United States information: Rhode Island


Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 304,060,000; Members, 5,974,041; Stakes, 1,438; Wards, 11,289; Branches, 2,074; Districts, 12; Missions, 106;Temples in use, 62; under construction or announced, 7; Percent LDS, 2, or one in 51.

A few stakes and missions have headquarters in states other than that for which they are named. To simplify this listing, these stakes and missions are listed in the states for which they are named. Numbers preceding stakes and missions are their chronological numbers assigned at the time of creation. Letters are added if number has been used previously.

(* Stake name changed 14 Jan 1974 or as indicated otherwise.)

Rhode Island

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 1,051,000; Members, 3,661; Stake, 1: Wards, 6;Branches, 0; Percent LDS, 0.35, or one in 287.

Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith, the first Latter-day Saint missionaries to visit several of the New England states, arrived in the capital city of Providence on 13 July 1832. They baptized two members before persecutors and threats of violence drove them away 12 days later. At a conference held in Newry, Maine, in August 1836, Brigham Young reported that nine members belonged to Rhode Island's lone branch. By 1844, another branch had been organized at Newport and had 21 members.

Following the 1844 martyrdom of Joseph Smith, much of the missionary activity in New England was devoted to preparing the area's Latter-day Saints to join with the body of the Church in the Midwest and later in Utah. A few members remained in Rhode Island and were occasionally visited by missionaries. The Providence Branch was again organized in June 1857 with Miner G. Atwood as president, but it was soon closed. Another brief attempt at re-establishing the branch took place in 1873.

Eastern States Mission President John G. McQuarrie wrote in 1904 that the northeastern United States was "practically abandoned [as far as missionary work] until 1893 when President [Wilford] Woodruff sent a few Elders . . . to try to locate and revive the scattered Saints." Missionaries were assigned to Providence as early as August 1896, with a branch being organized about three years later.

The area was visited off and on by elders until the spring of 1908, when four missionaries were assigned to Providence and vicinity. By August, they were holding street meetings, had rented a hall, and reported there were 14 members of the Church. The following month a branch was once more organized. In February 1909, at a meeting of the New England Conference of the Eastern States Mission, new conferences were created in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, with six elders assigned to Rhode Island.

Church growth continued to be slow. When Latter-day Saint Oscar E. Johnson was transferred to Providence in February 1937 by his employer, he found the branch had been closed for about 10 years because of poor attendance. After attending the New Bedford Branch in Massachusetts with his family for several months, he was appointed president of the Providence Branch in September 1937 and reported there were about 50 members of the Church in the area. This time the organization prospered enough to remain open indefinitely. The branch met for some time in the homes of members, until a building previously used as a library was purchased, the facility being dedicated by Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve in June 1944. By that time, a second branch had been functioning in Newport for three months.

Over the next 30 years, Providence and Newport were Rhode Island's only branches, even though their combined membership increased nearly eight-fold from 1950 until 1970. A new meetinghouse was built at Warwick on the southern edge of the Providence metropolitan area in the early 1960s, and ground was broken in 1967 for a building at Newport.

In the mid-20th century, the Rhode Island branches were frequently associated with the Church in eastern Massachusetts. During the 1950s, the Atlantic District (with headquarters in Boston) was divided and the Providence District was organized, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts south of Boston. In 1966, the units in the Providence District were incorporated into the Boston Stake. In March 1977, the Boston and Hartford stakes were divided to create the Providence Rhode Island Stake, which included 2,953 Latter-day Saints living in three units in Rhode Island and six wards and branches in Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 1981, the stake was divided to form the Hingham Massachusetts Stake — which included all the parent stake's Massachusetts units plus the ward at Newport, R.I., — and another Connecticut unit was added to the Providence stake.

In 1981, a branch was organized at Warwick for Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saints living in the Providence area. During the early 1990s, Laotian and Cambodian groups also functioned in the Providence Ward. In 1997, to better reflect the demographics of the Providence metropolitan area, the Spanish branch at Warwick became an English-speaking ward — which continued to meet in the building constructed in the mid-1960s — while the Providence Ward became a Spanish-speaking branch holding its meetings at a new inner-city location. In 2004, even though the stake continued to be called the Providence Rhode Island Stake, its headquarters were at Mystic, Conn.

Membership in Rhode Island in 1974 was 799; increasing to 1,052 in 1980; and to 1,701 in 1990.

In 2002, membership reached 3,475. In 2005, membership reached 3,560.

Sources: Andrew Jenson, "Rhode Island," Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Richard S. Williams, "The Missionary Movements of the LDS Church in New England, 1830-1850," thesis, 1969; Eastern States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, 1873, Church Archives; John G. McQuarrie, "Eastern States Mission," Millennial Star, 24 February 1904; Journal History, 10 August 1896, Church Archives; Liahona: The Elders' Journal, 6:318-19, 558, 979, 1098; Oscar E. Johnson, History of the Providence, Rhode Island Branch, Church Archives; "Branch Saints Enjoy Own Chapel," Church News, 31 March 1945; Providence and Newport ward, Manuscript histories and historical reports, Church Archives; "7 Stakes Change; 1st for Rhode Island," Church News, 26 March 1977; Carole Woodbury, "Unified Diversity in Providence Rhode Island Stake," Ensign, October 1993.

Stake — 1

(Listed alphabetically as of Oct. 1, 2009.)

No. / Name / Organized / First President

North America Northeast Area

818 Providence Rhode Island 20 Mar 1977 Morgan W. Lewis Jr.

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