Conway lawyer Jared McKinney has been chosen to serve as president of the North Little Rock Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
State Rep. Carlton Wing, who served for the previous nine years, described McKinney as an excellent choice.
"He's somebody I've admired for a long, long time and he's going to do exceptionally well in this call," Wing said.
As president, McKinney, 43, will oversee eight congregations in an area stretching from Russellville and Danville in the west to Quitman to the north and south to the banks of the Arkansas River.
Together, these congregations have roughly 3,300 members.
Stake and congregational officials volunteer their time. There isn't a paid clergyman to lead the Sunday service.
Larger congregations are known as wards, smaller ones as branches.
Stake presidents stay busy.
"It's a big job. It is also a very rewarding job as well," Wing said. "You get to get a front row seat to some of the greatest spiritual miracles in communities all over Arkansas."
McKinney's term begins as Arkansas Latter-day Saints near completion on their temple in Bentonville, the first in the Natural State.
The church, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, is one of the nation's fastest-growing religious bodies, but few places can match the rate of growth it has experienced in Arkansas.
Between 2011 and 2021, its Natural State membership rolls increased by 21.1%, outpacing every state but North Dakota and Texas, church data shows.
Organized by Joseph Smith in 1830, the church believes that the Bible, "as far as it is translated correctly," is the word of God, along with the Book of Mormon.
Colloquially, its members have been referred to as Mormons.
Rather than a new religious movement, its members believe it is the restoration of an ancient faith -- the church established by Jesus while he was on earth.
They also believe in ongoing revelation -- Russell M. Nelson, the church's 17th president, is considered a prophet, seer and revelator.
Over the past 193 years, the church has spread from upstate New York to every corner of the globe, although it was slow to take hold, initially, in Arkansas.
A century ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints only had two congregations statewide. Today, it has 71.
In Arkansas it has ballooned from 389 members in 1926 to 34,027 today.
McKinney and his parents have witnessed much of the growth themselves. Church membership in the state has more than tripled just in his lifetime.
Part of that is due to Latter-day Saints moving into Arkansas, McKinney said. Part of it is the result of missionary work. The church currently has more than 53,000 missionaries serving throughout the world.
Members of the McKinney family have been among those answering the call. His father served as a missionary in Palmyra, N.Y., Smith's hometown. Latter-day Saints believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Smith in a pillar of light in a forested area near Smith's family's farm.
McKinney was also a missionary, assigned for two years to Salt Lake City.
His service has continued since his return to Arkansas, including a stint as bishop, overseeing one of the stake's eight congregations.
He and his wife, Ann Marie, have seven children and worship in Quitman.
As stake president, "I go talk with the bishops regularly and make sure things are running smoothly and help with any issues that I can," he said.
One of the church's general authorities from Salt Lake City and one of its regional authorities, from Nashville, Tenn., interviewed area Latter-day Saint officials last month before selecting McKinney to succeed Wing.
Given the amount of work to do, active church members are rarely left on the sidelines, McKinney said.
"Everybody is given opportunities to serve. This is this is not a situation where you just show up on Sunday, and listen to a sermon and then leave," he said.
For McKinney, free time will be a scarcer commodity over the next nine years.
"I think when you serve other people and you lose your life, so to speak, there's a lot of joy that's found in the service of others," he said. "When you're serving your fellow man, you're only serving your Father in heaven because they are His children."