Joseph F. Merrill and the 1930–1931 LDS Church Education Crisis

In the early 1930s, the educational system of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found itself near the end of a major transformation. In the short span of only a dozen years, the Church had all but abandoned its network of loosely associated Church academies in favor of a system of less expensive released-time seminaries linked to public high schools throughout the Intermountain West. As a result, the seminary program had grown explosively, quickly becoming the dominant form of Church education. However, there was an ominous feeling of insecurity hovering over the seminary program. With nearly all of the Church academies closed or sold to the state, there was no backup if something arose that made the seminary system untenable. Further moves were being made to close or transfer the remaining schools and junior colleges. Yet the seminary program, less than twenty years old and still largely experimental, existed on uncertain legal ground. Figuratively speaking, Church education had put all its eggs in the seminary basket, hoping no new threat would arise. When such a danger did appear in 1930, the Church launched a desperate battle to save its educational program.

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