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Sports in Zion

Sports in Zion: Mormon Recreation, 1890-1940

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Sports in Zion
    Book Description:

    If a religion cannot attract and instruct young people, it will struggle to survive, which is why recreational programs were second only to theological questions in the development of twentieth-century Mormonism. In this book, Richard Ian Kimball explores how Mormon leaders used recreational programs to ameliorate the problems of urbanization and industrialization and to inculcate morals and values in LDS youth. As well as promoting sports as a means of physical and spiritual excellence, Progressive Era Mormons established a variety of institutions such as the Deseret Gymnasium and camps for girls and boys, all designed to compete with more "worldly" attractions and to socialize adolescents into the faith._x000B__x000B_Kimball employs a wealth of source material including periodicals, diaries, journals, personal papers, and institutional records to illuminate this hitherto underexplored aspect of the LDS church. In addition to uncovering the historical roots of many Mormon institutions still visible today, Sports in Zion is a detailed look at the broader functions of recreation in society.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09161-2
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Religion, Reform, and Recreation
    (pp. 1-20)

    The growth of the city, throughout the nineteenth century but especially as “new” immigrants migrated to American urban areas after 1880, provoked “an authentic, intense, and growing fear of the threat urbanization posed to society itself.”¹ Efforts to reform city dwellers (particularly immigrants living cheek by jowl in slum-ridden inner cities) reached a crescendo as the nineteenth century passed into the twentieth. Referred to by historians and others as the “Progressive Era,” the period from 1890 to 1920 saw reform activists transplant the moral concerns of antebellum reformers to the bustling cities of industrial America. Whether organizing settlement houses, where...

  5. CHAPTER ONE “Not Playing without a Purpose”: The Construction of a Mormon Recreation Ideology
    (pp. 21-56)

    To understand the hardscrabble early years of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a focus on recreation, merrymaking, and amusements might seem completely out of place. Compared with the organization’s need to find new members, forge a hierarchical structure, and create settlements in the frontier West, the desire to have fun and relax paled in necessity and importance. Or so it would seem. Mormon leaders, however, beginning with Joseph Smith, recognized that recreation and wholesome amusements were not only necessary but beneficial. To create communities, whether religious bodies or frontier settlements, Mormon leaders stressed the positive aspects of...

  6. CHAPTER TWO “A Strong Arm to the Church”: Recreation Building Boom
    (pp. 57-87)

    After the construction of the Deseret Gymnasium in Salt Lake City in 1910, gym executives sought a creative method to advertise the athletic training facility. Deciding that the developing technology of motion pictures was optimal for their needs—viewers would actually get to see the action in the gym—they solicited several scripts for short film advertisements. Each film had a different theme and highlighted a unique offering of the urban gymnasium before referring pointedly to the Deseret Gymnasium as the “Temple of Health.” One short film entitled “The Champion,” for example, showed a “little comic man” getting thrown in...

  7. CHAPTER THREE “For the Uplifting and the Betterment of the Youth of Israel”: Athletics, Socialization, and the “Selling of the Word of Wisdom”
    (pp. 88-124)

    While the Deseret Gymnasium offered urban Mormons a grand Temple of Health dedicated to physical fitness and well-being, the gymnasium was merely the centerpiece of a large church-sponsored athletic program designed to serve a myriad of social and spiritual ends. From Salt Lake City to Samoa, young men and women participated in an array of athletic and recreational activities that maintained adolescent involvement in the church and ensured that commercial amusements were not the only leisure-time activities available.

    The onus of putting LDS recreational philosophies into practice fell largely on the church’s youth auxiliary organizations—the Young Men’s and Young...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER FOUR “A Means of Preserving the Memory of the Mormon Pioneers”: LDS Recreation in the Great Outdoors
    (pp. 125-161)

    Since American urbanization proceeded apace in the nineteenth century, the city had been the locus of fears regarding the loss of community and individuality. As early as the 1830s, urban dwellers (and critics of the rising cities) sensed that urban life rent the fabric of social deference that had once knitted colonial towns and villages into a unified whole. In urban areas populated by unknown neighbors and untrustworthy reputations, moral and financial exploitation were too common. Cities became, at least to some observers, centers of social anomie where young men faced difficulty in forming an identity and acquiring moral bearings...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE To Make the Most of Leisure: Recreation Responds in a Depression Decade
    (pp. 162-184)

    In the months following the stock market crash of 1929, as the United States entered the most severe economic crisis in its history,¹ Mormons in Salt Lake City staged an impressive festival to mark the centennial of the church’s founding. The week-long celebration in April 1930 included the illumination of the Salt Lake Temple with floodlights and the presentation of B. H. Roberts’s multivolumeComprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A pageant written especially for the anniversary, “Message for the Ages,” entertained thousands of church members and visitors in nightly performances for a month. Though...

  11. CONCLUSION: Recreation Recedes
    (pp. 185-192)

    The end of the Great Depression did not mean the end of LDS recreational programs. Throughout the war years and continuing to the end of the twentieth century, Mormon recreational programs have taught young church members what it means to be “Mormon.” Wholesome entertainments and rigorous athletic events continued to socialize generations of Mormons long after the Progressive Era faded into the distant past. Although the programs continued, the emphasis on nurturing wholesome forms of recreation diminished in importance. The New Deal era proved to be the high point of LDS-sponsored recreation. Church leaders warned against particularly illicit activities—like...

    (pp. 193-212)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 213-218)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-222)