“Milestones in Church Growth,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 76
Nine months after the Lord told the Saints to “commence a work of laying out and preparing a beginning and foundation of the city of the stake of Zion” (D&C 94:1), the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Church’s first stake in Kirtland, Ohio, on 17 February 1834. Over the next ten years, another eleven stakes were organized, including the large Nauvoo Stake, with up to twenty thousand members.
Although membership growth accelerated after the turn of the century, the Church did not have a hundred stakes until it was nearly one hundred years old. Membership more than doubled between 1900 and 1928, when the one hundredth stake was organized in Lehi, Utah. Over the next half century, more than nine hundred more stakes were created.
On 18 January 1970, President Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, supervised the creation of the Church’s five hundredth stake in Fallon, Nevada. That event marked the beginning of a decade of growth in which nearly six hundred new stakes were formed to accommodate a membership that jumped from 2.9 million to 4.4 million during the same period.
Less than ten years after the creation of the five hundredth stake, and 145 years and a day after the creation of the first stake, Church growth reached a significant milestone. On 18 February 1979, President Ezra Taft Benson, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, created the Church’s one thousandth stake in Nauvoo, Illinois. The Nauvoo Illinois Stake was the second stake to be created in Nauvoo; the first stake there had been disbanded in 1846.
“I have the impression that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor are close and are taking an interest in what we do today,” President Benson told Saints gathered in Nauvoo for the stake’s formation” (Frank C. Davis, “1,000th Stake Is Created,” Church News, 24 Feb. 1979, pp. 3, 9).
While it took nearly 150 years before the Church had one thousand stakes, the creation of the second thousand stakes, many organized outside the United States, took only fifteen years! In fact, as a precursor to the creation of the two thousandth stake, the Church’s fifteen hundredth stake was created in Mexico on 28 October 1984 in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora state. That stake was one of 104 organized in Mexico during the 1970s and 1980s.
During a weekend visit to Mexico in November 1975, President Hunter felt impressed to realign and divide five existing stakes into fifteen stakes. Nineteen years later, with President Hunter’s return to Mexico City, two of those stakes were realigned again as part of the creation of the Church’s two thousandth stake on 11 December 1994.