“Ames, Iowa: Rich Heritage, Bright Future,” Ensign, June 2001, 78
It was while making the difficult, mud-bogged pioneer trek across Iowa in 1846 that William Clayton penned the words to the hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (Hymns, no. 30). The hymn has become an inspirational anthem for Latter-day Saints worldwide, but in Iowa it is also sung in other churches by congregations who revere the faith of the early pioneers. Also out of respect, many Iowa farmers have long-preserved the Mormon Pioneer Trail as it passes through their property, plowing around it as they plant their crops each year.
“We have been blessed by the goodness of the people of Iowa,” says Robert Schafer, president of the Ames Iowa Stake, the fourth stake to be created in the state. “It is because of this goodness that the Church has been able to expand and grow here.”
The first branch in Ames, Iowa, was officially organized in 1927. One of the branch’s first members was a young graduate student who had come to Ames to study agricultural economics and marketing at Iowa State University. His name was Ezra Taft Benson.
“Sister Benson and I left for Ames the day we were married, September 10, 1926, in a small secondhand Ford pickup, with all of our earthly belongings in the back,” President Benson later reminisced in a 1976 letter to an Ames ward member. “It was a joyous, happy, profitable year. We would alternate in … holding Sunday School in our apartments and would usually drive 25 miles to attend sacrament meetings. There was a congenial, rich spirit among the members of the little branch. We enjoyed the fellowship, the association, and especially the spirit in those early days in Ames.”
The same spirit that existed in the early Ames branch continues in the Ames stake today. President Schafer says the stake’s vision is to emphasize the role of the Savior in people’s lives. One way the stake accomplishes this is through service—each auxiliary of each unit in the stake has a goal to complete two service projects a year.
Since the stake was organized in 1995, three new branches have been created within its boundaries. Jayson and Clover Green of the Ankeny Ward are just two of many converts that have strengthened the stake in recent years. The Greens had just separated when a chance meeting brought Jayson in contact with the missionaries. He began hearing the discussions, reading the Book of Mormon, and making changes in his life. As a result Jayson talked with Clover, and they decided to give their marriage another try. The couple began to hear the discussions together. “After a lot of discussions with the elders—and dinners with members—we were baptized,” says Brother Green. Last February, the Greens, along with their three young daughters, were sealed in the Chicago Illinois Temple.
Like early Latter-day Saint pioneers who traveled west across Iowa to reach Winter Quarters, Nebraska, the Greens and other members of the Ames stake now also travel west to Winter Quarters—to attend their new temple, dedicated on 22 April 2001. “This temple is particularly special to us, because it reminds us of the legacy of faith of thousands of Latter-day Saint pioneers who crossed our state,” says President Schafer. Today, instead of continuing west after going to Winter Quarters, Latter-day Saints of the Ames stake return to their homes east from the temple to build up Zion in their part of the world.—Maria Pringle, Ames First Ward, Ames Iowa Stake
Ames Iowa Stake
Units: 6 wards, 6 branches
Temple district: Winter Quarters Nebraska