanied by Lyman Wight and John Corrill. The missionaries eventually went to Pontiac where they had much success, baptizing several people, including David Dort, the husband of one of the Mack sisters.

In 1833 Joseph Wood and Jared Carter were sent as missionaries to Michigan. Besides Pontiac they also preached in Rochester and Auburn. Another notable early convert was Samuel Bent who was a deacon in the Congregational Church in Pontiac.

In 1834 Joseph Smith went to Pontiac and preached in the area. Among those who accompanied him on this trip besides his brother Hyrum were Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, Frederick G. Williams and Robert Orton.[2]

In 1834 a branch of Zion's Camp was organized that set out from Pontiac and eventually met with the main part of Zion's Camp in Illinois. This company was organized by Lyman Wight and Hyrum Smith who had returned to Michigan to organize the company. Elijah Fordham served as the historian and kept a journal of the company.

In 1839 on their way to serve as missionaries in the British Isles Parley P. Pratt and his brother Orson Pratt stopped in Detroit and stayed with their parents and their brother Anson and his family. While in Detroit they preached several sermons and published a few tracts. One of these was History of the Late Persecution by the State of Missouri Upon the Mormons.

Mephibosheth Serrine was among the missionaries serving at that time, and engaged in debates with representatives of other faiths in such locations at Royal Oak.

Missionaries operated in Wayne County, Oakland County, Washtenaw County, Lapeer County, and Lenawee County. Branches were organized in such places as Lapeer, Michigan, Van Buren Township, Michigan and Livonia, Michigan.[3] In Feb. 1841 a conference was held in Brownstown Township, Michigan where Serrine presided and 140 members attended.[4]

By 1845 there were over 25 branches with 12 branches in Oakland County alone.[5]

After the death of Joseph Smith most members either moved to Nauvoo and then to Utah or joined break away groups such as the one led by James Strang.

Resumption of missionary work

In May 1876 William Palmer began preaching the Mormon gospel in Michigan. He had been called as a missionary by Brigham Young. Palmer focused on Mecosta, Isabella and Montcalm counties.[6]

In 1877 Cyrus Wheelock was sent to Michigan as the mission president. Several missionaries came with him. Among these was John Hafen a Swiss immigrant who mainly taught German immigrants and Niels Hendrickson who taught Swedish immigrants.[7]

In 1880 Wheelock was released as mission president and was a short time later replaced by Palmer. Palmer remained mission president until 1889.[8]

In 1884 the church received a welcome increase in the number of members in Michigan, but since they were being held in Detroit on polygamy charges at the Federal Prison it did not really help the church. Among these were such early church leaders as David K. Udall and Ammon M. Tenney.

Establishment of the church

By 1887 Michigan was part of the Indiana Conference.[9]

In 1890 Michigan was not officially included in any of the three conferences of the Northern States Mission.[10]

The church dedicated a chapel in Detroit in 1928. That was the only building the church owned in the state. There were also Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Saginaw and Lansing and Saginaw.[11]

About 1940 the church organized the East Michigan District with a district council to prepare for the shift to being a stake. The District president, Jonathan Snow, had primarily grown up in Michigan because the church had sent his father to work in the salt mines in Detroit when Jonathan was a very young child. The first stake in Detroit was formed in 1952 with George Romney as president. A second stake was formed in Lansing in 1960.

In the 1970s the Detroit Stake, now renamed the Bloomfield Hills Michigan Stake, had John R. Pfiefer as president. Under his presidency the calling of Elders Quorum Presidents was made as deliberative a process as the calling of bishops.[12]

Further Detroit history

The 1967 Detroit race riot fueled a continuing exodus of white Americans from Detroit. Coupled with this the building of I-96 lead to the destruction of the only chapel the church owned inside the boundaries of the city of Detroit.

With the Stake Center for the Detroit Stake out on Woodward Avenue in Bloomfield Hills dedicated by David O. McKay in 1959, and a latter chapel built on Nine Mile Road in Southfield, Michigan just east of Telegraph Road the church began a decline in the city proper. In 1969 the Detroit Stake was split and a new Dearborn Stake was formed. Both stakes included parts of Detroit. In 1974 when the church renamed all stakes, the Detroit Stake became the Bloomfield Hills Michigan Stake.

Nowhere was this shown more clearly than when the Michigan Lansing mission was split in 1978. The new mission was named the Michigan Dearborn Mission, after Dearborn, Michigan. However Michael J. Lantz, a convert to the LDS Church who had joined while serving in the US military in Vietnam during the Vietnam War[13] was the bishop of the Royal Oak Ward by the mid-1980s. His ward was at that point one of four in the Bloomfield Hills Stake that included parts of Detroit. Partly at his urging a new effort was made to send missionaries into the city of Detroit. W. E. Barry Mayo, the president of the Bloomfield Hills Michigan stake who was an immigrant from Canada and had previously served as the first president of the church's branch in Windsor, Ontario before he had moved north of the border, also was involved with these efforts. Starting in 1987 missionaries were assigned to work inside Detroit.

By 1989 a branch had been organized in Detroit. In 1991 it was formed into a ward. The ward met in a former Greek Orthodox building just north of Highland Park, Michigan and just south of Palmer Park. Its first bishop was James Edwards who thus also became the first African American to serve as a bishop in Michigan in the church.

In 1995 the Detroit ward was split into several branches. There were also two other branches formed in the parts of Detroit in the Westland Stake. One of these branches, the New Center Branch, named after Detroit's historic New Center was presided over by Jim Viland, a European American whose wife was African American. The branches would generally meet in rented locations, often with bars over the windows.[14] In 1997 the Detroit based branches in the Westland and Bloomfield Hills stakes were made into a district. In 2000 Lamenais "Monte" Louis, an immigrant from Haiti who had lived for many years in Detroit, became the president of the Detroit district. The year before his son Gregory had been the first person endowed in the Detroit Michigan Temple before he went on his mission to the California Arcadia Mission.

The Detroit Michigan Temple was dedicated in 2000 by Gordon B. Hinckley. Hinckley's son, Clark Hinckley, had lived for several years in Michigan.

In 2005 the Detroit District was realigned with the Bloomfield Hills and Westland Stake. This allowed for more progress, such as the 2008 realignment of the ward and branch boundaries between Detroit, Warren, Eastpointe, Harper Woods and Roseville which allowed for a ward that was almost half in Detroit for the first time since the Detroit Ward had been split apart. A chapel for the Belle Isle Branch which covered much of Detroit east of I-75 and south of I-94 as well as the Grosse Pointes was dedicated in June 2008. The dedication was performed by the Bloomfield Hills Stake president, the above mention Michael Lantz. This was the first chapel the church had built in the city of Detroit since the construction of I-96 had knocked down the last chapel. Also in June 2008 a chapel was built for the Detroit River branch, which covered most of Detroit south of I-94 and west of I-75, was dedicated. This branch not only has several African American members but also many Latino members.

Michigan membership history

Year Membership
1891 47
1930 972
1945 7,183
1980 22,607
1990 28,245
1999 36,888
2008 42,599


Michigan is currently part of 10 stakes and 1 district. 8 stakes and 1 district are entirely within the state. 2 stakes, with stake centers outside the state, have wards or branches in Michigan. Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have no paid clergy, stake presidents, bishops, etc. have their own occupation.

Stakes in Michigan

Stake Organized Original name Original Stake President Wards/ Branches in Michigan Current Stake President Occupation
Ann Arbor 14 Aug 1977 Ann Arbor Duane Marvin Laws 10 Richard De Vries Banker
Bloomfield Hills 9 Nov 1952 Detroit George W. Romney 12 Michael J. Lantz Materials Manager at Lignon Brother mfr.
Grand Blanc 11 Jun 1978 Grand Blanc Trent Picket Kitley 12 James R. Clough senior manager, finance at DaimlerChrysler
Grand Rapids 2 Mar 1975 Grand Rapids Glenn Goodwin 13 Kaplin S. Jones partner at Varnum
Kalamazoo 9 Dec 1979 Kalamazoo Donald Lee Lykins 13 John P. Anderson V.P. of business devel't at Stryker Corp.
Lansing 18 Feb 1962 Lansing Sylvan H. Wittwer 10 Bruce E. Dale professor & chairman of chemical engineering department at MSU
Midland 1 Dec 1968 Mid-Michigan E. Richard Packham 12 Mark Wilcox Jones neurosurgeon
Westland 12 Jan 1969 Dearborn Carl S. Hawkins 10 Marshall K Medley surgeon

Districts in Michigan


On October 23, 1999 the Detroit Michigan Temple was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Detroit Michigan Temple.jpg

63. Detroit Michigan edit


Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, US
10 August 1998
23 October 1999 by Gordon B. Hinckley
42°33′58.55759″N 83°13′47.93880″W / 42.5662659972°N 83.229983°W / 42.5662659972; -83.229983 (Detroit Michigan)
10,700 sq ft (990 m2) on a 3.1 acre (1.3 ha) site
Classic modern, single-spire design - designed by Joan Coakley

Notable church members in Michigan

See also


  1. ^ LDS Newsroom (Statistical Information)
  2. ^ LDS Church Almanac 2008 Edition, 236
  3. ^ Browne. The Michigan Mormons. p. 15
  4. ^ Browne. The Michigan Mormons. p. 16
  5. ^ Browne. The Michigan Mormons. p. 17
  6. ^ Browne, Michigan Mormons, p. 22-24
  7. ^ Brwone. The Michigan Mormons. p. 25
  8. ^ Jenson. Encyclopedia History. p. 594
  9. ^ Browne. The Michigan Mormons. p. 33
  10. ^ Jenson, Andrew. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. p. 593
  11. ^ Jenson. Encyclopedic History. p. 594
  12. ^ Ensign, Apr. 1974, 13
  13. ^ Detroit News, June 18th, 2007
  14. ^ Ensign, Dec. 195, p. 47
  15. ^


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