Little Zions

Today was our stake conference, and we had a visiting general authority: Elder Terrence C. Smith, one of the North American Area Seventies. His talk was one of the finest, most doctrinally insightful sermons I’ve ever heard at a stake conference. But what really caught me came in the first minute of his talk. He’s Canadian, specifically an Albertan, and he mentioned being from a little town “that’s probably 90% LDS.” That’s interesting, I thought.

I’m not an expert about the Mormon presence in Alberta, but I know a little: my father’s mother was from Lethbridge, and she and her husband were eventually sealed in Cardston; after some Googling, I figured that Elder Smith was talking about the little Mormon town of Raymond. And that got me curious. Here we have, hundreds of miles away from Mormonism’s historical homeland, and more than a century removed from the original Mormon settling of the American west, a couple of small, long-ago-settled communities that are Mormon enough to partake of some of those same quirks and blessings that we–or, at least, people like me–usually associate only with Utah and perhaps parts of Idaho, Arizona, or Wyoming. How many more might there be, and where might they be? I really couldn’t say. And so I decided to ask the Plain People of the Internet, of course.

Here’s what I’m looking for–any community (of any size, really, so long as it has an actual, historical, enduring presence), from anywhere in the U.S. or abroad, which is overwhelmingly Mormon, in population and presumably culture. It cannot be from anywhere in the Rocky Mountain states (no Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, or Colorado); all other locales are fair game. What will we find? I’m thinking that you might, just might, find odd little towns spread across parts of California, Nevada, New Mexico, or Oregon which are heavily Mormon; I doubt you’ll find them anywhere else in the U.S. There might be a few more in Alberta or British Columbia, but I don’t think they’ll be any elsewhere in Canada. In Mexico, well, did any of those colonies go native? Or were they all abandoned when the American Mormons left in 1920s and 1930s? How about elsewhere in Central or South America? I can’t believe any will exist anywhere in Europe or Asia–either the Mormon converts there were all encouraged/forced to leave or the church just hasn’t been around long enough. But perhaps some island communities in Hawai’i, Tonga, Samoa, or New Zealand? Come on, all you global travelers and armchair historians, help us find and give some credit to all the distant Little Zions out there.

(Yes, I know that in some ways this post might be understood as undermining exactly what Wilfried’s superb post is aiming to explore. My apologies.)

75 comments for “Little Zions

  1. paula
    February 18, 2008 at 12:22 am

    Colonia Juarez is still heavily LDS, I hear. Sorry I don’t know how to be fancy with the links:árez

  2. Wilfried
    February 18, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Thanks for the referral to my post, Russell. Actually, no undermining at all. I’d be curious to know how much such little Zions have retained “American” traits or developed a (partially) different identity.

  3. Dan
    February 18, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Outside of Alberta or Mexico, I don’t think there really are any other places in the world where Mormons would represent more than a quarter (and certainly not more than half) of a town’s population.

  4. Ray
    February 18, 2008 at 1:07 am

    What about Tonga – or some other Polynesian towns?

  5. February 18, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Both of my dad’s parents are from McGrath, Alberta, another heavily Mormon-populated town.

    On my mission in Guatemala I grew pretty familiar with a little town in my zone called Patzicia (I’m sure your family went there when they did the Guatemala tour) that has a disproportionate amount of Mormons. It doesn’t have Raymond or Provo numbers or anything (because it wasn’t founded by Mormons), but in comparison to all the rest of Guatemala its numbers are crazy. At the time (10 years ago) the small town had its own stake, whereas the other 6-8 towns in my zone comprised the other stake. The other crazy thing about it was that it’s a largely indigenous (Cakchiquel) town who are, generally speaking, very difficult to convert. Amazingly faithful people though. A true anomaly.

  6. February 18, 2008 at 1:36 am

    I served my mission in North Carolina. While I never served on the Catawba reservation, I know several missionaries who did. They report that the tribe is heavily LDS, though there is a lot of inactivity. (Less than the rest of the Bible Belt, but still high.)

  7. Bob
    February 18, 2008 at 1:42 am

    I saw a map of leading religious bodies by county. Counties in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, California, and Iowa have predominantly LDS populations.

    I looked up the county in Iowa, and a town in the county is the town of Lamoni which is home to a college of the Community of Christ.

    view the map here:

  8. Rob G
    February 18, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Just outside of Hamilton, New Zealand is a little neighborhood called Temple View that has a very large Mormon majority, although I’m not sure of the actual percentage.

  9. Slushy
    February 18, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Liahona, Tonga

  10. Doc
    February 18, 2008 at 2:23 am

    My understanding is that Molokai, Hawaii is largely LDS

  11. plvmetz
    February 18, 2008 at 2:27 am

    A family in our ward in France moved last year to an island in Tahiti that they said was 80% LDS. It only has ~200-300 people on it.

  12. MikeInWeHo
    February 18, 2008 at 2:34 am

    The island next to Maui and Lanai, Doc? But there’s hardly anybody there!
    The town of Laie on Oahu might be a better bet. That’s a thoroughly LDS colony far away from Utah.

  13. February 18, 2008 at 2:35 am

    It’s probably cheating, but many towns in eastern and southern Nevada are heavily LDS. Logandale, Alamo and Pioche are a few that come to mind where I’ve seen stake centers within view of each other.

  14. Bob
    February 18, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Temple View is a village built around the New Zealand Temple, and the Chruch College of New Zealand. The Temple was dedicated in 1958. There are about 1500 people in the village plus an additional 700 students, at its peak now about 450.

    It probably has about 95% LDS population.

    The Church announced the closure of Church College for the end of 2009. While the Temple will continue to be the focus of the community, this could have a considerable impact on the village, but will depend on what the Church decides to to with the land and buildings. Many people have moved there so their children can attend Church College.

    A 2001 profile of the community can be found here

  15. Gilgamesh
    February 18, 2008 at 3:24 am

    Gridley California has a large Mormon population. They have three wards in a town of 5000. Not bad for a site outside of old Deseret.

  16. Keith
    February 18, 2008 at 3:42 am

    #!12 is right. Laie, HI counts in this category. It’s a unique place. Here are a couple short histories:
    It is still 90-95% LDS and is likely to remain so. The fact that the Church purchased the area in 1865, built a temple in 1919 (first outside Utah, established a college and the Polynesian Cultural Center, and that some incredibly good people/families have been here through all of this, seems to say that it will probably remain vibrantly LDS for some time.

  17. February 18, 2008 at 9:55 am

    @ 5 It’s Magrath, not McGrath…don’t worry, it’s a common mistake.

    Cardston, Raymond, Magrath, Mountain View, Glenwood, Hillspring, Aetna and Leavitt all have a minimum of one ward building (the first three have a minimum of 1 stake centre, Cardston has 2)

    It’s interesting in that their all built along the old canal that used to bring irrigation water to Lethbridge, building the towns was part of the contract Charles Ora Card arranged with the Galt family in Lethbridge.

    I was surprised how Mormon Grand Junction, Colorado is, but it’s not quite at the ‘Mormon Town’ levels.

    Now, having been raised in one of these little towns, there are some disadvantages. I’m afraid my mother knew more about my dates than I did, as she got regular reports from the little old ladies who were scandalized to see me out with a girl. Horror of horrors.

  18. Lizabeth Leslie
    February 18, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I think there maybe some places in the Philippines too.

  19. February 18, 2008 at 11:14 am

    What a fascinating bunch of Little Zions! This is a cool exercise; thanks to all for contributing.

    Paula–thanks for the update on Colonia Juarez. From what I can tell, it’s a town of about 1000 people, and apparently nearly all LDS. Can anyone from there, or who has spent any time there, fill in the details? Are the residents all enthic Mexicans (descendents of early converts, perhaps?), or mostly “Hispanicized” Anglos (descendents of colonists who stayed on?), or both? And what about the other LDS colonies?

    Wilfried–I’m glad you’re ok with the post. I was concerned because my whole inquiry presumes a rather easy (and, I suppose, now at least formally discouraged) identification between Mormon Utah and “Zion.” Of course, I could have just titled the post, “Little Majority Mormon Communities,” but that wouldn’t capture the way these small outposts of Majority Mormonism invariably partake of communal sensibilities that are at least reminiscent of the world the Mormon pioneers made in Utah. Anyway, if you have anything to contribute, please do!

    Dan–that was my original suspicion too. But I’m waiting–hoping–to be proven wrong.

    Ray, Slushy, Lizabeth, plvmetz–yes, this is exactly what I’m talking about. Factor Hawai’i out of the equation, as there are some different (and much better understood) dynamics at play there. What about Tonga, American Somoa, Tahiti, French Polynesia, etc.? I don’t think many people really know much about the church’s historical presence in the Pacific; I certainly don’t. The impact of early 20th-century missionaries on many of those islands is obviously huge, though. Is there really a Tongan town called “Liahona”? Awesome. I’d love to know more about this rumored little Zion on a Tahitian island as well.

    Rusty, Brett–thanks for adding to our knowledge of southern Albertan Mormon settlements. (I never knew that about your grandparents, Rusty; does that mean your dad was born Canadian?) It reminds one how much culture and society depend upon or at least follow material/socio-economic foundations: did Card know what kind he was adding to the larger Mormon world when he made that contract with the folks in Lethbridge to build a canal? (If nothing else, he made my Grandmother Edra’s life story possible.)

    Keri–hmm, Native American reservation towns; I’d never even thought about those. But surely that’s somthing to be explore as well. Thanks!

  20. Adam G.
    February 18, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Luna, NM. Rama, NM. Kirtland, NM.

    But those are all part of the Rocky Mountain belt of Mormon settlement.

  21. February 18, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Continuing my comment….

    Bob–thanks for the link to the map; I’m going to have to explore it some. I think we can discount Lamoni, IA, from this search, but it’d be nice to know more about those heavily LDS counties in Washington, Oregon and California.

    Rob, Bob–again, Bob, thanks for the link, and thanks to both of you for the heads up about Temple View in New Zealand. I’d never heard of the place before. However, what do you mean by “at its peak now about 450”? That doesn’t fit with the other numbers you give.

    Doc, Mike, Keith–thanks for your info on Mormon communities in Hawai’i; as I mentioned above, it really deserves its own category, as it’s been the source of purely independent Mormon cultural formation over the decades, simply attracting a ton of members and Mormon investment from the mainland (I talked a bit about all that here). Thing is, I’ve been to Hawai’i four times, but never spent any time at all in Laie–I mean, just visiting the town. I really ought to correct that someday.

    Jesse, Adam–I thought about including Nevada and New Mexico in my original “to be excluded” list, but I thought if I stretched out the original Mormon settlement that far, eventually I’d be excluding, say, border towns in California or Texas or someplace, and I didn’t want that. (I kind of felt bad enough excluding Colorado; some of those historically Mormon towns way out in south central Colorado are really quite distant from the Mormon heimat.) Thanks for the list of towns, nonetheless.

    Oh, and Rusty again–far out story about Patzicia. I have no idea if my folks ever visited it on either of their Book of Mormon tours (I missed out on both), but the way you describe it, I suppose it’s a possibility. We need to get Margaret Young over here to comment on the place; no doubt she’ll have some tales to tell.

  22. February 18, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for the additional info, Adam. Surely there’s some good social history of the Mormon colonies out there; anyone know of one to recommed? (Preferably one that has a good online summary?)

  23. Adam G.
    February 18, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Are the residents all ethnic Mexicans (descendents of early converts, perhaps?), or mostly Hispanicized Anglos (descendents of colonists who stayed on?), or both? We had a neighbor, a cute little blonde girl, who was from Colonia Juarez. Her dad was a prosperous fruit farmer. The impression I got from her was that it was both.

  24. February 18, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    How can I turn down that kind of an invitation, RAF? I suspect Rusty is referring to Colonia Zarahemla, which is part of Patzicia and is predominently LDS. (Patzicia is about 10% LDS.) Some Salvadoran truckers have moved in since Rusty’s time there, but it is still a largely Mormon settlement. Many of the young people go to the Rose Foundation school, founded by Mormons and run by Mormons. There are two chapels in Patzicia. Quite a change from what I saw in 1975. I’ve written elsewhere about some remarkable families who were certainly influential in the growth of Mormonism in Patzicia–particularly Pablo Choc. Link is here:

  25. February 18, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    RAF: Take a look at Tullis, _Mormons in Mexico_, which I think tells the stories of the colonies. From what I gather, the Mormons in the Colonies are Anglos, but are bilingual both linguistically and culturally.

  26. Mark IV
    February 18, 2008 at 12:34 pm


    I think you need to take a look at Gilmer, TX. It is in Upshur county in east Texas, has a population of less than 5,000, and has an LDS stake. I’m not sure if the LDS influence is overwhelming, but it is significant. Our people have been there for over a hundred years, and generations have been born, married, had children, and died, right there in the piney woods. I know a woman from there, and her stories of her growing up years could have happened in Brigham City or Panguitch.

    Wikipedia says: Upshur County has the distinction of being the county that has the largest settlement in Texas organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1904 the Latter-day Saint South-western States Mission organized a colony at Kelsey.

    You can read about the early Mormon history here:

  27. Cameron Steinbusch
    February 18, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Elder Terrence Smith has been to Winnipeg, Canada where I live on several occasions. On hearing him speak its like you have never heard the Gospel preached before. His understanding is totally amazing. He definately has his opinions on “scholars of the gospel” especially historians- I know a few people complained about a talk he gave about Joseph Smith. I think he is so awesome!

  28. February 18, 2008 at 1:05 pm


    I don\’t know if this will fit in exactly with what you want, but there is a little island off the coast of eastern North Carolina called Harker\’s Island. You basically go east in North Carolina and this is the last place you get before you hit the Outer Banks or the Atlantic Ocean. The missionaries got there, performed a pretty significant healing miracle, and baptized a ton of people over the years. \”The Island\” as we locals call it, is nowhere near 75 or 90% Mormon, but it has a tremendous number of members relative to larger Southern towns in the vicinity. For example, my hometown, which is adjacent to Harker\’s Island is about 5X its population, but only has one LDS family in all of it. The Island has its own ward, plus our stake president is from there. I went to high school with a bunch of the LDS kids from the Island (incidentally, this is how I found the Church), and it seems like that identification is weakening over the years. For years, there was no bridge to the Island, only a ferry and the LDS population was very strong. The \”rising generation\” (in BoM terms) is more integrated with us mainlanders and is subsequently becoming corrupted by association. I know only 1 or 2 of those youth (of about 20 or 30) who continue to be active, married in the temple, served missions, etc.

  29. February 18, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Margaret–thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing that link and story and testimony! Amazing what three brave, spiritually guided souls can do for a community; how terrible and yet beautiful the prices they paid for being pioneers. Awesome, in every sense of the word. (Tell us more about Rose Foundation School, when you have the time. It’s always great to see you around T&S.)

    Nate–thanks for the recommendation; I can remember paging through that book many years ago, but I can’t remember anything out of it. Perhaps it’s time to do an interlibrary loan…

    Mark IV and AHLDuke–what a great couple of bits of Mormon Americana; thanks for sharing them. And of course, probably as is to be expected, the stories are both inspiring, in the sense of firing your imagination of was or could have been, as well as sad–in a world of modern technology and mass transit and individualism, the community and family attachment (especially to a relatively far away church, one so out of step with the immediately surrounding environment) declines, and the history slips away. They remind me of how little the usual histories of the church in America remember the efforts of the late 19th-century and early-to-mid 20th-century church to hold onto or re-establish earlier Mormon beachheads across the Midwest and Great Plains and the South; little colonies of the faithful, hanging tight in Tennessee or Michigan or Nebraska. (When we lived there, we heard stories about tiny, majority or almost-majority Mormon communities in Arkansas, now long lost.)

    Cameron–off the topic of the post, but yes, absolutely: Elder Smith was simply the finest, most doctrinal, most critical and surprisingly thoughtful stake conference speaker I can ever remember hearing before in my life. Saturday evening, he talked about adversity and sin, the differences between them, and how God and the atonement and Satan are far more concerned with addressing or healing or doing something wicked with the former than the latter, and how therefore responding to adversity–poverty, abuse, handicaps, divorces, illnesses, etc.–really needs to be the primary focus of the church. He went on the next day, discussing Zion and all its elements–being unified, being righteous, and caring for the poor–and how church ought to be uncomfortable and challenging for us, reminding us of our weaknesses and all the ways in which we don’t yet really love one another enough yet. He closed by giving an interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son which was brilliant. Plus, he made jokes about American health care (he’s a family practioner in Canada). Oh yes–if he’s the new standard for visiting authorities, I may have to repent of my long-standing belief that stake conference is easily the lamest church meeting we are normally required to attend.

  30. Jeremiah J.
    February 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Of course Buena Vista, Virginia, where Southern Virginia University is located may have as many as 20%, especially if you count students. In a town of 6000 there are about 1 2/3 wards plus about five student wards. Mitt Romney got 18% in the GOP primary in the town (the next highest perecentage I could find anywhere in VA was 4%). That doesn’t count the Mormons who voted for other candidates or in the Dem contest (I know of some). Members here tell each other that it’s the highest concentration of Mormons east of the Mississippi.

  31. February 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Both of my maternal grandparents were born in the Mexican Colonies. My grandfather in Colonia Morelos and my grandmother in Colonia Juarez. (There were 9 original colonies – Diaz, Juarez, Pacheco, Oaxaca, Garcia, Chuhuchupa, Dublan, Morelos, and San Jose)

    Both of their families moved to Mesa, AZ after President Taft ordered the colonist to evacuate to the U.S. in 1912. About three years later many of the colonist returned to Mexico. My grandparents remained in AZ. Over the years the 9 colonies were basically \”consolidated\” down to two – Juarez and Dublan. Dublan has merged with the town of Nuevo Cases Grandes.

    President Hinckley attended the 100 year anniversary of the Juarez Academy (a middle and high school owned by the Church – looks very similar to the BY Academy in Provo) in 1997 and dedicated the Juarez Chihuahua Temple in 1999.

  32. February 18, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    In PEC yesterday morning, someone made reference to Alamosa, Colorado, and the surrounding area as having a large LDS population. A little research bears that out; Alamosa has a population of just under 9,000 people, yet has three regular wards, a singles ward, and a Spanish-speaking branch, all meeting in two different chapels. Not a majority by any means, but certainly higher than the 2.7% average for the state of Colorado as a whole. ..bruce..

  33. Wilfried
    February 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Amazing story in the link, Margaret (# 24). I knew the stories of Pablo & Daniel Choc (their own stories & testimonies are recorded in Spencer Palmer’s The Expanding Church, 1978), but your personal experiences add an amazing dimension to it all.

  34. Ben
    February 18, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Both of my parents are from the area in your post, and I grew up making regular pilgrimmages from Minnesota to Cardston, McGrath, Raymond, and Lethbridge. I’ve even “marched” in the Raymond parade. The Cardston temple is the biggest building in town.

    I heard once that S. Alberta was the most active area of the Church, not in terms of sheer number of members, but in terms of % of home teaching, endowed members with current recommends, and sacrament meeting attendance.

  35. February 18, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Wilfried–Spence Palmer was IN PROCESS of gathering material for his book when Daniel was called on a mission in 1975. I interviewed him at Bro. Palmer’s request (which came through my father). I don’t know what happened to the tape. Surely Spencer Palmer had no idea of how drastically the story of the Choc family would change.

    Here’s a link for the Rose Foundation:

    After we complete our marketing for _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_, I am planning on doing a small documentary on Pablo and Daniel Choc. Bruce and I interviewed Pablo while we were in Patzicia, and subsequently interviewed several who had served with Daniel. The stories are heart-wrenching, but full of faith. We recorded the interviews on our cheap little DVD recorder, so the documentary will be suitable only for i-pods or you-tube, but we have some remarkable interviews.

    Here is a link from Larry Richman’s site: . I didn’t ask his permission to post this here, but I think he’d be okay with it. I have asked his permission to use the photos in the little documentary. All of the missionaries Larry mentions in the link were the Cakchiquel-speakers, trained by my dad (Robert Blair) and by Daniel Choc.

  36. Wilfried
    February 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    # 35 – What strikes me, Margaret, is that preserving the history of those “international” pioneers is dependent on just a few who are aware of them, who are willing to put time and money in it with little means, while in the U.S. historical restoration projects get so much attention and funds. Meanwhile old members — often first converts — in these countries die and their past is lost. In every country there are unique markers of Church history — your discovery of Daniel’s grave is a beautiful example of it — but about which few care. I’ve seen “physical facilities” administrators from church HQ without any sensitivity to preserve unique landmarks related to original meeting places or to save boxes of old documents in attics of buildings where the Church met for years. All attention goes to the new “functional” building. If we don’t give members in their little Zions in other countries a sense of their own Mormon heritage, with also places to visit and to meditate, how can we expect them to develop a “local”, testimony-strengthening, historical consciousness?

  37. February 18, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Wilfried, how much responsibility is on the church/Salt Lake/American Mormons to “give members in other countries a sense of their own Mormon heritage,” and how much is on members in those countries themselves?

    The organized church came very late to the game of preserving and developing sites in the US, and the original impetus came either from individuals with a passion for a particular spot (Junius Wells in Royalton, Dr. Kimball in Nauvoo) or from whole flocks of individual church members who were drawn to places like Palmyra and Carthage long before there was anything in the way of official remembrance.

    Is anybody stopping members in Europe and Asia and South America from saving their documents or speaking/writing about/marking the places in their areas? They would need resources to buy land or restore buildings, yes; but moving a box of records from an old building to a closet in the new one, or notifying LDS Archives that such records exist, takes nothing but the tiniest of effort. Getting up the initiative to put up a plaque or to take a youth group to a locally significant site for an enthusiastic speech should be fully within the capability of any saints anywhere, without dictation or support from outside.

    I suppose I’m agreeing with you that while it would be a good thing for them to have this sense of their heritage, I’m disagreeing that it should or must start with Salt Lake.

  38. Tamie
    February 18, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Just happened on this page – looks like a good place to let people know what\’s happening in Rosemary, Alberta (about 175 miles N.E. of Cardston) Although our town is no longer predominantly LDS, at one time there were over 550 members (in a village of about 300!) – many coming from the LDS communities in Southern Alberta in the mid 1930\’s. They came with the hope of making a grand living in the \”fertile\” irrigation country between the Bow & Red Deer River! They were (of course) a hardy bunch and worked extremely hard in this area that is actually classifed as \”desert\”! In the late 50\’s & early \’60\’s many gave up the idea of farming and moved away, but they left us with a legacy and a beautiful ward building. We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of our chapel (the second of 2 built by the ward over the years) on June 29, 2008.
    We would love to see as many former Rosemary Ward members and / or descendants here that weekend. We know they are scattered throughout the world and we need help spreading the word!

  39. Wilfried
    February 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Yes, Ardis (#37), you raise valid points. But we also need some perspective here. The matter is that often church members in foreign lands, in small branches and wards, are just struggling to remain active, that they put all their energy in fulfilling two or three callings, that their socio-economic level is pretty low, that few have a sense of “preservation” because of lack of education in this field, and that “old stuff” looks trivial compared to other priorities. Would Pablo & Daniel Choc’s stories ever have been recorded without interest from the U.S.? There are so many similar stories out there in the world that will never be recorded…

    To make sure this relates to our theme of “Little Zions”, I think a sense of Little Zion also comes from the consciousness of its own unique place and time – the realization that people’s memories, and specific locations, and artifacts are part of the history of the community. Like you said, also in the U.S. the initiative to preserve came from individuals, but it seems it took decennia before such individuals arose to realize the value of some aspects of the past. And then they could fall back on an already substantial amount of available material, also because many documents were preserved thanks to a keen awareness of preservation in the early years of the Church, next helped by the gathering and the constitution of archives in SL.

    “Is anybody stopping members in Europe and Asia and South America from saving their documents or speaking/writing about/marking the places in their areas?” No, not “stopping”, but no encouragement either, and rather instructions to “clean up old stuff” when members move to a new building. In the 60s we had a calling of “Church historian” on district and mission level. Somewhere along the road, it disappeared. And as far as I know, there is no effort to have a central place in Europe, Asia or South-America, to gather material under professional advice and do some cataloguing. It will not help if occasionally members here and there gather material in their attic and then later on their non-active children will dump it with the garbage. “Notifying LDS Archives that such records exist, takes nothing but the tiniest of effort” How many members in any country would even know that such archives exist and can be notified? How can they assess the value of what they have? Sending a box of “old stuff” all the way to SLC? Easier said than done in some countries of the world. It’s in their own country that it probably should be preserved in the first place. Sometimes at a university a department of history of religions might be interested to do it. But all this requires initiatives few members are alert to.

    I am sure, of course, that historians and others in the U.S. are very sensitive to the preservation of Mormon history in other lands. But without more concern and practical guidelines passed on to local leaders, on regional and stake and mission level, I am afraid much is being lost yearly. Little Zions, even the tiniest ones, deserve better.

  40. jeannie wi the iron teeth
    February 18, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    A very wee zion is the hamlet of Castle Semple in Scotland where four out of eleven households are LDS. Ward picnics and parties, full time missionary visits at least twice a week and frequent journeyings of families on their way to or coming back from meetings creates an overwhelming Mormon busy-ness!

  41. Bob
    February 18, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    “Little Zions”. Next we must do businesses. I worked for a very large company in California , that appeared to have no Church ties. But every office I worked in had 3 or 4 RM, out of about 10 people in that position.

  42. Leonard
    February 18, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Tamie – I was baptized in that Rosemary, AB chapel 24 years ago this June.

  43. February 18, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    There are many suburbs around the Portland Temple with significant membership. Hard to say exactly how many but for example, Wilsonville, OR has 3 big wards and a spanish branch and the high school has about 100LDS kids out of 900 or so. Many communties with similar demographics- none that come to mind with large minorities or majorities however.

  44. Alexander
    February 18, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    In addition to the southern Alberta towns already mentioned, you could add Stirling and Barnwell which are both almost entirely LDS. My wife is from Rosemary – we last went to church there about 5 years ago. You could hardly consider it a ward then – about 70 or so at Sacrament meeting most Sundays.

  45. aloysiusmiller
    February 18, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Read down this link for information on Kelsey near Gilmer in east texas.

    I have met members from Gilmer. They say that the area is very heavily Mormon (although I doubt a majority).

  46. Alan L
    February 19, 2008 at 12:03 am

    #38 Tamie: Our family left Rosemary in 1949 and moved to Calgary, and although it has been a long time, Rosemary is still special to us. One of the interesting things about the Mormon communities of southern Alberta is that the LDS youth of those towns and villages spread across Canada as they went to school and started their careers.They helped plant the seeds of the gospel in all the major cities of the country. You now find descendants of those old southern Alberta families all across Canada. Me…I went south…to Mexico, so won’t make the reunion.

  47. Richard O.
    February 19, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Having grown up in Moses Lake, Washington, I have to put in a plug for the Northwest. Many LDS farmers moved to the Columbia Basin of Washington after WWII when irrigation came. Most of the LDS population came from Utah, Idaho, and Southern Alberta. There are large LDS populations in the following towns, Moses Lake (10 wards), Othello, Basin City, Royal Slope, Ephrata, Quincy, Waluke Slope, and Wenachee. I think there are 4 or 5 stakes among them. Activity rates tend to be way above average. When I was growing up there was a large welfare farm in Moses Lake. But eventually each ward in town got its own welfare farm. Are there any places in the whole Church were a single ward would have the moxy to take on its own welfare farm? Many years ago Moses Lake even got its own seminary building next to the high school complete with a release time seminary program and a full time seminary teacher. In eastern Oregon there are large LDS populations (in terms of percentages) in Hermiston, LeGrande, Baker, and Ontario.

  48. February 19, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Richard, I didn’t know you were a Washingtonian! Hello from a Spokanite (Rusty Clifton is one too.) Regional dance competitions (you know, one of those things back when the church had an actual youth program) and the occasional campout made certain I was familiar with the church in Moses Lake, Wenatchee, etc. The church’s presence in that part of the Pacific Northwest was tiny up through the 1930s and 1940s, then the building of Grand Coulee Dam brought scores of LDS families to the area, and they spread.

  49. February 19, 2008 at 1:02 am

    I didn’t read all of the comments but I searched for Moapa and nothing came up in the comments.

    Moapa, NV is largely LDS. It’s a very small town near Logandale, which has already been mentioned. Overton (I might have the same of the town mixed up) is also an adjoining town which is largely LDS. These are all pretty close to Utah thought so probably doesn’t qualify as being a large distance from headquarters.

  50. Bob
    February 19, 2008 at 3:34 am

    Russell, (#22) the Church College at its peak had over 700 students, since 2006 when the announcement was made to close the school they have cut a grade each year, reducing the number of students to about 450 this year.

  51. East Coast
    February 19, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Regarding comment #13 about southeastern Nevada, my husband said that Pioche is not a Mormon town. However, nearby Panaca is. Looking on Google Maps, Panaca is a patch of green farms whereas nearby Pioche and Caliente are mining towns and are largely gray on the map. Panaca was originally part of Washington County, Utah, until Congress redrew the boundary lines in 1866 and put it in Nevada. I have no idea what the Mormon population of any of those towns is now. My father-in-law would know.

  52. Mark B.
    February 19, 2008 at 10:03 am

    251 West 98th Street, New York, NY.

  53. NanLH
    February 19, 2008 at 11:07 am

    I’d have to second the comments of #47 and #48. I lived in Kennewick, WA for about 20 years. It is part of the Tri-Cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland, each about 50,000 population when we left in 2000, and there are 4 stakes there. The seminary program was huge in our kids’ high school, and it was release time. We always heard that many LDS people came to the Columbia Basin in the 40’s when it began to be irrigated. I heard at one time that the population is 10%LDS, which is huge for anywhere outside of the Mormon corridor. It was a great place to raise our family, having all the advantages of the mission field, and a very strong church membership, with high activity rates.

  54. February 19, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I got two! One in Wisconsin, one in Tahiti (sort of).

    Near my home town of Green Bay, Wisconsin (go Pack!) there’s a little town of about 500 called Gresham. I’m not sure how it happened, but “Greshlehem” is packed with Mormon Robertsons and Hoffmans and has its own ward. They’re also exporting members to the greater Green Bay area as we also have a lot of Greshamite Hoffman and Robertson in our stake. Whatever the story is, Gresham has had a big LDS presence for at least a few decades.

    Now for the Tahitian one, at least the one I know of. Tahiti is probably the least LDS of the major Polynesian countries, for whatever reason, but that still allows for a significant percentage. (Thanks to a waffling French embassy I once had some big visa problems while doing field study there, and it was my and the customs agent’s being LDS that kept me from being deported. : ) French Polynesia is pretty vast- it has a few big islands and thousands of little sandpits spread over an area of ocean about the size of Europe. Many of these little sandpits are inhabited mostly by a couple of extended families, which easily leads to an LDS majority on the island if a great-great-grandparent joined the Church.

    I did some field study on Maupiti, which is the last one in the Society Islands chain. It’s the one west of Bora Bora that doesn’t show up on a lot of tourist maps because the pass is too small to let in cruise ships. : ) At 1-2,000 people Maupiti is either a big small island or a small big island depending on how you look at it… anyway, they have a fully functioning ward, in addition to every other person you meet on the street saying “Hey! I’m Mormon too!” which suggests a vast reservoir of less-active members bouncing around the island along with the 1-200 in the chapel every week.

    The funny part is most of the members live on “one-third part” of the island. There’s only one road on the island, going around in a circle, and most of the members live on one side. I’m not really sure why this is, though I think it’s mostly coincidental. I think it may relate to where the family land is located although that doesn’t seem to be 100% the case since there are outliers in the same big family as everyone else. In any case, if you’re staying at a member’s house and find yourself on the opposite side of the island nearing nightfall, your family will tell you that you definitely want to walk home via the Mormon side of the island since the other side gets kind of sketchy.

  55. ECS
    February 19, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Interesting post! Belmont, Massachusetts is renowned (notorious?) in the metro Boston area as an LDS enclave.

  56. Ray
    February 19, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Russell, are you excepting those areas immediately near a temple? That might be worth considering all by itself.

  57. Jonovitch
    February 19, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Not quite entire towns, but I have two smaller-scale examples:

    1. In my own ward in Minnesota, a large condo development (called Stonybrook) has an unusually large concentration of active members, relative to the rest of our ward’s geographic distribution. They sometimes refer to themselves jokingly as the “Stonybrook Branch.”

    2. In the Leipzig, Germany, first ward, I can think of at least four or five families that all live in the same little housing development in the Wahren area on the northwest side of town. Some of them are right next to each other, including the former and current stake presidents. I seem to recall that collection of families being referred to jokingly as the “Wahren branch.”


  58. February 19, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Mellifera–thanks very much for the news about Mormons in Tahiti; I’ve been curious about that (and indeed about other such majority Mormon settlements spread throughout the Pacific Islands) ever since Slushy first brought it up. Know any more stories? Keep ’em coming, and don’t be a stranger!

    All–I need to do a separate post on this notion of “Mormon enclaves,” whether they develop near and/or around temples and/or church schools, or whether they just arise by happenstance. We’ve already moved into that territory, sort of, but my interest remains in areas where you have a discreet, specific population center or community that is majority (or at least very significantly) Mormon, so that at least on the social/cultural/civic level, you have a bit of a Zion effect. An enclave by definition is a refuge within another community, and the people who live there may draw upon that enclave for many of their needs and much of their daily lives, but they are still fundamentally–economically, etc.–connected to the larger living area they dwell within. It’s the difference between Crown Heights, Brooklyn (an Hassidic Jewish enclave) on the one hand, and perhaps some nearly all-Jewish summer vacation town up in the Catskills on the other.

  59. East Coast
    February 19, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    This is a subset of your original definition and it doesn’t meet most of the criteria, but how about married student housing at the big graduate universities? We lived at Eagle Heights (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and the community of about 1000 apartments usually had about 25 Mormon families. That’s only 2.5 percent, so it certainly wasn’t overwhelmingly Mormon (not by a long shot), but while we were there, church members certainly drew “upon that enclave for many of their needs.”

    There were many recently marrieds having their first, second, or third children, with all the support that required. There were also some community opportunities such as a housing counsel, newsletter, directory, etc., that were largely staffed by Mormon student families. We had a lot of good friends and neighbors in and out of the church, but the only ones we’re still in contact with are the ones that we went to church with. (And helped move in and out, and babysat when a baby was on the way, and had play groups and went places together and borrowed things from each other and pulled discarded furniture off the curbs for other families.) Certainly there was a “bit of a Zion effect.”

  60. JimD
    February 19, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Gilgamesh –

    Most of the Gridley Mormons actually came from Alberta, if I remember my family history correctly.

  61. February 19, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Mrs., thanks for that wonderful linked map–I’ve seen it before, but it’s so handy to have it available in this thread. So…let’s think. All of the over 50% LDS counties are in Utah and Southern Idaho, with one exception in southereastern Wyoming (Evanston territory). All that is to be expected. Almost all the 25%-50% LDS counties are similar–either crowded into Utah and Idaho, or nearby in Wyoming, Arizona, or Nevada. But further out you see a few more of those “significant minority Mormon” counties, and those I have questions about. Colorado: I’m guessing that bit of green in the south-central part of the state is Alamosa, which has already been mentioned in this thread, correct? About that tiny spot of green in eastern-central California–would that be Gridley? And what on earth is that little spike of Zion out in the middle of Nebraska? Anyone know?

  62. East Coast
    February 19, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I’m not going to go look it up, but off the top of my head, the green patch in Colorado would be the San Luis Valley; Manassa, in particular, was founded by Southern States mission president John Morgan with converts from the Southern States. Fascinating story. They still celebrate Pioneer Day.

  63. John Taber
    February 19, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    I’ve seen a similar map, showing where LDS are 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Basically SE Idaho and Utah are 1st, surrounded by a ring of counties that are 2nd, and surrounded by another ring that’s 3rd. Together those areas run from the Rockies to the Pacific.

  64. Bruce
    February 20, 2008 at 3:23 am

    I grew up in Lethbridge, a fourth generation Alberta Mormon on two lines. I have a daughter-in-law from Colonia Dublan in Mexico, so I have a couple of grandchildren that are citizens of every country in North America.

    A few interesting random facts about little Zions in Alberta that haven\’t been mentioned here yet:

    The Mormon settlements in southern Alberta also include Diamond City, Grassy Lake, Kimball, Wrentham, Welling, Spring Coulee, Orton (and others). The saints who went to the little Zions in Alberta were encouraged by the authorities of the church to become Canadian citizens and make Alberta their permanent home. Most did. Several of my ancestors went to Alberta from Arizona as part of a large party of settlers and cattle that they jokingly referred to as \”Johnson\’s Army.\” The trip took several months. Many of these saints had also crossed the plains to Utah, and so they referred to themselves as \”pioneers of two lands\”. Raymond, where my ancestors settled, is named for Ray Knight, son of Jesse Knight who financed a sugar beet industry there and sent Ray up to manage it. Raymond was laid out according to the plat of Zion, but with an interesting twist: in additiion to the square blocks, there were originally two diagonal streets that met at the centre of town. Stirling is a registered Canadian historical site as the best exisiting example of the plat of Zion layout. During the 1980\’s, 1990\’s and 2000\’s when the Canadian dollar hovered in the .6-.7 $US range, the University of Lethbridge became a sort-of modest Canadian BYU in the sense that Mormons from all over Canada sent their college-aged children there. BYU itself was too pricey (given the exchange rate) for many Canadians (and Universities in Canada do not have out-of-province fees). I\’ve heard that the University of Lethbridge now has 6 student wards. There was at least one attempt to establish a small Zion in northern Montana — the town of Chinook was settled by Mormon sugar-beet farmers, but it was not successful. The first president of the Lethbridge stake was Hugh B. Brown. The Lethbridge stake chapel, built in 1949, was located in downtown Lethbridge, within a block of an Anglican church, a United Church of Canada sanctuary, the St. Patrick\’s Catholic parish hall, and a Luthern church. Since the church didn\’t have a parking lot, I remember that our family often parked on the street next to churchgoers of other faiths. After visiting Lethbridge, President McKay wrote: \”I now treasure in memory choice experiences associated with the great Quarterly conference in Lethbridge. A trip to Canada always inspires me — the vastness of the country, its potential greatness, the loyalty and faith of the people, the joys of outdoor life on the prairie, and aove all, the true spirituality of the members of the church — all this and more make every visit to that great Dominion a true joy.\”

  65. mrs
    February 20, 2008 at 3:40 am

    Re: #62

    (congregation data from

    U. S. Census population estimate (2006): 1180, smallest in California
    Only mormon connection I could find:
    1 congregation, 651 people, about 50%

    U. S. Census population estimate (2006): 492, smallest in Nebraska
    One congregation of 195 people, so about 35% of the county
    (though the nearest building appears to be in the next county over)

    And the Florida dot:
    U. S. Census population estimate (2006): 7782, smallest in Florida
    3 congregations with 790 adherents, about 10%

  66. February 20, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Bruce–thanks for that excellent local history of the southern Alberta colonies! I love the David O. McKay quote (complete with the proper early 20th-century reference to Canada as a “Dominion”). And let’s here it again for sugar beets! This is what protected industries can do.

    Mrs.–thanks very much for the further data. I guess I should have anticipated the results of my request: the dots of green sticking up in far away California and Nebraska are the statistical result of having what I would suppose consists of little more than a half-dozen LDS families or so crowding into the small counties in the state. But oh well–a little Zion is better than none at all!

  67. February 20, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Gridley is in California’s Central Valley, north of Sacramento and south of Chico, but not near the Nevada border. Here’s something from a biographical sketch of George Cole, principal of Bannock Academy (forerunner of BYU-Idaho):

    He continued as principal and as a teacher until 1899 when he resigned. He married Mary Julia Goodey in 1900 in Salt Lake City, but they continued to live in Rexburg. In 1906, George and Julia Cole were sent by the Church to colonize the first permanent Mormon settlement in Northern California. They departed cold, windy Rexburg in the fall of that year with several other families and moved to sunny Gridley, located 70 miles north of Sacramento. George and Julia built a home in Gridley where the first meetings of the Church were held.

    Soon Gridley had more than fifty members of the Church and a branch was organized with George as the Branch President. He served in that capacity for several years.

    George was an able and talented musician and led the church choir for many years. He was active in his community. He served several years as the secretary of the Gridley Federal Farm Loan Association. George died in Gridley in 1932 and is buried there.

    I also ran across an article by a low-income housing group that discusses the group’s challenges fighting the local power structure: “Gridley, approximately 60 miles north of Sacramento, was settled by white Mormons moving west from Utah, and is still largely controlled by their descendants.” “Herald publisher Bill Burleson quickly became the key factor in opposing Tierra del Sol. Everyone interviewed for this case study emphasized the importance of Burleson’s power in Gridley. He is one of the white Mormons who control much of the city, and makes his opinions known in a gossip-and-editorial column called ‘Pi-Line’ that runs on the front page of the newspaper his grandfather founded decades ago”

  68. bbell
    February 20, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Florida and Nebraska counties.

    I suspect that both of these counties is where there are large church farms/canneries?

  69. bbell
    February 20, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    As for the Colorado county.

    My understanding is that southern states members settled here after facing persecution in the South. There is a member of our HC here in TX who grew up in one of the small towns. His stories might as well come from AZ UT or Idaho

  70. February 20, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    We missed the Li’l Provo in our ward by a mere three apartment buildings (but most of our home and visiting teachees live there, so we still get the Utah walking-to-appointments experience). Two bedrooms and a washer and dryer for under $800 a month- Shazam! Mormon grad student family heaven!

  71. A. G.
    February 20, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    #59–the married with children housing at ND was like that too. We’ll never live in a place we love as much.

  72. John Buffington
    February 21, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    I always thought it was a shame the the members Brigham Young converted in Frontenac County of Eastern Ontario (Kingston, Loughborough, Sydenham, Elgin, Ernestown, etc) did not stay, but rather joined the large body of Saints in Kirtland. I would very much have enjoyed being raised near a mini Zion community!

    As an adult, I went to business school in Kingston, and the Saints are quite aware, and proud, of this pioneer connection.

    I always wondered what that connection was between BY’s missionary efforts and the conversion of Iran Nathaniel Hinckley (who was born in Bastard–no this is not a typo-Township in Leeds County (next door to Frontenac County). Not sure if any exists, but it sure is interesting that the grandfather of one of our most beloved prophets was born/raised for a time near the area where another of our beloved prophets laboured.

    My less-active father passed away when I was a boy in Eastern Ontario, so my family pined for the day when we could go to Cardston and be sealed to him. Given the number of times I heard of the town, it developed a myth-like aura in my young mind. In fact, as an adult, when I moved to Alberta, the first thing I did was drive my spouse and children to the temple in Cardston, and I marvelled that such an oasis could exist in our lovely Dominion.

    We also experience a little Zion effect in Edmonton, when I was a grad student at the U of Alberta. It seems our ward was bi-furcated. If you had a mortgage, you were a high priest, and if you were in the elders quorum, you lived in low-income housing. A good percentage (25 or so?) of the units in the complex where we lived were LDS students. We also have very fond memories of this time in our life, as the student lifestyle draws you closer to others in similar circumstances.

  73. Glenn
    August 16, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    I would like to add some other Little Zions I know of to the mix here. Some just have what I would call significant minorities (percent LDS higher than surrounding area) and some are majority LDS areas. One is Glen Huon in the State of Tasmania in Australia: around 50% of the population is LDS and has been so since the early 1900\’s. Another place is Lima, Montana. I don\’t what it\’s LDS percentage is but it\’s where the 1st Montana LDS branch was organized and this small branch serves a town of some 250+ people. I would add that in my home state of California there are places with significant minorities of LDS such as Murietta, Temecula, and northwest Fresno. Plus 2 CA counties have large LDS minorities or majorities: Alpine County that was already mentioned in other posts and Sierra County with almost 15% LDS. There are small towns in Southern California with large percentages of LDS too, like 3000 population Wrightwood and 4000 pop. Frazier Park with a ward in each town. Granted they are not of Gridley\’s LDS percentages but they are much higher than the average for the rest of California.

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