Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

June 8, 2022
Fascinating stories from 20th century LDS Church history

Saints - Volume 3Over the decades, it has been easy for me to skip learning about my church’s history of the early 1900s. After all, how much excitement could there be without the drama of mob violence, treacherous pioneer journeys, and major governmental conflicts in the earlier years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

However, page after page of the third volume of Saints, which covers from 1893 to 1955, proves to be intriguing.

As the historians, writers, and editors explain, this work of narrative nonfiction is based on historical sources. But they strongly advise readers that the 609-page volume is neither perfect nor complete.

Like the previous two volumes of Saints, I am impressed with the writers’ transparency, readability, and clarity. If you prefer “Just the facts, ma’am” of dates, statistics, and actualities, you are better off seeking other sources.

Here are a handful of “Don’t skip this part” stories that enlightened my understanding of Church trials, encounters, and growth in the first half of the 20th century:

The challenge Church leaders faced after the manifesto discontinuing the practice of “plural marriage” was issued in 1890 in distinguishing between sanctioned practices and those followed by individual members. 

President Joseph F. Smith issuing the Second Manifesto in 1904, declaring that new plural marriages were forbidden, even outside the boundaries of the United States.

The resignations of John W. Taylor and Mathias Cowley from the Quorum of the Twelve, including the excommunication of Taylor.

The inspiring story of Alma Richards, the kind of chubby Parowan farm boy who became the first Utahn to win an Olympic gold medal. He upset the favorite Hans Liesche of Germany and set an Olympic high jump record in the process at the 1912 Olympiad in Stockholm, Sweden.

The settlement of Church members in the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. These prosperous colonies were eventually evacuated en-masse in the summer of 1912 because of anti-American sentiment during the Mexican Revolution. 

Challenges and growth of the Church in distant and scattered places such as Cincinnati, parts of Europe, Japan, Hawaii, and Brazil.

The birth of the Church’s welfare program in the depths of the Great Depression under the leadership of Harold B. Lee. At the time, nearly two-thirds of the 7,300 members in his Salt Lake Pioneer Stake were dependent on financial assistance.

Individual accounts of struggling military members who served in the First and Second World Wars. For example, members doing everything possible to keep their small branch intact while civilians were being killed, homes burned, and families terrorized as German troops stormed through Liege, Belgium, in 1916. 

The changing of the age of missionaries during the Korean conflict in order to be supportive of laws of the country.

Coping with the impact of hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan that spread throughout the southern United States, eventually making its way to Utah. After a Klan leader asked for a meeting with Church leaders, President Heber J. Grant declined and said, “It is beyond my comprehension how people holding the priesthood will want to associate themselves with the Ku Klux Klan.

One of my favorite stories in Saints is how a young Church employee by the name of Gordon B. Hinckley was given the assignment to present the temple instruction for the yet-to-be-completed temple in Switzerland in 12 European languages using a minimum number of temple workers.

Rather than share this enthralling story here, I will let you read all the details — either online or in a good ole-fashioned published book.

Charlie Roberts is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Stansbury Park.

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