The first missionaries began working in North Dakota in the summer of 1884. They returned to the area most summers thereafter. By 1898, the work in North Dakota showed enough promise that Northern States Mission leaders established the North Dakota Conference. When the conference president finished his mission the following spring, the conference was discontinued because of lack of success. This proved to be a temporary setback and missionary work among the North Dakotans was soon resumed.
On 1 November 1900, responsibility for doing missionary work in North and South Dakota was transferred from the Northern States Mission to the Colorado Mission, later renamed the Western States Mission. During this period, both North and South Dakota were administered by the South Dakota Conference, but in 1917, the conference was divided and the North Dakota Conference was reestablished.
In September of 1914, missionaries held a meeting with 108 members of the Gros Ventre tribe on the Berthold Reservation. At that meeting they baptized six. By 1920, membership on the reservation had grown sufficiently that a branch was established at Sully Lake and a meetinghouse was built. The first fast and testimony meeting was held in the new meetinghouse on 4 January 1920 and the building was dedicated on 20 June of the same year.
The first Church unit in North Dakota not on a reservation was a Sunday School, which soon grew into a branch, established in 1923 at Grand Forks in the northeastern part of the state. That year branch members, assisted by missionaries and some who were investigating the Church, began the construction of a meetinghouse.
Responsibility for missionary work in North Dakota was transferred again in August 1925 to the new North Central States Mission. The change caused a temporary reduction in the number of missionaries and it wasn’t until 1930 that they were able to return to the Berthold Reservation. The Church grew slowly in North Dakota before and during World War II. Sunday Schools were established at Williston in 1936 and Fargo in 1941, while the Grand Forks Branch was discontinued about 1937. In 1943 and 1944 respectively, the East North Dakota and West North Dakota districts were closed and all missionary activity ceased until after the war.
By April of 1947, both districts had been re-established and missionaries were returning to the area. On 1 February 1948, a sacrament meeting was again held in Grand Forks, the first time in many years. In November 1949, the branch was re-established and a new meetinghouse begun. It was dedicated on 20 August 1950. Meanwhile a Relief Society was started at Fargo on 3 July 1949. A third district was established in North Dakota in January 1951 when the East North Dakota District was divided into the Dakota and Red River districts. The former was centered in Grand Forks and the latter in Fargo. The western portion of the state remained in the West North Dakota District, where on 22 August 1954 the Bismarck Branch was established.
A major administrative change took place on 8 April 1964 when the Northern Indian Mission was created to oversee Church activities on the Indian reservations in the Dakotas, as well as several surrounding states. Thus the work on and off the reservations in North Dakota was administered by two separate missions. This situation persisted for nearly a decade. In 1970 the North Central States Mission was renamed the Manitoba-Minnesota Mission. That year the Standing Rock District of the Northern Indian Mission was created to oversee many of the branches and groups on the North Dakota reservations. Then in 1973 the Dakota-Manitoba Mission was established, composed of part of the discontinued Northern Indian Mission and parts of other missions in the area, including the Manitoba-Minnesota Mission. This brought all of the branches in North Dakota under one head again. In 1974 the mission was renamed the South Dakota Rapid City Mission.
As the Church in North Dakota grew during the 1970s, districts at Minot and Fargo were created from the earlier West North Dakota and Dakota mission districts, with the intention of preparing the Saints for the establishment of stakes. On 7 August 1977, the first stake in the state was organized in Fargo, making every state in the United States with a stake within its boundaries. Nearly 20 years later, on 22 September 1996, the Bismarck North Dakota Stake was created.
In September 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited North Dakota for the first time and on 19 Sept., he dedicated the Bismarck North Dakota Temple, the 61st operating temple in the Church and the first in the Dakotas.
In 2002, membership reached 5,181. In 2005, membership reached 5,669.
Northern States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Western States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; North Central States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; East North Dakota District, General minutes, Church Archives; West Minnesota District, Historical record, 1940 Oct.-1959 Nov., Church Archives; Bismarck Branch, General minutes, Church Archives; Fargo Ward, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Northern Indian Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; “New Mission Offers Opportunities,” Church News, 2 February 1974; “50th U. S. State Gets Stake,” Church News, 13 August 1977; Bismarck North Dakota District, Annual historical reports; Bismarck North Dakota Stake, Annual historical reports; “Shortening the Vast Distances,” Church News, 25 September 1999.