In the late 1840s, George Miller, a former bishop who had delayed going to the West, traveled from Winter Quarters, Neb., to visit his son in Texas. He and two other members of the Church with him, Joseph Kilting and Richard Hewitt, worked for a time in the Cherokee Nation in the borders of present-day Oklahoma. They arrived in Tahlequah on 9 July 1847. They taught others about the Church, but antagonism forced Miller to leave in December. Hewitt and Kilting remained to work.
In 1855, Orson Spencer and James McGaw visited the Indian Territory from St. Louis, Mo., and on 8 April, five more missionaries were sent from Salt Lake City and four from St. Louis. The Indian Territory Mission was created and placed under the leadership of Miller on 26 June of that year. The missionaries met and re-converted followers of Lyman Wight. One of these was Jacob Croft, who had met missionaries earlier and started for Utah, but met an apostate group that told the Croft party untruths about conditions there. The discouraged Croft party settled in Indian Territory and built a gristmill.
As early as July 1855, missionaries preached to about 400 Indians, and the Cherokee Branch was started at Croft’s Spavinaw Creek mill. This became mission headquarters. Croft later led a party of 56, including other former followers of Wight and some re-converted “Strangites” (followers of James J. Strang) to Utah.
Later in the year, missionaries were sent from St. Louis to southern portions of the Cherokee Nation. In 1856, the Princess Creek Branch was organized. The Lehi and Nephi branches were organized in 1858.
Illness was a problem in the mission for many years. At least four missionaries died including Orson Spencer.
In 1858-1859, the remaining members migrated to Utah. By 1860, all the missionaries but John A. Richards, who had married an Indian wife, returned to Utah and the mission was discontinued. Disorder brought on by the Civil War ended what was left of the Church in the Indian Territory. Members and leaders were scattered.
When Matthew Dalton and John Hubbard returned to begin missionary work in 1877, they found John Richards was still faithful, and they received assistance from him. Elder Hubbard died later that year and the mission was closed. In 1883, Matthew Dalton and Elder George Teasdale of the Quorum of the Twelve reorganized the mission. Tracts in the Cherokee language were printed.
Andrew Kimball, father of President Spencer W. Kimball, presided over the mission in 1885. Although he contracted malaria, he carried on the work and was assisted by John Richards, and later by additional full-time missionaries. In 1892, the first meetinghouse was built in Manard. Another was built in Massey.
On 29 March 1898, Oklahoma became part of the Southwestern States Mission, and on 4 April 1904 it was included in the Central States Mission. On 7 November 1911, a branch was established at Gore, with 113 members but was later dissolved. It was not until 1 May 1960 when the branch was again organized in Gore. A Sunday School that began in Bartlesville in 1924 became a branch on 13 October 1945. Membership increased slowly as many converts moved to Utah.
Membership increased in the 1950s and 1960s. Two stakes were created, the Tulsa Stake on 1 May 1960 and the Oklahoma City Stake on 23 October 1960. Additional stakes followed in 1970s and the 1980s. The Oklahoma Mission was created on 10 June 1970. It was renamed the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission in 1974. A second mission in Oklahoma, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was created in 1990.
The Latter-day Saint community reached out to those in need after a bomb destroyed the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on 19 April 1995.
The Oklahoma City Temple, the Church’s 95th temple in operation, was dedicated on 30 July 2000 by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency.
In 2002, membership reached 35,369. In 2005, membership reached 38,772.
Lynetta K. Bingham, et. al., A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eastern Oklahoma from Oklahoma and Indian Territories to 1980, 1980; Central States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports; Oklahoma Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports; Indian Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports.
- United States List of Stakes of the Church
- United States List of Mormon Temples
- William Richey (1796-1879) - 10 Year LDS mission to the Cherokee Tribe in Oklahoma circa 1860-1870.