Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Building a Chronology of Mormon History

Building a Chronology of Mormon History

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 19, 2010

Chronologies – “timelines,” or lists of significant dates with brief annotations – are a useful method for organizing data and presenting a brief picture of a person’s life or the history of an entire organization, nation, or even civilization.

You’ve probably made a chronology of your own life at some time or other, to outline your church service or work history or whatever. Paul Reeve and I included one in our Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia; there’s one at, Keepa’ninny Clair publishes Today in Church History, a variation on a chronology which lists events that happened on a given day in history regardless of the year.

Keepa’ninny Michelle Glauser sent in a link to a chronology of Mormon history at Religion Facts, a site which endeavors to present material on all religions in as neutral and open a manner as possible. Their chronology, reproduced in full below (with slight formatting changes due to the limitations of blogging software) is one of the more, um, anemic attempts to outline Mormon history that I have ever seen:

Dec. 23, 1805

Birth of Joseph Smith in Sharon, Vermont


God and Jesus appear to 14-year-old Joseph Smith in the “First Vision”


Joseph Smith discovers golden plates


Joseph Smith marries Emma Hale Smith

April 6, 1830

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded by Joseph Smith


Massacre at Haun’s Mill


Joseph Smith runs for President of the United States


A special revelation introduces polygamy, which is called the “Law of Abraham,” “Patriarchal Order of Marriage,” or “Celestial Plural Marriage.” Along with the “Law of Abraham” went the “Law of Sarah,” in which women were admonished to accept polygamy. Joseph Smith assigns some women to some men.


Joseph Smith killed by a mob


Brigham Young establishes the First Presidency


James Strang crowned as “king”


James Strang is shot and killed


Mountain Meadows Massacre


Joseph Smith III claims to receive a revelation as Prophet/President of a “New Organization” of the Latter Day Saint church. Eventually this group gathered together many of the remnants of the various Midwestern Latter Day Saint groups into the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now called the “Community of Christ.”


Edmunds Act outlaws polygamy


A special revelation discontinues racism


“Reform Mormonism” founded

So …

We have a site here, not operated by any LDS member, that is willing to post something about Mormonism. They’re going to publish it – they have published it, for years – regardless of its sad content. Why don’t we – all participants at Keepapitchinin – pitch in and construct a chronology that will actually represent Mormon history in a more accurate, more useful way and then donate it for posting at Religion Facts to replace the existing timeline?

Some ground rules: Such a chronology should be as accurate as format limitations allow. It should be brief enough – say, roughly 100 entries – that casual visitors will be attracted to glancing through it and not be turned off by its detail and complexity. It should contain items of interest to a broad audience, not only a Mormon one. While it will naturally lean heavily toward the “firsts” of the 19th century, it should have entries from throughout our history up to the present to indicate that Mormonism is a continuing, growing, living religion.

Those criteria mean that while we might decide to include Joseph Smith’s birth date, the births of other persons, no matter how significant, are probably only clutter, of potential interest to Mormons but not to a general audience. The dates of all sections in the Doctrine and Covenants would be overkill, but perhaps the date of, say, the Word of Wisdom would be included; even if we include the date of that revelation, though, we wouldn’t include the date when Word of Wisdom adherence became mandatory for temple recommends – that’s too complex a discussion for the format.

So – what entries would you suggest for such a chronology?

Please comment with your suggestions. Include a brief label or description of the event, along with the date (if you know it; if you aren’t certain, we’ll figure it out together). An indication of why you think an item is worthy of entry in the chronology would make a great discussion, too.

I’ll keep updating this post with a chronology built from your suggestions (minus any that are obviously joke-y). As we approach the 100-entry mark, we can have some friendly discussion about why this suggestion should replace that suggestion, until we’ve worked out a useful timeline to submit to Religion Facts.

Thanks! Let’s have fun with this.

I’ve started by reworking the few entries from the existing chronology that I think can be salvaged:

Keepapitchinin’s Mormon Chronology

1805 Dec 5

Birth of Joseph Smith in Sharon, Windsor Co., Vermont

1820 spring

Joseph Smith’s “First Vision,” of God the Father and Jesus Christ

1830 Mar

Publication of the Book of Mormon at Palmyra, Wayne Co., New York

1830 Apr 6

Formal organization of the church at Fayette, Seneca Co., New York

1838 Oct 30

17 Mormon men and boys killed by a militia attack at Shoal Creek, Caldwell Co., Missouri in an event remembered as the Haun’s Mill Massacre

1844 Jun 27

Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, held in jail at Carthage, Hancock Co., Illinois, killed by a mob


Armed standoff between the Mormon residents of Utah Territory and almost one-third of the U.S. army, led by Albert Sidney Johnston. This confrontation, known as the Utah War, was the background for the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 7-11 Sep 1857, in which approximately 120 unarmed American immigrants were killed by Mormon militiamen in southern Utah

1978 Jun 9

Public announcement of the extension of the priesthood to all worthy male church members, including African American men who had previously been barred from the priesthood



  1. Yeah, 17 entries including three regarding splinter groups and two regarding massacres? Oakey-doakey.

    Since the Salt Lake Temple is probably the single-most recognizable icon or symbol of the church, its dedication should probably be mentioned. ldschurchtemples gives the following dates:

    Groundbreaking: 14 February 1853 by Brigham Young
    Dedication: 6–24 April 1893 by Wilford Woodruff

    Would you include one or both?

    Comment by Researcher — November 19, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  2. How about we put this under the date of dedication, wording it to refer back to the groundbreaking:

    1893 Apr 6-24

    Salt Lake Temple dedicated by Wilford Woodruff, 40 years after the temple’s groundbreaking was conducted by Brigham Young on 14 Feb 1853

    “Oakey-doakey” is a fine reaction to the original!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 10:04 am

  3. Here are a few to start with:

    1833 July 20 – Meeting in the Jackson Co Courthouse of MO citizens to produce a resolution against Mormons.

    1836 March/April – Dedication of Kirtland Temple and Solemn Assemblies

    1838 – Missouri Mormon War

    1842 March 17 – Establishment of the Relief Society

    1842 May 4 – JS administer Temple rituals that form the foundation for Modern Temple worship

    1847 July 20-24 – Vangaurd Pioneer Company arrives in SL Basin

    1877 – Return of the Temples with the operation of the St. George Temple

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 19, 2010 @ 10:06 am

  4. Utah becoming a state, and the various geographical locations of Church headquarters.

    I find it amusing that it doesn’t even mention the exodus which is probably one of the most important milestones, other than the founding.

    The Mormon Battalion might be of interest, and is little-known to many.

    Maybe the first missionaries sent to Europe would be interesting to others, as well as first European temple.

    And maybe something about welfare efforts, though I’m not sure what milestones would be significant.

    Comment by SilverRain — November 19, 2010 @ 10:10 am

  5. And for that matter, first temples on each continent might be useful. It would map the growth of the Church.

    Comment by SilverRain — November 19, 2010 @ 10:11 am

  6. It might also be interesting to note LDS members when they take the stage in a significant political or pop culture field.

    Okay, three comments in a row is TOO much. I’m done for awhile.

    Comment by SilverRain — November 19, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  7. Thanks, J. — I’ll plug ’em in.

    I’m with you, Silver Rain — if people know ANYthing about Mormon history, there’s something in there about wagon trains and pioneers!

    Yours are all good suggestions. Although the tallies would soon be outdated, how about making entries for the first temple on each continent with a parenthetical “(as of 2010, there are XXX temples in Central and South America)”? Would someone like to make that tally for us?

    I like your other suggestions, too. We could put a general entry for the 1930s relating to development of the welfare plan, including a note that the RS had been storing wheat since 18-whatever, and that temporal care of church members and humanitarian assistance to the world remain a significant focus. If someone else has a suggestion for a specific welfare-related event, we could list that separately. The Mormon Battalion and indications of when Kirtland, Jackson Co., etc. were church headquarters would also add greatly to the picture.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 10:24 am

  8. Love that Zeitgeist. Or maybe in this case it was the promptings of a more holy geist, but all this week, Ardis, I’ve been thinking about sketching out a Mormon history time line! It’s even on my “to do” list to work on over the Thanksgiving break!

    (In my case it was a bit different project than the one you’ve proposed here. I wanted to try to conceptualize different “eras” or “moments” in church history.)

    For your project, let me, ahem, play Lucifer’s advocate for a minute: I would argue for at least one inclusion that points to the formation of other Mormon sects since they are an important feature of its history. I’m not thinking Strang, though…

    Comment by Mina — November 19, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  9. Never too many, except that it means we cross-post!

    Political/pop culture references could be good ones for this particular audience, as long as they don’t overwhelm the purely church history entries and wouldn’t be too provocative. We could squeeze in more by saying “so-and-so wins X award, joining fellow Mormons a, b, c and d as film industry favorites” or whatever.

    Any suggestions for specific people to name?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  10. Cross-posting with Mina, too.

    I would support including references to other groups that trace their ancestry to Joseph Smith. We couldn’t include many without overwhelming a 100-entry list, though. How about including an entry tied to the formation of one — the RLDS/Community of Christ, probably? — and including brief mention in that entry to the fact that other groups, including X, Y, and Z, are part of the family?

    I’m going to be away from my computer for an hour or so but will respond to further comments — and update the draft list — as soon as possible.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  11. I notice that Nauvoo is completely not mentioned at all, especially the explosive growth of Nauvoo and, in my own opinion, is one of the reasons why Mormons were so persecuted there because it was such a “threat” to other smaller towns and townfolk.

    Comment by Cliff — November 19, 2010 @ 11:55 am

  12. I would include a thing or two marking the spread of the Church beyond the Great Basin Desseret. Possibilities:

    Temple dedicated in Hawaii, 1919.
    New York City Stake organized, 1934.
    Fewer members in U.S. than in rest of world, 1996. (link)

    Maybe some milestones of church size:
    Ten million members worldwide, 1997. (link)
    Membership in Mexico passes one million, 2004.

    Comment by John Mansfield — November 19, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

  13. Time magazine had an article at the time the New York City Stake was organized:

    “On a platform in a bare Manhattan hall last Sunday sat the divinely inspired Prophet, Seer and Revelator of 750,000 saints on earth—Heber Jedediah Grant, 78, stubble-bearded President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. With him sat his trusty First Counselor, pudding-jowled Joshua Reuben Clark Jr., one-time U. S. Ambassador to Mexico; his potent Presiding Bishop, rangy Sylvester Q. Cannon; his Eastern representative, Don Byron Colton, longtime U. S. Representative from Utah.”

    Comment by John Mansfield — November 19, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

  14. And Brother Baugh says we need to start spelling Hawn’s Mill with a “w” .

    Comment by reed russell — November 19, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  15. Those are all good suggestions — I’ll get them added.

    reed, I’ll start spelling it “Hawn” when Alex starts spelling his name “Baw.” {g}

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  16. Thanks, John, for the link to that Time magazine article. As the article points out, the stake though headquartered in the city included a ward in East Orange, New Jersey, and either then or later included branches and wards in Long Island, Westchester County and Connecticut. So, better call it the “New York Stake”–not the “New York City Stake.” (That didn’t happen until 1977, when upon the creation of the Yorktown NY Stake, all the wards and branches of the New York Stake were within the five boroughs of New York City.)

    You could also add the creation of the first non-U.S. stake (Auckland, on May 18, 1958–have I got that right?) and the first non-English-speaking stake (The Hague, Netherlands, March 12, 1961). With an explanation about what “stake” means, that might be markers for church growth in other countries.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 19, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

  17. I am probably the LAST person to ask about pop culture. David Archuleta, Gladys Knight, the Osmonds . . . that about covers it for me. Of course, you can almost guarantee that if I’VE heard of them, they are significant enough to mention. Wasn’t Ezra Taft Benson the Secretary of Agriculture? And I think Angela Buchanan was a Treasurer who converted.

    Here’s a link I found when I searched for her to famous Mormons. I’d want to cross-reference and double check sources, though, because there’s so much speculation on this topic.

    Oh, and mention the institution of the MoTab. LOTS of people know the Church by them.

    And it might be worth mentioning BYU and the Academy, since that’s relatively well-recognized in sports.

    Maybe Steve Young?

    I wouldn’t mention the organization of stakes because most people won’t know what that means so much. That’s why I suggested sticking with temples as benchmarks of church growth; they’re much more visible.

    I vote for showing the beginnings of the Church of Christ and the FLDS church, since they’re fairly prominent either in size or notoriety.

    Comment by SilverRain — November 19, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  18. And maybe mentioning the ERA and recent Prop 8 mobilization. The latter may not be flattering for some people, but it is historically significant, even outside the Church.

    Comment by SilverRain — November 19, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  19. I’d add the 1830 Lamanite mission to the list. I’ve only recently realized how central that expedition was to the rest all church development from 1831 onward.

    Comment by Dane — November 19, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  20. Others have mentioned it, as well, but some sense of geogoraphy, esp Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, the exodus to Utah.

    Comment by Paul — November 19, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

  21. Y’all are going to make me work by not providing dates or wordings for the entries! I agree that these are all great suggestions that belong in a timeline — now how about going one step further and constructing an actual entry? Pretty please?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  22. I think the dates surrounding Joseph Smith receiving the plates and translating the Book of Mormon are fundamental and informative to all students of Mormon history, no matter their belief. I would include the date he obtains the plates – Sept 1827, and the general start date of the translation (early 1828?) and the completion of translation, June 1829. Perhaps you could combine this with the first publication of the Book of Mormon, March 1830. Feel free to adjust my dates; any of you are better researchers than me.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — November 19, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  23. Land purchased in Nauvoo 1839; Chartered Spring 1840

    Comment by Cliff — November 19, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

  24. Thanks, Cliff, that’s the spirit.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

  25. I agree with SilverRain that any list should include temple construction. I’d think something to the effect (sorry this isn’t exact wording): “1919-1927, Temples built in Hawaii; Alberta, Canada; and Mesa, Arizona, the first temples constructed outside traditional LDS strongholds.” Or something to that effect.

    “1955-1958, Temples built in Switzerland, New Zealand and England. First temples built outside of North America.”

    The intent is to show the growth, institutional and organizational development of the Church in a world-wide context during the twentieth century. You could even mention temple construction beginning in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s where temples were first temples were built in South America, Asia and Africa.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 19, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

  26. 1976
    ABC begins weekly broadcast of The Donnie & Marie Show, bringing LDS entertainers to prime time television.

    Tyrone Power, Vincent Price, and Mary Astor star in Brigham Young, a 20th Century Fox feature film about the life of the second Mormon prophet.

    LDS membership surpasses 1 million church members.

    President Eisenhower names LDS Apostle Ezra Taft Benson as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (served for eight years).

    LDS Apostle Reed Smoot is elected to represent Utah in the U.S. Senate, sparking hearings that block his seating in the Senate until 1907. He serves in the Senate until 1933.

    Mormon Harry Reid (D-Nevada) elected to serve as Senate Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate.

    19 November 2003
    Joseph Smith and early LDS history featured in the “All About Mormons” episode of Comedy Central’s animated series South Park.

    LDS General Conference first broadcast via satellite to LDS church buildings outside of Utah (now broadcast to to over 7450 church facilities worldwide).

    1997 (Nov)
    LDS Church membership surpasses 10 million members worldwide.

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 7:36 am

  27. Thanks, Rob, it’s especially helpful to have suggestions in this form — and all those cultural references to choose from!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 20, 2010 @ 7:46 am

  28. 1997
    American R&B singer Gladys Knight joins LDS Church, and in 2002 she organized (and now directs) the Mormon-themed choir Saints Unified Voices, which won the Best Gospel Choir Or Chorus Album Grammy in 2005 for their album One Voice.

    July 15, 1929
    First network radio broadcast of the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir program Music and the Spoken Word. 80 years later it is the oldest continuous nationwide network broadcast in the world, and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2010.

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 7:50 am

  29. 1985
    “Ender’s Game” by LDS science fiction and fantasy author Orson Scott card wins the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Card wins these awards again the next year for his sequel “Speaker for the Dead,” making him the only author to win both of American science fiction’s top prizes in consecutive years.

    15 October 1985
    Mormon historic documents dealer Mark Hofmann plants bombs in Salt Lake City that kill two people in an attempt to cover up his document counterfeiting and forgeries, including his notorious “Salamander Letter” written to cast doubt on traditional narratives of the origins of the Book of Mormon. Hoffman pleads guilty in 1987 and is serving a sentence of life without parole in the Utah State Prison.

    5 June 2002
    LDS teenager Elizabeth Smart is abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City. After a nationwide manhunt and global media attention, Smart is discovered in the company of her captors on March 12, 2003, in Sandy, Utah.

    16 October 1875
    Brigham Young establishes what will later be named Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

    21 December 1984
    Brigham Young University football team defeats the Michigan Wolverines 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl. As the only undefeated team in Division I-A, BYU is declared the 1984 national college football champion.

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 8:18 am

  30. I especially like the last one about the Choir — it will answer nicely for the earlier suggestion about including the Choir because so many people have positive associations with it, and you’ve successfully bridged an early milestone with a current one. (That’s true of a lot of your suggestions. Another one I really like is the one on Smoot — the line “he served until 1933” is a serious smackdown of the attempt to block his seating!)

    As with listing all the “cousin churches,” having too many “famous Mormon” entries might overwhelm the “history of the Church” theme. How about a paragraph at the end of the chronology that explains that this was constructed as a group project, and that we had a side discussion about pop culture references that resulted in the following sub-list — something like that, anyway, that lets us get in these appealing details without implying that Mormonism is so largely concerned with fame?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 20, 2010 @ 8:18 am

  31. No need or thought that we would have to include all (or any!) of my additions here. Just having some fun with Mormon cultural highlights. So I’m up for anything here. What else are we missing that I can write up? Does this make me a Mormon historian? 🙂

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 8:26 am

  32. I dub thee Mormon Historian, Rob!

    Thing is, as I look at your list, I keep thinking “We can’t list them all, but that’s the one we should put in as representative because it’s the first … no, that because it has lasting significance … no, this other one because we don’t have much for that era … wait, how about this one that will surprise people …”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 20, 2010 @ 8:50 am

  33. 1970
    BYU Young Ambassadors, a student singing and dance group, first performs internationally in Osaka Japan. The group has subsequently toured in 66 countries, and was one of the first American groups to perform in the People’s Republic of China after the U.S. granted China formal diplomatic recognition in 1979.

    24 October 24 1841
    Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde offers prayer on the Mount of Olives dedicating Jerusalem and Palestine for the gathering of the Jews.

    20 July 1837
    LDS Apostles Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, along with Willard Richards and Joseph Fielding, land in Liverpool, England as the first Mormon missionaries to Europe.

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  34. To that last entry we could add that by 1900 more than 90,000 LDS converts emigrated from Europe to join Mormon settlements in the American West.

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 9:20 am

  35. 25 September 1890
    LDS Church President Wilford Woodruff publishes “The Manifesto” banning further plural marriages. The Church votes to accept The Manifesto in General Conference on 6 Oct 1890. Church President Joseph F. Smith reaffirms this policy with a “Second Manifesto” in 1904, which threatens future plural marriage participants with excommunication.

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 9:32 am

  36. Temples built in Hawaii; Alberta, Canada; and Mesa, Arizona, the first temples constructed outside traditional LDS strongholds

    Aren’t Laie, Cardston, and Mesa all traditional Mormon strongholds?

    Comment by Christopher — November 20, 2010 @ 9:38 am

  37. Christopher: Your point is well taken. Cardston, Laie and Mesa all represented substantial pockets of Church members. I just don’t consider Hawaii, Arizona and Alberta Church strongholds like I would Utah or southern Idaho. These temples were built on the edges of Mormondom. I actually think the temples being constructed in those locals represents not only the growing influence and growth of the Church outside of Utah, but was a bold statement by the Church that there would be future expansion. It also represents the idea the Church was embracing at the time that the “gathering” was no long a gathering to Utah, rather that the gathering would be now to the stakes where ever they were established. The constructions of the temples in Europe and New Zealand after World War II was even a bolder statement.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 20, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  38. 7 April 1996
    CBS News program 60 Minutes broadcasts a features story on the LDS Church, including an interview with LDS Chrch President Gordon B. Hinckley. Subsequent U.S. national media attention includes a 4 August 1997 “Mormons, Inc” Time Magazine cover story.

    Church launches first official website ( with five pages. The Church’s official genealogy site receives over 200 million hits in the two months before its official launch in May 1999, and its servers are immediately overwhelmed by an estimated 100 million hits per day after launch. The website designed to answer questions by non-church members is launched in 2001.

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  39. 1998
    Mormon Helping Hands charitable service program established after Church officials asked Church leaders in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile to find ways to help their local communities through service. Since then hundreds of thousands of Mormon volunteers have donated millions of hours of disaster relief and community public service in countries all over the world.

    31 March 2001
    Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announces the creation of a Perpetual Education Fund to provide educational loans to Church members in developing countries. Funded by the private donations of LDS Church members, the PEF has since helped over 40,000 participants in over 40 countries.

    15 June 1850
    First publication of the Church-owned Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper.

    1 October 2000
    Church dedicates its 100th temple in Boston, Massachusetts. As of November 2010, there are 134 temples operating in 43 countries around the globe, with another 10 in construction, and 13 announced

    Comment by Rob — November 20, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  40. Interesting discussion between Christopher and Steve C. I remember seeing that same bias in the work of Wesley Johnson about the Mormon Outmigration. I thought it strange that he considered Arizona as an area of outmigration. Wouldn’t a region with extensive Mormon settlement since the 1870s be considered a Mormon stronghold?

    Comment by Researcher — November 20, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  41. I would just point out that the LDS Tech people are working on a Church Historical Timeline application. Info about it can be found here:
    And the timeline itself here:

    Comment by mapman — November 20, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

  42. Thanks, mapman. I linked to one timeline in the OP, but this is one I didn’t know about.

    The value of putting our own together, rather than copying the one I did for Paul’s and my encyclopedia, or that Chris Bigelow did for Thunder Bay, or one from the church’s website, or any of the other existing timelines, is that we can offer it to this non-Mormon website and tailor it to a general non-Mormon audience. We couldn’t do that with an existing copyrighted timeline. And as long as Religion Facts is going to have something up, it might as well be a good something instead of the poor little orphan thing that’s there!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 20, 2010 @ 2:11 pm