Discord in the City of Brotherly Love : The Story of Early Mormonism in Philadelphia
Mormon Historical Studies
Members of the Church began a major missionary effort in Philadelphia in 1839. The success was so great that the missionaries often could not handle the growth and Erastus Snow asked for more missionaries in 1840. Eighteen branches were created in the 1840s around Philadelphia. These were located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Despite this access there was trouble for Mormons in this area, not from outside persecution, but from internal strife. Disputes between branch members and leaders and branch leaders and traveling elders were common occurrances. Benjamin Winchester, branch president of the Philadelphia branch, was called to Nauvoo twice to account for accusations against him. He was chastised by Joseph Smith the first time and removed from his office during his second visit. He was later reinstated, but followed Sidney Rigdon after the death of Joseph Smith. Jedediah Grant was sent to Philadelphia in April of 1843 to be the presiding elder of the branch. He was a 'stabalizing force' in this area, especially after the death of Joseph and Hyrum. After the martyrdom, Sidney Rigdon, James Strang, and William Smith all looked for and received followers from among the members in this region, but their branches did not last long. Grant excommunicated those who followed Rigdon, preached in the branches against Rigdon's claim, and also published a pamphlet called 'Grant's Rigdon.' His actions kept '60 percent of the Philadelphia Branch with Young.' When Brigham Young announced the gathering to Utah, many of the strong, stalwart members of the branches heeded his call. Though there was a resurgence of members in the 1850s most of these were European converts on their way to the West. Thus, the remaining branches died out (with some older members joining the RLDS Church) and the Church had very little growth or missionary success for the remainder of the nineteenth century.