In 1855, Church President Brigham Young asked 26 early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to settle among the Native Americans on the Salmon River. They established Fort Lemhi in June 1855, and left in 1858 after problems with the natives. Latter-day Saint settlers came to the Franklin area in 1860. They dug canals in the winter snows to be ready for summer irrigation. Franklin is Idaho's oldest permanent settlement. Other members colonized in Bear Lake Valley and in south central Idaho. Construction of the Utah Northern Railroad line brought settlement in the upper Snake River Valley in 1879. Church members taught agriculture, preached the gospel, and shared supplies with the Native Americans. A prominent chief, Shoshone Chief Washakie, was baptized during the early colonization efforts.
When Idaho was given statehood in 1890, Latter-day Saints comprised about one-fifth of the state's population. A few Church Presidents have been natives of Idaho: Presidents Harold B. Lee, Ezra Taft Benson, and Howard W. Hunter.
Ricks Academy, founded in 1888, later became a junior college that was renamed Ricks College. In 2001 the school became a four-year university and was renamed Brigham Young University-Idaho.