A mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a geographical administrative area to which church missionaries are assigned. Almost all areas of the world are within the boundaries of an LDS Church mission, whether or not Mormon missionaries live or proselytize in the area.
Geographically, a mission may be a city, a city and surrounding areas, a state or province, or perhaps an entire country or even multiple countries. Typically, the name of the mission is the name of the country (or state in the United States), and then the name of the city where the mission headquarters office is located.
All missionaries serve in a mission under the direction of a mission president, who, like individual missionaries, is assigned by the President of the Church. The mission president must be a married high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood; his wife is asked to serve alongside him. Mission presidents are typically in their forties or older, and usually have the financial means to devote themselves full-time to the responsibility for three consecutive years. The church provides mission presidents with a minimal living allowance but it normally requires them to supplement it with their own funds. Often, the mission president must learn the local language spoken in the mission, as the missionaries do (although many mission presidents today have either previously served a mission in the mission language or speak the mission language as their native language).
The mission president has at least two counselors, who usually are Latter-day Saints from the local area who keep their regular employment. The role of the counselors varies by mission, but they typically serve as liaisons between the mission and the local membership of the church.
Each missionary companionship has a geographical area which may include part of a ward or branch, one ward or branch, or several wards or branches. The missionaries are responsible for preaching to the people in their own area. In a mission, the ecclesiastical line of authority is from the mission president down to the missionaries. The missionaries answer to the mission president directly, as opposed to the local branch president, bishop, or stake president.
Districts within a mission are composed exclusively of branches. After the membership has grown sufficiently, the branches may be converted into wards and the district may be converted into a stake. Typically, this will not occur until there are least five ward-sized congregations in the district. Once a district becomes a stake, the mission president is only responsible for the proselyting missionaries in the area, not the local members of the church.
Central America and the Caribbean
The mission with the largest geographical area is currently the Micronesia Guam Mission, which covers an area of the earth that is roughly the size of the continental United States. However, the vast majority of this mission is composed of empty ocean. The largest mission in terms of geographical land mass and population is currently the China Hong Kong Mission, which encompasses nearly all of the Chinese landmass and population. Outside of Hong Kong and Macau, there are no Mormon missionaries in China. The India Banglore Mission has the largest population amongst which proselytizing is allowed. This mission covers all of India, thus it has more than one billion inhabitants in its borders.
Russia contains missions with very large areas. In the Russia Novosibirsk Mission it is possible to take a 42-hour train ride to get to the city of Novosibirsk from some places within the mission boundaries.
With the removal of the main body of the Saints to Utah Territory and other western states the number of church members in the Eastern United States was very small. As mission president of the Eastern States Mission, Wilford Woodruff tried to bring all the saints in New England and other eastern areas to move to Utah Territory.
In 1854, after having been defunct for about three years, the Eastern States Mission was organized again. John Taylor presided over this mission. His main function was to publish a paper to disseminate the teachings of the church. The other thing he did was supervise immigration from Europe to Utah, being the first to meet the saints when they came out of Castle Garden. He did preside over the few Saints in New York City, but did not functionally administer the church in any larger region.
On the eve of the American Civil War missionary work made much progress in New York City as well as other eastern metropolises. However the call of the gathering to Utah, given more power by the preaching and leadership of Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow, caused many of the saints to "flee Babylon and gather to Zion".
The advent of the U.S. Civil War and its connection in the minds of the Saints with Joseph Smith's prophecies on war caused the vast majority of the Saints to leave the eastern United States and gather to Utah Territory.
During the 1850s the church also had an organization in St. Louis with first Erastus Snow and latter Orson Spencer having a regional leadership position somewhat equivalent to that of a mission president, although neither was referred to by this title while they presided from St. Louis.
In the western United States families would be called on settlement missions, but these were not primarily proselytizing missions. Some started as missions to the Native Americans. One such was headed by Orson Hyde and tried to convert the Shoshone in Wyoming. The Southern Indian Mission, with Jacob Hamblin as its most famous missionary, made much progress. These missions were often directed by church leaders in regular wards and stakes, and did not become an organized mission at this time.
There were three more missions organized at this time in the United States as we define it today. The California Mission thrived for a short time with the presence of such men as Parley P. Pratt and George Q. Cannon. However, there were nearly as many men on gold-mining missions as regular proselytizing missions. By the time of the Utah War, the California Mission had largely stopped functioning.
The Sandwich Islands Mission was begun in 1850. Among the first missionaries sent to what are now called the Hawaiian Islands was George Q. Cannon who converted Jonatana Napela. The two of them translated the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian, and the church was able to win many native Hawaiian converts.
The last antebellum mission was the Indian Territory Mission. Organized in 1855 with Henry W. Miller as president, this mission mainly focused on teaching the Cherokee in what is today Oklahoma. There were some converts made in the following five years, however, the mission was soon afterwards disbanded.
In 1865, John Taylor again organized the Eastern States Mission. However this mission stopped functioning in 1869.
The next mission to be organized was the Northern States Mission (initially called the Northwestern States Mission) with headquarters in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The first president of this mission was Cyrus H. Wheelock. Wheelock had served as a missionary in both Iowa and Michigan about this time. The mission was organized in 1878. It was renamed the Northern States Mission in 1889. The mission headquarters were moved to Chicago in 1896.
In 1883, the Indian Territory Mission was reestablished with Matthew W. Dalton as president. In 1898 it was renamed the Southwestern States Mission, signifying it was not only teaching the Native Americans but everyone else in its jurisdiction who would listen. 1892 saw a mission organized in California. This marked the beginning of proselytizing there. John Dalton worked initially in Oakland and San Francisco. In 1893 Karl G. Maeser arrived as head of the Utah exhibit at the mid-winter fair in San Francisco. He also presided over the mission, focusing his effrorts on gaining friends in the San Francisco Bay Area. Henry S. Tanner arrived the next August, with missionaries, thus he was able to preside over missionaries. The headquarters of the mission remained in San Francisco, but by August 1895 a branch had been organized in Los Angeles. That year also marked the division of the California mission into Conferences(Andrew, Jenson. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. p. 110)
In 1893, the Eastern States Mission was organized again. This is the first time the mission was a truly regional one, supervising missionary work throughout much of the eastern United States.
By the 1890s, the leaders of the church were beginning to encourage converts to no longer gather to Utah. With more church members from Utah moving east for employment and education, a nucleus was building around which the church could grow. Still, most people were baptized by missionaries traveling without purse or scrip.
The orginis of the Northwestern States Mission go back to the Oregon Lumber Company which was run by David Eccles and Charles W. Nibley. Many Latter-day Saints worked in the companies offices in Baker City, Oregon and they were organized as a branch in 1893. At that point the branch was placed in the Oneida Stake which was headquartered in Preston, Idaho. In 1896 Edwards Stevenson was apointed to go open a mission in Oregon, Montana and Washington. This lead to the earlier mentioned creations of two missions.
As a missionary Stevenson preached in Walla Walla, Washington, Spokane, Washington, Lewiston, Idaho and Baker City, Oregon. When the mission was formally organized in 1897 it had George C. Parkinson as president.
When the Montana and Northwestern States missions were merged in 1898 Franklin Bramwell, who had been president of the Montana mission, was made president of the Northwestern States Mission.
The Northwestern States Mission was headquartered in Baker City, Oregon. However in 1901 a stake was organized in Oregon with Bramwell as president and the mission headquarters were moved to Portland, Oregon. The next year Nephi Pratt replaced Bramwell as mission president and the mission moved towards of system of preaching the gospel in areas where the few latter day saints were in a minority.
The Eastern States Mission encompassed New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. This mission had its headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. It also included all of Ontario and the parts of Canada further east, though missionaries were only active in Ontario at this time.
The Southern States Mission covered Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. Ohio had been placed in this mission so there was a northern climate where missionaries could recover from illness. The Southern States Mission was headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The Northern States Mission included Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Manitoba. It was headquartered in Chicago. The Southwestern States Mission covered Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. It was headquartered in St. John, Kansas. The Colorado Mission covered North and South Dakota, Nebraska, the eastern two-thirds of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. It was headquartered in Denver.
Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Southern Idaho and Western Wyoming were not in any mission. Missionary work, to the extent that it occurred in these areas, was administered through the Home Missionary Program at the stake level. The Northwestern States Mission included Wyoming, Northern Idaho, Oregon and Washington. It also included Western Canada; however, it would not be until 1902 that Nephi Pratt, president of the Northwestern States Mission and a son of Parley P. Pratt, would lead missionaries into British Columbia. Edward G. Cannon was going about the Nome, Alaska region with a tabernacle on wheels in which to hold church meetings, but he had no actual connection with a mission and had gone to Alaska on his own initiative to share the gospel. The last mission was the California Mission, which in 1900 had boundaries co-terminus with California.
In 1902, the Middle States Mission was created with Ben E. Rich as president. However, in 1903, Ephraim H. Nye, president of the Souther States mission, died. He was replaced by Ben E. Rich and the boundaries of the missions were realigned. In 1904, the Southwestern States Mission was renamed the Central States Mission. After the San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906, the mission headquarters was relocated to Los Angeles from San Francisco. In the next few years the headquarters of the Central States Mission were moved to Independence, Missouri, and the headquarters of the Northwestern States Mission were moved to Portland, Oregon. In 1907, the Colorado Mission was renamed the Western States Mission. Also in these years, the headquarters of the Southern States Mission moved from Chattanooga to Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1919, the first major change to missions in more than 15 years occurred. Ontario, Manitoba and Québec were split from the Eastern States Mission and the Northern States Mission and organized as the Canadian Mission. In 1925, the North Central States Mission was organized with parts of the Western States, Northern States, and Canadian Missions included. In 1926, Ohio was transferred to the Northern States Mission.
To get a sense of how large these missions were, in 1922 part of southwest New Mexico was added to the jurisdiction of the California mission.
In the 1855 General Conference the church called missionaries to the Indian Territory. They worked primarily with the Cherokee and the Creeks. There were also several converts made among the followers of Lyman Wight some of whom by that time were residing in Oklahoma. At the end of the year a company of 65 left for Utah.
An early leader of the mission here was Henry Eyring who presided 1858-1860. Eyring was an ancestor of the physicist Henry Eyring.
In 1859 all except Eyring were expelled by Indian Agents as an outgrowth of the Utah War. With Eyring's departure the following year little missionary work occurred until 1877 when Matthew Dalton and John Hubbard served in the Indian Territory. The mission was non-existent again for six years until George Teasdale and Matthew Dalton reopened the work in 1883. Teasdale wrote several tracks at this time.
In 1885 Andrew Kimball, the father of latter church president Spencer W. Kimball became the president of the mission. Under his leadership the mission expanded to include Kansas, Arkansas and Texas in its domain. The headquarters were by the time he was released from this calling in 1897 at St. John, Kansas. In 1900 the headquarters were still at St. John.
In October 1900 Louisiana and Missouri were added to the mission Earlier that year James G. Duffin became president of the mission. He presided over the organization of a colony of Latter-day Saints at Kelsey, Upshur County, Texas. There were also church colonies established in the vicinity of Poynor, Henderson County, Texas and Spurger, Tyler County, Texas
In 1904 the name of the mission was changed to the Central States Mission. In 1906 Samuel O. Bennion became president of the mission. In that same year the mission headquarters were moved to Independence.
Independence soon developed into the publication headquarters for the missions of the church in the United States. the mission operated Zion's Printing and Publishing Company which published Liahona the Elders Journal as well as many books and tracts.
In the 1910s Spencer W. Kimball served as a missionary in the Central States Mission.
In 1930 there were twelve districts in the Central States mission, the Arkansas, East Kansas, East Texas, Independence, Louisiana, Missouri, North Texas, Oklahoma, South Texas, Southwest Missouri, West Kansas and West Texas.
President Bennion was called to the First Council of the Seventy in 1933, but he continued to serve as president of the Central States Mission until 1935. The modern mission generally corresponds to the Independence and East Kansas Districts of 1930.
In 1931 the Texas Mission was split off from the Southern area of the Central States Mission.
In 1974 the mission was renamed the Missouri Independence Mission.
This line began to blur in the 1920s. With the organization of stakes in California, the mission still sent missionaries into those areas although it no longer had jurisdiction over the local units.
By 1930 the Mission had eight districts, the Kentucky, East Kentucky, North Carolina, East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia North and West Virginia South Districts.
In May 1945 the Texas Mission was renamed the Texas Louisiana Mission. In October 1947 the Central Atlantic States Mission was formed from the East Central States Mission. This mission was headquartered at Roanoake, Virginia.. In 1970 this mission was renamed the North Carolina-Virginia Mission. In 1974 it became the Virginia Roanoake Mission. It was renamed the Virginia Richmond Mission in February 1992 and currently has its headquarters in Richmond..
In 1949 the Great Lakes Mission was organized, consisting of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The West Central States mission was organized in 1950, consisting primarily of Montana and Wyoming. There was then a break until a new mission was organized in the United States. There was no new mission organized in the United States for almost eight years after this. The general plan of having "states" in the various mission names was expanded when in 1955 the Texas-Louisiana Mission was renamed the Gulf States Mission.
In March 1958 the West Spanish-American Mission was organized. In October 1960 the Eastern Atlantic States Mission was organized with George B. Hill as president. This mission included the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware and southern New Jersey. This was the last new mission formed with "states" in its name. The next month the Florida Mission was organized with Karl R. Lyman as president. In February 1961 a new Texas Mission was split off from the Gulf States Mission.
In 1964 the Cumorah Mission was organized from the Eastern States Mission. Headquartered in Rochester, New York this showed that the "states" naming of missions was doomed. This mission would be renamed New York Rochester in 1974. This year also saw the organization of the Northern Indian Mission, organized from the Southwest Indian Mission, formerly the Navajo-Zuni Mission. This was the heyday of separate missions organized to proselyte with specific linguistic and ethnic groups. The California South Mission was formed in June 1966. 1967 saw two new missions that showed that "states" no longer made sense with missions since it was becoming true that missions often covered no more than one state. The Ohio Mission was organized from the Great Lakes Mission and the Texas South Mission was organized from the Texas and the Spanish-American missions. 1967 also saw the rest of the Spanish American Mission put in the Western States and Texas Missions. A decision had been made to have missionaries assigned to missions by area and not language. The full effects of this decision would not been seen for a few more years. On the 1st day of 1968 the Pacific Northwest Mission was organized. This made it so the Northwestern States mission was essential Oregon and adjacent parts of Idaho and the Pacific Northwest Mission was Washington with neighboring portions of Idaho.
Salt Lake City was first included in a regular mission in 1975. This was with the organization of the Utah Salt Lake City Mission.
It was not until the 1870s, after Meliton Trejo and Daniel Jones had translated the Book of Mormon into Spanish that missionary work began on a permanent footing in Mexico. The first mission president there was Moses Thatcher. Another early mission president in that land was Helaman Pratt, son of Parley and father of Rey Pratt.
The first permanent mission in South America was formed in 1925 under the direction of Melvin J. Ballard.
Missionary work in Central America began in the late 1940s under the supervision of the Mexican Mission. A separate Central American Mission was organized in November 1952. In 1956 Mexican Mission was again divided with the Northern Mexican Mission being formed. A third mission was organized in 1960, this time by splitting the Northern Mexican mission and forming the West Mexican Mission, which would latter become the Mexico Hermosillo Mission.
In October General Conference of 1849 three apostles were called to open missionary work in Europe. Erastus Snow was assigned to open missionary work in Scandinavia. The other two assignments were for Lorenzo Snow to go to Italy and John Taylor to go to France. There were other elders assigned to accompany each of these apostles, so a mission organization was in place even before any missionaries had reached their destinations.
In the case of France, Howells from Wales actually was in France preaching long before Taylor and his companions arrived. The French mission came to include the Channel Islands under John Taylor's direction, and this was where the mission saw the most converts in the early days.
The Italian mission, despite the presence of Joseph Toronto, was largely confined to northern Italy among the Waldensians. Lorenzo Snow also supervised the opening of the Swiss Mission. This mission eventually became the Swiss-Italian-German mission a few years latter, and then "Italian" was dropped from the name since no missionary work was going on in Italy.
In 1850 a mission was organized in Hawaii. Here there was also a designated mission president and there were enough missionaries to make it a clear process of assigning missionaries to specific areas. However each area was an island, and the number of missionaries in each area varied. Beyond this the decision to go from teaching in English to American and English sailors temporarily on the islands and other expatriates to teaching the natives in the Hawaiian Language was made by George Q. Cannon, who was not the mission president.
Although some British Latter-day Saints on their way to Australia were set apart as missionaries in the early 1840s, missionary work on an organized basis did not begin there until the arrival of John Murdock in 1851.
After the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males was received, the church proceeded to open missions in West Africa. Initially the focus was on Ghana and Nigeria, where there were groups that with unofficial church members who had been for years begging the church to send missionaries. Initially the missionaries sent to these nations were organized in the International Mission. As missionary work in these areas progressed they were organized as the West African Mission in 1981.
French-speaking areas of Africa were originally organized into a separate Cameroon Yaounde Mission in 1991. The original plan was to have the mission cover a broad range of French speaking areas. However after a short time it was decided to initially focus on building up the church in Côte d'Ivoire, and so the mission headquarters was moved to Abidjan.