Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alabama Birmingham Mission

Alabama Birmingham Mission

Mission Website(s)

Missionary Site(s)

LDS Mission Network


Dear Elder--Elder Christopher DeLancy 2008-2010

MissionSite.Net--Elder Jared Aguillon 2005-2007

MissionSite Net--Elder Cameron Brockett 2008-2010

MissionSite.Net--Elder Christopher Burton 2008-2010

MissionSite Net--Elder Austin Haws 2007-2009

MissionSite.Net--Elder Bryce Kirk 2009-2011

MissionSite.Net--Elder Keith Loveland 2009-2011

MissionSite Net--Elder Landry Peterson 2008-2010

MissionSite Net--Elder Johnathan Ralston 2006-2008

LDSMissions.Com--Elder Moroni Aguilar 1998-2000 Curtis Anderson 1998-2000 Glen Ballard 1985-1987 David Beede 1997-1999 Aaron Bell 2001-2003 Kody Braegger 2001-2003 David Brough 1997-1999 Jared Burke 1999-2001 Crystal Champion 2007-2008 David Chard 2000-2002 Joshua Clark 2001-2003 Jarett Clark 2001-2003 Landon Cooley 2008-2009 Cowan 2001 Christian Dorius 1999-2001 Clark Draver  2002-2004 Nathan Fackrell 1996-1998 Margaret Florence 1996-1997 Brian Hart 1988-1990 Steve Haslam 2002-2004 Susan Hubbs 1997-1999 Matt Jackson 1996-1998 Josh Jacobs 2000-2002 Ryan Jacobson 2001-2003 Kent Jensen 1983-1985  Elder Jonathan Jesperson  2003-2005 Sam Jones 2004-2006 Tristan Jorgenson 2006-2008 Mike Keller 1997-1999 Tom Kingsbury 1999-2001 Daniel Lamb 1996-1998 Marco Lerma 2001-2003 Brent Lones 1990-1992 Brett Long 2001-2003 Pete McDougle 2004-2005 Tina McGee 2000-2001 Robert McNeal 2002-2004 Jason Meyers 1997-1999 Michael Moffitt 2000-2002 Joseph Moore 2003-2005 Jason Myers 1997-1999 Cynthia Norris 2001-2002 Karen Kilpatrick Ostler 1997-1999 John Pennington 1983-1984 Adam Peeples 1997-1999 Jeff Porcaro 1986-1988 Randall Rosenlof 2002-2004 Robert Roylance Derrick Simon 1998-2000 Chad Smith 1992-1994 Dee Smith 2005 Nicholas Smith 2002-2004 Misty Spencer 2000-2003 Wendy Staten 1992-1994 Joseph Stay 2000-2002 Josh Sube 1996-1998 Ben Tanner 1996-1998 Travis Tempest 2004-2006 Jason Watling 1986-1988 Ruprick Wiggley 2005-2006 Matthew Winters 1997-1998 Darren Yeager 1982-1983

Shirley Scott Obituary

Staci Jo Jenkins Hart Obituary 1992-1993

Glenna Lavonia Gallagher Purdie Obituary

John L. Ballif, III Obituary 1991-1992

Lorin Jack Robinson Obituary

Raymond P. Neeley Obituary 1984-1986

Neil Harry Purdie Obituary 1984-1985

Ray Lewis Marrott Obituary 1987-1988

Hazel Marchant Thomson Marrott Obituary 1987-1988

Matthew David Strong Obituary

Ottella Watson Tyndall Devey Tanner Obituary 1983-1984

Wendell Vernon Saunders Obituary

Annie Laurie Budd Lloyd Obituary

Raymond Lee King Sr. Obituary

Austin J. Erickson Obituary

Ina Jackson Easton Obituary 1980-1981

Dorn Melvin Sedlacek Obituary

Shirley R. Deaton Obituary

Verna "Ike" Mary Garn Wilde Obituary

Albert Fuhrmeister Bennett Obituary 1982-1983

Golden Atkin Buchmiller Obituary 1988-1989

Margaret Clyde Rasband Obituary

Bradley David Price 1988-1990

Pearl G. Dahlen Obituary

Dorothy Ellen Harris Matthews (wife of former mission president William Floyd Matthews) 1989-1992

Ila Rose Harris Anderson Obituary

Chasty Sampson Bennett Obituary 1982-1983

Amy Wagstaff King Obituary 1982-1984

Kent Edward Kramer Obituary

Joshua Pooley


LDS Mission Network

MissionSite Net--Elder Cameron Brockett 

MissionSite.Net--Elder Christopher Burton

MissionSite Net--Elder Austin Haws

MissionSite Net--Elder Johnathan Ralston


LDS Mission Network

"New Mission Presidents Begin Service," (Richard N. Holzapfel) Ensign [July 2010].

"Mission President Assignments for 2010," (new mission president  Richard N. Holzapfel, former mission president James R. Tate) Church News [Saturday, 13 February 2010].

"New Mission Presidents," (Richard N. Holzapfel) Church News [Saturday, 13 February 2010].

“New Mission Presidents Now in Place,” (James R. Tate) Liahona, Aug. 2007, N4–N5

“New Mission Presidents Now in Place Worldwide,” (James R. Tate) Ensign, July 2007, 77–78

"New Mission Presidents Receive Assignment," (new mission president James R. Tate, former mission president Douglas R. Johnson) Church News [Saturday, 3 March 2007].

“New Mission Presidents Begin Service,” (Douglas R. Johnson) Ensign, July 2004, 74–75

"New Mission Presidents," (Douglas Russell Johnson) Church News [Saturday, 6 March 2004].

"New and Returning Mission Presidents for 113 Missions," (new mission president Douglas R. Johnson, former mission president Jerry P. Peterson) Church News [Saturday, 6 March 2004].

"Obituary--Melvin M. Hall," Church News [Saturday, 11 May 2002].

"Obituary: Melvin M. Hall," Deseret News [Saturday 13 April 2002].

"New and Returning Mission Presidents," (new mission president Jerry Phil Peterson, former mission president Perry Max Webb) Church News [Saturday, 10 March 2001].

"New and Returning Mission Presidents: 1998," (new mission president Perry M. Webb, former mission president Eldon Clair McKell) Church News [Saturday, 7 March 1998].

"New Mission Presidents Assigned," (new mission president Eldon Clair McKell, former mission president Robert L. Roylance) Church News [Saturday, 18 March 1995].

"New Mission Presidents," (Eldon C. McKell) Church News [Saturday, 18 March 1995].

"New Mission Presidents," (Robert L. Roylance) Church News [Saturday, 14 March 1992].

"New Leaders Assigned," (new mission president William F. Matthews, former mission president Robert L. Roylance) Church News [Saturday, 7 March 1992].

“New Mission Presidents Called,” (new mission president William F. Matthews, former mission president M. Dalton Cannon Jr.l) Ensign, May 1989, 104–105

“Mission Presidents,” (M. Dalton Cannon, Jr.) Ensign, June 1986, 74

“Four New Missions Created, New Mission Presidents Called,” (Melvin M. Hall transferred from Philippines Davao Mission) Ensign, July 1984, 76–77

“Church Calls New Mission Presidents,” (Merrill R. Dimick) Ensign, May 1981, 109–110


Julie A. Dockstader, "'God is smiling down on us'," Church News [Saturday, 9 September 2000].

"Alabama: The northern saints of a southern state," Church News [Saturday, 7 May 1988].


Dr. B said...

Sarah Jane Weaver in "Church Supplies Reach Gulf States" Church News (Saturday, 6 September 2008, p. 3)wrote:

Michael Robinson, Birmingham Alabama Regional Welfare Specialist, said there were 9,000 more evacuees in the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center than anticipated.

After learning of needs there, the Church sent bottled water, hygiene kits and baby supplies to the center. "You just ache for those people, having to leave their homes, having no clue what will be there when they get back," he said. "The Church was there (to help them) on the spot.

Dr. B said...

I read the following about a missionary serving in 2008-2010:

David Veirs made up his mind as a 12-year-old to serve a mission. Later, when he was 18, he took added confidence that he could endure the rigors of missionary life when he worked with full-time missionaries in the San Bernadino mission near his home.

"Then I knew I could do it," he said, speaking from the Provo Missionary Training Center during the last hours of his training with his companion, Elder Bryant Soloman, before departing to the Alabama Birmingham (Spanish-speaking) Mission.

Elder Veirs gained early training in leadership while working with other young men in the Rancho Cucamonga California Stake with President Hadfield. Serving as an assistant to the president in a mock-missionary leadership setting, he exercised initiative in befriending and including other young men who were less interested.

Other factors that influenced his desire to serve came from his father who taught him to love the scriptures, and a close rapport with the bishop who cared for him like a big brother. "Seems like I was always eating dinner with his family," he said.

"What didn't the bishop do for me," Elder Viers said. "He did everything."

"I'm the first to serve a mission from our ward since it was divided. The bishop said he was starting a tradition. We trade ties before leaving. We are to wear the ties when we speak, as we depart, and again when we return. The bishop will wear the tie after my first baptism."
("Develop A Loving Rapport," Church News, [Saturday, 8 December 2007]: 10).

Dr. B said...

Sarah Jane Weaver in "Surprise for Mom a Wonderful Morning: Returning Twins Come Home by Way of Mother's Mission" Church News (Saturday, 4 November 2006, p. 11) reports:

It was a scene that might have looked familiar to many Latter-day Saint spectators: a mother embracing twin sons after they completed a full-time mission.

But this scene was a little different. Yes, Elder Mark Watts and Elder Michael Watts had just completed service in the Brazil Brasilia Mission and the Brazil Curitiba Mission, respectively. But instead of immediately returning home, they had stopped on Oct. 18 in the Birmingham, Ala., airport to pick up their mother, also being released from full-time missionary service.

"It has been a wonderful morning," said Sister Colleen Watts from the Alabama Birmingham Mission Home. "We went to the Birmingham airport to pick up a couple of missionaries coming in. They were my sons. I haven't seen them in two years. It was a wonderful reunion."

In October 2004 — just four years after the the twins had been fellowshipped and baptized — Sister Watts and her husband, Dwight, sent the boys to Brazil on missions. Brother Watts, who suffered from diabetes, gave each of his sons a message. He told them if something happened to him to take good care of their mother. He died three months later.

"Before I left for my mission, I felt it was the last time I would see my father," said Elder Mark Watts. "Knowing that families are eternal, that we could be together forever, gave me a great peace. I knew the blessing promised in the temple would be completed. For that reason I stayed on my mission to let other people know what I know — that families are forever. I couldn't leave my mission, knowing there were people there who needed to know this truth."

Sister Watts, who had great support from her ward, assured her sons she was doing just fine. Everyone remembered the day that Brother Watts, once a less-active member, had baptized his wife. Brother Watts, his wife and sons were later sealed in the San Diego California Temple. (The Watts' daughter, Tracey, joined the Church later.) Both twins determined to stay in the mission field upon their father's death.

The twins had planned, after their return, to move from Phelan, Calif., to Utah or Idaho, where they would enroll in school. So Sister Watts put their home on the market and went to Utah to look for a place to live.

Returning home, she prayed about what she needed to do with her life. During a Church meeting, a senior couple bore testimony of how badly senior missionaries were needed. Immediately following the meeting, she asked her bishop if she could serve. He quickly replied that she certainly could go on a mission.

Things happened fast after she submitted her application to serve: She escorted her daughter to the temple to receive her endowment. They then did the temple work for both her parents and her husband's parents and all their grandparents. All the required appointments with doctors and dentist were made and completed in two weeks. Her home sold.

Elder Michael Watts was shocked, but impressed, by his mother's decision. "I was very happy, knowing it would be the best thing for her. It was a blessing. It was amazing. It was perfect."

When Sister Watts arrived in the Alabama Birmingham Mission in November 2005, Sister Watts spoke with President Douglas R. Johnson about the possibility of going to Brazil to bring her sons home. Because the boys were serving in two different missions, travel arrangements could not be made.

When Sister Sylvia Webster — wife of Michael's mission president David R. Webster — heard the news, she made arrangements to surprise Sister Watts by having the sons both fly into Birmingham and pick up their mother.

Sister Watts thought her sons were flying to their sister Tracey's home in California, and would meet their mother at the airport there. But on her birthday, she received a letter meant for her daughter. It contained the travel itinerary for one of her sons. "This is strange. Michael is flying from Brazil to Georgia, then to Birmingham," Sister Watts said. "And it looks like he is flying out on the same flight I am."

She read the letter over and over again. Then she realized what had been arranged. "I couldn't believe it that someone would go to all that trouble," she said. Even with the element of surprise lost, the plan "still was the most wonderful gift."

Elder Michael Watts said, "It was a perfect opportunity for us to honor her before we go home — to surprise her in the airport and go home together."

Dr. B said...

Reported in the Church News [Saturday, 6 March 2004, p. 8).

Mission New President Returning President Alabama Birmingham
Douglas R. Johnson Jerry P. Peterson

Dr. B said...

Reported in the Church News [Saturday, 6 March 2004, p. 8).

Douglas Russell Johnson, 55, Alabama Birmingham Mission; Salem 1st Ward, Salem Utah West Stake; former high councilor, ward nursery leader, Aaronic Priesthood adviser, bishop, counselor in bishopric and missionary in the Tonga Mission. Owner Project Control Inc. Born in Spanish Fork, Utah, to Russell Archibald and Veda Hicks Johnson. Married Jeannette Hughes; five children.

A Relief Society specialist, she is a former Sunday School teacher, nursery leader, ward Relief Society president and ward Primary president. Born in Spanish Fork, Utah, to Reed Gardner and Jean Creer Hughes.

Dr. B said...

John L. Hart in "Fellowship Inviting Souls to Christ," Church News [Saturday, 20 December 2003, p. 4) reported:

Most members in the Wetumpka Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake, are converts so they have a pretty good idea of what the investigators and new members are going through, said John Enslen, a ward member and first counselor in the Alabama Birmingham Mission.

"There is one thing about which I am absolutely certain," he said. "Missionary work will never be successful on a large-scale basis until there is a member involvement from the beginning to the end — wherever the end of the missionary process is — getting the family through the temple."

Members try to resolve concerns and "we are successful as we set them at ease, as we make them fit in and know that they are wanted, that they are needed, that they are loved, that they are looked upon as a brother or sister."

Among the most challenging aspects for members is when people who don't fit in the mainstream begin to investigate the Church, he said.

"There are a small handful of members who have a vision that every person, no matter how different, is a child of God, but for the vast majority of people, their natural inclination is to shun, or stay away from people who have a different appearance, whether economic, race or handicap. But if we look at it right, that shouldn't be an obstacle."

He encouraged any with this perspective to draw on gospel principles that "clearly establish the worth of every individual soul and to see their potential as opposed to their present status."

"However far a person is from living the gospel standards, he can be brought into it," said Brother Enslen.

Dr. B said...

In the Church News [Saturday, 11 May 2002] p. 13) we read of the passing of former mission president Melvin M. Hall:

Melvin M. Hall, 78, president of the Philippines Davao Mission and then the Alabama Birmingham Mission from 1983-1986, died April 10, 2002, in Murray, Utah. He was a former stake president, bishop, high councilor, and ward and stake clerk.

Dr. B said...

In Church News [Saturday, 10 March 2001, p. 8).

New President Returning President

Alabama Birmingham
Peterson, Jerry Phil Webb, Perry Max

Dr. B said...

In Church News [Saturday, 7 March 1998] 8):

Mission New President
Returning President
Alabama Birmingham

Perry M. Webb Eldon Clair McKell

Dr. B said...

In the Church News [Saturday, 19 October 1996] 13):

J. Earl Lewis, 97, president of the Canadian Mission from 1955-1959, died at his home in Provo, Utah, on Oct. 7, 1996. He spent his life serving his community, Church and family. He served with wife, Carol, in the Alabama Birmingham Mission in 1988-1989.

Dr. B said...

Sarah Jane Weaver in "Missionary Couples Fill Variety of Roles in Furthering Lord's Work," Church News [Saturday, 14 September 1996) 8:

Eldon C. McKell, president of the Alabama Birmingham Mission, called couples ``absolutely vital'' to the success of his mission in some areas. ``They take these little branches and hold them together,'' he said. ``They bring stability, character, integrity and trust. Any mission president could use more couples.''

Dr. B said...

In Church News [Saturday, 18 March 1995] 8:


Alabama Birmingham
Eldon Clair McKell Robert L. Roylance

Dr. B said...

In Church News [Saturday, 18 March 1995] 11:

Eldon C. McKell, 62, Arlington Heights Ward, Riverside California West Stake; to serve as president of the Alabama Birmingham Mission; first counselor in presidency in California Riverside Mission; former stake Young Men president, high councilor, bishop and counselor, Young Men president, elders quorum president, and missionary in the Central Atlantic States Mission; Church real estate representative; received bachelor's degree in accounting, finance and banking from BYU; born in Provo, Utah, to Eldon Grant and Afton ``B'' Vincent McKell; married Claudia Lee Ord, four children. She is serving in mission with her husband; former Young Women president and adviser, Relief Society president and counselor, Relief Society teacher and music conductor, Primary president's counselor and teacher, and Primary and Sunday School chorister and pianist; attended BYU; born in Turlock, Calif., to Elden LaRoy and Leola May Norton Ord.

Dr. B said...

Patricia Potter mention her daughter Nikki who served in the Alabama Birmingham Mission in "Patience and Consistency in Teaching Children Obedience," Church News [Saturday, 31 December 1994] 5:

Each child is different and learns principles like obedience in different ways. We must be patient and consistent in what we teach them.

As the mother of seven children, I have found that the responsibility of raising a family can be overwhelming. My husband and I have children ranging in age from 22 to 7.Jamie, our oldest son, is now serving in the Canada Toronto West Mission. He has always been diligent in attending his Sunday meetings and following gospel standards. He graduated from seminary and received the Eagle Scout award. But he was very energetic as a little boy and had a hard time cooperating and following the rules at home. He wanted to obey, but he had a hard time controlling all that energy.

With patience and perseverance, we taught him that he needed to channel that energy and follow the rules. Now he is teaching the restored gospel in Canada and doing very well. His behavior reflects his willingness to be obedient. He wrote home early in his mission: ``I know that by following the mission rules I will be successful and find those who are searching for the gospel. We are given rules to help us. Those who don't follow the rules will never be truly happy.''

Nicki, our oldest daughter, is serving in the Birmingham Alabama Mission. She seldom tried the patience of her parents and was very logical in accepting and following the family rules. She recently wrote in a letter home:

``I know having two out on a mission is a sacrifice. I also know you are helping Jamie and me to be obedient. When we are obedient, the Lord will bless us.''

All children are unique and must be taught in unique ways. It would be convenient if all children had the same personalities, but they do not. Parents must discover who their children are and what traits they possess before they can effectively train them to be obedient.

When children are young, they often obey because they want to please their parents or because they wish to avoid certain consequences. As they mature, they discover that obedience leads to happiness.

My husband and I have always tried to see that the rules of our home are followed, yet leaving room for some flexibility. I have made the effort to be home with my children as much as possible to see that these rules are followed. When a home has rules and the rules are followed, there is peace in the home and children are much more teachable.

A gospel-oriented home is helpful in teaching children obedience. We have taught our children that gospel standards are a part of our everyday lives. We dress modestly at all times. We keep the Sabbath day holy every Sunday. We obey the counsel or our Church leaders. We follow through with our Church responsibilities. We serve and follow through with commitments we have made. The commandments are an important part of our lives each day.

Dr. B said...

In "New Mission Presidents," Church News [Saturday, 14 March 1992] 4:

Robert L. Roylance, 43, assigned to the Alabama Birmingham Mission; Crescent 17th Ward, Sandy Utah Crescent West Stake; stake president, former high councilor, bishop and counselor, stake and ward Sunday School president, and gospel doctrine teacher; served in North British Mission, 1967-69; owner of executive search firm; received bachelor's degree from University of Utah; born in Salt Lake City, Utah, a son of Mark Lamb and Dora Jones Roylance; married Marcia Davenport, five children. She is a Primary teacher, former Sunday School teacher, Relief Society teacher, Young Women adviser, Primary chorister, and Relief Society president's counselor; attended the University of Utah; born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a daughter of Floyd DeVirl and Clara Jane Matson Davenport.

Dr. B said...

In "New Leaders Assign," Church News [Saturday, 7 March 1992] 7:

Returning Mission president
New President

Alabama Birmingham
William F. Matthews Robert L.Roylance

Dr. B said...

Lee Warnick, "'I Knew That the Time Had Come' Revelation's Wave Rolling Across the Oceans," Church News [Saturday, 4 June 1988] 7:
The pebble dropped into the pond at 10:30 a.m. on June 9, 1978.

A hastily gathered group of local newspeople had been invited to the Church Office Building for the announcement of a revelation opening priesthood blessings to all worthy men in the Church, regardless of race.But from this simple, four-paragraph announcement emanated boulder-like waves that are still sweeping outward, now across oceans, 10 years later.

For faithful Church members, the announcement has taken its place among those few historic moments of life where, even decades later, there are vivid, detailed memories to answer the question: ``Where were you when . . .?''

Many were at work, or tending their homes, when the ripples began to sweep across the predominantly LDS regions of the West on this Friday morning. Some returned from lunch and shared the tidings with astonished co-workers, who tuned into news reports to confirm the momentous announcement for themselves.

Telephone lines in the area may never have been busier, as Church members by the thousands called one other to share the joy they felt. Dozens of people at Church headquarters were kept busy all afternoon fielding calls from many nations, confirming that, ``Yes, it really is true.'' Black members, estimated at the time to number only a few thousand, shared tearful conversations with fellow ward members calling to offer their congratulations and support.

Ripples continued to spread throughout the United States and Canada, then around the world, as the afternoon and evening progressed. The NBC Nightly News considered the priesthood announcement its most important story of the day. The nation's top circulation news magazines, Time and Newsweek, moved back deadlines to get reports in the current week's edition. Even U.S. President Jimmy Carter took time that day to send a telegram commending Church President Spencer W. Kimball ``for your compassionate prayerfulness and courage in receiving a new doctrine.''

No time was wasted in putting the revelation's direction into effect. Within 48 hours, on the first possible Sunday, local priesthood leaders started to interview black brethren to determine their worthiness to hold the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood. It is known that Joseph Freeman Jr., then of the Granger (tah) 15th Ward, and Jose Ramon Diaz of the San Juan (uerto Rico) Branch were ordained elders that first Sunday, and there were probably a handful of others.

Other milestones soon followed. About two months after the announcement, Marcus Martins, then of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, began a full-time mission in Porto Alegre, Brazil. His father, Helvecio Martins, became the first black to be called as a counselor in a stake presidency in November 1978. (ow he is serving as president of the Brazil Fortaleza Mission.) On Oct. 30 of that year, a temple was dedicated in Brazil, a country whose black or mixed black population is estimated at 30-50 percent. The revelation made it possible for every worthy member there to enter the temple from the first day the building opened its doors.

Though the announcement came as a total surprise to Church members, the matter of blacks and the priesthood had been weighing on President Kimball's mind for some time.

Still, he told a press conference just after being ordained president of the Church:

``I am not sure that there will be a change, although there could be. We are under the dictates of our Heavenly Father, and this is not my policy or the Church's policy. It is the policy of the Lord . . . and I know of no change, although we are subject to revelations of the Lord in case he should ever wish to make a change.''

A little more than four years later, President Kimball felt that perhaps that time had come. As he told the Church News in an interview on Dec. 5, 1978: ``I went to the temple alone, and especially on Sundays and Saturdays when . . . I could have it alone. It went on for some time as I was searching for this, because I wanted to be sure. . . .''

In The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, the prophet's son Edward also quotes from a talk President Kimball gave to missionaries in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Oct. 23, 1978: ``I prayed with much fervency. I knew that something was before us that was extremely important to many of the children of God. . . . Day after day I went alone and with great solemnity and seriousness in the upper rooms of the temple, and there I offered my soul and offered my efforts to go forward with the program. I wanted to do what He wanted.''

President Kimball brought the matter before a regular meeting of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve on June 1, 1978. In the same 1978 interview with the Church News, he recalled: ``I asked the Twelve not to go home when the time came. I said, `Now would you be willing to remain in the temple with us?' And they were. I offered the final prayer and I told the Lord if it wasn't right, if He didn't want this change to come in the Church, that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I'd fight the world against it if that's what he wanted.''

But it was right. ``. . . I knew that the time had come,'' President Kimball added. ``This revelation and assurance came to me so clearly that there was no question about it.''

The other General Authorities gathered that day in the Salt Lake Temple knew this, as well. President Gordon B. Hinckley, in a recent priesthood commemoration fireside, recalled the events of that meeting 10 years ago. ``There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. . . . The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come. . . . Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing.''

The following week the decision was presented to members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric. Those General Authorities on assignment outside of Salt Lake City were contacted by telephone. ``There was unity, and there was rejoicing on the part of each,'' President Hinckley said in his recent priesthood address.

The letter announcing the revelation was released to the Church and the world on Friday, June 9, 1978.

``Thus the Church was first local, then moved westward to become regional. Later it became national, and then international. With the priesthood revelation of June 1978, the Church received its authority to bestow all blessings on all of our Father's worthy children. Its undertakings can be universal.''
- Elder Neal A. Maxwell
(Church News, Jan. 5, 1980)

On May 15, 1988, Elder Maxwell, a member of the Council of the Twelve, witnessed a unique unfolding of these words he earlier penned. He was in Aba, Nigeria, to create the first stake based in western Africa and the first Churchwide in which all priesthood leaders are black.

Many more stakes will surely follow in Africa. Though missionary efforts and resources are still somewhat limited, Church membership is steadily growing among black Africans - from a small and scattered group in 1978 to about 20,000 today.

In a statement commemorating the 10th anniversary of the priesthood revelation, Elders Jack H. Goaslind, Spencer H. Osborn and Alexander B. Morrison of the United Kingdom/Ireland/Africa Area Presidency, said: ``The gospel light which now shines over Africa falls on a prepared people - a people who are deeply spiritual and naturally full of faith, eager to learn and quick to believe. We are thrilled and humbled by the caliber of priesthood leaders in Africa, men already numbered in the thousands. The deep roots already firmly established in Africa are bearing rich, abundant fruit.''

The ripples have been just as dramatic elsewhere. Brazil claimed about 50,000 members 10 years ago; today that number nears 300,000. On the Caribbean islands, Church membership has grown more than tenfold in the past decade to about 30,000. In isolated locales on the northern coast of South America with high concentrations of black population, Church growth has been similarly explosive.

As well, most larger metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada and England have steadily growing numbers of black LDS members. Many congregations are becoming significantly integrated; a few are now predominantly black. ``The potential for growth among blacks is great,'' said Pres. M. Dalton Cannon of the Alabama Birmingham Mission. ``I think we'll see some wonderful things in the next 10 years.''

The ripples from that small pebble of 10 years ago will surely continue to sweep outward.

Dr. B said...

A good historical piece on the growth of the Church in the Alabama Birmingham area is "Alabama: The Northern Saints of a Southern State," Church News [Saturday, 7 May 1988] 8:

To understand northern Alabama's two principal cities, look no farther than their symbols:

Birmingham is guarded by the Vulcan, a giant iron statue of the mythological god of metal-working. Vulcan looks down, approvingly, on the industrial center of the Deep South from his perch atop one of the lush, rolling hills surrounding this city. Birmingham, with a metropolitan population of about a million people, is a city with foundations of iron and steel.Huntsville's landmarks are gleaming, skyscraper-height rockets on display, whose functioning twins are taken to launching pads and propelled into space. Called Rocket City, Huntsville is home to the Alabama Space and Rocket Center, a vital cog in the U.S. space program. It is located near the slow-moving Tennessee River, some 100 miles north of Birmingham, and is about one-quarter the size of its bigger brother.

And to understand the progress of the Church in the two cities, look no farther than these same symbols:

Birmingham is called the Magic City, but growth of the Church over the years there has been anything but magic. In Vulcan's manner, it has come step-by-step, tempered by sacrifice and persecution.

Dorothy M. Horne, a member of the Birmingham-area Indian Springs Ward, aptly describes this in a poem she wrote called ``This People.'' Part of it reads: ``A people, tested in the flame, / And rising, tested at each gain; / Struggling, giving, moving, / Going forward in His name. / This people, building Zion, / Stone by single stone. . . .

In Huntsville, old-time members of the Church remember the consistent prayer of Lola Rice, as a small group of them would gather and meet in their run-down, rented facilities: ``Lord, fill this valley with Latter-day Saints.'' Dr. Wernher von Braun, the renowned rocket scientist, had come to Huntsville in 1950; by 1956 came the dawning of the Space Age and a major National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility; with the NASA complex came people from all over the United States, including many members of the Church. Somewhat like a rocket, the Church had been launched in Huntsville, whose valley was suddenly filled with many more Latter-day Saints.

It is possible that not a single member of the Church lived in northern Alabama in the year 1900. Early missionary efforts about that time were met with severe persecution. It was not uncommon for missionaries to be severely beaten or whipped by the people they visited; a few elders even gave their lives.

The first stirrings of success came in and around the small town of Elkmont, located north of Decatur, a few miles from the Tennessee border. Patriarch Samuel L. Brown of the Huntsville Alabama Stake remembers as a boy arising at 2 a.m. to catch a train to take his family 10 miles from Athens to Elkmont to attend Church. At first, meetings were held in members' homes, or under the welcome shade of a tree.

Then in 1931 a small chapel was built - on donated land, with donated lumber and labor. The first meeting there drew 80 people, more than enough to fill the little building, but by that evening more than 300 members and investigators had gathered, some traveling long distances by horse team, to hear the elders.

Visits from the traveling elders were always a treat, for the well-scattered members had little else to cling to. Branches, even by 1950, were few and far between. The Church was built organization by organization - a Sunday School in one member's home, a Relief Society in another's, a Primary in still another's - if, indeed, there were enough members for such a rotation! Progress was painfully slow.

Luther and Hasty McGahee were among the first members in Huntsville, whose LDS numbered just four or five families in 1950. Sister McGahee recalls attending meetings in the newly organized Huntsville Branch in 1952 and ``watching plaster fall from the walls onto the speaker.'' Meeting in this soon-to-be-condemned carpenters' union hall spurred the small branch's sisters to action - they immediately began selling punch and cookies and raised more than $100 toward a new building within a few months. It would and be several years, though, before the money would be put to use.

Roots of the Church in the Birmingham area seem to stretch to McCalla, a small town on the metropolitan outskirts, about 15 miles southwest from city center. Home Sunday School was established as early as the World War I years, and the McCalla Branch was organized in 1937. A commemorative plaque on a secluded, wooded roadside in the town marks the place where meetings were first held and points out the nearby creek where baptisms were conducted. The Birmingham area's first chapel was built not far away in the 1940s.

In Birmingham proper, a small branch held its meetings in the foyer of a movie theater in the early 1950s - and had plenty of room to spare. ``We usually had 10 or 15 out to sacrament meeting,'' recalled Halva F. Lindsay, the first branch president in Birmingham. ``We didn't have enough priesthood leadership at first, so I had to obtain special permission to call an outstanding 17-year-old young man to be my counselor.''

By 1957 the Birmingham members had built, with considerable sacrifice, a big new meetinghouse (now the Birmingham Alabama Stake Center) in one of the nicest parts of town. ``Everyone thought we were crazy to be putting up such a huge building,'' said Lindsay, who added that attendance had grown by then, but only to 40 or 50 people each week. ``But we grew into it, outgrew it, added onto it, and have outgrown it again.''

The dedication of such men as Stance H. Moore, president of the North Alabama District during most of the 1950s, helped the Church gain momentum, credibility and strength. Pres. Moore, who lived 40 miles southeast of Birmingham in Sylacauga, traveled the width and breadth of the 200-by-200-mile district Sunday after Sunday.

Others contributed, as well, for even home teaching was an adventurous sacrifice. Patriarch James A. Prestridge of the Bessemer Alabama Stake remembers setting out with his father, Jessie W., the first thing Saturday mornings to call on Church members and returning home well past 10 p.m., and more than 200 miles later. Huntsville's Sister McGahee says it was not unusual for members to serve in five or six Church positions until the numbers caught up with the organization.

The late Elder LeGrand Richards of the Council of the Twelve spoke at a Birmingham District Conference in the early 1950s and predicted that if the members remained dedicated and faithful, some of them would live to see stakes organized in the North Alabama District.

Patriarch Prestridge attended that meeting. ``There were probably 200 or 250 people at that district conference,'' he recalled. ``I said, `Well, I can't visualize it.' I thought I might live to see one stake.''

He has lived to see four. The Huntsville area, blessed with the sudden infusion of military and NASA people, achieved stakehood 20 years ago, on March 3, 1968. Then came Birmingham in 1975, Montgomery, also in 1975, and Bessemer (suburban Birmingham) in 1982.

``The Church in Birmingham is alive and well,'' said Pres. Barry W. Seidel of the Birmingham stake. ``It is going forth with great vigor.'' Indeed, where handfuls of persecuted saints once met under trees, there are nearly 10,000 members of the Church in 20 wards and 10 branches - and no more carpenters' union halls for meetinghouses.

Pres. E. Allen Rich of the Huntsville stake gives a similar report for his city: ``The members here are doing a great work. Convert baptisms have doubled in the past year, temple attendance has more than tripled over the past five years and more than 100 people a year are being reactivated. And the Church's image in Alabama is improving all the time.''

With that increased acceptance and legitimacy has come more success in missionary work. Pres. M. Dalton Cannon Jr. of the Alabama Birmingham Mission reported that mission-wide baptisms in 1987 was doubled over the number in 1986, and his missionaries aim to increase that by half again in 1988. ``There is progress here,'' he said. ``And I see it continuing, and even gaining in momentum. The members here are wonderfully supportive.''

Beneath all of this lies the same sort of steely devotion of the Church's early pioneers in this state. Saints in Alabama still make sacrifices not required of members where the Church is more concentrated. Trips to the temple are 300-450 miles round trip. (Members of the Church here seem to have a special affection and affinity for temple and family history work.) Home and visiting teaching assignments are often scattered over many miles. Some members, particularly in rural areas, still face persecution and ridicule for their religious beliefs.

But they advance on, as firmly and consistently as Vulcan, and with the same sort of quiet dignity that typifies the placid, graceful countryside around them.

Another of Sister Horne's poems, ``Southern Saints,'' explains:

``Gentle manners belie the strength / Beneath the surface / Waiting to be tapped;
/ Courteous speech, soft accents, / Hide force and purpose / Ready to be mapped. . . .''

Dr. B said...

LeGrand Richards in Conference Report, April 1934 said:

We had the privilege of meeting some fine business people in Birmingham, Alabama, recently, and holding a meeting with them. These people stood high in the business world, and also in their own church. After our meeting one of the men beckoned to Sister Richards. He wanted to talk with her alone. He had with him that night in the meeting a beautiful young daughter and a son, both college students, and he asked Sister Richards this question: "What about the youth of your Church?" He said: "Have you any married children?" Sister Richards informed him that she had three married daughters. He said: "Did they marry Mormon missionaries?" and she acknowledged that they did. He wanted to know if she could trust her daughters with these boys. Sister Richards said: "Why, those boys were as sweet and clean when they took my girls, as my girls were." He said: "I can not understand it." And by the way, he stood high in his own church. "I do not know a young man to whom I would trust my daughter." Sister Richards pointed t a young man standing in the corner, a young man twenty-one years of age, president of that district, his mission about completed, and she said: "There is a young man as sweet and clean as any girl that ever lived." He surveyed him from head to foot and said: "I believe it."

Dr. B said...

In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism David F. Boone wrote:


Early Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in Alabama from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1842, and the first branch of the Church was organized that year in Tuscaloosa County. Moderate growth has continued in the state, except during the Civil War. When hostilities abated and proselyting resumed, Alabama was included in the Southern States Mission (1876).

Early Latter-day Saint converts from Alabama joined with others from Georgia and Mississippi to make up the pioneer company called the Mississippi Saints. They left northern Mississippi in 1846, wintered at Pueblo, Colorado, and entered the Salt Lake Valley within days of the first pioneer company in July 1847. Later, Alabama emigrants helped to colonize a Latter-day Saint community in Kelsey, Texas.

At the beginning of the year 2000, Alabama was home to 27,680 Saints; 6 stakes, located in Bessemer, Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery; and one full-time mission, headquartered in Birmingham. In September 2000 the Church dedicated a temple in Birmingham, Alabama.


Berrett, LeMar C. "History of the Southern States Mission, 1831-1961." Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1960.

Jenson, Andrew. Encyclopedic History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1941.

1999-2000 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1998. 170-71.


Dr. B said...

In 1941 in Andrew Jenson's Encyclopedic History of the Church we learn:

There are in the Southern States Mission a number of other L. D. S. chapels owned by the saints, namely, at Atlanta, Columbus, Savannah, Empire and Buchanan in Georgia; at Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, San Mateo and Live Oak in Florida; at Columbia, Charleston, Hartsville, Gaffney, Greenville, Seneca, Society Hill and Ridgeway in South Carolina; at Darbun, Sarah, Millville Bay, St. Louis in Mississippi, and at Lamison, Bradleyton and Elkmount in Alabama. At Atlanta, Georgia, the mission headquarters, a $60,000 chapel with a home for the missionaries adjacent to it has been erected. Meetings are also held regularly in hired halls at Spartenburg, Camden and Liberty in South Carolina; at Birmingham and Selma in Alabama; at Fort Lauderdale in Florida; at Macon, Augusta and Waycross in Georgia, and at 52 other places in the mission Sunday schools have been organized, which function regularly.

ALABAMA CONFERENCE, or District, of the Southern States Mission, consists of Latter-day Saints residing in the state of Alabama. It includes three organized branches of the Church, namely, Bradleyton, Falco and Lamison. Besides these, there are L. D. S. Sunday schools at Bessemer, Birmingham, Camden, Clayton, Decatur, Dothan, Elmont, McCalla, Mobile, Pine Hill, Selma and Sneed. The numerical strength of the Alabama District of the Southern States Mission Dec. 31, 1930, was 2,516, including 33 Elders, 35 Priests, 4 Teachers, 21 Deacons, 2,141 lay members and 282 children under eight years of age.

As early as 1843 Latter-day Saint missionaries were called from Nauvoo, Ill., to labor in the state of Alabama. Among the first of these missionaries were Peter Haws, James Brown, John Brown (later Bishop of Pleasant Grove, Utah), and Hayden W. Church. The first branch of the Church in Alabama was organized in Tuscaloosa County in 1843, and called the Cybry Branch. Other branches were raised up soon afterwards and at a conference held in Tuscaloosa County (the first gathering of its kind ever held in Alabama) Feb. 10, 1844, the Cybry Branch was reported with 57 members, Bogue-Chitto Branch (Perry Co.) with 43 members and Buthalchy Branch with 23 members. At the next conference, held April 12, 1844, seven branches were represented with a total membership of 192. This, however, included some members in the state of Mississippi. Missionary work has been carried on in Alabama with more or less success at intervals since 1843, and when the Southern States Mission was organized in 1876, Alabama was included within its boundaries as the Alabama Conference and became part of said mission. In 1898 Alabama was divided into the North Alabama and the South Alabama conferences and continued thus until 1903, when these two conferences were amalgamated into one conference named Alabama, which organization has been continued as part of the Southern States Mission until the present time, Dec. 31, 1930.

Alabama was the ninth state admitted into the American Union after the original thirteen states. The Territory of Alabama was created from a part of the Territory of Mississippi in 1819, and was admitted into the Union as a state Dec. 14, 1819. The population of Alabama was 309,527 in 1830; 590,756 in 1840; 771,623 in 1850; 964,201 in 1860; 996,992 in 1870; 1,262,505 in 1880; 1,513,017 in 1890; 1,828,697 in 1900; 2,138,093 in 1910; 2,348,174 in 1920, and 2,646,248 in 1930. The area of Alabama is 51,279 square miles.

Dr. B said...

In Francis M. Gibbbons, Harold B. Lee; Man of Vision, Prophet of God, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993:

Aside from the never-ending stake conferences, Elder Lee's last assignment of 1957 was to tour the Southern States Mission in company with the mission president, Berkley Bunker. Elder Lee flew to Atlanta, Georgia, November 1, 1957, from New York City, where he had attended the monthly Union Pacific board meeting. After inspecting the mission office facilities and interviewing the members of the staff, Elder Lee and the touring party travelled to Birmingham, Alabama, on the second where the first zone meeting was held with fourteen missionaries. While in Birmingham, Elder Lee also met with local leaders and members in a district conference. The small branches he found there would be organized into a stake within a decade.

Leaving Birmingham, the party drove south through Montgomery, Alabama, the site of the first capital of the Confederacy, and into northwest Florida and southwest Georgia where meetings were held at Pensacola and Marianna, Florida, and Moultrie, Georgia. Being in the heart of the "Old South," some in this area were agitated by the debate over civil rights, which had commenced in Washington. The more extreme of these had begun again to use time-tested tactics of terror, designed to keep the African Americans "in their place." "The local people are worried about the Ku Klux Klan," wrote Elder Lee on November 6 during his visit in Moultrie. While at this time Church policy precluded male African Americans from holding the priesthood, Church membership was open to all who met the scriptural standards. Therefore, Elder Lee and the other leaders deplored any attempts to use terror, force, or undue influence to prevent these people from asserting their rights, or from enjoying the privileges of Church membership. This volatile issue would trouble members of the Church in the South for many years, especially after the issue was taken to the streets.

Dr. B said...

Dorothy M. Horne, "Volunteers From Miles Around Help in 'House-Raising' Project," Church News [Saturday, 26 August 1989]:

A dozen or so volunteers have spent most of the summer replacing the home of Hamilton Branch Pres. Rex Avery and his wife, Mae. The branch is in the Bessemer Alabama Stake.

Several day-long service projects have brought volunteers from more than 100 miles away to this small city located in northwestern Alabama to help a family rebuild their home after it burned down earlier this year.

Most of the volunteers have been members, but, as in a July 15 plumbing project, non-member neighbors of the Averys took part, too, said project organizer Elder Howard G. Hall, who is serving in the Alabama Birmingham Mission with his wife, Raona. The Halls are from Yuba City, Calif.

"Two young people both non-membersT showed up looking for work on July 15T," Elder Hall said. "I said, 'This is volunteer work-we don't pay anything, but we have plenty to do. They the young menT got there early and worked the whole day."

This was the sixth volunteer day organized by Elder Hall. This "house-raising" effort has drawn community support and made people more receptive to the missionaries, Elder Hall said.

Work on the home began May 27 when members from the Bessemer Alabama Stake and the Averys' non-member neighbors and friends, including U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.), turned out to help put up the framing of the Avery home. Starting at 7 a.m., the crews had the home roughed in by 6 p.m. and ready for exterior finishing. Thunderstorms forecast for the day never arrived, allowing workers to finish the roofing and put on brick veneer before dark.

The real heart-stealer of the day was 9-year-old Donny Jamal Wallace, a non-member neighbor, who worked daylight to dark hammering nails with his father, James.

Dr. B said...

Elder Sterling W. Sill, in the Improvement Era 29 [December 1925] wrote:

Elder Sterling W. Sill of the Alabama conference, Southern States mission, reports that much prejudice is being removed in that district. The elders meet daily with people who have visited Utah and have become enthusiastic over the kindness with which they are received by the people there. They are especially impressed with the instructions received on the Temple block, which are a great aid to the missionaries in the field. The people of Alabama are readers and believers and lovers of the Bible, and when they hear the beauty of the restored gospel it becomes to them a Pearl of Great Price indeed, for which they are willing to sacrifice much. President C. A. Callis met the elders on Friday, May 8, at a Priesthood meeting at Birmingham and gave them an inspirational talk. President Ralph A. Richards and Charles F. Church, faithful laborers here for twenty-five months, were released to come home. They have many friends in the south. We all join in wishing them a hearty Godspeed.