“Twin Cities Provide Good Soil for Faith,” Ensign, Mar. 1989, 78–79
Minneapolis and Saint Paul are such unique urban centers that they defy the image created by the term “Twin Cities.”
Saint Paul is said to be second in the United States only to New York City in number and variety of cultural events and performing arts attractions. Typical is the annual ice festival in February, featuring elaborate ice carvings and ice castles. The spirit of winter fun still lives in the Nordic descendants who live there.
Minneapolis, just across the Mississippi River, is the home of the four largest milling companies in the world. It is also a major center for electronics instrument manufacturing and graphic arts, and the home of several nationally known medical schools.
The earliest LDS arrivals in the area were “logging missionaries” sent there in 1841 to gather timber for the Nauvoo Temple from forests near the Black River in Wisconsin; the logs were floated down the Black River to the Mississippi. Saint Paul was just a village on the river then, and Minneapolis did not yet exist. In the 1850s, converts were baptized in what is now the Twin Cities area, and branches of the Church were formed, then disbanded later.
The first permanent branch of the Church organized here was in Saint Paul in 1909. Another was organized in Minneapolis in 1914. With fewer than three hundred total members, these two branches became the nucleus of what was then the North Central States Mission.
People like Vern Peterson, who came to Saint Paul in 1926, recall the changes over the years. “Growth has been slow and steady,” he says. “But it surprises you when you wake up one day and see how big the Church has become here.” He recalls that there was a growth spurt after World War II. The University of Minnesota and the area’s business climate have also helped draw many members here.
Jack O‘Keefe came to the Saint Paul area in 1953 from Montana. “They made me branch clerk right away, and I didn’t know a soul. I sat with the branch president’s wife because she knew everyone,” he recalls. That way she could tell him the names of people who participated in meetings.
His job would be considerably more difficult today. There are approximately ten thousand members in the three stakes of the greater Twin Cities area: the Minneapolis Minnesota, Saint Paul Minnesota, and Anoka Minnesota stakes, The first stake in the area was organized in Minneapolis in 1960, and the second in Saint Paul in 1976.
The Minnesota Minneapolis Mission made significant gains in baptisms last year, stake president Gerald Thompson says. He believes the Church is prepared to mushroom here as it has in many other areas in recent decades.
The diversity of members in the Twin Cities area typifies the bond that occurs as people discover the gospel. There are doctors, lawyers, mechanics, and executives of Fortune 500 companies. For example, Mark Willis, recently released as president of the Minneapolis Minnesota Stake, is president of General Mills. But regardless of their occupation or status, many of these members share great strength of testimony. President Willis’s wife, Fayonne, recalls that when they moved to the area eleven years ago, “We sensed a tremendous depth of commitment to the gospel” among the members.
Cathryn Kirkham, who moved to the area with her family in 1967, points out that in an area where Church members are in the minority, children “have to form a commitment to the gospel early in life. They learn a tolerance for people of other faiths.”
Richard Kirkham, Cathryn’s husband, reflects that traditional values are very strong among the people of the upper Midwest. President Richard Halverson of the Saint Paul stake would probably say that this strength of tradition is one of the assets of the Twin Cities area. “The Church will always flourish in an area that embraces good values,” he says.
And good values are the cords that bind the people of this area together. The direction here seems clear—the Church is poised to achieve significant growth and to bring new meaning into the lives of many people who already live by its principles.
Correspondent: Michael Rich, Minneapolis Region public communications director.