Transcript for "Southern States Mission," in Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, edited by Andrew Jenson, 820-22. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Co., 1941.
SOUTHERN STATES MISSION (The) comprises the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. It contains six districts or conferences, namely, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. The numerical strength of the Southern States Mission Dec. 31, 1930, was 15,454 members, including 1 Seventy, 283 Elders, 281 Priests, 47 Teachers, 206 Deacons, 12,731 lay members and 1,905 children. There were 113 missionaries from Zion laboring in the mission, including four missionary sisters. Charles A. Callis presided over the mission with Merlin R. Manning as secretary.
In 1839 and 1840 Elder Jedediah M. Grant introduced the restored gospel to Burkes Garden, Virginia, at which time he read from a manuscript of the prophecy of the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the Civil War, which was ridiculed, but many of his hearers lived to see the prophecy fulfilled. In 1839, also, missionary work was commenced in the state of Mississippi by Benjamin L. Clapp and others, and in 1846 a company of seventeen families, in charge of Wm. Crosby, migrated from Mississippi westward to Pueblo, Colo., where they spent the winter of 18461847, and entered the Great Salt Lake Valley the next year (July 29, 1847), five days after Pres. Brigham Young's arrival in the Valley. In 1875 Henry G. Boyle of Pima, Arizona, laboring as a missionary in Tennessee, established a branch of the Church at Shady Grove, Hickman Co., Tenn., and having reported an opening there for more missionaries, Elders George Teasdale, David P. Rainey, Joseph Standing, John Morgan, John D. T. McAllister, David Perry and John R. Winder were called at a conference held in Salt Lake City in October, 1875, to labor in the Southern States under the direction of Elder Boyle. The mission was to consist of the states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Virginia. A number of converts were made, many of whom migrated to Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, uniting with the saints in these districts. San Luis Valley, Colo., was largely settled by saints from the Southern States.
In 1883 25 branches of the Church in the Southern States had been raised up, and the Church membership amounted to about 1,000. In 1887 missionary work among the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina was commenced, but, owing to opposition on the part of Indian agents who feared a migratory movement among their charges, it was not very successful.
As the work of the mission enlarged, the territory included in the Southern States Mission was extended over North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Ohio. In 1895 the states of Kansas and Arkansas were transferred to the Central States Mission, and in 1897 Texas was also transferred to that mission. In 1893 the state of Maryland was annexed to the Eastern States Mission. In 1902 the Southern States Mission was divided and the Middle States Mission organized, Ben E. Rich, president of the Southern States Mission, being appointed to take charge of the new mission, while Ephraim H. Nye (transferred from the presidency of the Eastern States Mission) was appointed to succeed Ben E. Rich as president of the Southern States Mission. But at the demise of Elder Nye, one year later, the two missions were again amalgamated. In 1926 the state of Ohio was transferred to the Northern States Mission. The Southern States Mission was again divided in 1928, when the East Central States Mission was organized, at which time the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky were taken from the Southern States Mission to form the new mission.
The headquarters of the Southern States Mission, originally located at Nashville, Tenn., were changed in 1882 to Chattanooga, Tenn., and from thence in 1919 to Atlanta, Georgia, where they are still located.
In 1898 the publication of the "Southern Star," a weekly publication, was commenced at Chattanooga, Tenn., by Pres. Ben E. Rich. It continued for two years and was followed in August, 1903, by the "Elders Journal." This publication, in July, 1907, was merged into the "Liahona the Elders' Journal", published at Independence, Mo., which periodical is still issued bi-weekly.
The Southern States Mission has been the scene of more persecution than any other L. D. S. mission. Several of the missionaries were severely whipped and some of them paid the supreme sacrifice while engaged in missionary labors. The first of these, Joseph Standing, was shot down near Varnell's Station, Georgia, July 21, 1879, and William S. Berry and John H. Gibbs were shot to death by a mob in Lewis County, Tenn., Aug. 10, 1884, together with two local Elders, Martin Condor and John R. Hudson. In August, 1888, Elder Alma Pascal Richards, having taken leave of his missionary companion, who was released to return home, was on his way to join other missionaries when he was murdered in Lauderdale County, Miss. His remains were interred by the county authorities and were not located by his brethren until some time later, after a diligent search.
There is a branch of the Church on the Catawba Indian Reservation, in South Carolina, officered and composed entirely of Indians. It has a membership of about 125 and owns a neat chapel.
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.
Radio programs, featuring the singing of L. D. S. hymns and brief addresses by the missionaries, have created much interest.
Following are the names of the presidents of the Southern States Mission; Henry G. Boyle, 1875-1878; John Morgan, 1878-1883; Brigham H. Roberts (pro tem.), 1883-1884; William Spry, 1888-1891; J. Golden Kimball, 1891-1894; Elias S. Kimball, 1894-1898; Ben E. Rich, 1898-1902; Ephraim H. Nye, 1902-1903 (died May 15, 1903); Ben E. Rich (second term), 1903-1908; and Charles A. Callis, 1908-1930.