The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

This profile was last updated in 2003

History

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) has a long history in Arizona and in the Valley. The East Valley city of Mesa was established by LDS missionaries in 1883, and a major early temple was dedicated there in 1927. Mesa, the third largest city in the state, has a population estimated to be 12 to 14% LDS. Large numbers of LDS members and churches exist throughout Valley communities, and are growing at a significant rate.

The growth of the Church and its high-profile in central Arizona have not been without controversy in local communities. The east Valley city of Gilbert is one of the fastest growing communities in the entire state, with a population that is thought to be 25% LDS. A city-sponsored Diversity Task Force report in 2001 found that the city — particularly high school aged youth — faced serious problems with alleged widespread racism, homophobia and religious separatism in the schools. The Task Force was a response to the criminal activities of a high school gang called the “Devil Dogs,” whose members (including some athletes and LDS members) were linked to organized crime and violent hate crimes. The controversy spurred prolonged public debate over the alleged dominant influence of the LDS over the city administration and school system, and relations between the LDS minority and others in Gilbert remain strained today.

Activities and Schedule

Sunday Services at the church include morning services, a 12 p.m. Sacrament Meeting, 1 p.m. Sunday School, and meetings of the Priesthood/Relief Society from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Some Sundays are Fasting and Testimony Sundays, during which members may volunteer to share their individual spiritual experiences from the podium. Other activities include evening weekly meetings for youth fellowship and singles.

Demographics

The make-up of the church reflects the explosive growth of the East Valley. The church membership is primarily Anglo-American, and includes a significant presence of Spanish-speakers. The community also incorporates a small number of Polynesian-American immigrants to the valley. The membership is roughly equal in numbers of women to men; as for as age it is mixed but dominated by families with young children.

Description

The building is new, and in a well-landscaped garden setting. It has a steeple with no cross and a very large chapel to accommodate meetings and prayer. It includes several classrooms, kitchen facilities, and an indoor basketball court.