As early as 1834, a small group of Latter-day Saints lived in Campbell County, Kentucky. But by 1836 they had migrated to Nauvoo, Illinois, later pioneering on to the Salt Lake Valley. In the following decades the Church had no formal presence in Kentucky, in part because of the U.S. Civil War, which raged through the state. But after missionary efforts were renewed in 1875 with the creation of the Southern States Mission, Church growth in the area was slow but steady.
Today a temple stands in Kentucky. The Louisville temple, dedicated on 19 March 2000, now serves some 34,000 members in 10 stakes in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.
The faith of long-time members such as Frank and Mary Button of the Crestwood Second Ward, Louisville Kentucky Stake, has bolstered the Church’s growing strength in the area. In 1958 the Buttons planned to take their family to the Salt Lake Temple—the closest temple to their home—to be sealed. Because they were dairy farmers, scheduling the two weeks off for that trip proved to be a formidable task. At last, however, the Buttons found the right person to tend their cows, and the only remaining obstacle was getting their harvest of hay into the barn.
Shortly before they were to begin their trip, rain fell on the freshly cut hay, so it had to dry in the field before baling. If the weather stayed dry, the Buttons would be able to finish the baling the day before they were to leave for the temple. Knowing the forecast was for rain, Frank and Mary gathered their family together for evening prayer, asking Father in Heaven to hold back the rain long enough for them to secure the dry hay in the barn.
By noon the next day, it was raining throughout the county, even on the Buttons’ home and yard. But in the field where the family was furiously baling hay, not a drop fell. It wasn’t until late in the day, when the last bale was put into the barn, that the rain fell in the field where the family had been working. Consequently, the family was able to depart for the temple. The story of the Button family’s miracle is still told in the stake today.
The recent dedication of a temple in Louisville is also seen as a miracle by local members. In the temple’s dedicatory prayer, President Thomas S. Monson prayed that interest in the gospel would increase among area residents. Local priesthood leaders report this request has certainly come to fruition. “This area is really beginning to blossom because of the temple. The interest it has generated among local residents has provided many teaching opportunities,” says Michael Cannon, president of the Kentucky Louisville Mission.
Michael Gillenwater, president of the New Albany Indiana Stake, which neighbors Louisville, agrees. The temple has created an overall positive effect on his friends of other faiths, who now ask questions about the gospel, he says. The temple has served as an incentive for activation among members, strengthened adults, and given the youth an enthusiasm for the gospel he has not seen before, President Gillenwater says.
With blessings like these, local members feel confident that the Church in the Louisville area—along with their faith—will continue to grow.—Mary Moeck, Pioneer Ward, Lexington Kentucky Stake