“Church Reaches 2,500 Stakes,” Ensign, Apr. 1999, 78
“The term stake is a symbolic expression,” said President Ezra Taft Benson in 1991. “Picture in your mind a great tent held up by cords extended to many stakes that are firmly secured in the ground. The prophets likened latter-day Zion to a great tent encompassing the earth. That tent was supported by cords fastened to stakes. Those stakes, of course, are various geographical organizations spread out over the earth. Presently, Israel is being gathered to the various stakes of Zion” (“‘Strengthen Thy Stakes,’” Ensign, Jan. 1991, 2).
The Church’s first stake was organized in 1832 in Kirtland, Ohio, and a second stake was formed in 1834 in Clay County, Missouri. Eleven stakes were organized by 1840 in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. Thirty years later all 12 stakes of the Church were located in Utah. By 1882 the total stakes had increased to 27, and by 1940 stakes numbered 177. In 1960 the Church’s 321 stakes included 19 English-speaking stakes outside the United States and one stake in Mexico. In 1991 the Church had more than 1,800 stakes worldwide.
Describing a stake as “a miniature Church to the Saints in a specific geographic area,” President Benson identified four purposes for the Church’s stakes: “to unify and perfect the members … by extending to them the Church programs, the ordinances, and gospel instruction”; “to be models, or standards, of righteousness”; to provide, through unity and consecration, “protection from error, evil, or calamity”; and to be “a refuge from the storm to be poured out over the earth” (Ensign, Jan. 1991, 4–5).
During the 1990s, the Church has created an average of about two stakes per week. Year-end total stakes for the past five years were: