Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Readings by Region
Seldom has the study of Latter-day Saint missionary work been put into a broader historical or cultural context. Mormons could learn from the experiences of other Christian missions as could students of Mormon missionary work. The following works should help with this process.
An excellent starting point is
Neill, Stephen., A History of Christian Missions. 2nd ed. Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1984.
These two works represent a more ambitious look.
Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of the Expansion of Christianity, 7 vols. London: Harper & Brothers, 1937–45.
Latourette, Kenneth Scott. Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. 5 vols. New York: Harper, 1958-62.
Useful reference works are
Goddard, Burton L., ed., The Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Missions. Camden, N.J.: Nelson and Sons, 1967.
Barrett, David B., ed., World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World, A.D. 1900–2000. Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1982.
John A. Siewart and Edna G. Valdez, eds., Mission Handbook 1998–2000: U.S. and Canadian Christian Ministries Overseas. 17th ed. Monrovia, Calif.: Missions Advanced Research and Communication Center, 1997. Formerly entitled Mission Handbook: North American Protestant Ministries Overseas.
Other studies with particular relevance to Latter-day Saint history are
Mead, Sidney E. The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.
Phillips, Clifton J. Protestant America and the Pagan World: The First Half-Century of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1810–1860. Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1954; published in 1969 by the East Asian Research Center, Harvard University.
Hutchinson, William R. Errand to the World: American Protestant Thought and Foreign Missions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Beaver, R. Pierce. “Missionary Motivation through Three Centuries.” In Reinterpretation in American Church History, ed. Jerald C. Brauer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968: 113–51.
Beaver, R. Pierce, ed., American Missions in Bicentennial Perspective. South Pasadena, CA: Carey Library, 1977.
Dayton, Edward R. Dayton. “Current Trends in North American Protestant Ministries Overseas.” Occasional Bulletin of Missionary Research 1 (April 1977): 2–7.
A study of early Protestant missions to the Mormons is
Lyon, T. Edgar. “Evangelical Protestant Missionary Activities in Mormon Dominated Areas, 1865–1900.” Ph.D. diss., University of Utah, 1962.
Latter-day Saint Missions
One of the great values of Mormon missionary records is the insight that they can give the social historian into the lives of ordinary people among whom the missionaries worked. Beyond the daily cares and cycles of the lives of common people are insights into the economic and political worlds they inhabited. Poverty, inflation, population mobility, family and community structure, and religious attitudes are just a sample of the indices missionary journals and letters can provide
For a useful overview of LDS mission history see
Cannon, Donald Q. and Richard O. Cowan. Unto Every Nation: Gospel Light Reaches Every Nation. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003.
Two studies which provide both a large perspective and specific statistical information on Latter-day Saint missionary work are
Morris, Brad Morris. “The Internationalization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” manuscript, 11 September 1972, copy in Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.
Gordon Irving, “Numerical Strength and Geographical Distribution of the LDS Missionary Force, 1830– 1974,” Task Papers in LDS History, No. 1 Salt Lake City: Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1975.
More recent statistics are presented in the
Deseret News Church Almanac.which is an annual publication.
Britsch, R. Lanier. “Mormon Missions: An Introduction to the Latter-day Saints Missionary System.” Occasional Bulletin of Missionary Research 3 (January 1979): 22–27. This is a general introduction.
King, Tancred I. “Missiology and Mormon Missions.” Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 (Winter 1983): 42–50, was the first serious attempt to place the study of Mormon missions into the larger area of missiology. Click to see full–text: http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=21552&REC=2/
See also Arrington, Leonard J. “Missionaries in Church History.” New Era (June 1973): 62–65. Click to see full text on http://lds.org and then click on “Gospel Library”
Shields, L. Grant. “Language Challenges Facing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Preaching the Gospel to ‘Every Nation.’” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1976.
Arrington, Leonard J. “Historical Development of International Mormonism,” Religious Studies and Theology 7 (January 1987): 9–22.
Otterstrom, Samuel M. “The International Diffusion of the Mormon Church.” M.S. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1994. Click to see full–text: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/MTNZ/id/4323
A useful statistical study of the correlation of numbers of missionaries with membership growth is
Hepworth, Joseph T. “A Causal Analysis of Missionary and Membership Growth in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38 (March 1999): 59-71.
Valuable articles on all aspects of missionary work appear in the four-volume Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan, 1992. Until the establishment of the Manchester England Stake in 1960, church organizations outside of North America were administered as missions.
No one-volume study on the Mormon missionary experience exists. 2
Since the Latter-day Saints have been keeping records from their earliest years, numerous missionary records exist upon which such a history could be based. An overview of important sources, particularly journals and autobiographies of members (many of which contain accounts of missionary activities) is Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies.Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
The LDS Family and Church History Department in Salt Lake City has the most extensive collection of these records in addition to significant institutional records and compilations that trace the history of the various missions of the church. Most of these manuscript histories were compiled by Andrew Jenson and focus on the nineteenth century, but they are very useful manuscript scrapbooks for LDS missionary work.
This same repository has a collection containing thousands of letters written between about 1880 and 1915 by prospective missionaries, their relatives, and local church leaders, in response to inquiries from church headquarters about candidates for missionary service. The Family and Church History Department of the LDS Church has also been conducting oral histories about LDS missions throughout the world with General Authorities, mission presidents, and selected missionaries.
From 1906 to 1929 the Improvement Era ran a series of monthly reports entitled “Messages from the Mission,” which reported various contemporary activities; see Improvement Era (January 1906– October 1929). The Church News ran a series of biographical pieces prepared by members of the Historical Department, “A Church for All Lands,” from 1977 to 1980 (p. 16 of each issue beginning 30 April 1977).
The L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Lee Library, at Brigham Young University also hold a significant body of Mormon missionary records, an annotated guide to which is available in Mormon Missions and Missionaries: A Bibliographical Guide to Published and Manuscript Sources, comp. David J. Whittaker with the assistance of Chris McClellan Provo, Utah: Special Collections and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, BYU, 1993. The Folklore Archive, Special Collections, BYU also contains a number of LDS missionary stories.
Official policies and statements dealing with missionary work can be found in a variety of publications. The official conference reports (general and area), including minutes of meetings and addresses of church leaders, have been published from the earliest years. Thus early Mormon periodicals, such as the Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, 1840– 46), the Journal of Discourses (Liverpool, 1854–86), click to see full–text: http://relarchive.byu.edu/19th/descriptions/jofd.html and the Conference Report (Salt Lake City, 1898 to the present) are excellent sources.
Two useful introductions focusing on the nineteenth century are Hughes, William E. “A Profile of the Missions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1849–1900.” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1986.
Price, Rex T., Jr., “The Mormon Missionary of the Nineteenth Century.” Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1991.
Shorter studies of more recent times include
Shepherd, Gordon and Gary Shepherd, “Sustaining a Lay Religion in Modern Society: The Mormon Missionary Experience.” in Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives, ed. Marie Cornwall, Tim B. Heaton, and Lawrence A. Young . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995: 161–81.
The lay nature of the church, with its encouragement of active participation of its members from the youngest years, has helped to develop personal talents and abilities in such areas as public speaking and teaching, which are very useful attributes in missionary work. While not professionally trained in theology or history, young Latter-day Saints have ample opportunities to learn doctrine and history in a variety of church-sponsored settings beyond just Sabbath church attendance. These include seminary and institute classes. The general stress on missionary work throughout the life cycle of the members is suggested in
Coleman, Gary J. Coleman. “Member Missionary Involvement in the LDS Church.” Ed.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1978.
Top, Brent L. “A Lengthening Stride, 1951 Through 1999.” In Out of Obscurity: The LDS Church in the Twentieth Century. The 29th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000: 26-52.
Beginning studies on a topic that needs further work are the following dealing with women missionaries. The first official women missionaries were called in 1898; today (2005) about 14 percent of the full-time missionary force are women (ca. 7,000). 3
Kunz, Calvin S. “A History of Female Missionary Activity in the Church …” M.A., thesis, Brigham Young University, 1976. Click to see the full-text: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/MTGM/id/19194
Stone, Ann Gardner. “Louisa Barnes Pratt: Missionary Wife, Missionary Mother, Missionary.” In Sister Saints, ed. Vicky Burgess-Olsen. Provo: BYU Press, 1978, 43–59.
Mangum, Diane L. “The First Sister Missionaries.” Ensign (July 1980): 62–65. Click to see full text on http://lds.org and then click on “Gospel Library”
The folklore and humor of Mormon missionaries has been the subject of several essays by BYU folklorist William A. Wilson
“Dealing with Organizational Stress: Lessons from the Folklore of Mormon Missionaries.” In Inside Organizations: Understanding the Human Dimension, ed. Michael O. Jones, Michael D. Moore, and Richard C. Snyder. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1988: 271–79; On Being Human: The Folklore of Mormon Missionaries. Utah State University Faculty Honor Lecture. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1981; and “Powers of Heaven and Hell: Mormon Missionary Narratives as Instruments of Socialization and Social Control.” In Contemporary Mormonism, Social Science Perspectives (1995), 207–17.
An important overview of the priesthood quorum that was given major responsibility for missionary work in the Nineteenth Century is
Baumgarten. James N. “The Role and Function of the Seventies in LDS Church History.” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1960. Click to see the full-text: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/MTAF/id/15545.
Additional studies of these important missionary quorums include
Hartley, William G. “The Seventies in the 1880s: Revelations and Reorganizing.” http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=18347&REC=19
Young, S. Dilworth. “The Seventies: A Historical Perspective.” Ensign (July 1976): 14–21. Click to see full text on http://lds.org and then click on “Gospel Library”
Oulette, Richard D. “Seventies Quorums: 1835–1986.” Sunstone 11 (January 1987): 35–37.
Today (2005), the Missionary Training Centers (MTCs) operated by the church (16 currently) function as a kind of boot camp for the young missionaries; in addition to scriptural and doctrinal training and intensive language courses where required, the centers also provide some cultural education and have issued various manuals for this training. For example, see Culture for Missionaries: Mexico and Central America (prepared and issued by the Missionary Training Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1977).
The basic history of the formal training of missionaries is presented in Cowan, Richard O. Every Man Shall Hear the Gospel in His Own Language: A History of the Missionary Training Center and Its Predecessors. Provo: Missionary Training Center, 1984.
A brief overview of international training centers is
Heaton, Richard I. “International Missionary Training Centers.” In Proceedings of the International Society 12th Annual Conference, 19-20 August 2001. Provo, UT: David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001.
A brief overview of missionary training materials is
Lund, Robert E. “Proclaiming the Gospel in the Twentieth Century.” In Out of Obscurity: The LDS Church in the Twentieth Century. 29th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium Series. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000: 277-41.
The increasing concern with the health of missionaries is revealed in Jensen, Susan. “Health Problems of Selected LDS Missionaries throughout the World.” M.S. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981. Click to see the full-text: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/MTGM/id/19176.
The international thrust of the church is the subject of
Palmer, Spencer J. The Expanding Church. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978, which includes Bruce R. McConkie’s talk, “To the Koreans and All the People of Asia,” 137– 52.
Tullis, F. LaMond, ed., Mormonism: A Faith for All Cultures. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1978.
[Anderson], Lavina Fielding. “The Expanding Church.” Ensign (December 1976): 7–13. Click to see full text on http://lds.org and then click on “Gospel Library”
Moss, James R., R. Lanier Britsch, and Richard O. Cowan. The International Church. Provo: BYU Publications, 1982.
A significant number of early missionaries published accounts of their labors. The most important works for the nineteenth century are
Kimball, Heber C., Journal of Heber C. Kimball … Giving an Account of His Mission to Great Britain. Nauvoo, Ill.: Robinson and Smith, 1840.
Hyde, Orson Hyde. A Voice from Jerusalem … Liverpool, 1842.
Snow, Erastus. One Year in Scandinavia … Liverpool, 1851.
Snow, Lorenzo. The Italian Mission … London, 1851.
Spencer, Orson. The Prussian Mission … Liverpool, 1853.
Cannon, George Q. My First Mission [to Hawaii]. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1879
Woodruff, Wilford F. Leaves from My Journal. Salt Lake City, 1881.
A best study of the formative missionary work is
Ellsworth, S. George. “A History of Mormon Missions in the United States and Canada, 1830–1860.” Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkely, 1947.
Another important study is
[Higdon], Barbara McFarlane. “The Role of Preaching in the Early Mormon Church, 1830–1846.” Ph.D. diss., University of Missouri, 1961.
Valuable accounts of the earliest years are
Jessee, Dean C. and William G. Hartley. “Joseph Smith’s Missionary Journal.” New Era (February 1974): 34–36. Click to see full text on http://lds.org and then click on “Gospel Library”
The Journals of William E. McLellin, ed. Jan Shipps and John W. Welch. Provo, UT and Urbana, Ill.: BYU Studies Monograph and University of Illinois Press, 1994, which includes a short annotated guide to “Other Early Mormon Missionary Journals and Accounts,” 408–12.
Porter, Larry C. “‘The Field Is White Already to Harvest’: Earliest Missionary Labors and the Book of Mormon.” In The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith, ed. Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988: 73–89.
Pratt, Parley P. Autobiography, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell, 1874. Click to see full–text: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/NCMP1820-1846/id/17400
Missionary work is a voluntary enterprise, the majority costs of which are borne by each missionary and his or her family. In addition, some funds are available from friends, the local congregation, or the general church missionary funds. In an attempt to standardize mission costs, the church has set official monthly costs for each missionary from the United States or Canada who goes out. See “Church Equalizes Costs for Single U.S. and Canadian Missionaries,” Ensign (February 1991): 78. Of course these costs change over time. Click to see full text on http://lds.org and then click on “Gospel Library”
A useful study of the problems of financing early missions is
Jensen, Richard L. “Without Purse or Scrip? Financing Latter-day Saint Missionary Work in Europe in the Nineteenth Century.” Journal of Mormon History 12 (1985): 3–14.
But it ought to be supplemented by
Whittaker, David J. “Early Mormon Pamphleteering.” Journal of Mormon History 4 (1977): 35–49, a study that examines, in part, the sales and distribution of church literature by missionaries for income.
See also Embry, Jessie L. “Without Purse or Scrip.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29 (Fall 1996): 77–93, which focuses on the years after World War II. Click to see full–text: http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=11673&REC=13
The geographical widening and consequent realignments of mission boundaries as well as the personnel and leadership changes and assignments can be traced through such church publications as the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star (1840–1970); Click to see full–text: http://relarchive.byu.edu/19th/descriptions/millennial_star.html
Skandinaviens Stjerne (Copenhagen, 1851–1956); Zion’s Watchman (Sydney, 1853–56); Der Stern (1869–1986); the Improvement Era (1898–1970); the Ensign (1970–present); and the Deseret News, particularly the weekly supplement, the Church News section. The Deseret News Church Almanac (generally published annually from 1974 to the present) is a very useful compilation of facts and statistics about the church with ample space being devoted regularly to missions and missionary topics.
Both the LDS Church Library in Salt Lake City and the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University in Provo have substantial collections of these mission publications, although neither library has made a systematic attempt to identify or collect all of them. More significant examples include the LDS Millennial Star (begun in 1840), which remains a basic source for all foreign missions before 1900 and for the British Mission until 1970, at which time the periodical was discontinued; Liahona: The Elders’ Journal was the official mission publication of the Central and Southern States Missions during the first half of the twentieth century, but includes missions and missionaries serving throughout the world.
A useful introduction to the latter publication and its role in the missions is
Garr, Arnold K. “A History of ‘Liahona: The Elders’ Journal’: A Magazine Published for the Mormon Missions of America, 1903–1945.” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1986.
See also Buice, David. “Chattanooga’s Southern Star: Mormon Window on the South, 1898–1900.” BYU Studies 28 (Spring 1988): 5–15. Click to see full-text: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/byustudies/id/1653
Other church publications, especially in the nineteenth century, are valuable sources for mission history.4
The many varieties of Mormon missions and missionary work are surveyed in
Humphery, A. Glen. “Missionaries to the Saints.” BYU Studies 17 (Autumn 1976): 74-100. Click to see full-text: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/byustudies/id/551.
1An even more extensive bibliography and guide to sources can be found in David J. Whittaker, “Mormon Missiology: An Introduction and Guide to the Sources,” 466-486. In The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, Edited by Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo: The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2000). In addition review James B. Allen, Ronald W. Walker, and David J. Whittaker, Studies in Mormon History, 1830–1997: An Indexed Bibliography. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
2A book on the topic, Mormon Passage: A Missionary Chronicle, by Gary Shepherd and Gordon Shepherd was published by the University of Illinois Press in 1998. In addition to a historical overview, it includes a focus on their own missions in different areas in Mexico.
3An important biographical study of the Provo, Utah, bishop who issued the first calls to single women missionaries (Jennie Brimhall and Inez Knight) is Clinton D. Christensen, “Joseph Brigham Keeler: The Master’s Builder,” M.S. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1997. As this study shows, Keeler also pioneered more systematic religious training for the young men in the church in the form of the first Aaronic Priesthood lesson manuals, one goal of which was to produce better trained missionaries.
4Chad J. Flake and Larry W. Draper, eds. A Mormon Bibliography 1830–1930: Books, Pamphlets, Periodicals, and Broadsides Relating to the First Century of Mormonism, 2 vols, 2d ed, rev. and enl. ( Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004). See also L. R. Jacobs, Mormon Non-English Scriptures, Hymnals, and Periodicals, 1830–1986: A Descriptive Bibliography (Ithaca, NY: The author, 1986); and Joseph Sudweeks, Discontinued L.D.S. Periodicals (Provo: BYU Press, 1955).