Missionary work in the Southern States began as early as 1831. The first member of the Church in South Carolina is believed to have been Emmanual Masters Murphy who was baptized in Tennessee in 1836. When Lysander M. Davis arrived in South Carolina about 1 November 1839, he found the Murphys had people prepared for baptism. Seven of these were baptized.
Opposition arose and Davis was briefly jailed. Murphy reportedly later visited Joseph Smith in Carthage Jail shortly before the Prophet’s martyrdom. The Prophet reminded him of the prophecy that war would soon begin in South Carolina and exhorted Murphy to warn the people of his home state.
Abraham O. Smoot preached in Charleston and upstate South Carolina, having been called on 16 August 1841, but he failed to gain any converts. However, an unidentified missionary traveled to Charleston earlier that year and baptized three ministers and eight others. Another missionary, John Eldredge, preached in South Carolina in 1842-43.
No other known missionary work was done in the state until the 1870s. The South Carolina Conference was organized on 31 March 1882. Some of the earliest branches were established at King’s Mountain beginning 3 March 1882 and among the Catawba Indian community beginning 31 July 1885. Conference headquarters were established at the plantation of John Black, a man who remained unbaptized in order to provide refuge to the Church. Many converts, including Indians, moved onto his plantation to escape persecution. The Catawbas also shielded missionaries from persecutors. Most of the Catawbas joined the Church and remained faithful in South Carolina.
On 9 April 1950, Samuel Taylor Blue, also known as Chief Blue of the Catawba Tribe, spoke in general conference. He had been baptized on 7 May 1897 in South Carolina.
Missionaries braved many adversities while serving in South Carolina including jailing, disease and frequent exposure to the elements. They walked hundreds of miles, often missing meals, and endured other privations, but they continued to find converts and organize branches. There were 2,238 converts baptized throughout the South, from 1880 to 1888, and 1,169 moved to Utah.
Progress and persecution continued in the 1890s. Mobs often gathered to punish and banish missionaries. Branches organized included Society Hill, Columbia, Charleston and Fairfield. About 350 members attended a conference in Society Hill in 1897. However, as converts migrated to the West, branches dwindled and some were reorganized later with new converts.
The conference included six branches (four with meetinghouses) and 10 Sunday Schools. In the 1930s, mission president LeGrand Richards introduced “systematic teaching,” a forerunner of today’s missionary discussions. By 1937, membership in the entire Southern States Mission had increased to 18,000.
South Carolina’s first stake was created in Columbia on 19 October 1947. It included the entire state with wards in Columbia, Greenville, Charleston, Gaffney, Hartsville, Ridgeway and Spartanburg, and branches in Augusta (Georgia), Sumter, Society Hill, Winnsboro and Darlington. Membership totaled 1,869 members.
Additional stakes were organized South Carolina West in 1963, South Carolina East in 1968 and Charleston in 1972. The South Carolina Columbia Mission was organized from the Georgia Atlanta Mission July 1, 1975.
A temple built in Columbia was dedicated on 16 October 1999 by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
In 2002, membership reached 28,605.
Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Edward R. Bass, Comp., Columbia South Carolina Stake Fortieth Anniversary, Oct. 19, 1947 to 1987, 1987; LaMar C. Berrett, History of the Southern States Mission 1831-1861, thesis 1960; DeVon H. Nish, Brief History of the Southern States Mission for One Hundred Years, 1830-1930, 1966; “Stake Birthday Notes Growth of Church in South Carolina,” Church News, 9 December 1972; Ted S. Anderson, Southern States Mission and the Administration of Ben E. Rich, 1898-1908, thesis 1976; Richard L. Jensen, “Persecutor Converted,” Church News, 4 February 1978; R. Scott Lloyd, “New Temple in a ‘Place of History,'” Church News, 23 October 1999; Southern States Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives.