Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), whose adherents are known as Latter-day Saints or Mormons, has a long history in Georgia. While the church's growth came primarily from migration into Georgia, much was also the result of strong local leadership. By the end of the twentieth century, Atlanta had become a major center of Mormonism, and as of 2007 more than 60,000 Mormons lived in the state.
History and Doctrine
Over the next two years, Smith translated the text, which subsequently became known as the "Book of Mormon." The Book of Mormon includes history, prophecy, the story of the appearance of Jesus Christ in America, and discussion of theological topics ranging from faith and repentance to infant baptism and the nature of the Trinity. In 1830 Smith founded the Church of Christ, which was based on his revelations and the Book of Mormon, and in 1838 the church adopted its current name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During the 1830s the Mormon community moved to Kirtland, Ohio; Independence, Missouri; and Nauvoo, Illinois, where Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844. In 1846 Smith's successor, Brigham Young, led the community from Illinois to Utah, where the members settled in 1847. Utah remains the base of the LDS Church today.
Establishment in Georgia
The church enjoyed success in northwest Georgia, especially in Hayward Valley of Chattooga County, but also met with increasing opposition from newspaper editors, ministers, and the Ku Klux Klan, all of whom decried the Mormon practices of polygamy (which officially ended with the church's adoption of the Woodruff Manifesto in 1890) and conversion. That opposition peaked in 1879 when Joseph Standing, a twenty-four-year-old missionary from Salt Lake City, Utah, was murdered by a mob in Whitfield County. Standing's companion, Rudger Clawson, was not harmed; he later became
The murder caused a sensation, and Standing's funeral was attended by 10,000 people, who were addressed by top church leaders in the newly completed tabernacle at Salt Lake City. Although some of the perpetrators were brought to trial, they were acquitted. Today a memorial to Standing in Whitfield County is appropriately located on Standing Road.
Standing's murder seemed to spur opposition from other north Georgians. Missionaries were beaten, pulled from their beds, kidnapped, wounded, and denied the right to preach (or were egged when they did). Mission headquarters were moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from 1882 until 1919. Missionary work was limited in Georgia for a few years, although missionary Teancum William Heward served in the state from 1879 until 1881 and kept a short journal chronicling his experiences. By the 1890s missionary activity began to increase once again.
Other congregations in Georgia were established early in the twentieth century near Douglas, in Coffee County; in Montreal, in DeKalb County; and in Buchanan, in Haralson County. The rented building occupied by the Mormon church in Montreal was dynamited in 1908, and the frame church in Buchanan was burned in 1912 while the congregation was attending a nearby religious debate. A new stone church was completed after a pitched battle with opponents.
Growth in the Twentieth Century
As of 2007 there are eight stakes in the greater Atlanta area, as well as stakes in Albany, Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Douglas, Kingsland (Camden County), Macon, and Savannah. Chapels, or individual meetinghouses, exist in eighty-four Georgia communities. Atlanta also has a cannery and a regional storehouse to help with the church's welfare program.
Gladys Knight, a Georgia native and prominent Latter-day Saint, directs the Saints Unified Voices, a Mormon choir based in Nevada. In 2006 the choir's album One Voice won a Grammy Award.
Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-Day Saints, 2d ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992).
David Buice, "Excerpts from the Diary of Teancum William Heward, Early Mormon Missionary to Georgia," Georgia Historical Quarterly 64 (fall 1980): 317-25.
Richard L. Bushman, Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Douglas J. Davies, An Introduction to Mormonism (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Ken Driggs, "'There Is No Law in Georgia for Mormons': The Joseph Standing Murder Case of 1879," Georgia Historical Quarterly 73 (winter 1989): 745-72.
William Whitridge Hatch, There Is No Law: A History of Mormon Civil Relations in the Southern States, 1865-1905 (New York: Vantage Press, 1968).
William L. Nicholls, "Growth of the Church in Atlanta," The Instructor, May 1964, 200-201.
Gerald R. Webster, "Geographical Patterns of Religious Denomination Affiliation in Georgia, 1970-1990: Population Change and Growing Urban Diversity," Southeastern Geographer 40 (May 2000): 25-51.
David S. Williams, From Mounds to Megachurches: Georgia's Religious Heritage (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).
W. Ray Luce, Marietta
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