The "History of the Southern States Mission, 1831-1861," traces the development of a system of proselyting in the southeastern United States, and its effect on the lives of both missionaries and converts who embraced the principles of the restored gospel taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This study includes an examination of twenty-eight personal missionary journals, and consequently gives a valid picture of Latter-day Saint objectives and the sacrifices necessary to achieve them. Their objectives were to carry the message to the world and build up the Kingdom of God.
To reach their goal, the Mormons developed an enthusiastic and extensive proselyting system. As members joined the movement and caught the spirit of the Kingdom, they were zealous to carry the message to their friends and relatives. The free-lance method developed into a system wherein definite calls were made to a particular field of labor.
One of the earliest and most fruitful fields of Mormon proselyting activity became known as the Southern States Mission – an area of thirteen southeastern states.
The South was first contacted by two Mormon missionaries in June, 1831. Each succeeding year, the number of laborers increased. By 1861, at least 230 missionaries had served in the South. Some of them returned again and again, as many as five times, to spread the gospel. Even the threats of mobs did not stop their work. They not only preached the gospel, but also collected money to finance the temples and help the poor, sold subscriptions to L.D.S. newspapers, campaigned for Joseph Smith as a presidential candidate and organized Saints for emigration.
The mission was a field of training for leadership. Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Jedediah M. Grant, George A. Smith and others received valuable training for Church responsibilities.
The hospitable and religious nature of the Southerners made success possible. Approximately 2000 Southern converts joined the Church during the thirty year period. They came from the various strata of society--from Negro slaves to the wealthy plantation owners. They responded to their profession of faith by contributing their time, talents and money to the Church.
As soon as the number of converts in a locality justified an organization, they sustained a local member as president of their "branch." The first branch was established in Cabell County, Virginia, in 1832. A larger ecclesiastical unit composed of branches, was developed into a "conference" in 1836.
When Joseph Smith designated ‘gathering places’ for his followers, approximately fifty per cent of the Southern Saints joined the emigration movement to Missouri, Illinois and Utah.
Proselyting activities focused on Texas after the body of the Church moved to Utah in 1847, and hundreds of Texans were affected by the "spirit of gathering." They had a long distance to travel, and experienced much hardship and discouragement.
The "History of the Southern States Mission, 1830-1860," shows the effect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the lives of men. It reflects the successes, joys, sorrows and satisfactions that came to those who embraced the Latter-day Church. For thirty years, before the outbreak of the Civil War, the South was a fruitful missionfield. However, in 1861, the war brought a cessation of missionary work and ended the first era of the Mission's history.
College and Department
Religious Education; Church History and Doctrine
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Berrett, LaMar C., "History of the Southern States Mission, 1831-1861" (1960). All Theses and Dissertations. 4525.
Mormon Church, Missions, Southern States