“The Wilmington Delaware Stake: No Small Wonder,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 79
Due to its relatively small size, the U.S. state of Delaware is often referred to by residents as the “Small Wonder,” but the Wilmington Delaware Stake is anything but small. The stake’s boundaries include all of Delaware, the eastern shore of Maryland, and a few eastern Pennsylvania communities.
Although driving between some of the stake’s 11 units can take more than two hours, stake president Joel R. Temple is one who doesn’t let the miles he has to travel interfere with the satisfaction he gets from serving.
A convert of 30 years, President Temple says the work has moved forward in the stake through the efforts of “hosts of faithful members who have given freely of their time, their talents, and their means.”
The first record of the Church in the area goes back to the 1830s, soon after the gospel was restored. During that decade, some missionary activity took place around Wilmington. The Prophet Joseph Smith visited the Wilmington area in 1839, an event he recorded in his journal. In the early 1840s, most area members moved to Nauvoo.
During the next 100 years, there was little Church activity in Delaware, but in 1941 a branch was organized, and missionary work reopened in 1945. In 1974, the Wilmington stake was formed.
The stake now has nine wards and two branches, with a membership of some 4,000. Many of the members are Eastern Shore natives like Thelma and Jim Moudy, who joined the Church in 1973 after missionaries knocked on their door. The Moudys’ Delaware roots go back to the late 1600s.
Brother and Sister Moudy enrich the Christiana Ward in Newark, Delaware, with their expertise in telecommunications. Jim, recently retired after 34 years in the telecommunications industry, has served as the stake audiovisual specialist for 14 years, and Thelma also uses her experience in the industry to fulfill Church assignments.
For example, shortly after Thelma was called as ward Relief Society president in the winter of 1999, a snowstorm left the roads too icy for safe travel on a day scheduled for a presidency meeting. Feeling that the meeting needed to take place, she set up a teleconference among the homes of the presidency members. After the teleconference, Thelma concluded that “the work of the Lord can go forward even under adverse circumstances.”
Although corporate downsizing over the last decade has slowed the flow of member move-ins, the stake’s active missionary effort has brought a steady increase in membership, especially during the last five years.
Typical of new converts are Charles and Donna Garman of the Cambridge Maryland Branch. After the Garmans responded to a Church television advertisement for a free video, two missionaries appeared at their door.
“The missionaries walked in the door and our lives changed,” Donna recounts.
James Dayton, who was branch president for 12 years and one of the first members of the Cambridge Branch when it was formed in 1971, soon started visiting the family with the missionaries. Developing a friendship with the Garmans, he invited Charles to help with a display for the branch’s community Pioneer Day Celebration in July 1997.
It wasn’t long before the Garmans were attending Sunday services and were baptized.
“I felt like one of those people who said they always were Latter-day Saint but didn’t know [about the Church],” Donna said. “It was like coming home.” Like the Garmans, many others in the area have “come home” to the gospel, and members and leaders in Delaware are confident the Church will continue to flourish in the area.—Sharon Lance Sundelin, Christiana Ward, Wilmington Delaware Stake
Wilmington Delaware Stake
Number of members 4,061
Number of units 9 wards, 2 branches
Number of missionaries currently serving from the stake 44
Temple district Washington D.C. Temple