[This entry discusses the History of the Church in the following three periods:
c. 1878–1898, Late Pioneer Utah Period
c. 1898–1945, Transitions: Early-Twentieth-Century Period
c. 1945–1990, Post World War II International Era Period
In addition, several other articles cover the history of the Church in the
light of specific historical disciplines or approaches: see Doctrine: Meaning,
Source, and History; Economic History; Intellectual History; Legal and Judicial
History; Politics: Political History; Social and Cultural History; and
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The.
Bibliographic sources relevant to all of these periods are: James B. Allen
and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1976;
Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience, New York,
1979; Church Education System, History in the Fulness of Times, Salt
Lake City, 1989; and Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History,
Salt Lake City, 1950.]
C. 1878-1898, Late Pioneer Utah Period
[This article discusses a period of stress and adaptation following the
death of Brigham Young as the Church confronted great pressures to conform to
contemporary American mores. After presenting an overview of the period, the
article considers organizational changes, economic programs, establishment of
new LDS settlements, and missionary work, then focuses on the struggle over
Polygamy, culminating in the Manifesto of 1890 announcing the
official end of Plural Marriage. In the wake of the Manifesto came home
rule for Utah (see Utah Statehood), expanded proselytizing, attempts
to shore up religious education (see Academies), and more limited Church
economic involvement (see Pioneer Economy).
To understand daily life and what it meant to be a Latter-day Saint during
this period, see Pioneer Life and Worship and Social and Cultural
History. For additional information on continued Church Colonization
into new areas, see entries on pioneer settlements in Mexico and
Canada, and in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
On developments related to plural marriage, see: Legal and Judicial History;
Antipolygamy Legislation; Reynolds v. United States; and Manifesto of
During the 1878–1898 period of growth, severe problems, and pronounced
changes, the Church met many challenges under Church Presidents John Taylor
and Wilford Woodruff. The 1879 Supreme Court ruling upholding antipolygamy legislation
introduced a decade of ever harsher enforcement of ever harsher laws. Facing
governmental persecution and seeking "home rule" through statehood, the Church
moved to end the practice of plural marriage and surrender its once firm control
of Utah Territory´s politics and economics. In the 1890s Utah Territory and
its LDS residents embarked on the road to "Americanization."
Though this period was noted for its prolonged confrontation with the federal
government, growth was also a striking characteristic. Church membership doubled
(from 115,065 to 229,428), as did the number of stakes (20 to 40) and wards
(252 to 516). LDS settlements extended into Mexico and Canada. As proselytizing
efforts expanded, the number of missions increased (from 8 to 20). Priesthood
quorum work became more orderly and standardized. General Authorities regularly
visited quarterly stake conferences and ward conferences. Auxiliary organizations
became widely established in stakes and wards, and general-level auxiliary presidencies
and boards were appointed. The Church also finished three new temples, bringing
the total in Utah to four.
After President Young´s death in August 1877, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
did not immediately organize a new First Presidency. John Taylor presided over
the Church as president of the Twelve until October 1880. Under his leadership
the Twelve completed the reorganization of wards and stakes that President Young
They also expanded auxiliary organizations. By 1880 the Twelve selected three
of their own (Elders Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, and Moses Thatcher)
to form a general superintendency of the Young Men´s Mutual Improvement Association
(YMMIA; see Young Men) and to supervise new central YMMIA boards or committees
created first for counties and later for stakes. The Young Ladies´ retrenchment
association became the Young Ladies´ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA)
in 1878, with boards established in the stakes beginning that year and a Churchwide
organization beginning in 1880 with Elmina S. taylor as president (see Young
Women). The Primary Association, a new organization to benefit children, was
started in 1878 in Farmington, Utah. After other wards copied the program, a
Churchwide primary organization was created in 1880, headed by Louie B. Felt.
Relief Society President Eliza R. Snow continued to supervise all women´s work
in the Church, which now included YLMIA and Primary. Elder George Q. Cannon
of the First Presidency continued as general superintendent of the Sunday schools
throughout this period. The Sunday Schools, Relief Society, and MIA were organized
in the British Isles and Scandinavia beginning in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
Legal tangles surrounding the settlement of Brigham Young´s estate became a
bothersome problem for the Twelve. After federal legislation severely limited
Church holdings, President Young had controlled a complicated mix of personal
and Church property. His heirs and the Church finally settled the matter by
compromise out of court in 1879.
In 1880, its fiftieth birthday, the Church proclaimed a Year of Jubilee, modeled
on an ancient Hebrew custom, to give relief to the poor. It erased from the
books an indebtedness of $802,000 to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund—half
of the outstanding total. In addition to distributing cattle and sheep to the
needy, authorities forgave the worthy poor half their unpaid tithing. The Relief
Society also lent nearly 35,000 bushels of wheat from its storage bins to help
After directing the Church for three years, in October 1880 John Taylor and
the Twelve again organized a First Presidency: John Taylor, President of the
Church, and George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, who had previously served
in the First Presidency under Brigham Young, as counselors.
Revelations to President Taylor in 1882 and 1883 prompted a reorganization
of the seventy. For the first time the seventy-six local quorums were organized
on a geographic basis, enrolling all seventies within their respective boundaries.
In addition, between 1884 and 1888, twenty-five new quorums were created. This
reorganization revitalized the Seventy, and the number of seventies filling
full-time missions increased as soon as the change was implemented.
This period also saw a growth in Church-related publications. Two new magazines
served the youth: the Contributor (1879–1896) for young men and
the Young Woman´s Journal (1889–1929) for young ladies. The Morgenstjernen
(1882–1885), a historical publication in Danish, continued in English as
The Historical Record (1886–1890). The Sunday School published its
first music book (1884), and the Book of Mormon first appeared in a Swedish
translation (1878). In 1880 the Church accepted by vote the Pearl of Great Price
as scripture, giving the Church the fourth of its standard works. It also published,
in 1879, editions of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, with Elder
Orson Pratt´s chapter and verse divisions, cross-references, and notes.
President Taylor also implemented a new economic program. Less rigidly structured
than the earlier united orders, it struck a balance between private enterprise
and group economic planning. Zion´s Central Board of Trade fostered cooperative
economic activity by promoting business, seeking new markets, providing information
to farmers and manufacturers, preventing competition harmful to home industry,
and sometimes regulating wages and prices. Stake boards of trade coordinated
with the central agency. Unfortunately, by 1885 anti-Mormon crusades forced
these boards of trade to disband. Pioneer and presiding bishop Edward Hunter,
who had served since the 1850s, died in 1883 and was replaced in 1884 by William
During the 1880s the Relief Society further developed programs that had begun
in the 1870s: storing grain, maintaining ward Relief Society halls and commission
stores, sponsoring nursing and midwifery education programs, overseeing the
organizations for children and young women, watching over the spiritual well-being
of LDS women, and improving the ongoing care of the poor. New developments included
the 1882 opening of the Deseret hospital, Utah´s second hospital and the first
operated by the Church. The death of Eliza R. Snow in 1887 marked the end of
an era for the Relief Society; in 1888 Zina Diantha H. Young replaced her as
Despite severe problems, Church leaders remained committed to providing the
blessings of temples to more of the Saints. To supplement the one functioning
temple in St. George, President John Taylor dedicated Utah´s second temple,
at Logan, on May 17, 1884. Built primarily with donated money, materials, and
labor, it cost an estimated $800,000. A third temple, in Manti, Utah, built
at a cost close to $1 million, was dedicated in 1888 by Elder Lorenzo Snow,
a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Work also continued on the larger Salt
Lake Temple, begun in 1853, but not completed until 1893.
Colonization continued. Between 1876 and 1879, no fewer than 100 new LDS settlements
were established outside Utah and more than 20 within the territory. LDS settlements
in Arizona expanded rapidly. Stakes, formed in the vicinity of the Little Colorado
River in 1878 and 1879, were absorbed into the newly created St. Johns and Snowflake
stakes in 1887. Meanwhile, along the Gila and Salt rivers, the St. Joseph and
Maricopa stakes were formed in 1883. New LDS settlements appeared in Nevada;
in eastern Utah, where the Emery Stake was created in 1882; and in southeastern
Utah and nearby parts of Colorado and New Mexico, where the San Juan Stake was
formed in 1883. Many LDS converts from the southern states settled in the San
Luis Valley in south-central Colorado, and in 1883 their settlements became
the San Luis Stake.
Antipolygamy prosecution caused Church leaders to found colonies in Mexico
and Canada, beyond the reach of U.S. laws. After President Taylor´s 1885 visit
to Mexico, hundreds of Saints poured into Chihuahua and established villages
in a region that is still identified as Mexico´s "Mormon Colonies" (see Mexico,
Pioneer Settlements in). These settlements at first were part of the Mexican
Mission. Within a decade more than 3,000 Saints had moved in, more settlements
were established, and in December 1895 the Ju rez Stake was created to direct
Saints in the Mexican colonies.
Under instructions from President Taylor, Cache Stake President Charles Ora
Card located a place of refuge in southern Alberta in 1886 for Latter-day Saint
colonists (see Canada, Pioneer Settlements in). The next spring, arrivals from
Utah founded Cardston, fourteen miles north of the United States border. Settlements
sprang up nearby in Aetna (1888) and Mountain View (1893). In June 1895 the
Alberta Stake became the first stake organized outside the United States (the
Salt Lake Stake excepted, then in Mexican territory).
Missionary work produced impressive successes and brought frustrating problems.
Between 1879 and 1889 the Church operated a small mission in Mexico that had
about 242 converts. In New Zealand a branch was organized among the Maoris in
1883. In 1884 Jacob Spori opened the Turkish Mission, which included Palestine.
Numbers of missionaries bound for Europe increased. The gathering to Utah of
European converts continued, despite anti-Mormon publicity that prompted U.S.
officials to ask European governments to stop Mormons from emigrating. That
request was not granted.
After a Southern States Mission was organized in 1875, conversions occasionally
provoked violence. Missionaries were driven from some communities, and in 1879
a Georgia mob shot and killed Elder Joseph Standing. At Cane Creek, Tennessee,
in 1884, a mob murdered two missionaries and two residents who had shown an
interest in the Church.
Wanting to see their history told fairly, Church leaders provided extensive
information to California-based historian Hubert Howe Bancroft. Bancroft´s History
of Utah (1889) was one of the first non-LDS scholarly histories to treat
the Church in a fair light.
In 1879 the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional the Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862,
affirming the illegality of plural marriage (see Reynolds v. United States).
As new legislation was passed and prosecutions became more severe, polygamous
husbands and fathers had four choices—give up their families, hide from
the law, face prosecution, or leave the United States. Despite this crisis,
President Taylor, declaring that when the laws of man and God conflict he would
obey God, refused to desert his own plural families or to tell the other brethren
to abandon theirs. Attacks on polygamy, often led by religious organizations,
came from every direction. When national women´s groups urged President Rutherford
B. Hayes to prosecute Utah polygamists, 2,000 LDS women signed a resolution
affirming that plural marriage was a religious practice protected under the
Bitterness between the Saints and the gentiles brewed nationally and within
Utah. Public pressure led Congress to pass the Edmunds Act in 1882, which mandated
up to five years´ imprisonment and $500 fines for polygamy, and up to six months
and $300 fines for unlawful cohabitation (see Antipolygamy Legislation). Persons
practicing polygamy or unlawful cohabitation lost their civil rights to serve
on juries, hold public office, and vote. The law created a board of five commissioners
to handle voter registration and elections. It declared children born of polygamists
before January 1, 1883, legitimate, and it gave the president power to grant
amnesties at his discretion.
The Utah Commission began its work in 1882 by declaring that anyone who had
ever practiced plural marriage, even before the 1862 anti-bigamy law, could
not vote. Since the commission required voters to take a "test oath," swearing
that they were not in violation of the law, within one year the law disfranchised
more than 12,000 Latter-day Saints. In 1885, however, the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled that this test oath was unconstitutional.
The judicial crusade against polygamists severely disrupted Church society
in Utah, Idaho, and Arizona. Polygamous men and their families suffered greatly,
as did the Church as an organization. Otherwise law-abiding husbands and fathers—and
some wives and children—became fugitives in a Mormon "underground," frequently
moving from place to place to escape federal marshals hunting "cohabs." Saints
developed secret hiding places in homes, barns, and fields, codes to warn one
another, and spotters to watch for the marshals. Federal "deps" (deputy marshals)
adopted disguises as peddlers or census takers and hired their own spotters
to question children and neighbors and to invade the privacy of homes. Bounties
were offered for every cohab captured. Families suffered, particularly wives
left to tend farms while their husbands were in hiding. Wives who refused to
testify against their husbands were sent to prison. Men, women, and children
suffered long periods of deprivation and fear.
In Utah between 1884 and 1893, 939 Saints went to prison for polygamy-related
charges. In Idaho and Arizona the Saints suffered from similarly harsh prosecution.
When Arizona prisons became crowded, cohabs were sent to a Detroit penitentiary.
One Utahan, Edward M. Dalton, was killed by a pursuing deputy, which embittered
the Saints against the government. So did a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a
man who stopped living with his wife but who provided her food and shelter was
guilty of cohabitation.
The crusade disrupted normal Church activities significantly. President Taylor
avoided arrest by traveling. In the last public sermon he preached, he criticized
what he called a judicial outrage, then went into hiding. Several apostles went
into exile, taking special missions to remote areas in the West, Mexico, Canada,
and Hawaii. Several others filled European missions and missions to Native Americans.
Many stake presidents and bishops likewise tried to avoid arrest.
Between 1884 and 1887 general conferences were held in Provo, Logan, and Coalville,
rather than in Salt Lake City, to help attenders avoid arrest. Few General Authorities
attended. Elder Franklin D. Richards, an apostle who was immune from arrest
because his plural wife had died, presided over some of the conferences. General
epistles from President Taylor and President Cannon gave guidance to the conferences.
President Taylor directed the Church by letters. For more than two years President
Taylor remained "underground," separated from most of his family and friends.
He died in hiding in Kaysville, Utah, on July 25, 1887, after serving as a General
Authority nearly forty-nine years. By the time of his death, nearly every settlement
in Utah had been raided by federal marshals, hundreds of Saints had become refugees
in Mexico or Canada, and nearly all the leaders were in hiding. At his funeral
in Salt Lake City, he was honored for being a double martyr whose blood was
shed in Carthage Jail with Joseph and Hyrum Smith and who then died in exile
because of government persecution.
Once again the Council of the Twelve, led by senior apostle Wilford Woodruff,
took the helm of the Church and steered the course, largely from the "underground,"
until they again established a First Presidency at general conference in April
1889. Elder Woodruff became Church President, and George Q. Cannon and Joseph
F. Smith were his counselors. This would be the last time that the Twelve delayed
reorganizing the First Presidency upon the death of the President. In December
1892, President Woodruff, indicating that prolonged delay was not pleasing to
the Lord, instructed senior apostle Lorenzo Snow to reorganize immediately upon
By 1887 national political leaders saw that the Church was not bending to the
law, so Congress framed a tougher measure, the Edmunds-Tucker Act, designed
to destroy the Church as a political and economic entity in order to force the
Saints to abandon plural marriage. The law dissolved the Church as a legal corporation,
required the forfeiture of all property in excess of $50,000, dissolved the
Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company and claimed its property, and disbanded the
Nauvoo Legion (territorial militia). To aid prosecutions, the law required compulsory
attendance of witnesses at trials and confirmed the legality of forcing wives
to testify against husbands. County probate judges, who helped impanel juries,
had to be appointed by the President of the United States. Federally appointed
officers took control of schools. Probate courts certified all marriages. The
act disinherited all children born of plural marriages one year or more after
the act was passed. Woman suffrage was abolished and a new test oath was designed.
No one could vote, serve on a jury, or hold public office without signing an
oath pledging support of antipolygamy laws.
Federal lawmen zealously tried to arrest and imprison Church leaders. President
Woodruff stayed in the underground, near St. George, Utah, directing the Church
by letter and private meetings. George Q. Cannon, President Woodruff´s first
counselor, was arrested in February 1886, posted bail, and then escaped into
hiding until 1888 when, with a more lenient judge on the bench, he gave himself
up. He served 175 days in prison and paid a $450 fine. Allowed visitors in prison,
he was able to conduct much Church and personal business. He supervised the
Sunday Schools and finished writing a biography of Joseph Smith. His presence
buoyed up the spirits of his fellow cohabs in the prison. Latter-day Saints
regarded these prisoners as martyrs and gave them gala receptions when they
Arrests were a problem, but most damaging to the Church were its inability
to acquire and use funds to further its work and the loss of political rights.
To protect $3 million worth of real and personal property from confiscation,
the Church asked prominent members to assume ownership of certain properties
as trustees. Nonprofit associations were created to hold property, including
the three Utah temples. Ward and stake associations took over local meetinghouses,
tithing houses, and Church livestock. Many stakes established academies with
the use of tithing that was returned to them by the Church.
Federal receivers confiscated about $800,000 worth of property not turned over
to private parties or associations, then rented back certain properties to the
Church, such as the Temple Block in Salt Lake City. Church leaders tested the
constitutionality of the confiscations, but in 1890 the Supreme Court upheld
the new law by a 5–4 vote. The economic destruction of the Church seemed
Matching this economic crusade was a political assault. With all women, thousands
of LDS men, and all convert-immigrants disfranchised, anti-Mormon politicians
won control of the Ogden and Salt Lake City governments. In Idaho practically
all Church members were disfranchised by a test oath requiring them to state
under oath that they did not believe in or belong to a church that believed
in plural marriage. When the Supreme Court in 1890 upheld the Idaho test oath,
anti-Mormons pushed the Cullom-Struble Bill in Congress that would disfranchise
all Latter-day Saints everywhere (see Legal and Judicial History).
Economically crippled and with its members denied political rights, the Church
faced a ruinous future unless its practice of plural marriage was stopped. President
Woodruff consulted with leaders and prayed earnestly to know what to do. After
receiving divine revelation, he issued the manifesto on September 24, 1890,
announcing an official end to plural marriage. "The Lord showed me by vision
and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice,"
President Woodruff later said. "He has told me exactly what to do, and what
the result would be if we did not do it" (Deseret Evening News, Nov.
14, 1891). The Manifesto said that the Church had halted the teaching of plural
marriage and was not allowing new plural marriages. President Woodruff said
he would submit himself to the laws of the land and urged Church members to
do the same. At general conference on October 6, 1890, the Church accepted the
Manifesto. It was incorporated into the Doctrine and Covenants in 1908.
Speaking for the First Presidency, George Q. Cannon explained that a revelation
from 1841 applied in 1890; it had instructed the Church that when "enemies come
upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me
to require that work no more at the hands of those…men, but to accept of their
offerings" (D&C 124:49). Most Saints accepted the new direction, but not easily
and not all. Indeed, a limited number of new plural marriages occurred in the
next decade before Church leaders made it clear that all who persisted in the
practice faced excommunication.
With the issuance of the Manifesto, hostilities ebbed and the Church entered
a new era of cooperation. It was generally understood that husbands would not
be required to reject their plural wives and their children, and local prosecutors
became very lenient in punishing those charged with polygamy. U.S. President
Benjamin Harrison, who in 1891 had visited Utah and shaken hands with President
Woodruff, granted a limited amnesty to the Saints in 1893, followed by a general
amnesty granted by U.S. President Grover Cleveland in 1894. After the Manifesto
and the amnesties, General Authorities resumed their normal administrative duties.
Seeking statehood for Utah, Church leaders instructed Utah Saints to join the
national political parties and become Democrats or Republicans. A Republican
Congress passed an enabling act in 1894 that Democratic President Grover Cleveland
signed. Utah wrote a new Constitution that prohibited plural marriage and ensured
the separation of church and state. On January 4, 1896, Utah became a state,
nearly fifty years after President Brigham Young first sought that status (see
In 1896 General Authorities accepted a "political manifesto" stipulating that
none of them would run for elected office without prior approval of their presiding
Church authorities. When Elder Moses Thatcher, an apostle, refused to sign the
document, he was dropped from the Quorum of the Twelve.
During the 1890s the Church missionary force nearly tripled. In the Pacific
region, missionary work penetrated into Samoa in 1888 and Tonga in 1891. In
1898 the Australasian Mission was split into the Australian and the New Zealand
missions. Some Hawaiian Saints immigrated to Utah and created a settlement at
Iosepa in western Utah. Missionary work was resumed in California in 1892 and
in the eastern United States in 1893. Proselytizing continued in Europe, though
emigration from there declined by 50 percent in the 1890s compared with the
1880s. By the 1890s the Church, with its base in America secured and most good
land in the West occupied, discouraged immigration and asked overseas converts
to build up stakes in their homelands rather than gather to Zion.
The Edmunds-Tucker Act strengthened public schools, which excluded religious
education. In response, the Church began holding after-school religion classes
in meetinghouses and established academies or high schools in larger settlements.
Between 1888 and 1891 thirty-one LDS academies were opened in Utah, Idaho, Arizona,
Canada, and Mexico.
The 1890s saw Church women extending their reach and demonstrating their political
rights. Continuing their affiliation with eastern women´s movements, they became
charter members of the National Council of Women and found their eastern associates
to be important allies in their fight against disfranchisement. Relief Society-sponsored
suffrage activities led to the inclusion of guaranteed woman suffrage in the
1895 Utah State Constitution.
After forty years, construction of the Salt Lake Temple was completed and dedicated
in April 1893. Following a brief open house on April 5, the first opportunity
for nonmembers to tour a temple, the sacred edifice was dedicated on April 6,
forty years after the laying of the cornerstone. The dedicatory services were
repeated between April 6 and May 18, and included five sessions reserved for
children under the age for baptism; about 75,000 Latter-day Saints attended.
Thereafter members of the Church entered the temple only to perform ordinances
for the living and the dead. The following year President Woodruff announced
by revelation that LDS family groups no longer needed to be sealed to prominent
priesthood leaders by adoption (see Law of Adoption), but that they should be
sealed by lineage as far back in time as possible. As a result, members began
pursuing genealogy and performed sealing ordinances for ancestors several generations
back. The Church created the genealogical society of Utah to assist researchers.
In 1893 the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir, while on a major tour, sang at the
Chicago World´s Fair, winning second prize in an important contest. The entire
First Presidency traveled with the choir, marking the first time a Church President
had traveled east since the migration to the West nearly fifty years before.
This performance was indicative of a new public image for the Church, though
that same year the Church was denied representation in the World´s Parliament
of Religions, which also met in Chicago.
There were other significant developments under Wilford Woodruff´s direction:
in November 1896, the Church´s monthly Fast Day was changed from the first Thursday
to the first Sunday of each month, a practice that continues; in 1897, the custom
of rebaptism was ended. In the same year, Wilford Woodruff, himself a pioneer
of 1847, presided over a Churchwide commemoration of the first entrance into
the Salt Lake Valley fifty years before. Salt Lake City celebrated with parades,
programs, and the unveiling of a Brigham Young Monument.
During the 1890s the Church and Utah joined the American mainstream economically
as well as politically. Many cooperative ventures became private, and most Church-controlled
businesses were sold or started to compete as income-producing enterprises.
But integration into the national economy was not painless. The earlier confiscation
of properties and decrease in the payment of tithing caused by the antipolygamy
crusade hurt the Church severely, as did the national depression of 1893. Leaders
were forced to borrow heavily from eastern financiers to pay debts and meet
obligations, and by 1898 the Church´s debts exceeded $1,250,000. However, despite
debt and a national depression, the Church promoted and invested in such basic
industries as beet sugar manufacturing, hydroelectric power, and selected mining
and transportation ventures to help expand the economic base of the Great Basin
and benefit Latter-day Saint communities (see Economic History).
With the ending of plural marriages, the achievement of statehood for Utah,
and entrance into the American mainstream in terms of politics and finances,
Latter-day Saints moved firmly into a new era. One measure of the change was
Church response to the Spanish-American War in 1898: the First Presidency encouraged
LDS young men to support the national effort, thereby demonstrating LDS patriotism
President Wilford Woodruff died on September 2, 1898, in San Francisco, California,
at the age of ninety-one. In accordance with his instructions, a new First Presidency
was immediately named, with Elder Lorenzo Snow becoming the Church´s fifth President.
WILLIAM G. HARTLEY
GENE A. SESSIONS
Alexander, Thomas G. Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day
Saints, 1890–1930. Urbana and Chicago, 1986.
Arrington, Leonard J. Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day
Saints 1830–1900. Lincoln, Neb., 1966.
Larson, Gustive O. The "Americanization" of Utah for Statehood. San
Marino, Calif., 1971.
Lyman, Edward Leo. Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood.
Urbana and Chicago, 1986.
Roberts, B. H. A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, Century I, Vol. 6. Provo, Utah, 1965 (reprint).
C. 1898-1945, Transitions: Early-Twentieth-Century Period
[At the turn of the century the Church´s finances suffered from the lingering
effects of the federal crusade against Polygamy and the public doubted that
its recently declared cessation of Plural Marriage had indeed taken effect.
After discussing developments in these two areas, this article looks at the
Latter-day Saints´ integration into the larger American society, including examining
the Church´s position on war and peace. It also reviews the efforts to systematize
that accompanied the steady growth throughout this period.
In addition to cross-references found in the text, relevant general articles
include Organizational and Administrative History and Economic History.
Centennial Observances accompanied the Church´s one-hundredth anniversary
in 1930. Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, and Heber J.
Grant were Presidents of the Church during this period.]
The Church entered the twentieth century beleaguered and isolated. The LDS
experience hitherto had involved founding, exodus to the isolated American West,
building there a spiritual and temporal kingdom of God, and grappling with an
unsympathetic and often hostile larger American community. The year 1898, however,
was a watershed. Following the death of President Wilford Woodruff in September,
Lorenzo Snow (1898–1901) succeeded to office and began a series of changes
aimed at renewal and redefinition. He, along with his successors President Joseph
F. Smith (1901–1918) and President Heber J. Grant (1918–1945), reacted
to the sweeping changes of the first half of the twentieth century and reached
back to preserve old values in a rapidly changing world. The result by the middle
of the century was a Church accepted by and integrated into American society,
more vigorous and vital than anyone but its most stalwart defenders might have
foreseen a half century earlier.
An immediate problem was finances. The antipolygamy crusade (see Antipolygamy
Legislation) had severely impaired revenue and assets, first by incarcerating
leaders who normally managed donations and second by seizing and mismanaging
Church property. The Panic of 1893 and the resulting depression made the situation
worse. In an effort to provide employment and stimulate the local economy, leaders
had borrowed money to fund public works and business projects. President Snow
quickly ended this practice. His administration slashed expenditures, sold nonessential
property, and urged followers to increase their financial contributions.
He dramatically announced this new policy in a southern Utah preaching tour.
In May 1899, speaking to assembled members in St. George, he promised that faithful
compliance to the Church´s longstanding tithing code would bless members and
at the same time free the Church from its debts. A year after President Snow´s
tithing emphasis, Church income doubled. Leaders also encouraged cash donations
instead of in-kind commodities and instituted systematic spending and auditing
procedures. Because of these reforms, by 1907 President Smith was able to announce
that the Church at last had retired its debt. Annual tithing receipts stood
at $1.8 million, in contrast to the Church´s 1898 debt of $1.25 million. Moreover,
the Church had property worth more than $10 million. The Church never again
resorted to deficit spending, not even during the Great Depression.
President Snow´s reforms did not preclude the holding of investment property
or controlling of businesses by Church officers and directors (see Economic
History). While some enterprises were divested, such as the Deseret Telegraph,
the Utah Light and Railway Company, and the Saltair Resort at the Great Salt
Lake, the Church particularly invested in concerns that advanced its social
or institutional purposes. It retained the Deseret News, and in the early
1920s leaders established one of the country´s first radio stations, later known
as KSL Radio. The Salt Lake theatre, the Pioneer Playhouse, was returned to
the Church to provide sanctioned recreation—only to close at the onset
of the Depression because of reduced box office revenues and what Church leaders
thought were declining theatrical values.
Drawing on the precedent of the Nauvoo house, Salt Lake City´s Hotel Utah was
built to draw tourists from hostile non-Mormon hoteliers and enhance the Church´s
image. The Beneficial Life Insurance Company provided low-cost insurance. The
Utah Sugar Company, transformed into the Utah–Idaho Sugar Company, continued
to provide local farmers a market for their most important cash crop, while
Zion´s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) and Zion´s Savings Bank & Trust
attended the public with competitive retailing and banking services. This altruistic
investment policy was also pursued on a broader level. Church leaders sat on
the board of other corporations important to the region.
These investments and the social concerns they expressed harked back to the
pioneer ideals of community concern and uplift. They were not the only remnant
of the past. Plural marriage continued to be a troublesome issue for Latter-day
Saints and focused national attention on the Church, particularly during the
Snow and Smith administrations. Although many members believed that the 1890
Manifesto ended plural marriage, others interpreted the pronouncement as simply
shifting the responsibility for practicing it from the Church to the individual.
As a result, from 1890 to 1904 some plural marriages continued, though on a
greatly reduced level. Moreover, while some husbands stopped living with plural
wives, most felt a moral and spiritual obligation to continue caring for their
This confusion and ambiguity spilled over visibly into politics. In 1898 Elder
B. H. Roberts, a member of the first council of seventy and the husband of three
wives, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The Salt Lake Ministerial
Association and similar organizations elsewhere used Roberts´s election to focus
on continuing plural marriages, charging the Church with failure to abide by
the agreements that had brought Utah statehood. Anti-Roberts petitions containing
seven million signatures flooded Congress and the House eventually refused Roberts
Still more serious was the case of Reed Smoot. The 1903 election of Smoot,
a monogamous member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, to the U.S. Senate once
more stirred national uproar. The Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections
commenced hearings on Smoot in 1904 (see Smoot Hearings), but Congress focused
more often on the Church itself. Were church and state truly separate in Utah?
Did the Church control the conduct of its members? Did it encourage polygamy
and polygamous cohabitation? During the two-year investigation, President Joseph
F. Smith and other leaders testified before the committee. Others, such as Matthias
F. Cowley and John W. Taylor, suspected of performing plural marriages since
the Manifesto, refused. To close the controversy and demonstrate the Church´s
willingness to make the question a matter of discipline, President Smith announced
a "Second Manifesto" that expressly forbade future plural marriages. He also
required the resignations of both Cowley and Taylor from the Council of the
Twelve. In 1907 the Senate narrowly voted to allow Smoot to retain his seat.
Plural marriage still failed to recede entirely, even in the face of the now
resolute policy of President Smith and later President Grant. Elders Cowley
and Taylor, for instance, each received further discipline for additional plural
marriage activity, the former being "disfellowshipped," while Taylor, after
taking an additional plural wife, was excommunicated. Their conduct was similar
to that of a growing number of former Mormons in the twentieth century. Styled
fundamentalists, they accepted automatic excommunication rather than yield on
plural marriage or discard other nineteenth-century practices. Unlike Latter-day
Saints generally, who were strengthened by their belief in current prophetic
revelation and therefore approached new times in new ways, the Fundamentalists
faced the modern world by looking backward.
Nor did the plural marriage issue go away in the popular press. During the
first decade of the twentieth century and even beyond, the Church came under
severe public scrutiny by muckrakers and political opponents in Utah. Newspapers,
magazines, and cinema in both the United States and Europe focused on sensationalized
(and often fictionalized) aspects of polygamy, depicted Church leaders as autocrats,
and denounced the Church as un-American and un-Christian (see Anti-Mormon Publications;
Stereotyping of Mormons). Old charges of danite atrocities and blood Atonement
resurfaced. In Utah the assault was led by two former U.S. Senators, Frank J.
Cannon and Thomas Kearns, who used the Salt Lake Tribune to launch bitter
attacks on Smoot and the Church and to support the American Party. This short-lived,
anti-Mormon political party controlled Salt Lake City government from 1905 to
The Church attempted to meet the barrage of abuse even though the tide flowed
strongly against it. Early efforts included promoting Saltair Resort and Salt
Lake City´s Temple Square as visitors centers. With the tabernacle organ and
Mormon Tabernacle Choir as attractions, the latter site by 1905 annually drew
200,000 visitors. Attendance climbed steeply thereafter. When possible, leaders
placed refutations in the muckraker publications. Moreover, a point-by-point
rebuttal was read during the Church 1911 general conference. Perhaps the ablest
and most enduring rejoinder came from B. H. Roberts. From 1909 to 1915, he issued
a series of articles on Mormon history in the magazine Americana. These
were later updated as Roberts´s fair-minded, six-volume comprehensive History
of the Church.
Increasingly men and women outside the Church also defended the Latter-day
Saints. By 1900 C. C. Goodwin, a former editor of the anti-Mormon Salt Lake
Tribune and longstanding critic, frankly labeled Mormons as successful,
prosperous, and generally likable. Leading sociologist Richard T. Ely praised
LDS group life. Morris R. Werner produced a Brigham Young biography devoid of
previous stereotypes and hostility. These path-breaking ventures were followed
by others. By the late 1920s President Grant conceded that virtually anything
the Church might request could be placed in the media. Indeed Time Magazine
gave President Grant cover treatment, while Hollywood studios completed such
favorable motion pictures as Union Pacific and Brigham Young.
In part the change in public attitude came from the integration of Church members
into the larger American society. Nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints expanded
their agricultural settlements throughout the mountain West and even into Canada
and Mexico (see Colonization), although their agrarian communities were often
tightly knit, provincial enclaves. In contrast, as LDS outmigration continued
in the twentieth century, Church members now rubbed shoulders with fellow Americans
in urban settings. During the 1920s, for instance, the percentage of Latter-day
Saints living in the intermountain West declined while those living on the American
West Coast rose. In 1923 the Los Angeles Stake, the first modern stake outside
the traditional Mormon cultural area, was created. Between 1919 and 1927 the
number of Latter-day Saints in California increased from fewer than 2,000 to
more than 20,000. The twentieth-century Church dispersion had begun, first with
the migration of large numbers to the West Coast, then also with increasing
volume to the East and Midwest.
Direct contact with neighbors lessened cultural, religious, and even emotional
barriers, bringing Mormons and non-Mormons an increased appreciation for each
other. The growing number of successful Americans who were also Latter-day Saints
or Utah-born accelerated the process. Maud Adams was lionized for her widely
popular stage portrayal of Peter Pan. Philo T. Farnsworth´s inventions brought
about television. Cyrus Dallin and Mahonri Young achieved distinction in the
Latter-day Saints were particularly drawn to public affairs. Edgar B. Brossard
became a member and then chairman of the United States Tariff Commission. J.
Reuben Clark, Jr., rose in the higher levels of the State Department bureaucracy,
finishing his government career as ambassador to Mexico. During the New Deal,
Marriner S. Eccles was chairman of the Federal Reserve System. James H. Moyle
served as assistant secretary of the treasury from 1917 to 1921, while William
Spry was commissioner of public lands from 1921 to 1929. Heber M. Wells was
the treasurer of the U.S. Shipping Board. Richard W. Young became a U.S. commissioner
of the Philippines and returned from the First World War as Utah´s first regular
army general. For members of a once persecuted religious minority, each such
personal success betokened the Church´s growing acceptance and prestige. "Outsiders"
were becoming "insiders."
Two Church members had disproportionate influence in shaping the Church´s new
image. One was Reed Smoot. Aloof, but honest and utterly tireless in his devotion
to government duty and Church interests, Smoot remained in the Senate for thirty
years. As chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, he wielded major
influence over American economic policy. More than any other Latter-day Saint
in public service, he personified the Church, assuaging questions about its
patriotism and integrity by his personality and presence.
The other was President Heber J. Grant. A businessman by inclination and early
profession, President Grant´s homespun ways and business-mindedness charmed
an age given to commercial enterprise. Non-Mormons delighted particularly in
his speeches. Concluding an address before the San Francisco Commonwealth Club,
he was greeted with cries of "Go on! Go on!" When he addressed the Second Dearborn
Conference of Agriculture, Industry, and Science, the "Chemurgicians" twice
gave him standing ovations. His public relations ministry included more than
delivering speeches. He promoted tours of the Tabernacle Choir. He personally
guided nationally prominent business and political leaders through Salt Lake
City and cultivated their friendship. He visited U.S. Presidents Warren G. Harding,
Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House.
While President Grant was respected by his own people, non-Mormons also liked
and idealized him.
The Church´s sturdy growth during the period reflected its more positive image.
Membership more than tripled during the half century; from the years 1900 to
1945 totals grew from 268,331 to 979,454. Prior to 1898 the Church had organized
37 stakes (16 were discontinued); by 1945 another 116 had been added. The Church´s
missionary force changed and increased accordingly, growing younger, attracting
more unmarried individuals, and after 1898, including an increasing number of
young women. At the turn of the century, fewer than 900 missionaries were called
annually; by 1940 there were 2,117.
Missionary work continued to be a major preoccupation. The most ambitious new
mission was Japan, opened in 1901 by missionaries led by Elder Heber J. Grant,
then an apostle. Three years later the Mexican mission was reopened. The 1920s
saw more than 11,000 German-speaking converts, though most converts came from
English-speaking areas: Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, with the
Southern States Mission being the most successful. Unfortunately, there as elsewhere,
missionaries were subject to acts of physical violence. At the beginning of
the century, annual convert baptisms were 3,786; a half century later the total
had reached 7,877.
The Church sought to make its proselytizing more effective. Instead of dispatching
missionaries without "purse and scrip," most now were financially supported
by their families or local congregations. Missionary training classes were organized
at Church academies and colleges. In the mid-1920s a Salt Lake City "Mission
Home" for departing sisters and elders was inaugurated, where missionaries typically
received lessons on proper diet, hygiene, etiquette, and especially missionary
techniques and Church doctrine for two weeks. The era also produced new proselytizing
tracts. Charles W. Penrose wrote a series entitled Rays of Living Light,
James Talmage completed the Great Apostasy, and Ben E. Rich authored
A Friendly Discussion. To preserve a sense of its heritage and to help
tell its story, the Church purchased sites of significance to its early history
(see Historical Sites): the Carthage Jail in Illinois (1903), where Joseph Smith
and his brother Hyrum had been killed; a part of the Independence, Missouri,
temple site (1904); Joseph Smith´s birthplace in Sharon, Vermont (1905-1907);
and the Smith homestead in Manchester, New York (1907). At each of these locations,
the Church eventually constructed visitors centers.
Perhaps more than by expansion, the era was characterized by internal consolidation.
Lorenzo Snow´s succession to office was symptomatic. For the first time the
accession of the senior-tenured apostle to the office of Church president was
completed within days instead of the past interregnums of about three years
(see Succession in the Presidency). Recognizing the Church´s increasing complexity,
President Snow urged General Authorities to devote their full time to their
ministry. By 1941 the question no longer was simply leadership efficiency but
expansion. "The rapid growth of the Church in recent times, the constantly increasing
establishment of new Wards and Stakes…[and] the steadily pressing necessity
for increasing our missions in numbers and efficiency," the First Presidency
noted in 1941, "have built up an apostolic service of the greatest magnitude"
(CR [Apr. 1941]:94–95). In response to these new requirements, five
men were appointed assistants to the Twelve. In contrast to the short-term laity
that continued to occupy most Church positions, "general" Church officers—about
thirty in number—now received compensation and served full-time, lifelong
Priesthood governance was also altered. The first half of the century saw a
steady decentralizing of decision making as stake and local leaders received
enlarged authority. The Church reduced the size of stakes to make them more
functional and placed new emphasis on "ward teaching" (see Home Teaching). With
smaller districts and more boys and men assigned to teaching, the percentage
of families receiving monthly visits grew from 20 percent in 1911 to 70 percent
a decade later. Finally, in a major departure from pioneer practice, members
were urged to take secular disputes to civil and criminal courts rather than
to Church tribunals. Once a means of regulating social and economic issues,
Church courts now concerned themselves exclusively with Church discipline.
Priesthood quorums were strengthened. Priesthood meetings were now held weekly,
with meeting quality improved by centrally generated lesson materials. President
Joseph F. Smith in 1906 outlined a program of progressive priesthood advancement
for male youth. Contingent on worthiness, young men received ordination to the
office of deacon at the age of twelve, teacher at fifteen, and priest three
years later. In turn, worthy men typically received the offices of elder and
high priest, altering the nineteenth century dominance of the seventy among
adult men. In 1910 quorums of high priest and seventy were realigned to coincide
with stake boundaries, allowing closer direction by local authorities.
The tendency toward consolidation was also manifest in the Church´s auxiliary
organizations. Youth programs, once informal, diverse, and locally administered,
increasingly yielded to centrally directed age group programs and unified curricula.
The children´s primary Association no longer served older youth, while the Young
Men´s Mutual Improvement Association (YMMIA) and its young women counterpart
(YWMIA) included adolescents as young as twelve (see Young Men; Young Women).
At first both the national Boy Scout and Campfire Girl programs were used for
younger MIA members (see Scouting), but soon the latter was dropped in favor
of an indigenous program. Activity programs received increasingly strong emphasis.
With Sunday school and now priesthood quorums providing doctrinal instruction,
the MIA increasingly turned to dance, drama, music, and sports. Church headquarters
produced a magazine for each auxiliary: The Primary had the Children´s Friend
(1902) and the Sunday School the Juvenile Instructor (1900), later known
as the Instructor (1929). YMMIA had the Improvement Era (1897),
YWMIA the Young Woman´s Journal (1889); in 1929 the two joined forces
and the Improvement Era became the publication for both. Articles, curricula,
and programs were periodically reviewed and correlated. For instance, a general
Church Correlation Committee and the Social Advisory Committee combined to issue
a pivotal and far-reaching report in 1921 (see Correlation).
The Relief Society experienced these same trends. Its first three twentieth-century
presidents, Zina D. H. Young (1888–1901), Bathsheba W. Smith (1901–1910),
and Emmeline B. Wells (1910–1921), all remembered the Nauvoo organization.
For them women´s meetings were to be spontaneous, spiritually active, and locally
determined. The new century, however, redefined their vision. In 1901 a few
lesson outlines were provisionally provided. Twelve years later, with the recommendation
of a Church correlation committee, Relief Society leaders adopted a uniform,
prescribed curriculum. They also implemented uniform meeting days (Tuesday),
record books, and a monthly message for the visiting teaching women who made
monthly home visits. In 1915 an official Relief Society Magazine replaced
the semi-independent Woman´s Exponent, a voice for Relief Society since
1872. While the First Presidency at first endorsed the continuation of female
prayer healing—often undertaken in meetings on an impromptu basis—the
practice dwindled and by mid-century was abolished. As a further sign of centralization
under priesthood leadership, the Relief Society was housed in the Bishop´s Building
and increasingly received its direction from the Presiding Bishopric rather
than the First Presidency. Though Relief Society had once played a role in developing
and supervising the Primary and YWMIA, their supervision of the children´s and
youth auxiliaries ended.
The Relief Society´s later presidents, Clarissa S. Williams (1921–1928),
Louise Y. Robison (1928–1939), and Amy Brown Lyman (1940–1945), cooperated
in these changes. Speaking for modernism and efficiency, they and their advisory
boards set aside such past tasks as home industry, silk culture, and commission
retailing in favor of community outreach; "scientific" or professionally trained
social work; campaigns against alcohol, tobacco, and delinquency; and, during
the Great Depression, public relief. The latter effort was crucial. "To the
extent that Relief Society Organizations in Wards are operating in cooperation
with Priesthood Quorums and Bishoprics," declared Elder Harold B. Lee, who led
the Church´s relief efforts, "just to that extent is there a security [welfare]
program in that ward" (Relief Society Magazine 24 [Mar. 1937]:143). These
efforts reflected the early-twentieth-century Mormon feminine ideal. Women were
to uplift, soften, and assist. While women leaders continued to play an active
role in the National and International Council of Women, the rank and file were
less active in political, social, and professional roles than in homemaking.
Several doctrinal issues were clarified, another indication of systematization
at work. From the early years of the Snow administration, Church authorities
discussed how strictly the 1833 health revelation, the Word of Wisdom, should
be obeyed. In 1921 the question was answered by making abstinence from alcohol,
tobacco, tea, and coffee one of the standards for admission to temples. During
the century´s first three decades, the health code led most Latter-day Saints
to support local, state, and national prohibition.
In 1909 the First Presidency issued a statement designed to clarify the Church
position on evolution. While the method of creation was not discussed, the declaration
held that "Adam was the first man and that he was created in the image of God."
The issue remained troublesome, however. Along with the question of higher biblical
criticism, it led to the resignation of three Brigham Young University professors
in 1911 and to extended private discussion among Church leaders two decades
In 1916 the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve issued a second important
doctrinal exposition entitled "The Father and the Son." Apparently occasioned
by anti-Mormon pamphleteering charging the Church leaders with conferring divinity
on Adam, the statement delineated the respective roles of the first two members
of the Godhead. Shortly before his death, Joseph F. Smith received a vision
of missionary work and spiritual existence in the afterlife, which was eventually
included as Section 138 in the Doctrine and Covenants. In addition to specific
matters, general LDS doctrine and history received systematic treatment, often
for the first time, by such works as President Smith´s Gospel Doctrine,
Elder James E. Talmage´s Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ,
and Elder B. H. Roberts´s three-volume New Witnesses for God.
With its membership still predominantly American, the Church was especially
affected by the events occurring in the United States during this period. Almost
from the outset, President Grant´s administration was beset with hard times.
Farming and mining, two of Utah´s main industries, slumped badly in the 1920s
and especially in the 1930s during the Great Depression. President Grant carefully
conserved Church finances, trimming expenditures and construction projects.
Using his contacts with national business and political leaders, he kept key
Utah and Church-owned enterprises afloat. He was also concerned for the individual
Saint. After careful preparation, he announced in 1936 the Church Welfare Program
(see Welfare Services), which sought self-sufficiency and sustenance for the
needy by simultaneously providing both work and needed commodities.
Despite difficult times, the Church maintained its primary functions. Just
prior to the economic downturn, it completed an imposing five-story building
in Salt Lake City. Temples were completed in Hawaii (1919); Cardston, Alberta,
Canada (1923); and Mesa, Arizona (1927). Education also received attention.
Between 1875 and 1911, the Church established thirty-four all-purpose academies.
However, as the century progressed, financial distress and the rising acceptance
of public education brought changes, and many of the academies were closed or
transferred to state control (see also Education). The Church, however, did
not entirely surrender its educative role. A released-time seminary program
for high school students began in 1912 (see Seminaries), and during the 1920s,
institutes of religion for college students were established, the first at the
University of Idaho.
Twentieth-century wars and warfare demonstrated the distance the Church had
traveled from nineteenth-century alienation and isolation. Latter-day Saints
supported the Spanish-American War effort and U.S. involvement in the two twentieth-century
world wars. In the former the First Presidency issued a statement affirming
the loyalty of the Latter-day Saints and telegraphed local leaders to encourage
enlistment. Utah became one of the first states to fill its initial quota. Involvement
in World War I was even more substantial. At first uncertain of its proper role,
the Church eventually helped Utahans oversubscribe the government´s financial
quota for the state. By September 1918 Utah had more than 18,000 men under arms,
almost half of them volunteers. Participation in the Second World War was more
dutiful, perhaps because of the private misgivings of President Grant and his
Counselor J. Reuben Clark over New Deal policymaking. Nevertheless, by April
1942, 6 percent of the total Church population served in the American forces
or in defense-related industries; others served for Canada, Britain, and Germany.
While each conflict saw some pacifist currents and even opposition, the general
tendency was supportive of the need to yield loyalty to constituted government.
"The Church is and must be against war," the First Presidency declared in April
1942. Yet when "constitutional law…calls the manhood of the Church into the
armed service of any country to which they owe allegiance, their highest civic
duty requires that they heed that call" (CR, pp. 88–97; see War
While documenting religiosity is difficult, statistics suggest the impact of
the Church on the everyday life of its people. Meeting attendance showed sturdy
growth throughout the era. In 1920 weekly average attendance at Sacrament meeting
was 16 percent; in 1930, 19 percent; in 1940, 23 percent; and 1950, 25 percent.
Suggestive of Church family ideals, LDS birthrates exceeded the national average,
as did marriage rates. No doubt the Church health code is reflected in the fact
that in 1945 the LDS death rate was about half the national average.
A closer view of statistics reveals that in the decades of the early twentieth
century the number of children born per LDS family declined, the age at time
of marriage increased, and divorce ratios often mirrored national trends—lingering
behind but moving in the same direction as national trends, as if assimilation
were simply incomplete (see Vital Statistics).
The half-century brought social, cultural, and political integration; growth
and consolidation; and programs that redefined and reapplied earlier Church
ideals. But the era also produced indications that Church members were not immune
to such broad currents as secularism and even materialism. For observers, at
mid-century basic questions remained: Could the Church preserve its traditional
values and energy? Or would its journey into the modern world cost the movement
its identity and mission?
RONALD W. WALKER
RICHARD W. SADLER
For general surveys of the period:
Alexander, Thomas G. Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day
Saints, 1890–1930. Urbana, Ill., 1986.
Allen, James B., and Glen M. Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints.
Salt Lake City, 1976.
Arrington, Leonard J., and Davis Bitton. The Mormon Experience. New
Church Education System. Church History in the Fulness of Times. Salt
Lake City, 1989.
Cowan, Richard O. The Church in the Twentieth Century. Salt Lake City,
Roberts, B. H. A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, 1930.
For LDS programs, policies, and teachings during the period:
Alexander, Thomas G. "Between Revivalism and the Social Gospel: The Latter-day
Saints Social Advisory Committee, 1916-1922." BYU Studies 23 (Winter
Alexander, Thomas G. "The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith
to Progressive Theology." Sunstone 5 (July–Aug. 1980):24–33.
Alexander, Thomas G. "To Maintain Harmony´: Adjusting to External and Internal
Stress, 1890–1930." Dialogue 15 (Winter 1982):44–58.
Hartley, William G. "The Priesthood Reform Movement, 1908–1922." BYU
Studies 13 (Winter 1973):137–56.
Hefner, Loretta L. "This Decade Was Different: Relief Society´s Social Services
Department, 1919–1929." Dialogue 15 (Autumn 1982):64–73.
C. 1945-1990, Post World War II International Era Period
[Since World War II, the Church has enjoyed—and had to cope with—rapid
international growth. After summarizing postwar revitalization and the attendant
increases in membership, the article focuses on the adaptations that accompanied
growth and internationalization. In surveying recent developments, it provides
an introduction to the contemporary Church.
For additional information about Church growth during this period, see Vital
Statistics and articles about the Church in Africa; Asia, East; Asia,
South and Southeast; Australia; British Isles; Canada; Europe; Hawaii; Mexico
and Central America; Middle East; New Zealand; Oceania; Scandinavia; South America:
Brazil; South America: North; South America: South; and West Indies.
For developments in organization and procedure, see Organization: Organizational
and Administrative History; Organization: Contemporary. Consult also the
biographies of those who served as Church President in this period: George Albert
Smith (1945–1951); David O. McKay (1951–1970); Joseph
Fielding Smith (1970–1972); Harold B. Lee (1972–1973);
Spencer W. Kimball (1973–1985); and Ezra Taft Benson (1985–).]
Throughout his life and ministry, President George Albert Smith´s prevailing
message was one of love. It was fitting, therefore, that it was during his administration
that goods were sent from America to Europe to help relieve the suffering of
the Saints following World War II, especially those in Germany who had been
devastated by war. In 1946 Ezra Taft Benson, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles,
directed the reopening of the European Mission and the Church´s relief efforts
there. He found branches disorganized, meetinghouses destroyed, and many members
without homes. Most had lost possessions and everywhere there was pressing need
for food and clothing. The Church´s Welfare Services became a significant factor
in the recovery of many Saints as well as some nonmembers.
Since the war had postponed everything from missionary work to building construction,
it was necessary to reestablish and revitalize Church programs everywhere. The
missionary force was rapidly rebuilt and hundreds of meetinghouses were constructed.
Half of all the chapels in use in the mid-1950s were erected in the years following
World War II, a period when more than half of all Church expenditures went for
BECOMING AN INTERNATIONAL CHURCH. The close of World War II marked the dawn
of a new era in Church history in which a dominant theme was international growth.
In 1947 Church membership reached one million, and by 1990 the total was over
seven million. Growth was especially strong along America´s West Coast, in Latin
America, and, after 1978, in Africa. In 1950 the Church had 180 organized stakes,
nearly half of them in Utah; in 1990 there were 1,700 stakes, with less than
one-fourth in Utah. In 1950 the Church was organized in fewer than 50 nations
or territories, but by 1990 it had expanded to 128. Less than 8 percent of the
Church lived outside the United States and Canada in 1950, but forty years later
this was approximately 35 percent. During the same period the number of missionaries
grew from 6,000 to 40,000 and the number of temples increased from eight, only
one of which was outside the United States, to forty-four, with twenty-three
outside the United States.
This remarkable growth resulted from renewed efforts to fulfill the revelation
given to Joseph Smith "that the kingdom…may become a great mountain and fill
the whole earth" (D&C 109:72). Early in his administration President David O.
McKay, the first to travel so extensively as Church President, toured missions
in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the South Pacific, dedicating two temple
sites in Europe and announcing that a temple would be built in New Zealand.
In 1955 he declared that the Church must "put forth every effort within reason
and practicability to place within reach of Church members in these distant
missions every educational and spiritual privilege that the Church has to offer"
(CR [Apr. 1955]:25). Building temples, increasing the number of missions,
organizing stakes worldwide, persuading the Saints to build up Zion in their
homelands rather than emigrate to America, and eventually putting Church leadership
into the hands of each country´s native people were all significant steps toward
fulfilling that goal. In addition, increasing emphasis was placed on calling
local missionaries who, in some areas, later essentially replaced American missionaries.
Growth did not come without its problems, however, not the least of which was
sorting out which practices, teachings, and programs really constituted the
essence of the gospel and which were reflections of the American culture in
which the Church had grown. To open the eyes of members—particularly Americans—to
the need for defining the gospel in terms of universal principles, Church leaders
spoke out with increasing frequency. In 1971, for example, Elder Bruce R. McConkie
reminded some American Saints that in New Testament times even the apostles
were so indoctrinated with the idea that the Plan of Salvation was limited to
a particular people that they found it difficult to take it to gentile nations,
and he applied the lesson to the modern Church. He called upon American Saints
to rise above their biases, though there would be "some struggles and some difficulties,
some prejudices, and some uncertainties along the way." Other peoples, he noted,
"have a different background than we have, which is of no moment to the Lord….
It is no different to have different social customs than it is to have different
languages…. And the Lord knows all languages" (Palmer, pp. 143, 147). In 1987
Elder Boyd K. Packer reminded a group of Church leaders that "We can´t move
[into various countries] with a 1947 Utah Church! Could it be that we are not
prepared to take the gospel because we are not prepared to take (and
they are not prepared to receive) all of the things we have wrapped up with
it as extra baggage?" (as quoted in Dialogue 21 [Fall 1988]:97). The
goal was to ennoble people of diverse cultures and perspectives to more fully
find true brotherhood and sisterhood within the common spiritual bounds of the
In 1974 President Spencer W. Kimball challenged members to "lengthen our stride"
in carrying the gospel to all the earth, and urged them to pray that barriers
might be removed. He appointed David M. Kennedy, former U.S. secretary of the
treasury and ambassador-at-large, as the Church´s international representative
to work with governments in resolving problems that had hindered the Church´s
activities. In 1977 the Church was legally recognized in Poland, and in 1985
a temple was dedicated in the German Democratic Republic. The dramatic political
revolutions of 1989–1990 opened other eastern bloc countries and led to
the beginnings of LDS missionary work in the Soviet Union.
One of the far-reaching changes in the twentieth century was the revelation
received by President Spencer W. Kimball in June 1978 extending priesthood blessings
to all worthy male members. The result of long and earnest prayer, the revelation
meant that "the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in
the Church may receive the holy priesthood…without regard for race or color"
(see Doctrine and Covenants: Declaration—2). Without delay, worthy blacks
were sealed in temples and many received assignments as missionaries and leaders.
In Ghana and Nigeria, where blacks had been pleading for the establishment of
the Church for years, the Church grew rapidly, but it also expanded in other
areas with large black populations. The first black General Authority, Elder
Helvécio Martins of Brazil, was sustained at the general conference of the Church
in April 1990.
ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES. Numerous administrative changes also reflected the
demands of Church growth. In 1967 stakes were organized into regions. Beginning
in 1975, several regions were organized into areas, and by 1984 area presidencies,
each consisting of three General Authorities, were assigned responsibility for
stakes throughout the world.
In 1975 President Kimball announced the organization of the First Quorum of
the seventy, members of which were General Authorities of the Church and included
the former assistants to the Twelve. In 1989 the Second Quorum of the Seventy
was organized; these General Authorities serve for terms of three or five years.
In 1978 the practice was begun of placing members of the Seventy on emeritus
status for reasons of health or age, and the following year the patriarch to
the church also became an emeritus.
General Authorities also took steps to more effectively coordinate Church programs
and, beginning in 1961, placed greater emphasis on "priesthood correlation"
(see Priesthood; Correlation of the Church). Under the chairmanship of Elder
Harold B. Lee, committees at Church headquarters planned, prepared, and reviewed
curricula and activities for all organizations or age groups. They defined more
carefully the unique roles of each organization and eliminated unnecessary duplication.
Leaders focused on the home as the most effective place for teaching and applying
gospel principles. Family Home Evening received renewed emphasis, and beginning
in 1965 attractive manuals providing lesson helps were issued.
In the early 1970s there was also a consolidation of administrative responsibilities
at Church headquarters. Agencies were grouped into several large departments,
each under the jurisdiction of one or more General Authorities, with full-time
professionals generally managing day-to-day operations. For example, the Welfare,
Social Services, and health programs were consolidated into a Welfare Services
Department. A tangible symbol of this consolidation was the new twenty-eight-story
Church office building in Salt Lake City, bringing most Church administrative
units together. In 1970, functions of Aaronic Priesthood and the Young Men´s
Mutual Improvement Association were combined (see Young Men). In 1971 the publishing
program was consolidated (see Magazines). Magazines in other languages than
English were unified in 1967, with standardized content except for local matters
(see International Magazines).
Other changes came as rapid international growth increased the travel and administrative
load of Church leaders. In the 1970s stake presidents were authorized to "set
apart" full-time missionaries (see Setting Apart), ordain bishops and Patriarchs,
and dedicate chapels. General Authorities met in conference with individual
stakes less frequently but, beginning in 1971, the Church began holding "area
conferences," where a delegation of General Authorities met with the Saints
gathered from geographic regions. In 1979 the number of stake conferences each
year was reduced from four to two, and in the 1980s regional or multiregional
conferences replaced area conferences (see Conferences).
CHURCH EDUCATION. Between 1950 and 1990 total enrollment in the Church´s educational
programs increased from 38,400 to 442,500 (see Church Educational System). Full-time
enrollment at Brigham Young University soared from 5,400 in 1950 to nearly 25,000
by 1975, leading to an enrollment ceiling. Rather than devoting ever larger
amounts to higher education, funds increasingly went to meet more basic needs
associated with worldwide growth. The major expansion in enrollment came in
the area of religious education. Since the early twentieth century, students
in predominantly LDS communities had attended "released time" seminary classes
adjacent to their secondary schools. Beginning in California in the 1950s, "early
morning" seminaries convened in church buildings near public secondary schools.
After 1968, in areas where members were even more scattered, young people received
"home study" seminary materials. The Church also increased the number of institutes
of religion placed adjacent to college and university campuses. By 1990 seminary
or institute programs were conducted in seventy-four nations or territories.
The Church also gave special attention to the religious life of college students.
In 1956 the first student stake, with twelve wards, was organized on the Brigham
Young University campus. This provided Church services that ministered directly
to student needs and offered expanded opportunities for leadership. The plan
spread to other areas where there were enough students to justify it. Subjective
evidence suggested greater spiritual growth; and in such statistically measurable
matters as temple marriage and attendance at meetings, student wards led the
In some areas of the Pacific and Latin America, areas of particularly rapid
Church growth where public education was not widely available, the Church returned
to its earlier practice of establishing schools for religious instruction and
to teach educational basics. It established forty elementary and secondary schools
in Mexico, and established a junior college on the outskirts of Mexico City.
As better public educational facilities developed, the Church closed many schools.
BUILDING PROGRAM. New congregations required new buildings. Even with two or
three wards sharing most buildings, the Church found it necessary to complete
more than one new meetinghouse every day. Potential costs were enormous, and
in many areas the local Saints could not afford to raise their share.
One solution emerged when the Church encountered a labor shortage while erecting
school buildings in the South Pacific. Beginning in 1950, it called young men
as "building missionaries" to donate their labor for two years. As they completed
buildings at a much lower cost, experienced builders taught them construction
skills; labor missionaries also learned marketable skills from experienced builders.
In the 1950s and 1960s building missionaries erected schools and chapels in
the South Pacific, Latin America, Europe, and elsewhere. Later, in an effort
to minimize construction and maintenance costs, the building department developed
a series of standardized plans that could be adapted to different locations
and expanded as needed.
Though general Church funds assisted with meetinghouses, local congregations
were expected to contribute not only labor but also a significant portion of
the money needed—in addition to paying regular tithes and offerings. With
a view toward easing the financial burden on local congregations, the share
borne by local Saints gradually diminished until, by 1989, local contribution
was no longer required.
By the 1980s, new meetinghouses were generally smaller and sometimes more austere
than earlier ones, but this approach allowed the Church to erect hundreds of
chapels annually, and especially to provide badly needed meeting places in developing
areas. It was also a move towards equality. Money that might have gone to build
more expensive buildings in affluent areas instead provided comfortable places
for worship throughout the Church.
TECHNOLOGY AND THE MODERN CHURCH. The Church actively seeks to harness the
astonishing developments in modern technology to enhance its administrative
capabilities and to aid in delivering its spiritual message. Since the Church
installed its first computer in the Financial Department in 1962, it has made
use of this technology in myriad ways, including in architectural design, a
computerized membership record system, automated accounting, processing missionary
papers, record keeping at both the general and local level, and in providing
resources for historical and genealogical research.
Perhaps no Church activity has felt the impact of modern technology more than
genealogical work. As Church membership grew, so did the need for more effective
means of gathering and processing names for temple work. The Genealogical Department
(now the Family History Department) microfilmed vital records from around the
world, making them available in its library in Salt Lake City (see Family History
Library) and in hundreds of family history centers throughout the world. In
the 1960s, the Genealogical Department also began using the computer to organize
names obtained from these records. Since 1978, designated Church members have
been devoting four or more hours of weekly service "extracting" information
from microfilms for the sake of temple work. The Family History Department also
produced personal ancestral file, a widely used computerized genealogical program,
and began making key genealogical data available on laser disks.
Technology touched the temple in other ways. Motion picture and video technology
allowed temple instructions to be presented more efficiently and more effectively.
Because this could be done in one room instead of the former series of four
rooms, temples could be built smaller and thus were less expensive to construct,
making it possible for more members throughout the world to have a temple nearby.
The new technology also made it possible to present the ordinances in several
languages simultaneously, if necessary.
The effect of television on Church communications and the Church public image
was also dramatic. General conferences of the Church were first broadcast on
KSL Television in Salt Lake City in 1949, and by the mid-1960s one or more session
of each conference were being televised coast-to-coast in the United States.
In the 1980s the Church developed a satellite communication system connected
to stake centers throughout the world so that Latter-day Saints could view both
conference and other Church-initiated programs.
MISSIONARY WORK. By 1990 over two-thirds of the Church´s annual growth came
from convert baptisms. Approximately 30,000 of more than 40,000 full-time missionaries
were young men ages nineteen to twenty-one; single women twenty-one years of
age or older and couples who had reached retirement age made up most of the
Considerable attention was given to improving proselytizing techniques and
abilities. After much experimentation, a systematic plan based on a series of
regularized lesson discussions was officially adopted in the 1950s. After considerable
refinement and modification, by 1990 the plan focused less on memorization on
the part of the missionaries and more on their ability to rely on the Spirit
in the presentation of outlined subject matter.
Missionaries were also given more effective training, especially in languages.
In 1963 a Language Training Mission, later known as Missionary Training Center,
was established near Brigham Young University, and five years later a similar
program opened near the Church College of Hawaii (see Brigham Young University:
Hawaii Campus). By 1990 missionaries were receiving intensive language and missionary
training in fourteen missionary training centers around the world, though about
75 percent were attending the Provo center.
Innovations in the missionary program included encouraging more nonproselytizing
activities and Christian service. In 1971, for instance, "health missionaries"
began teaching the basics of nutrition, sanitation, and disease prevention,
especially in developing countries. By 1990 all missionaries were urged to spend
two to four hours a week in community service, in addition to proselytizing.
Also, older missionary couples were often assigned to nonproselytizing Church
service, including health and Welfare work, leadership training, staffing visitors
centers and doing other public relations activities, assisting patrons in the
Church´s various family history centers, temple service missions, and teaching
PUBLIC ISSUES AND SOCIAL CONCERNS. Though the Church attempted to distance
itself from direct political involvement, Church leaders nevertheless from time
to time declared official positions on moral issues. The First Presidency publicly
lamented the growing flood of pornography, the widespread practice of birth
control, and abortion, and the general decline in moral standards, including
the rising number of divorces and the increased prominence of homosexuality.
In 1968 the Church became directly involved in Utah´s political process by openly
opposing liquor-by-the-drink. It has also made public pronouncements in favor
of Sunday closing laws and state right-to-work laws and against state lotteries
Amid the intense civil rights conflict that characterized the United States
in the 1960s the First Presidency openly called for "full civil equality for
all of God´s children," and specifically urged Latter-day Saints to work for
civil rights for blacks. In the 1970s, as the controversy in America over women´s
rights escalated, the First Presidency took a public stance in favor of full
equality before the law for women but, at the same time, publicly opposed the
Equal Rights Amendment as anti-family. The First Presidency was also deeply
concerned with the morality of the nuclear arms race and officially denounced
it in 1980 and again in 1981 (see War and Peace).
In contrast to the early twentieth century when most Latter-day Saints lived
in predominately rural settings, since mid-century, most have lived in urban
centers. The hectic lifestyle in large cities created added emotional strains,
and an array of attractions and temptations tended to pull family members in
different directions. Responding to these and other needs, the Church instituted
a series of social programs. Since 1919 the Relief Society had operated an adoption
agency and provided foster homes for disadvantaged children. This was expanded.
The Indian Student Placement Services, begun in the 1950s under the chairmanship
of Elder Spencer W. Kimball, extended to thousands of Native American children
the advantages of attending good schools while living in wholesome LDS family
environments. A "youth guidance" program provided counseling to families in
need. These three programs, required by law to employ licensed professional
social workers, were combined in 1969 to form the Church´s Social Services Department.
This department also sponsored youth day camps, programs for members in prison,
and counseling for alcohol or drug abusers.
Church leaders also began to show more concern for the special needs of unmarried
men and women. Whether divorced, widowed, or simply never married, their social
and spiritual needs were often not being met through traditional Church activity
oriented toward couples and families. In the 1970s special programs for young
single adults as well as older singles were created under the auspices of the
priesthood and Relief Society. Through self-directed councils at the ward, stake,
and regional level, they participated in dances and other cultural activities
and found broader opportunities to become acquainted with other members their
own age who shared common interests. In addition, wards for young singles were
organized, first in the Emigration Stake in Salt Lake City, and then in other
RETURN TO BASICS. One of President Ezra Taft Benson´s clarion calls to the
Saints in the 1980s was to return to traditional values. In particular, he urged
regular study of the Book of Mormon as a means to strengthen faith in Christ
and to receive guidance in meeting contemporary challenges. His call, however,
was only one manifestation of the efforts of modern Church leaders to respond
to the ever-deepening challenges of the world and to lead the Saints in a return
In 1972 the adult Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School began a systematic
study of the standard works. The scriptures were the only texts, and they were
to be studied in an eight-year (later four-year) rotation. Soon all Church curricula
were tied to the scriptures. To support the curriculum and encourage individual
scripture study, Church leaders supervised the publication of new editions of
the standard works, each cross-referenced to the others. The Church publication
of the King James Version of the Bible, in 1979, contained an important 800-page
appendix that included a Bible dictionary, a topical guide to all the scriptures,
maps, and extracts from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. In 1981 new
editions of the other standard works appeared, including additional study helps.
The "return to basics" theme was echoed also in many other changes in Church
policies and programs. In 1980 the Church meeting schedule was consolidated
into a single three-hour block on Sundays, replacing the traditional schedule
of priesthood meeting and Sunday school in the morning, Sacrament meeting in
the late afternoon or evening, and auxiliary meetings during the week (see Meetings,
Major Church). The move simplified transportation challenges for many members,
but Church leaders emphasized that the central objective was to allow more time
for families to study the scriptures or engage in other appropriate Sabbath
Beginning in 1990 in the United States and Canada and extended to other parts
of the world in 1991, ward and stake budget donations were no longer required
from members; all operating expenses of local units would be paid from tithes
and offerings. The uniform system promoted greater equality, cutting many local
operating budgets while increasing others (see Finances of the Church; Financial
Contributions). In explaining the new policy, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council
of the Twelve called it an inspired "course correction," part of an overall
effort to get back to basics (Ensign 10 [May 1990]:89–91). The metaphor
could well be applied to much of what had happened since 1945.
Church members have generally accepted changes well, and have seen in them
an opportunity for further spiritual growth. As a result, in 1990 the Church
was moving more rapidly than ever before toward being able to accommodate diverse
nationalities, language groups, and cultures. Church leaders continued to emphasize
the traditional doctrines, but general conference addresses increasingly tended
also to define Sainthood in terms of what Elder M. Russell Ballard characterized
in April 1990, as the "small and simple things": love, service, home, family,
and worship of the Savior (Ensign 10 [May 1990]:6–8). These are
among the universals that constitute the essence of what it means to be a Latter-day
Much has been written about this period in professional journals. A few broad
treatments are mentioned in the introduction to this history section. See also
Spencer J. Palmer, The Expanding Church (Salt Lake City, 1978). For additional
information, consult the bibliographies accompanying the biographies of Church
Presidents who served during this period: George Albert Smith, David O. McKay,
Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, and Ezra Taft Benson.