The Florida Saints from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have not had it easy since the very beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ being restored.
The people of Florida were not very accepting of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the missionaries sent to preach in the area. The process of getting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints set up in Florida was slow, but today we are seeing the benefit of the hard work of the early saints in Florida.
After the restoration of the gospel, through the prophet Joseph Smith, there has been a great importance on spreading the gospel. In the very beginning of the missionary work in Florida few people were converted by the missionaries, but those people did an excellent job being stalwart and faithful through persecutions. There was not a large group of saints in Florida, but the small group made all the difference for the foundation of the church for future generations.
The very first record of missionaries sent to preach the gospel in Florida was in the year 1843(that is the year before Joseph Smith died). There was no record kept of the first missionaries and without a record, we simply do not know what happened during that first effort to spread the gospel in Florida.
The next known missionary to go to Florida to teach the gospel was Phineas Young, the brother of Brigham Young. Phineas Young went to Florida in 1845, about two years after the first attempt of missionary work in Florida, and a year before the Saints moved from Nauvoo to Utah. There is record of Phineas Young distributing copies of the Book of Mormon to Native American Chiefs. It does not look like he spent a lot of time in Florida, only about two months and moved on.
It was not until 1895, fifty years after the first effort that missionaries were sent to Florida to teach the gospel. Florida was part of the Southern States mission. The missionaries would stay in Florida and teach the gospel in the winter, and head to northern areas when Florida was too hot.
The Church growth continued in Florida, but not quickly. There was a time that persecution of the saint and the missionaries caused that the missionaries were not safe and had to be removed from the state of Florida.
The first branch president, George Canova, was gunned down for being a member of the Latter-Day Saint Church. It was only six months after Bro. George Canova had been called as branch president and he was heading home from a conference when he was gunned down. No one was ever convicted of the crime.
The saints continued to work to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Florida. Because of the hard work and dedication of the Florida Saints in 1947 the first stake in Florida was created! It is also the first stake in the southern United States and it was in Jackson county Florida!
The best part of this story is the first Stake President was Alvin Conova Chance, the grandson of George Conova, the first branch president, that was killed.
The Saints in Florida did not have it easy, but they can teach us about how their small sacrifices built a large foundation over time. It took a long time to get a Stake in Florida, and a temple in the state, but now the membership is growing and they have two temples in the Florida. It is amazing to see how the Lord works with His people and see the progressing of His people over time!
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