Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS missionaries, Mormon missionaries, missionary training, LDS Church academies


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As the American and European educational landscape progressed toward the end of the 19th century, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began to recognize that proselyting missionaries who “were taken from the plow, the anvil, the shoemaker’s shop and carpenter’s bench” would need general education in order to “keep pace ... with the rest of the world.” To address this emerging need, a training program was developed at Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah, to prepare Church members for missionary service through general education and courses on church doctrine. Many of the other church academies began offering these classes as well. This paper explores early missionary training efforts in this academic setting, from the genesis of the program in the early 1880s to its phasing out in the 1920s. Session attendees will learn about the missionary meetings at Brigham Young Academy and how they evolved into a full Missionary Course curriculum, as well as how missionaries were recruited and “called” to attend the course. Find out what the missionary training experience was like for these prospective elders and what their professors taught them. Beyond the formal missionary course at church academies, during the 1910s a missionary correspondence school was established, helping prepare those who could not afford to leave their home employment for an additional year prior to the mission. This paper draws from both primary and secondary sources, but heavily relies on mission diaries, meeting minutes, course catalogs, contemporary local newspaper announcements, yearbooks, student newspapers, letters, and messages from Church leadership among other research materials. A thorough depiction of early missionary training emerges, filling a gap in the historical literature surrounding this topic.

Original Publication Citation

Wiederhold, Rebecca A. “Early Latter-day Saint Missionary Training at the Church Academies, 1883-1925.” Presented at Utah’s 68th Annual State History Conference, virtual, September 21, 2020.

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Utah's 68th Annual State History Conference




Harold B. Lee Library

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor