Idaho Falls’ oldest functioning ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary on Saturday.
The Second Ward was created April 20, 1919, to address the growing population of Idaho Falls by dividing the original First Ward in half. The First Ward was split along the railroad tracks through the center of town, with the Second Ward centered on the east side of the city. David Smith was named the first bishop for the ward and went on to establish Smith Chevrolet a few months later.
Over time, the creation of new wards and the redrawing of boundaries reduced the size of the Second Ward until it only covered members between 6th and 10th Street. The ward had around 1,400 attending members when it was first split ninety years ago and now has closer to 400.
Paul Ahlstrom, one of the counselors to the ward’s bishop, has been a member of the Second Ward for more than 50 years. He said he’s also one of the few descendants of the original congregation that still lives in the boundaries — his grandfather moved to Idaho Falls in 1900 and was a member of the Second Ward until it was split in 1936.
“It’s a celebration of those people that the people that are in our ward now have really never heard of. It’s an interesting dynamic,” Ahlstrom said.
The boundaries and the building have changed over the years, but the Second Ward’s name has become a historical marker in the city. When the original First Ward was dissolved and broken apart in 1964, the Second Ward became the oldest continually-operating division of the church in Idaho Falls.
In honor of the anniversary, the ward is holding an open house on April 20 at the ward’s main church building on South Boulevard. Ward leaders are working with the Latter Day Saints archive in Salt Lake City to display a mural that was recovered from the original ward building when it was torn down.
“If it’s located in time, they will bring it out and have it on display for us,” Ahlstrom said.
The ward will also have pictures and artifacts from throughout its century of existence in Idaho Falls. Some artifacts were donated by the congregation while others have been displayed in the church for several years.
The free open house for the Second Ward will last from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 855 S. Blvd. and is free to the public.