Utah's current educational systems were largely shaped by a transitional era that occurred during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A time when the region itself moved from territorial to state status, the dominant religion in the area, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), likewise changed in its role in Utah society. Previously dominating most aspects of life, the Church was forced to reevaluate its place in society due to greatly increased secular power and context. Educational changes, as harbingers of larger societal shifts, are illustrative of such paradigm changes. During the four decade period stretching from 1888 to 1933, the LDS Church experimented with several private educational endeavors, seeking to maintain its place in the changing Utah society. Originally opposed to public education, these experimental private schools eventually became part of the public system itself as the Church restructured its paradigm. St. George, Utah, like many of the LDS-dominated intermountain communities, experimented with these educational changes during this era. Key to this experimentation was the St. George Stake Academy, founded in 1888 as a religious alternative for the region's youth. Though challenged initially, the privately sponsored Church school grew as did its public counterparts during the early twentieth century. Eventually, this growth included expansion into post-secondary education, as the school became Dixie Normal College, Dixie Junior College, Dixie College, and ultimately Dixie State College. Such growing, however, brought increased financial need. Faced with rising costs and budgetary restraints caused by periods of economic depression, the LDS Church rethought its educational policy. In the 1920s and early 1930s, the Church restructured its educational system, turning over to the state many programs originally intended as religious alternatives to public schools. This study traces the changing nature of education in Utah from 1888 to 1933, illuminating the process of paradigm change within religious organizations. Using St. George as the model, it tracks the roles the state and the LDS Church played in shaping the current educational structure, as both parties sought to understand their place in society.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Leadership and Foundations



Date Submitted


Document Type





The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wilford Woodruff, Heber J. Grant, Dixie College, St. George Stake Academy, St. George, Utah, education, history, junior college, religious education, private education