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Nevada-Utah Conference Headquarters

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Nevada-Utah Conference

By Raymond D. Tetz

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Raymond D. Tetz has served as director of Communication and Community Engagement for the Pacific Union Conference since 2015. He served as vice president for strategic communication and corporate development at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) from 1986 to 1995. For two decades, he successfully operated a consulting and media production company that served dozens of Adventist organizations and ministries. Tetz began his ministry in the Southern California Conference, initially serving as a pastor, Bible teacher, and youth director.

First Published: September 29, 2020

The Nevada-Utah Conference is an administrative unit of the Seventh-day Adventist church in the Pacific Union Conference.

Territory: Nevada; Utah; that part of Arizona within a 25-mile radius of Kayenta; the counties of Alpine, Inyo, and Mono in California; and that part of California which lies along and east of Highway 89, beginning at the intersection of the Alpine and El Dorado County line with Highway 89 south of Lake Tahoe and northward along Highway 89 to its junction with Highway 36 west of Lake Almanor, and along and south of Highway 36 eastward to its junction with Highway 395, and then eastward along Highway 395 and Wendell Road to the California-Nevada line.

Statistics (June 30, 2020): churches, 50; membership, 10,547; population, 6,368,818.1

Origins: Nevada

The first Adventist connections with Nevada began in 1869. John Loughborough and Daniel Bourdeau, who had opened Seventh-day Adventist evangelism on the West coast earlier that year,2 received a letter from William Hunt of Gold Hill, Nevada. Hunt had seen a newspaper report that, though critical, reported on the Adventists’ tent meetings and indicated that the preachers were selling books on Revelation. Hunt requested a copy in a letter addressed “To the Elders at the Tent in Healdsburg, California.” After receiving the book, Hunt requested more until eventually, Loughborough reported, they had sent him everything the denomination published!3

Convinced by the Adventist message, Hunt later met Loughborough in California before embarking on an overseas journey that eventually took him to South Africa. Hunt went to the diamond mines in Kimberley where he introduced the Adventist message, using the literature he had gathered. Reflecting on the positive result from a critical newspaper report, Loughborough observed, “By this time we knew we need not be alarmed at a little reproach against us.”4

A more permanent Adventist presence in Nevada began in 1876 when Jackson Ferguson, from Santa Rosa, California, started holding Sabbath services at the “Institute Building” in Stillwater. The next year Ferguson conducted meetings in St. Clair, where he was joined by two other Adventist families from Santa Rosa. In response to a call from the St. Clair group, Loughborough began a series of meetings there in February 1878. Near the end of the series he baptized three individuals in the Carson River – the first Seventh-day Adventists baptized in the state of Nevada. Before the month ended, a church was organized with 11 members and another 10 covenanted to observe the Sabbath. Lougborough ordained Jackson Ferguson to gospel ministry on Sabbath, February 23, 1878, and the next day led the believers in organizing on a temporary basis as the Seventh-day Adventist Association of the State of Nevada.5

The St. Clair group, with the help of donations from non-members, raised $300 for an evangelistic tent that Loughborough used for meetings in Reno beginning July 1878. The meetings drew as many as 500, with approximately 400 in attendance on July 30 to hear guest preacher Ellen G. White. She “spoke with freedom . . . on the words of John: ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.’”6 Hearing her message was an unforgettable experience for Charles Kinny, who had emigrated west from Virginia where he was born in slavery in 1855. Kinny was a member of the new church organized in Reno and in 1889 became the first African American ordained to gospel ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.7 Loughborough reported that the number of “Sabbathkeepers” in Nevada had increased from 10 or 12 to close to 45 by the conclusion of his work in the state in 1878.

In October 1878 Nevada became a “mission” and accordingly taken “under the watchcare” of the General Conference, which had responsibility for all territory not organized into a state conference.8 However, two decades before the organization of union conferences, the value of decentralizing oversight was already becoming evident. The 1882 General Conference adopted a recommendation, put forth by a committee formed to address issues concerning mission territories, “that the California Conference supply Nevada with such help as it can consistently give.”9 In the 1882 statistics, Nevada was still listed as a mission, with two churches totaling 38 members.10 In the statistics for 1883, though, Nevada is included in the California Conference.11 The General Conference, it appears, simply handed Nevada off to the California Conference without directly saying so.

The first camp meeting in Nevada was held in Reno, August 29–September 8, 1884, with J. N. Loughborough and J. H. Waggoner, editor of the Signs of the Times, among the speakers.12 Nevada’s first Adventist house of worship was built in Reno in 1888. A room at the rear of the church was used for the first Adventist church school in the state, opened in 1902.13 In 1905, Ellen White again passed through Reno, where her granddaughter, Ella White, was teaching at the school. The first hand awareness she gained of the field’s needs and opportunities prompted an incisive observation: “Some of our brethren and sisters in Battle Creek and other favored centers should be working in Nevada.”14

Organizational History: Nevada

Nevada remained under the administration of the California Conference until 1911. In the 1905 and 1906 editions of the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, the conference was identified as the “California-Nevada Conference.” Division of the California Conference in February 1911 was accompanied by a short-lived arrangement that divided the conference connections of the three active congregations in Nevada as well. The Goldfield church was located in Esmeralda County that, along with three other southern Nevada counties (Nye, Lincoln, and Clark) was assigned to the Southern California Conference. The Fallon church, which had absorbed the St. Clair congregation, and the Reno church became part of the new Northern California-Nevada Conference.15

Another change was not long in coming. As of September 1, 1913, Nevada again became a “mission,” only now as an organizational unit of the Pacific Union Conference. The addition of a portion of California east of the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains brought the Bishop, California, church into the Nevada Mission.16 That made for a total of four churches that, along with four companies (fledgling congregations not yet formally organized as churches) had 168 members altogether, about 50 of them members of the Reno church.17

Nevada presented formidable challenges to evangelism. One was its sparse population in pockets separated by long distances. A. G. Christiansen, superintendent of the new Nevada Mission, alluded to another when he observed: “Reno is the metropolis of our mission field. It is well known as a place where the commandment has been disregarded that says, ‘What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’”18 Nonetheless, he reported that earnest effort during the six months from September 1913 to March 1914 resulted in 32 new Sabbathkeepers, nine of whom had become church members.19

Continued growth through the remainder of the decade brought the membership to 291 in five churches.20 Accordingly, the Nevada Mission became Nevada Conference in 1920, meaning that its officers and committee would now be elected by the members and accountable to them rather than being under the direct management of the Pacific Union. Mangram L. Rice was elected president. Conference headquarters were located at 452 Ralston Street in Reno.21 Measured by membership, though, Nevada Conference in the 1920s did not sustain the growth seen during the previous decade. More churches were organized reaching a total of 12 by 1930 but membership had grown only marginally to 317.22

Origins: Utah

After the territories of Utah and Arizona were added to the California Conference in 1889, G. H. Derrick was sent to open the work in Utah. Literature evangelism, or canvassing, seemed the best approach in a territory pioneered and largely populated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (often called Mormons). When R. A. Underwood, supervisor of General Conference District No. 6 visited in 1890, Derrick had a team of four working with him in Salt Lake City. “The outlook is not at all flattering,” Underwood acknowledged in his report to the 1891 General Conference. Underwood described Utah as “perhaps the hardest field for labor in the United States,” and pointed out that despite major expenditures, neither the Congregationalists nor Methodists had been able to accomplish anything there. Nevertheless, he reported, 18 persons had accepted the Adventist message.23

The first Adventist church in the territory was organized in Salt Lake City in 1892 with 20 members. A church was organized in Ogden in early 1893 and a school opened for Chinese immigrants. As with Nevada in the previous decade, supervision of the Utah mission was transferred to General Conference supervision in 1894.24

Utah’s admission to the Union as the 45th state of the United States signaled a gradual transition to a more open and diverse society. C. M. Gardner conducted public meetings in Provo, leading to formation of a church of 19 members on April 3, 1897. It grew to 30 members by the end of the year.25

Organizational History: Utah

Soon after the newly-created Pacific Union Conference inherited responsibility for the Utah Mission from the General Conference in 1901, the union committee saw light in organizing the mission into a conference. The Utah Conference was organized at Salt Lake City on August 20, 1902, with a regular membership of 143 plus some isolated members. There were two ordained ministers, and churches in Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, and Logan. W. A. Alway was elected as the conference’s first president.26

Ellen White’s observations after stopping in Salt Lake City for a visit in 1905 suggest that priority was placed on holistic ministry and evangelism during the early years of the Utah Conference. Not only had the church members engaged in “hard struggle” to build “a good meeting house,” they were operating “a vegetarian café and health food store” located in “a prominent part of the city.”27

However, the momentum glimpsed during the years surrounding 1900 seems to have stalled. Utah Conference reported 170 members in five churches in 1905, but it would be another decade before the membership surpassed 200.28 In 1916 the Utah and Western Colorado Conferences were joined to form the Inter-Mountain Conference. Then, in 1919, Utah was on its own again, but now as a mission in the Pacific Union, not a conference.29

Organizational History: Nevada-Utah

In 1931 the Utah Mission (123 members) and the Nevada Conference (315 members) were joined to form the Nevada-Utah Conference, comprising 438 members in 15 churches. Its territory covered Nevada and Utah and the part of the state of California lying east of the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and north of Mono County. W. E. Atkin, elected president of the Nevada Conference in 1930, continued as president of Nevada-Utah until 1935. The headquarters office moved from Reno to Salt Lake City in 1932. 30

In 1946 the California counties of Inyo and Mono were added to the Nevada-Utah Conference. In 1948 the conference office returned to Reno. A new office building was constructed in 1956.31

One of the most striking developments in the conference’s history was the work among the Navajo Nation in southeast Utah initiated in 1950 by Marvin and Gwen Walter. They led in the development of Monument Valley Mission which included a school opened in 1953 and a clinic in 1954. The clinic was replaced by a fully-equipped hospital in 1961, serving a population for whom the nearest hospital previously had been 100 miles away. Monument Valley Hospital continued as an institution of the Nevada-Utah Conference until 1996. The school continued operation until 2018. Monument Valley church, with a membership of 201, worships in Kayenta, Arizona, just across the Utah-Arizona state line.32

Nevada-Utah Conference has sustained a trajectory of growth throughout its history. The highest rate of growth came in the 1970s with a 64% increase from 2,011 members in 1970 to 3,295 in 1980. Membership more than doubled between 1990 (3,837) and 2010 (8,459).33 Parallel to its growth as a metropolis, Las Vegas has become the largest center of Adventist membership in the conference. In 1933, when the first Adventist church in Las Vegas was established with a membership of 36, the city’s population was not much more than 5,000.34 By 2020 it was approaching 650,000 and the city had 11 Seventh-day Adventist churches with a combined membership of more than 4,500, nearly half (43%) of the conference total.35

The conference serves an increasingly diverse population with departments for Hispanic Ministries, Native Ministries, and Regional (Black) Ministries. Leon B. Brown, Sr., who served as president from 2016 to 2021, became the first African American elected to that office in the conference’s history.36

Headquarters: 10475 Double R Boulevard, Reno, Nevada 89521.

Presidents/Superintendents

President of the Northern California-Nevada Conference: C.L. Taggart, 1911-1913.

Superintendents of the Nevada Mission: A.G. Christiansen, 1913-1914; J.A. Stevens, 1914-1915; W.S. Holbrook, 1915-1918; M.A. Hollister, 1918-1920.

Presidents of the Nevada Conference: M.L. Rice, 1920-1923; V.E. Peugh, 1923-1926; J.H. McEachern, 1926-1930; W.E. Atkin, 1930.

Presidents of the Utah Conference: W.A. Alway, 1902-1904; Alfred Whitehead, 1904-1906; S.G. Huntington, 1906-1910; D.A. Parsons, 1910-1912; W.M. Adams, 1912-1915.

Superintendents of the Utah Mission: J.A. Neilsen, 1919-1929; J.E. Fulton, 1930.

Presidents of the Nevada-Utah Conference: W.E. Atkin, 1931-1935; C.R. Webster, 1935-1939; H.H. Hicks, 1939-1944; N.C. Peterson, 1944-1945; R.A. Smithwick, 1946-1950; Andrew Fearing, 1950-1956; E.R. Osmunson, 1956-1964; H.C. Retzer, 1964-1966; D.E. Dirksen, 1966-1971; A.G. Streifling, 1971-1982; M.C. Torkelsen, 1982-1983; Ralph Martin, 1983-1985; James Hardin, 1985-1987; Darold J. Retzer, 1987-1994; Larry L. Caviness, 1994-1997; Larry. R. Moore, 1997-2005; Bradford C. Newton, 2005-2009; Larry Unterseher, 2009-2015; Ed Keyes, 2015; Leon Brown, Sr. 2016-2021.

Sources

Andross, E. E. “A New Mission Field.” Pacific Union Recorder, September 4, 1913.

Annual Statistical Report. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Office of Archives, Statistics and Research Online Archives (ASTR), https://documents.adventistarchives.org/default.aspx.

Christiansen, A. G. “Nevada Mission.” Pacific Union Recorder, February 5, 1914.

Christiansen, A. G. “Nevada Mission.” Pacific Union Recorder, March 26, 1914.

Dick, Everett Newfon. Founders of the Message. Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1938.

Gardner, C. M. and Floyd Bralliar. “Utah.” ARH, December 21, 1897.

Graybill, Ron. “Charles Kinny—Founder of Black Adventism.” ARH, January 13, 1977.

Loughborough, J.N. Miracles in My Life. Payson, AZ: Leaves-of-Autumn Books, 1987.

Loughborough, J.N. “Nevada.” Signs of the Times, March 7, 1878.

Loughborough, J.N. “Nevada State Association.” Signs of the Times, March 7, 1878.

Loughborough, J.N. “Reno, Nevada.” Signs of the Times, August 8, 1878.

“Nevada Camp Meeting.” Signs of the Times, September 18, 1884.

Nevada-Utah Adventists. Accessed August 13. 2021, https://www.nucsda.com/.

“Reports of Superintendents of Districts.” General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 8, 1891.

“Reports of Superintendents of Districts.” General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 21, 1893.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. 2nd rev. edition. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996. S.v. “Nevada-Utah Conference.”

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. 1883, 1884, 1911, 1921, 1941. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Office of Archives, Statistics and Research Online Archives (ASTR), https://documents.adventistarchives.org/default.aspx.

“Seventeenth Annual Session of the General Conference of S.D. Adventists.” ARH, October 17, 1878.

“Utah Conference.” Pacific Union Recorder, September 25, 1902.

White, Ellen G. “Notes of Travel—No. 3.” ARH, February 16, 1905.

Notes

  1. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, “Nevada-Utah Conference,” accessed August 11, 2021, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=18525.

  2. Raymond D. Tetz, “California Conference,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed August 11, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=C92J.

  3. J.N. Loughborough, Miracles in My Life (Payson, AZ: Leaves-of-Autumn Books, 1987), 79-80.

  4. Ibid, 80.

  5. Ibid, 94-95; “Pacific Coast,” ARH, March 14, 1878, 86; J.N. Loughborough, “Nevada” and “Nevada State Organization,” Signs of the Times, March 7, 1878, 80.

  6. J.N. Loughborough, “Reno, Nevada,” Signs of the Times, August 8, 1878, 240.

  7. Ron Graybill, “Charles Kinny—Founder of Black Adventism,” ARH, January 13, 1977, 6-7. Historians have recently discovered that Eri L. Barr (1814-1864) preceded Kinny as the “first Seventh-day Adventist minister of color,” yet Kinny remains the first to be ordained in the church’s history as a formally organized denomination; see Benjamin L. Baker, “Barr, Eri L. (1814-1864),” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed August 11, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8CDT.

  8. “Seventeenth Annual Session of the General Conference of S.D. Adventists,” ARH, October 17, 1878, 1.

  9. “General Conference Proceedings, Twenty-first Annual Session,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1883, 25, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Office of Archives, Statistics and Research Online Archives (ASTR), https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1883.pdf.

  10. “Seventh-day Adventist Statistics, 1882,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1883, 33.

  11. “Seventh-day Adventist Statistics, 1883,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1884, 73, ASTR, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1884.pdf.

  12. “Nevada Camp Meeting,” Signs of the Times, September 18, 1884. 568.

  13. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. edition (1996), s.v. “Nevada-Utah Conference.”

  14. Ellen G. White, “Notes of Travel—No. 3,” ARH, February 16, 1905, 8.

  15. “California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Fortieth Annual Session,” Pacific Union Recorder, March 2, 1911, 1-11.

  16. E.E. Andross, “A New Mission Field,” Pacific Union Recorder, September 4, 1913, 6.

  17. A.G. Christiansen, “Nevada Mission,” Pacific Union Recorder, February 5, 1914, 3.

  18. Ibid.

  19. A.G. Christiansen, “Nevada Mission,” Pacific Union Recorder, March 26, 1914, 12.

  20. Annual Statistical Report, 1919, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Office of Archives, Statistics and Research Online Archives (ASTR), https://documents.adventistarchives.org/default.aspx.

  21. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1921, 59, ASTR, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1921.pdf.

  22. Annual Statistical Report, 1930, ASTR, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/default.aspx.

  23. “Reports of Superintendents of Districts,” General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 8, 1891, 25.

  24. “Reports of Superintendents of Districts,” General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 21, 1893, 318; Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. edition (1996), s.v. “Nevada-Utah Conference.”

  25. C.M. Gardner, “Utah,” ARH, May 4, 1897, 286; “Our Work and Workers,” Signs of the Times, May 20, 1897, 12; C.M. Gardner and Floyd Bralliar, “Utah,” ARH, December 21, 1897, 816-817.

  26. “Utah Conference,” Pacific Union Recorder, September 25, 1902, 2.

  27. White, “Notes of Travel—No. 3,” 8.

  28. Annual Statistical Report, 1905 and 1915, ASTR.

  29. Douglas Morgan, “Inter-Mountain Conference,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed August 11, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=C9JL.

  30. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. edition (1996), s.v. “Nevada-Utah Conference.”

  31. Ibid.

  32. Frank W. Hardy, “Monument Valley Mission,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventist, accessed August 13, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=89TE.

  33. “Nevada-Utah Conference (1931-Present),” Adventist Statistics, ASTR, accessed August 13, 2021, https://www.adventiststatistics.org/view_Summary.asp?FieldID=C10267.

  34. Organization of the 36-member Las Vegas, Nevada, church was reported at the conference’s biennial session, April 19, 1934, according to Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. edition (1996), s.v. “Nevada-Utah Conference.”

  35. Church Directory, Nevada-Utah Adventists, accessed August 13, 2021, https://www.nucsda.com/church.

  36. Nevada-Utah Adventists, accessed August 13. 2021, https://www.nucsda.com/; Nevada-Utah Conference, Pacific Union Conference, accessed August 13, 2021, https://adventistfaith.com/conferences/nevada-utah-conference/.

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Tetz, Raymond D. "Nevada-Utah Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 29, 2020. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D9V8.

Tetz, Raymond D. "Nevada-Utah Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 29, 2020. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D9V8.

Tetz, Raymond D. (2020, September 29). Nevada-Utah Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D9V8.