“Saints in Birmingham, Alabama,” Ensign, Jan. 2002, 74
After the Pat and Bobbie Steele family of the Birmingham Alabama Stake joined the Church in the 1960s, they were determined to be sealed in the temple. But each time the family planned a trip to the Salt Lake Temple—which was then the closest to their home—Pat was called away on business.
Finally, the Steeles decided they would make the trip to Salt Lake even if it meant losing Pat’s job. “I went into my boss’s office and turned in my keys,” remembers Pat. “I told him that if this job was going to keep me from the temple then I would have to quit. My boss then picked up the phone, called personnel, and told them I was to have two weeks off with pay, no questions asked.” After driving across the country for three days, the Steele family was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1970.
This kind of faith and dedication among Church members in Alabama was rewarded when a temple was dedicated in their state in September 2000. Since the Birmingham Alabama Temple was opened, patronage has been so high that the temple, which was originally open for 7 sessions a week, now offers 11 sessions.
“The numbers of current temple recommend holders is at an all-time high, probably due to the excitement stemming from the completion of the temple,” says Douglas S. Bennett, president of the Birmingham stake. “This includes dramatic increases in first-time recommend holders coupled with a reawakening of previously endowed members returning to the house of the Lord. Our youth love to participate in baptismal trips to the temple. We anticipate continued growth and look forward to continued blessings associated with the presence of a temple in Alabama.”
The Church was not always so strong in this southern state. Missionary work began here as early as 1839, but most early converts traveled west to join the main body of Saints. New emphasis was given to missionary work in Alabama in the late 1800s, and for years Church membership here grew very slowly.
Stake member Gladys Nunnally, whose parents were baptized in 1926, remembers the early days of the Church in the Birmingham area. “Members met in the homes of different families. Meeting attendance ranged from 6 to 16,” she says. Numbers stayed comparatively small until the early 1960s, she says, when nearby Fort McClellan reopened. The Church began to grow locally with the help of a steady stream of military families. Organized in 1975, the Birmingham stake, Alabama’s second, has now swelled to some 3,300 members.
In spite of the growth of the stake in recent years, members say they still think of each other as one big family. “I’m grateful for this stake because I know everyone will pull together when times are hard,” says Kathy Glenn. “If I ever have a problem, I know that if my family cannot help, members of the stake will.”—Jennie Ford Vaughn, Anniston Ward, Birmingham Alabama Stake
Birmingham Alabama Stake
Units: 4 wards, 8 branches
Temple: Birmingham Alabama