When did Mormons settle in Mesa?

14 December 2023

Religious movements have played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural and social landscapes of many regions in the United States. One such movement is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or the Mormon Church. While its roots trace back to the early 19th century in Palmyra, New York, the church’s influence extends far beyond, reaching areas like Arizona.

Mesa, Arizona holds particular significance for the Mormon Church, with its settlement dating back to the late 19th century. This article aims to explore the question, “When did Mormons settle in Mesa?” We will delve into the history of the Mormon Church, the factors leading to their migration to Arizona, their influence on Mesa, and the modern practices of the Church today.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a student researching religious movements, or someone curious about the cultural influences in your city, this exploration aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the Mormon settlement in Mesa. Let’s embark on this intriguing journey into the past.

What is Mormonism?

Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is a religious movement that emerged in the United States in the early 19th century. Founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 in New York, the Church claims to restore the original Christian Church doctrine established by Jesus Christ.

Members of the Church, known as Mormons, believe in the Book of Mormon, which they regard as a companion to the Bible. The Book of Mormon is said to have been translated by Smith from golden plates revealed to him by an angel named Moroni. The book narrates the spiritual history of ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains teachings of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, Mormonism has grown and evolved, with a significant number of its followers migrating westward in the mid-19th century under the leadership of Brigham Young, following the assassination of Smith. These migrations led to the establishment of numerous Mormon settlements, including the one in Mesa, Arizona.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what Mormonism is, let’s delve into the history of the Mormon Church and its journey to Arizona.

History of the Mormon Church

Exploring the history of the Mormon Church is like embarking on a thrilling journey through time. It’s a story filled with faith, migration, adversity, and resilience. Let’s begin this journey from the founding of the Church, and trace its migration to Arizona.

Founding of the Church and Move to Salt Lake City

The Mormon Church, officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was founded by Joseph Smith in New York in 1830. The Church and its members faced severe persecution due to their unique beliefs and practices. The assassination of Smith in 1844 led to a succession crisis, with Brigham Young emerging as the leader of the largest faction.

Under Young’s leadership, the Mormons embarked on a mass migration westward, an exodus known as the Mormon Pioneer Trek, seeking a safe haven to practice their faith. They ultimately settled in the Salt Lake Valley in present-day Utah in 1847. This area, initially a part of Mexico, became a part of the United States after the Mexican-American War in 1848.

But the story doesn’t end here. From the Salt Lake Valley, Mormon pioneers set forth to establish numerous colonies throughout the western United States, Canada, and Mexico. One such location was Arizona, which saw its first Mormon settlers arrive in the 1870s.

Migration to Arizona

While the first Mormon settlers in Arizona arrived in the 1870s, the significant wave of migration occurred in the 1880s when the Church leadership encouraged members to colonize the Little Colorado River area in northeastern Arizona. The settlement in Mesa, however, was a different story, with its roots traced back to the establishment of the Utah-based Mormon Battalion during the Mexican-American War.

As we move forward, let’s focus on the Mormon settlement in Mesa and answer the question: “When did Mormons settle in Mesa?”

How did Mormons settle in Mesa?

In the late 1870s, a group of Mormon pioneers from Utah, known as the First Mesa Company, arrived in the Salt River Valley. This group, led by Daniel Webster Jones, found the area to be promising for establishing a settlement. The site was originally called Fort Utah. A memorial to Fort Utah Stands at the South West corner of the LDS church building on Horne and E. Lehi Road. The availability of water from the Salt River for irrigation was a major factor that attracted these pioneers to the area.

In 1878, they established the Lehi Settlement, which is now a part of Mesa. However, due to issues with flooding, another group, the Second Mesa Company, settled to the south, and in 1883, they officially founded the town of Mesa.

The settlers built homes, laid out farms, and started the construction of the Mesa Arizona Temple, which was dedicated in 1927. The establishment of this temple solidified Mesa as a significant location for the Mormon Church.

As we delve deeper into the importance of Mesa to the Mormon faith, we will uncover how this city shaped the Church’s history and continues to influence its practices today.

The Importance of Mesa to the Mormon Faith

Why does Mesa hold such significance for the Mormon Church? To understand this, we need to delve into the Church’s history and its activities in Mesa. The establishment of the Church in Mesa and the legacy of Mormon life in the city are all aspects that contribute to the importance of Mesa to the Mormon faith.

From the founding of the city to the construction of the Mesa Arizona Temple, the Mormon Church has had a profound influence on the development and growth of Mesa. Today, Mesa is home to one of the highest concentrations of Mormons in the United States, outside of Utah, making it a significant hub for the Church.

The city’s history is interwoven with the history of the Mormon Church, and understanding this relationship will provide us with a deeper insight into the religious and cultural landscape of Mesa. Let’s take a look at the role Mesa has played in the Church’s history, starting with the establishment of the Church in the city.

Establishing the Church in Mesa

The establishment of the Church in Mesa was a pivotal moment in the history of the city. The first Mormon pioneers in Mesa were part of the First Mesa Company, led by Daniel Webster Jones. These pioneers, drawn by the promising land and the availability of water from the Salt River, established the Lehi Settlement in 1878.

However, due to issues with flooding, a second group known as the Second Mesa Company settled to the south. In 1883, they officially founded the town of Mesa. With the establishment of the city, the Church began to grow in Mesa. The settlers built homes, laid out farms, and started the construction of the Mesa Arizona Temple, which was dedicated in 1927. This temple became a significant landmark for the Church and solidified Mesa’s importance to the Mormon faith.

Today, Mesa continues to be a vibrant hub for the Church, with a high concentration of Mormons residing in the city. The Church has had a significant influence on the development and culture of Mesa, contributing to its unique character and history.

The Legacy of Mormon Life in Mesa

The Mormon Church has left an enduring legacy in Mesa, shaping the city’s cultural, social, and architectural landscape. The Mesa Arizona Temple, one of the earliest temples constructed by the Church outside of Utah, stands as an iconic symbol of the city’s rich Mormon heritage. This temple not only serves as a place of worship and community for the Mormons but also attracts visitors from around the world, especially during the annual Easter Pageant, a large-scale outdoor theatrical event depicting the life, teachings, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Mormons have also significantly influenced the educational landscape of Mesa. Notable institutions such as the Mesa Public Schools and the East Valley Institute of Technology owe their existence to the early Mormon settlers’ emphasis on education.

Moreover, the city’s urban layout, with its wide streets and grid pattern, mirrors the “Plat of the City of Zion” blueprint used by Mormon settlers. This blueprint, based on a revelation received by Joseph Smith, reflects the Church’s ideals of order, community, and harmony.

In conclusion, the legacy of the Mormon Church in Mesa is deeply embedded in the city’s fabric. It’s a testament to the faith, resilience, and community spirit of the early Mormon pioneers who transformed a promising tract of desert into a flourishing city.

Modern Practices of the Mormon Church

Understanding the modern practices of the Mormon Church offers a window into the lives of its current followers and how the Church’s teachings continue to shape their beliefs and lifestyle. The Church’s doctrines focus on principles such as faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and lifelong learning and service.

One of the significant practices in the Mormon Church is the regular participation in sacrament meetings, which consist of hymns, prayers, and sermons. These meetings, held weekly, are a time for members to renew their covenants with God and strengthen their faith.

Mormons also participate in religious rites known as ordinances, such as baptism, confirmation, and marriage, which they believe are essential for salvation. The Mesa Arizona Temple, like other Mormon temples, is a sacred place where these ordinances are performed.

Another key practice of the Church is the emphasis on family and genealogy. Mormons believe that families can be together forever, and therefore, they engage in family history work to connect with their ancestors. They perform ordinances for deceased ancestors in their temples, offering them the opportunity to accept the gospel in the afterlife. The Mesa Arizona Family Search Center is a resource in the Mesa, AZ community for more geneological information.

In Mesa, the practices of the Mormon Church continue to shape the community, influencing its values, traditions, and social fabric. Whether it’s the weekly sacrament meetings, the sacred ordinances at the Mesa Arizona Temple, or the pursuit of family history work, the Church’s practices are an integral part of the lives of Mormons in Mesa.

The story of the Mormons in Mesa, Arizona, is a fascinating tale of faith, migration, and resilience. Starting in the late 19th century, the Mormons transformed a promising tract of desert into a flourishing city, leaving an indelible mark on its cultural, social, and architectural landscape.

Today, with one of the highest concentrations of Mormons in the United States, outside of Utah, Mesa continues to be a vibrant hub for the Church. The city’s rich Mormon heritage, reflected in landmarks like the Mesa Arizona Temple and institutions like the Mesa Public Schools, attests to the enduring influence of the Church.

As we’ve explored the question, “When did Mormons settle in Mesa?” we’ve journeyed through time, uncovering the Church’s history, its impact on Mesa, and the modern practices of its followers. This exploration, far from exhaustive, offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Mesa’s Mormon heritage. A heritage that continues to shape the city’s identity and its future.

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