Through their contacts with the Utes and other local tribes the Mormon people became aware of the presence of the Hopis, Navahos and Zunis soon after their arrival in the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Their first actual contact with the Navahos occurred in connection with their Elk Mountain Indian Mission near what is now Moab, Utah, in 1855. During that same year another Indian mission was established in the Cedar City area called the Southern Indian Mission. As president of this mission in 1858, Jacob Hamblin led the first exploring-missionary party to the Hopi villages. Succeeding visits to the Hopis to do missionary work continued almost annually thereafter and some friendships were also formed with the Navahos. Most early connections with the Navahos, however, were of a protective nature and a precarious peace was kept with this tribe largely through the efforts of Hamblin.
In 1875-76 the first permanent Mormon settlements were established in Arizona and several years later in New Mexico. The early settlers continued the attempt to convert the natives. Missionary work among the Hopis continued, many Navahos were brought into the Church, and in New Mexico the Gospel was carried to the Zunis. An important Navaho mission, mostly protective in nature, was set up in the San Juan Basin in southeastern Utah in 1880.
After an intensive decade of proselyting and conversions all organized missionary efforts among these tribes were abandoned. Many possible reasons are presented for this abandonment which include cultural differences, language problems, economic hardships among the Mormons and internal problems within the Church. Some individual missionary efforts occurred during this period and Mormon-Indian friendships were fostered and maintained.
In 1936 organized missionary work was again undertaken. Most notable was the efforts of the Snowflake Stake with the Hopis and Navahos. The St. Johns and Young Stakes also did some work with the Navahos during this period. In 1943 the Navaho-Zuni was organized, principally from the Young Stake Indian Mission. Ralph W. Evans was President of this new mission and a year later he was given the responsibility of the Indian missionary work of the Snowflake Stake Mission. The Navaho-Zuni Mission grew slowly during its first four years, partly due to the wartime situation and also because the Church was not wholly convinced that the Indians were ready for the Gospel. By 1947 most of these problems had been set aside and Indian Missionary work with the Hopis, Navahos and Zunis moved into a new era of proselyting and conversions, one that is still going forward.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Flake, David Kay, "A History of Mormon Missionary Work With the Hopi, Navaho and Zuni Indians" (1965). Theses and Dissertations. 4684.
Navajo Indians, Missions, Church work with Indians, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mormon Church, Missions, Navaho-Zuni, Hopi Indians, Zuni Indians