Latter-day Saints to hold open house for new chapel by Karen Thompson The Vermillion Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will hold an open house of its new meeting-house on Thursday, Nov. 4. The new chapel is located at 20 Mickelson Avenue, which is a new street being built about a half mile east of Vermillion High School.
�The members of the Church here in Vermilion are pleased to have a place of our own to worship Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ,� said Frederick J. Peabody, president of the Vermillion Branch. �The church building can provide a resource to bless the lives of members and others in the community.�
While the building is the first permanent brick church for the Vermillion Branch, this era is not the first time members of the faith have lived in Vermillion. The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is briefly stated below, includes a connection with Fort Vermillion and some historical firsts for South Dakota.
Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805 in Sharon, VT. He later moved with his family to the rural community of Palmyra, NY, where, in 1820, a religious revival occurred. Confused by the conflicting claims of the various faiths, Smith went to the Bible for guidance and there found the challenge to �ask of God� for himself (James 1:5).
After praying for guidance, Smith formed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was officially organized on April 6, 1830, in Fayette, NY.
Growth and Opposition
Like the ancient church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a missionary church. In the mid-19th century, converts were encouraged to gather with the Saints in America. Swelling ranks of immigrants from Europe and the eastern United States soon provided fuel for growing opposition as well.
To escape the escalating turmoil, church headquarters moved from New York to Ohio, then to Missouri, and later to Illinois. In 1839 the Latter-day Saints established the community of Nauvoo, IL on a tract of inhospitable swamp land bordering the Mississippi River. By 1844 Nauvoo rivaled Chicago in population. But mounting suspicion and anxiety within neighboring communities fed an atmosphere of extreme agitation and distrust. At the height of this turmoil, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death by an armed mob in nearby Carthage, IL.
A historical look at Joseph Smith�s life, called Joseph Smith: American Prophet, will be shown on PBS later this fall.
Brigham Young and
the Westward Trek
In 1844 leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sought refuge from religious persecution and mob violence. In August 1844, James Emmett led a company of Saints from the Nauvoo area to the Missouri River.
This group of 150 pioneers crossed Iowa and had reached the Niobrara River in 1845 when met by fur traders who invited them to settle near their post. One account states there were 90 pioneers in 30 wagons who went with the fur traders. According to one pioneer�s journal, the little company was in need of such succor:
�From the time we started until we reached the Missouri River there was much hunger among our people. But when we reached the Missouri, we got into buffalo country and got plenty of meat and wild honey and fared better. In the spring of 1846 we laid out a large farm and calculated to raise some grain in a bend on the river a few miles below the fort.�
This early Mormon settlement was responsible for a number of firsts in South Dakota. According to articles based on journals kept by the pioneers, this first white settlement provided several cabins and farmland planted to corn, buckwheat, hay and other grains, the first marriage, between Allen Russell and Harriet Massina Hutchins on March 21, 1846, and the first white baby born.
Although warned by the fur traders that the Sioux would kill them, relations between the Saints and the Yankton Sioux were particularly welcoming and friendly.
The pioneers left Fort Vermillion in 1846 and made the trek west after receiving orders from Young.
A �Faith in Every Footstep� memorial plaque was placed on the Fort Vermillion marker on Burbank Road in 1997 to commemorate the pioneers who came to Vermillion. The marker was part of the 150th Mormon Trail commemoration.
In February of 1846, Young led the Latter-day Saints across the frozen Mississippi River into unsettled Iowa territory. They struggled across Iowa, eventually establishing a settlement called Winter Quarters near modern-day Omaha, NE. Soon the ad hoc community expanded to include hundreds of lodgings, many of them just dugouts or sod huts, on both sides of the river.
Pursuing a vision initially articulated by Smith, Young prepared his people � perhaps 17,000 of them by that time � for a historic trek across the vast wilderness to the Rocky Mountains, 1,300 miles to the west. The first pioneer party departed from Winter Quarters early the next spring and arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 24, 1847.
During the next few years, thousands of other Latter-day Saints struggled across the Great Plains bound for the Great Salt Lake Valley in covered wagons and handcarts. In all, the pioneers settled more than 600 communities in a broad swath stretching 1,350 miles from southern Alberta into Mexico.
Into the Modern Era
When Utah was granted status as the nation�s 45th state on Jan. 4 1896, church membership totaled a quarter of a million, the majority living in Utah, with a modest number scattered in colonies throughout the western United States, southern Alberta and northern Mexico. By 1930, only about half of the membership lived in Utah, but the remainder was still largely North American. As the church reached membership milestones throughout the twentieth century � 1 million in 1947, 2 million in 1963, 3 million in 1971, and 4 million in 1978 � the demographic makeup remained primarily American but was beginning to change markedly. Similarly, the Utah proportion became smaller and smaller.
Membership of the church reached 10 million people in the fall of 1994. Of that total, approximately one-sixth reside in Utah, and one half in the United States. In late February of 1997, church membership outside of the U.S. surpassed church membership within.
There are 110 members in Vermillion. The Branch here was established Dec. 11, 1994. The Branch first met in the Continuing Education Center on the campus of The University of South Dakota.
In the summer of 1995, the church rented the space formerly used by Hair by Stewart�s at 4 West Cherry Street. Members remodeled the hair and tanning salon into a main meeting room and classrooms. They met in this building until this October, when they moved into the new chapel at 20 Mickelson Avenue. The first Sunday services were held there on Oct. 10.
The building includes a full Family History Center, and the open house on Nov. 4 will include a tour. Hours of operation for the research facility will be announced at a later date.