(Submitted photos)
The Winona Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located in Knopp Valley.

A History of Mormons in Winona


Pres. Greg Thackeray of Stockton, his wife, and seven children.

Nestled in Knopp Valley, there is a church that many Winona residents may not have noticed or know much about. Its simple white steeple just seems to fit among the family homes and children playing. The paint is still fresh from the recent addition completed last year but the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Winona is surprisingly old.

In as early as 1877 Mormon missionaries began preaching in the area. A small group of members gathered in Farmersville but migrated to Utah a short time later. It would be another 70 years before missionaries again entered the region. In 1947 a small group of new members began meeting in the City Building at Redman's Hall. After a short time they moved to the Masonic Temple and met on the stage. As their numbers grew, they met in the basement of the old armory building, which is now the historical society. By 1953 the membership in Winona included 37 members and 4 elders, enough to build their own chapel. It was a "homestyle" chapel on 1455 Park Lane in Winona, which would later be sold as a residence.

Jeanne Duncanson who taught the children's Sunday school class in the little turn around in the basement of the old chapel remembers, "It was so exciting when they decided to build the new chapel. It was really unbelievable." In 1984 building began at the new church site in Knopp Valley. The next year Elder Bruce R. McConkie, one of the twelve Apostles for the Church, came and dedicated the building. Since then, membership in the Winona Branch continues to grow with a total of just over 200 members.

Amid the many changes over the years, the Winona Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently faced another transition. President Kirt J. Melton of St. Charles has been released with thanks from the office of Branch President and Greg Thackeray of Stockton has been called and sustained to take his place. Pres. Thackeray is currently employed full-time by Cerner Corporation and has been working with Community Memorial Hospital and Winona Health on their new computer applications. He is a father of seven children and is active in the Sugar Loaf District of the Boy Scouts of America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the few churches with a lay ministry, meaning all offices in the church are performed without pay.

President Thackeray looks forward to playing a bigger role in the community by serving the needy and creating an open dialog with other ecclesiastical leaders. "Winona is a fabulous community. The people are just great and I'm excited to be here. I feel that a lot of people don't know who we are or what we believe, and I hope to make a real difference." said Pres. Thackeray.

The Winona Branch is just one unit of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Total membership exceeds 11 million worldwide. Members believe that their church is Jesus Christ's church on the earth today, restored in its fullness to the earth. In 1820 as a fourteen year old boy, Joseph Smith was confused about which church to join. He studied the different affiliations and then went to the woods to pray. Joseph Smith claimed that he was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ personally. Joseph Smith was ordained the first prophet of this dispensation and the Church of Jesus Christ is still led by a prophet of God, Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, and twelve apostles today.

Although most Mormon beliefs are the same as other Christian faiths, there are some significant differences. They believe that a worthy marriage does not end at death but can continue eternally if it is sealed by the proper authority. They believe the family unit is ordained of God and those relationships are eternal. They also believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God in the flesh and he will come again in all his glory.

Sometimes members of the church are referred to as "Mormons" because they believe that in addition to the Holy Bible, which they accept as scripture, another testament of Jesus Christ has also been revealed to man. This record of the Native Americans is called "The Book of Mormon" and contains both the history and the testimony of Christ's dealings with these people from 600 BC to 300 AD.

Sunday services start at 10 am and all are welcome. For more information see www.lds.org or www.mormon.org


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