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Church Administration

The Priesthood Reorganization of 1877: Brigham Young's Last Achievement

Practical application of revelations about the priesthood required creativity and innovation because the revelations did not always say how. By 1877, Brigham Young knew he had to act to reorder the organization of the priesthood quorums. This reorganization involved every stake, 241 wards, hundreds of quorums, and more than a thousand leadership positions. He had already reordered the seniority... Read more

Education: Moving Toward and Under the Law of Consecration

Question: What are some of the basic problems that need to be solved to improve the effectiveness of teaching religion to the members of the Church? Answer: This problem has been a deep concern of mine for a long time and I know it has all of the brethren. In order for us to more effectively teach the gospel to the members of the Church, we must first go to the home or the family. Where the... Read more

Joseph Smith and the United Firm: The Growth and Decline of the Church's First Master Plan of Business and Finance, Ohio and Missouri, 1832–1834

The United Firm was a business management company established by Joseph Smith (founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) that oversaw both the Church's economic pursuits, such as maintaining properties, and some spiritual matters, such as publishing revelations and planning the city of Zion. Its board of managers essentially fulfilled roles later taken on by Church leaders when... Read more

I Roll the Burthen and Responsibility of Leading This Church Off from My Shoulders on to Yours: The 1844/1845 Declaration of the Quorum of the Twelve Regarding Apostolic Succession

The document presented and discussed in this paper is one of the most important early Latter-day Saint manuscripts associated with both the final months of Joseph Smith's life and the postmartyrdom (or apostolic) interregnum period. Written in late 1844 or early 1845, the document appears to have been drafted for possible use as an official statement by the Twelve concerning Joseph Smith's "last... Read more

The Record of the Twelve, 1835: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles' Call and 1835 Mission

In 2011, the Joseph Smith Papers Project of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made public a document created in 1835 by Orson Hyde and William E. McLellin. That document is presented in its entirety here with an introduction and editorial notes. Ronald Esplin and Sharon Nielsen, members of the editorial team of the Joseph Smith Papers, give historical context of the document: in... Read more

Lengthening Our Stride: The Remarkable Administration of Spencer W. Kimball

In an October 1977 conference address, Elder William Grant Bangerter of the First Quorum of the Seventy looked back on those difficult days. He described an uncomfortable period among the Saints as they mourned the loss of President Lee and struggled to accept the new prophet: "We knew, of course, that he would manage somehow, until the next great leader arose, but it would not be easy for him,... Read more

A Reflection from an African Convert on Official Declaration 2

Growing up in South Africa, Khumbulani Mdletshe suffered under apartheid. He was interested in religion and was converted by LDS missionaries in 1980. He did not learn about the ban against blacks holding the priesthood until his mission to London in 1985. He explains his shock at finding out the history of the ban while knocking on doors one day and his dismay at the explanation his companion... Read more

Between Revivalism and the Social Gospel: The Latter-day Saint Social Advisory Committee, 1916–1922

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"The Spiritual Concept of Form and Function as One": Structure, Doctrine, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Cheryl B. Preston describes how the structure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints interacts with its theological substance. Likening Church substance and structure to the design theories of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Preston observes that unity is realized when form and function work in harmony. Form does not follow function, but goes hand in hand; thriving in a faith community... Read more

Nauvoo Stake, Priesthood Quorums, and the Church's First Wards

A restored Seventies Hall stands on the north side of Parley Street in Nauvoo, a memorial to one office and quorum of the priesthood. Today, Latter-day Saint guides use the building, originally built in 1844, as an appropriate site for telling about the Church's proselyting efforts, a labor assigned by revelation to ordained seventies. But the hall is also a fitting site for explaining stake and... Read more

Origin of the Welfare Plan of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The authors of this article chronicle the financial aid the Church gave during the 1930s. They compare the amount of Church aid that was distributed with the aid efforts that the federal government was making during the Great Depression through the New Deal. This article stresses how strongly the leaders of the Church felt about people working on projects sponsored by either the WPA or by the... Read more

The Church and Translation

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Spencer W. Kimball and the Lamanite Cause

Spencer Kimball was three years into his apostleship when he received his special charge to "watch after the Indians in all the world." With characteristic energy, he adopted their welfare as his cause. His first concern was for the tribes served by the struggling Navajo-Zuni Mission in Arizona and New Mexico, the first modern Indian mission in the Church, established in 1943 with only a handful... Read more

Missionaries to the Saints

Preaching the good word of repentance has characterized the Mormon missionary message since the Church was founded. Missionaries started traveling shortly after the publication of the Book of Mormon, and invited everyone to accept the restored gospel. In addition to the missionaries called to take the new message to non-Mormons, some missionaries were called to repeat the doctrinal teachings to... Read more

Spiritualized Recreation: LDS All-Church Athletic Tournaments, 1950–1971

Historian Jessie L. Embry recounts the creation, growth, and eventual demise of churchwide sports tournaments organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She uses as a framework the words of Thomas O'Dea in his book The Mormons (1957). As the tournaments grew from the 1930s to the 1960s, centralized planning and organization was required. The games and tournaments served... Read more

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... Read more

Licensing in the Early Church

Even in its infant stages The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instituted various procedures which would allow its members to be organized and regulated more effectively. One such procedure was the practice of licensing. Church leaders issued licenses to all men holding priesthood offices and also to all missionaries called to preach the gospel. Licenses provided a means of regulating... Read more

Photographs of the First Presidency, April 6, 1893

On the day of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took time out to go to a portrait studio and have their photos taken. The photographers also took photos of crowds lined up outside the temple. The First Presidency were Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith. These photographs are a lasting record of the... Read more

The Priesthood-Auxiliary Movement, 1928–1938

While reviewing the chronology in the Sunday School handbook, I was surprised to learn that priesthood classes were conducted with the Sunday School not too many years ago. Even though I had studied twentieth century Church history extensively, I had never heard of this combination. Most Latter-day Saints regard priesthood correlation as a phenomenon beginning in the 1960s, but I was amazed to... Read more

Visualizing Apostolic Succession

The authors of this article describe the traditionally static nature of the LDS Church's illustrations that have been used to communicate the Church's message. They then contrast this with the current field of information visualization, or infovis , which is a platform that allows users to interact with data to enhance their ability to acquire and use information. As a practical application of... Read more

"Provoking the Brethren to Good Works": Susa Young Gates, the Relief Society and Genealogy

Around the year 1918 Susa Young Gates, one of the Latter-day Saint Church's most influential women and one sometimes jokingly referred to as the "thirteenth apostle," was preparing a history of Latter-day Saint women. One chapter indicated that despite male leadership in the Genealogical Society of Utah, it was the women who were most responsible for making genealogy catch on within the Church,... Read more

The Development of the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes

The Council on the Disposition of the Tithes was established in 1838 and reestablished in 1943. An 1838 revelation to Joseph Smith in Missouri established the council by essentially codifying then–current practice; the revelation was re–revealed in 1918 with modifications; implementation of the revelation was delayed due to the death of the President of the Church; and in 1943, the council was... Read more

The Priesthood Reform Movement, 1908-1922

Most Latter-day Saints know a good deal about the duties and functions of the various priesthood quorums, but few appreciate the great effort required of past Church leaders to produce the well-ordered priesthood programs which characterize the Church today. Since the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood, the various quorums have been alive and functioning to a greater or lesser... Read more

The Church Library Coordinating Committee and the Correlation of Meetinghouse Libraries

In the 1950s, LDS meetinghouses had libraries managed by and for the Sunday School. S. Lyman Tyler, University Librarian at BYU, led the way to libraries being included in new buildings and the use of libraries as genealogical and study centers, stocked with Church-approved books, in the 1960s and 1970s. Under Church correlation, libraries returned to their former role as material centers. The... Read more

The Council of Fifty and Its Members, 1844 to 1945

Many scholarly studies of the Council of Fifty have tended to distort insufficient evidence and sometimes to sensationalize their interpretations. This article's research into the documents and historical environment of the Council of Fifty requires a rewriting of these scholarly and highly popular interpretations rather than a rewriting of Mormon history in light of these previous... Read more

Changing Patterns of Mormon Financial Administration: Traveling Bishops, Regional Bishops and Bishop's Agents, 1851–88

In the twentieth century, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relies heavily on two kinds of bishops—Presiding and ward—to help manage its temporal affairs. In the nineteenth century, traveling and regional bishops also played an important role in financial administration. These "other bishops" assume a prominent place in the economic structure of the Church between 1851 and 1888. The... Read more

The Worldwide Church: Mormonism as a Global Religion

Since 1981, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has experienced a dramatic increase in membership outside of the United States and Canada (vii–xii). As a result, in March 2014, Brigham Young University and the Church History Department sponsored a Church history symposium titled The Worldwide Church: The Global Reach of Mormonism . Anyone who is interested in Church history and the... Read more

The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History

The announcement in September 2013 that the LDS Church would be publishing a transcript of the Council of Fifty minutes came as welcome news to the Mormon scholarly community. Previously considered confidential and kept in the First Presidency's vault, the record had been unavailable for reading and research for 160 years. This secrecy had two consequences: debate and speculation among the... Read more

It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God

In the last issue of BYU Studies, D. Michael Quinn presented for the first time a chronology of the Council of Fifty that annihilates the previously held theory that this Council was one of the most important institutions in nineteenth-century Mormon history. Formally organized by Joseph Smith on 11 March 1844, just three months before he was murdered at Carthage, Illinois, the Council of Fifty... Read more

Joseph, Brigham and the Twelve: A Succession of Continuity

The tragic murder of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in June 1844 sent shockwaves through Nauvoo. Despair and bewilderment combined with pervasive sorrow as the reality of the calamity settled over the city. Some, fearing that the internal dissension that had contributed to the Prophet's death would intensify, must have wondered whether the Church could survive. A visitor to Nauvoo a few... Read more

Missionaries for the Dead: The Story of the Genealogical Missionaries of the Nineteenth Century

The Latter-day Saints' enthusiasm for the restoration of the gospel led to many interesting types of missions in the nineteenth century. Members were "called" not only to preach the gospel, but also to go to the gold mines in the 1850s, to gather rags for making paper during the economic crisis of the 1860s, to serve as M.I.A. and Sunday School missionaries, to go to Europe to study art, and to... Read more

Ordained and Acting Teachers in the Lesser Priesthood, 1851-1883

If today's Latter-day Saint expects that Aaronic Priesthood work a century ago was basically the same as it is today, he will be surprised and confused when he examines records of the lesser priesthood in the Church's first decades in Utah. Those fading documents, often rich in detail, produce as many hard questions about priesthood operations as they do ready answers. In the records, for example... Read more

Physical Beginnings of the Church Welfare Program

Paul C. Child recalls his time serving as the second counselor in the Pioneer Stake presidency with stake president Harold B. Lee and first counselor Charles S. Hyde. This stake presidency started what would be the beginnings of the welfare program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Organized in 1930, the stake presidency found the conditions among members of their stake... Read more

The New Publications of the Standard Works—1979, 1981

In 1972, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began the creation of an LDS edition of the King James Bible with new chapter headings, footnotes, and cross-references to other LDS scripture. The text of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, a Bible dictionary, and a topical guide were also included. In the course of this work they expanded the project to include new... Read more