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United States information: Wyoming

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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.)

Wyoming

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 533,000; Members, 61,430; Stakes, 16; Wards, 130; Branches, 21; Percent LDS, 11.5, or one in 9.

Among the earliest Latter-day Saints to enter Wyoming was a group of Mississippi converts immigrating to the West in 1846. They hoped to join the saints en route to the Great Basin and stopped a few miles below Fort Laramie, Wyo., in July 1846. While there, they learned that the vanguard company had decided to winter in Nebraska. The Mississippians left Wyoming for Pueblo, Colo. Some from the group joined Brigham Young's pioneer wagon train the next year that entered Wyoming on 31 May 1847. The Mississippi emigrants included members of the Mormon Battalion sick detachment as well. On 28 June 1847, the combined company under Brigham Young met famed mountain man Jim Bridger in southwestern Wyoming, who gave them a generally optimistic appraisal of the Great Basin area. Brigham Young directed the construction of ferries on the Platte and Green rivers and assigned men to remain there and run them. By the end of 1847, over 2,000 Mormons had crossed Wyoming into Utah.

The Church established a colony near Fort Bridger in 1853, named Fort Supply. It was Wyoming's first non-military agrarian settlement and provided supplies for emigrant companies traveling from the East. The colony was abandoned and burned at the advance of Johnston's Army in 1857. Fort Bridger, purchased by the Church in 1855, was partially burned at the same time.

The Oregon, California, and Mormon trails crossed through the middle of the state so most Mormon companies traveled through Wyoming as part of their westward migration. The majority of these groups made the trip without incident, but the Willie and Martin handcart companies of 1856 were trapped in early winter snows before reaching South Pass, Wyo., and about 200 of the 1,075 in the two companies died of starvation and exposure. The rest were saved by rescue parties from Utah. Some of the rescuers, under the leadership of Dan Jones, remained at Martin's Cove through the winter of 1856-1857 to protect emigrant goods left behind. They occupied the abandoned Fort Seminoe. Brigham Young later purchased the site in behalf of the Church. In 2003, the Church constructed a facsimile of Fort Seminoe at its site near Devil's Gate.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln asked Brigham Young to station men along the emigrant road to protect the telegraph lines and mail routes on the plains during the Civil War. Young complied by sending 120 Mormons to live at various sites in Wyoming until they were relieved by federal troops.

In the early 1850s, Brigham Young, as Church president and superintendent of Indian Affairs of Utah Territory, befriended Eastern Shoshone Chieftain Washakie. The federal government placed Washakie's people on the Wind River Reservation in west central Wyoming in 1868 and forbade missionary efforts there by the Mormons. Even so, missionary work was done, and in September and October 1880, there were 310 members of the tribe baptized, including Chief Washakie who was baptized by Amos R. Wright on 25 September 1880.

Church leaders Moses Thatcher and William Preston began seeking areas in 1877 for Mormon colonization and traveled to investigate the Salt River Valley of western Wyoming. They found it to be a promising location and in 1878, the valley was dedicated for Mormon settlement by Brigham Young Jr. Its name was soon changed to Star Valley. The first Latter-day Saint settlers came from the Bear Lake Valley in Idaho Territory. They stayed through the winter of 1879-80 near what is now Auburn, Wyo. In the 1880s, the settlements of Grover, Afton, Freedom, Smoot, Thayne, Bedford, and Fairview were established. Wyoming's first stake was organized in Star Valley on 13 August 1892. Even today, the region is composed primarily of Latter-day Saints.

In 1893, a settlement was begun in a corner of the Big Horn Basin of north central Wyoming. Mormons relocating from Uintah County, Utah, under direction of Elder Abraham O. Woodruff of the Quorum of the Twelve created an irrigation system and established the town of Burlington. In 1900, Wyoming Gov. DeForest Richards petitioned President Lorenzo Snow for help in settling a much larger area of the Big Horn country. In response, Mormon communities were established in Byron, Cowley, Penrose, Owen, and Lovell. The Big Horn Stake comprised of these communities was organized on 26 May 1901.

Increasing Latter-day Saint populations in the areas of Fort Bridger, Kemmerer, Evanston, and Rock Springs caused the First Presidency to authorize creation of the Woodruff Stake on 6 June 1898. It encompassed Wyoming's southwest corner and the northeastern corner of Utah including Randolph and Woodruff, and was headquartered initially in Evanston. On 18 July 1926, the Woodruff Stake was divided and the Lyman Stake was organized.

The worldwide outbreak of the Spanish Influenza in 1918 caused the cessation of missionary work in some Wyoming communities for several months. A thriving congregation in Hanna, Wyo., was hit especially hard by the disease and several of the most active members died. A missionary sent from Cheyenne to nurse the sick members also contracted the disease but survived.

President Heber J. Grant dedicated an institute of religion building on the campus of the University of Wyoming at Laramie in 1936. It was the third such program instituted in the Church.

In the late 1940s, Church leaders in Cody hired Mormon architect Douglas W. Burton to design a new building for their congregation. At the same time, they contracted with world-renowned artist Edward T. Grigware, who had retired to Cody, to produce a mural for the new building's foyer that would depict the history of the Church. The building was completed in 1949 and the mural in 1951. The artwork remains in place in the foyer of the functioning meetinghouse. It is considered Grigware's masterpiece and that portion of the building housing the mural continues to generate interest as the Church's Cody Murals Visitors Center.

Steady growth of the Church in Wyoming characterized the period of the 1930s to the 1980s. Cheyenne's increasing Mormon population during that time justified creation of the Cheyenne Stake in June 1959. Creation of the Casper and Wind River stakes followed in 1962. During the 1970s and 1980s, a total of eight stakes were organized.

Wyoming's statehood centennial in 1990 gave numerous opportunities to highlight the significant contributions of Latter-day Saints in the state. As part of the year-long celebration, the University of Wyoming prepared an exhibit on the history of the Church at the Wyoming American Heritage Center. Mormon sculptor and Wyoming native Peter M. Fillerup cast a 14-foot high bronze of a cowboy on the famous bucking bronco "Steamboat." The artwork was the only sculpture officially sanctioned by the Wyoming Centennial Commission.

In 1992, as part of Riverton Wyoming Stake's "Second Rescue" program, three monuments were erected in west central Wyoming in memory of the Willie and Martin handcart companies. The monuments were dedicated 15 August 1992 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then first counselor in the First Presidency. Members of the stake also researched family histories and performed temple ordinances for those handcart pioneers whose work had not previously been completed. The Church later purchased the site surrounding a monument at the mouth of Sweetwater Canyon where 21 people perished in one night. It was dedicated in 1994 by President Hinckley.

The portion of the Mormon Trail running through Wyoming was highlighted by the Sesquicentennial Mormon Trail Wagon Train Re-enactment group in 1997. Members and non-members participated in and welcomed the train as it traveled through the state. On 3 May 1997, President Hinckley dedicated a new visitors center at Martin's Cove in central Wyoming in memory of the Willie and Martin companies. The wagon train's travel through Wyoming also provided an opportunity on 5 July 1997 to re-enact the 1858 raid by Lot Smith and the Mormon militia on Johnston's army. President Hinckley dedicated historical markers at that site. Also in 1997, the surviving fragment of a wall built by Mormons at Fort Bridger was repaired and dedicated.

A proposal to sell Martin's Cove to the Church was approved by a vote of the U.S. House of Representatives early in October 2002. The bill, while supported by Church members in Wyoming, was hotly contested by Wyoming's Congressional delegation following public hearings at which many local residents opposed the sale. Although the Church considers the site sacred and has built walking paths to it from adjacent Church property, Congress failed to pass the legislation. The Church later signed a 25-year Bureau of Land Management lease to manage the site.

Membership in 2003 was 55,540. In 2005, membership reached 57,217.

Sources: Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., "Pioneer Settlements in Wyoming," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, v. 4, 1992; Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Lowell A. Bangerter, "Wyoming," and Jay G. Burrup, "Chief Washakie," Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, 2000; Western States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Lee Roland Call, Star Valley and Its Communities, 1970; Rosa Vida Bischoff Black, Lovell: Our Pioneer Heritage, 1984; Frederick R. Gowans and Eugene E. Campbell, Fort Supply: Brigham Young's Green River Experiment, 1976; Mae Urbanek, Wyoming Place Names, 1988; Cody Ward, The Cody Mural: A Pictorial History of Mormonism, 1957; "Centennials Preserving Heritage: Mormon Settlers helped to Make Wyoming a State," Church News, 26 May 1990; R. Scott Lloyd, "University of Wyoming Exhibit Spotlights LDS Pioneer Heritage," Church News, 15 December 1990; Julie A. Dockstader, "Wyoming's 'Untamable Spirit' Captured," Church News, 22 December 1990; Dell Van Orden, "'Second Rescue' of Handcart Pioneers," Church News, 22 August 1992; Julie A. Dockstader, "Project Stands As Reminder of Legacy," Church News, 30 July 1994; Dell Van Orden, "'Hallowed Ground Made Sacred,'" Church News, 10 May 1997; Twila Van Leer, "Simpson's Hollow Events Recalled," Church News, 12 July 1997; "Lot Smith Descendants Honor Ancestor's Role," Church News, 12 July 1997; Twila Van Leer, "Portion of Wall At Fort Bridger Reminder of Era," Church News, 19 July 1997; Greg Hill, "A Day To Remember in Wyoming," Church News, 19 May 2001; Greg Hill, "Temple Work Opened Way for Projects," Church News, 19 May 2001.

Stakes — 16

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

No. / Name / Organized / First President

North America Central Area — 8

357 *Casper Wyoming

Casper 14 Oct 1962 W. Reed Green

286 *Cheyenne Wyoming

Cheyenne (Wyo., Colo.) 21 Jun 1959 Archie R. Boyack

593 *Cody Wyoming

Cody 7 Jan 1973 Parley J. Livingston

1158 Gillette Wyoming 29 Jun 1980 Marion A. Dalene

1420 Laramie Wyoming 15 May 1983 Philip Munro Hoyt

48 *Lovell Wyoming

Big Horn 26 May 1901 Byron Sessions

358 *Riverton Wyoming

Wind River 14 Oct 1962 J. Rex Kocherhans

1194 Worland Wyoming 12 Oct 1980 David Harris Asay

Utah North Area — 2

33 *Afton Wyoming

Star Valley 14 Aug 1892 George Osmond

975 Thayne Wyoming 29 Oct 1978 Marlow C. Bateman

Utah Salt Lake City Area — 6

38 *Evanston Wyoming

Woodruff (Wyoming, Utah) 5 Jun 1898 John M. Baxter

1493 Evanston Wyoming South 23 Sep 1984 Harold Sidney Stock

660 Green River Wyoming 23 Sep 1984 Ronald Clyde Walker

708 Kemmerer Wyoming 12 Oct 1975 Merrill R. Anderson

790 Lyman Wyoming 21 Nov 1976 Ronald C. Walker

95 *Rock Springs Wyoming

Lyman (Wyoming, Utah) 18 Jul 1926 H. Melvin Rollins

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