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Farmington Plays Historical Role in Mormon History

What puts Farmington on the map as an ideal place to build a new Mormon temple? Its history could be part of the reason why.

Memorial near the birthplace of Wilford Woodruff, Avon, Connecticut: dedicated in 1999. Photo Credit: Earle Stone
Memorial near the birthplace of Wilford Woodruff, Avon, Connecticut: dedicated in 1999. Photo Credit: Earle Stone
With only 68 Mormon temples in the country, what is the significance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's choice of Farmington as the location for one of 27 new temples planned?

Farmington's connection to the religion goes far back in history.

In 1807, Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of the Church of Jesus Christ, was born in what was then Farmington and what is now Avon.

"President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement at the General (Worldwide) Conference in October 2010 of a temple to be built in the Hartford area brings much joy to members throughout Connecticut, Rhode Island, southwestern Massachusetts, and eastern New York State," a press release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states. "This joy is heightened by the proximity of the new temple in Farmington to the birthplace of the fourth President of the Church, Wilford Woodruff."

The temple's architecture "will echo that of a chief landmark in Farmington, the First Church of Christ Congregational," the release states. It's no mere coincidence. The master builder for the Farmington Historic District church was Judah Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff's great-uncle.  

"Famous for his many missions, for his love and advancement of education, for establishing the Church Genealogical Society, and for dedicating in 1893 the Salt Lake temple after 40 years of construction, Wilford Woodruff is our beloved President from Connecticut," the release said.   

Before him, the Macks, first president Joseph Smith's maternal family, "lived and worked" in Old Lyme "for generations," according to a history of the religion provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smith, like second president Brigham Young, was born in Vermont. All three "returned as adults to preach the gospel throughout the region," the release stated.

Smith honored Wilton native Jane Manning James, born in 1822, at her funeral in 1908 as a person "widely admired throughout her life and to this day for her unwavering faithfulness" to the religion, "various contributions to the Church's Relief Society, and for the respect she sustained as the matriarch of early Utah's black community," the release states.

Manning, an African American woman who converted to the religion in 1839 and later married another black Mormon named Saint Isaac James, "walked 800 miles to Illinois" with nine family members "after they were refused steamboat passage at Buffalo, NY," the release states.

"Although all had been born free in Connecticut, they narrowly escaped arrest en route for not having papers to prove their freedom," according to the history provided by the Church. "Joseph and Emma Smith warmly welcomed the exhausted group into their Illinois home."

Connecticut Latter-day Saints used to congregate for worship everywhere from homes and churches to rented space in stores, a New Haven medical building, the Bridgeport Art League and other available locations. In 1952, the first Mormon meetinghouse was built near the intersection of Asylum Avenue and Terry Road in Hartford, financed by member donations and fundraisers. 

The first Connecticut stake, or branch of The Church of Latter-day Saints made up of a group of congregations, was established in September of 1966, the release states.

In 1974, a Washington D.C. temple was dedicated, which meant Connecticut worshippers could drive seven hours to a temple instead of traveling to the other side of the Mississippi River. It was the first temple built east of the river, according to the release. Now, the closest temples are in Boston and New York. The plans for the New York temple were announced in 1992. In 2000, the new Boston was announced in 2000 as the 100th Mormon temple in the world.

Now the drive for temple worship will drop to minutes for some living in Farmington, as oppose to a couple hours to Boston or New York. 

You can also read Patch's previous coverage of the new Mormon temple by clicking on the links below:
What is your reaction to a new Mormon temple being constructed in Farmington? Tell us in the comments!
MAC August 20, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Thank you Jessie, for your excellent and extensive coverage of preparations for the temple construction, and the ground-breaking service, accompanied with so much history! Just a couple of corrections to this article: Since Joseph Smith (born in 1805) was assassinated--martyred along with his brother Hyrum--in 1844, it was the sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph F. Smith, who was the son of the afore-mentioned Hyrum Smith, who spoke at Jane Manning's funeral. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. The Boston temple was actually completed and dedicated in Oct. of 2000, and it was indeed the "100th Mormon temple in the world." President Gordon B. Hinckley (Pres. Monson's immediate predecessor) wanted to have 100 operating temples before the close of the 20th century, and he did accomplish that goal. "In the year 2000 alone, 34 temples were dedicated and given the exalted and holy status of the House of the Lord. During his lifetime he dedicated 85 temples, more than any other man who has ever lived."……………………. http://www.templestudy.com/2008/01/27/gordon-b-hinckley-the-temple-builder/.……………………………………………………………………….. Thanks, again, Jessie for publishing so much good information and coverage of these events. You might also be interested to know that a Philadelphia temple, somewhat larger and in historic downtown on Vine St, is under construction, also expected to be completed in 2015.

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