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Mormonism in the 20th century

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Title: Mormonism in the 20th century  
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Subject: History of the Latter Day Saint movement, Christianity in the 20th century
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Mormonism in the 20th century

This is a timeline of major events in Mormonism in the 20th century.



  • January 25: The U.S. Congress votes to not admit B. H. Roberts, who had been denied a seat since being elected in 1898, because of his practice of polygamy.[1]
  • April 19: Reed Smoot is ordained an apostle.


Joseph F. Smith became LDS Church president.



  • January: Reed Smoot, an apostle, is elected by the state legislature to the 58th congress as a U.S. Senator. Controversy over his election arises immediately.
  • February: Despite allegations and controversy, Reed Smoot is allowed to be seated in the Senate.
  • March: Reed Smoot takes the senatorial oath and formally becomes a member of the senate.
  • October 15: Brigham Young Academy becomes Brigham Young University.[9]
  • November 5: The LDS Church acquires Carthage Jail, to be used as a historic site.[3][10]
  • Samoan edition of the Book of Mormon.


LDS Church president Joseph F. Smith testified before congress at the Reed Smoot Hearings.
  • January – Reed Smoot submits carefully prepared rebuttals to allegations against him and his church.
  • March – The Reed Smoot Hearings begin, evaluating whether Reed Smoot should be allowed to be a senator.
  • April 6 – Joseph F. Smith issues the "Second Manifesto," which reinforces the 1890 Manifesto and prescribes excommunication for those who continued to practice plural marriage.
  • April 14 - The LDS Church purchases 25 acres in Independence, Missouri, originally part of the 63-acre Temple Lot from 1831. Church leaders intended this to be the site for a temple in Zion, fulfilling a prophecy of Joseph Smith.[10]




Reed Smoot remained a senator for 30 years.
  • January 10: The LDS Church becomes debt-free.[3]
  • February 20: After more than two years of hearings, the Smoot Hearings are resolved by a vote. The republican majority overturns objections to his seating. Reed Smoot serves another 26 years.
  • June: The Smith Family Farm is acquired for the LDS Church.[3]
  • December 7: Charles W. Nibley becomes the Presiding Bishop and brings financial reforms, including tithing payments only in cash, no longer taking donations in kind.[3]
  • December 14: Converts in Europe are advised to remain in their home countries instead of gathering to Utah.[11]
  • Zion's Printing and Publishing Company is started at Independence, Missouri by the LDS Church.[3]


  • April 8: The General Priesthood Committee is created.[3]


  • November: The First Presidency issues an official statement regarding questions concerning the Creation of the earth and the theories of evolution and the origin of man.
  • LDS Church purchased property in Far West, Missouri, including the former temple lot.[3]
  • LDS priesthood meetings begin to be held weekly.[3]
  • Japanese translation of Book of Mormon, the first in an east Asian language.




John W. Taylor was excommunicated for violating the Second Manifesto.
Publicity for A Victim of the Mormons, which ushered in a number of sensationalist anti-Mormon films.



MIA Scouts in front of the Church Administration Building.


  • January: Relief Society Magazine begins publication for LDS women.[17]
  • April 27: Home Evening program is introduced, calling for families to study the gospel together at home.[11]
  • September: Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage is published.[3] It remains popular to this day.
  • October 25: The Life of Nephi, a church financed film, is released. It has since been lost.


  • June 30: "The Father and the Son," an official declaration from the First Presidency, discusses the identities of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.[3]



Heber J. Grant became LDS Church president.


  • November 27: Laie Hawaii Temple first outside continental United States, and thus also arguably first outside North America and first in Polynesia.
  • LDS Church membership reaches 500,000.[3]


Arizona Temple


  • December 2: Apostle David O. McKay and Hugh J. Cannon, editor of the Improvement Era, are set apart for a year-long tour of LDS missions and schools across the world.[19] As the most widely traveled general authority,[20] McKay retains a vision for worldwide church growth.[21]
  • The LDS Church closes its system of academies.[3]


  • Lectures on Faith removed from Standard Works.
  • New programs for young adults are created, called M-Men and Gleaners.[3]
  • Joseph Fielding Smith's Essentials in Church History is published, an influential book of devotional LDS history which remained in print for more than 50 years.[22]





  • July 18: In the wake of the Scopes Trial, the First Presidency issues an official statement, an edited version of the 1909 statement, regarding questions about the Creation of the earth, the theory of evolution, and the origin of man.[25][26]
  • February 3: The Salt Lake Mission Home is dedicated, for use in training of LDS missionaries before they depart for their assignments.[11]
  • April 21: The LDS Church buys a controlling interest in a Salt Lake City radio station, which it changes from KZN to KSL and still maintains today.[27]
  • December 25: South America is dedicated for missionary proselyting, by LDS Apostle Melvin J. Ballard in Buenos Aires, Argentina.[11]



  • October 23: The Arizona Temple is dedicated.
  • Good Neighbor Policy adopted. The reforms were primarily intended to remove from church literature, sermons, and ceremonies any explicit or implicit suggestion that Latter-day Saints should seek vengeance on the citizens or government of the United States for past persecutions of the church and its members, and in particular for the death of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.


  • The 100th Lehi, Utah.[3]
  • The LDS adult Sunday School class is named Gospel Doctrine.[3]



Stage of the pageant on the Hill Cumorah




  • April 2: A new emphasis is placed on Word of Wisdom observance, especially in tobacco abstinence.[3]






  • August 8: J. Reuben Clark calls for church educators to focus on building students' faith in his speech "The Charted Course of the Church in Education," which became a classic text influencing the mission of CES.[31]
  • August 14: Deseret Industries is started.[3]
  • November: The Genealogical Society of Utah (now called FamilySearch) begins to microfilm records of genealogical data.[3] This grew into a massive collection from around the world, which is being digitized today.
  • Local church education boards are replaced by the new General Church Board of Education.[3]


  • June 19: Liberty Jail is acquired for the LDS Church.[3]
  • August 24: All LDS missionaries in Europe are called to return home, due to the buildup of World War II.[11]
  • Portuguese translation of Book of Mormon.


Richard R. Lyman, the most recent apostle of the LDS Church to have been excommunicated.




  • October: The LDS Servicemen's Committee is created, headed by Apostle Harold B. Lee.[3]


  • LDS Church apostle Richard R. Lyman was discovered to be cohabitating with a woman other than his legal wife, in a relationship which he defined as a polygamous marriage. Lyman was excommunicated on November 12, 1943 at age 73, on grounds of a violation of the law of chastity, which any practice of post-Second Manifesto polygamy constituted. He was later rebaptized and died in the church. He is the most recent apostle to be excommunicated.



  • April 12: Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs at funeral of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • May 14: Heber J. Grant, the last LDS Church president to have practiced polygamy, dies.
  • May 21: George Albert Smith becomes the eighth president of the church.
  • September: Following the Japanese surrender, ending World War II, new mission presidents are called to reopen missions which were closed during the war.[3]
  • September 23: The Idaho Falls Temple is dedicated.
  • November 3: New LDS Church president Harry S Truman meet and discuss sending humanitarian supplies to war-torn Europe.[3]
  • The publication of No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, by Fawn Brodie. Brodie's most notable Mormon critic, Brigham Young University professor Hugh Nibley, published a scathing 62-page pamphlet entitled No, Ma'am, That's Not History, asserting that Brodie had cited sources supportive only of her conclusions while conveniently ignoring others. Brodie considered Nibley's pamphlet to be "a well-written, clever piece of Mormon propaganda" but dismissed it as "a flippant and shallow piece." Brodie's book becomes a best seller, and has not got out of print yet.
  • Raid on the Short Creek Community, prefiguring that of 1953.


  • January: The LDS Church begins sending humanitarian supplies to war-torn nations in Europe, following World War II.[3]
  • February 4: [3]
  • May: Fawn Brodie is excommunicated.
  • May 22: Western Bad Bascomb released, about an outlaw who joins a Mormon wagon train.
  • May 26: A rift in the church president to visit the country.[32][33]
  • Tongan edition of Book of Mormon.


  • February 26: Matthew Cowley embarks on a tour of the Pacific islands, to reestablish missionary work after World War II.[34]
  • July 24: Centennial celebration of the This is the Place Monument.[11]
  • Indian Placement Program initiated.
  • LDS Church membership surpasses one million.[36]


  • George Albert Smith is said to have petitioned the Lord to lift the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood. He claims he is denied. The ban was not lifted until 1978.




This is the sign at the entrance to the Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch in Florida.




The schoolhouse where the Short Creek raid took place.


Leroy S. Johnson's fundamentalist Mormon followers would become the FLDS Church.






  • BYU Studies, a journal for LDS scholars, commences publication.


Entrance to The Polynesian Cultural Center.












Millennial Star



  • January: Ensign, New Era, and Friend magazines are first published; several publications are discontinued.
  • February: One Bad Apple released by The Osmonds reaches No. 1 in Billboard's Hot 100 Chart and stayed there for five weeks; it also reached No. 6 on the R&B chart.[53] The members of the Osmonds are devout LDS, and their religion was discussed in many popular media outlets.
  • June 8: The Genesis Group is formed. It becomes an official church auxiliary dedicated to serving the needs of black members, who cannot hold the priesthood at this time.
  • September 1: Relief Society dues are dropped and all LDS women are automatically enrolled.[11]
  • November 1: Richard L. Evans dies.
  • December 2: Marvin J. Ashton is ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  • Church building provided in Jerusalem for large numbers of LDS tourists.



  • February: Agricultural missionary work is introduced in South America.[3]
  • April 7: The Welfare Services Department is created by the Priesthood Correlation Program, combining existing services, including the Welfare Program.[3]
  • June : The Plan, a concept album by the Osmonds is released. Although it is not one of their more successful albums, it explicitly deals with Mormon theology, including the plan of salvation.
  • December 26: After serving for little more than a year as president, Harold B. Lee dies.
  • December 30: Spencer W. Kimball becomes the 12th president of the LDS Church.


Washington D.C. Temple as seen from the Outer Loop of the Capital Beltway





  • March 31: Stake conferences are changed from quarterly to semiannual.[3]
  • April 1: The name extraction program is announced for local members to identify deceased persons from vital records and prepare their names for proxy temple ordinances.[62][63]
  • June 1: Spencer W. Kimball receives confirmation and revelation after supplicating the Lord regarding blacks and the priesthood. Moved by the exceeding faith of the Genesis Group, and moved by the dedication and perseverance of the mulattos in Brazil in building the São Paulo Brazil Temple, he takes the matter before the Lord, as many previous presidents of the church have done.
  • June 9: Spencer W. Kimball, after receiving the revelation, and discussing the matter with the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Quorum of the Seventy, announces that the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood has been lifted, and all males may receive the priesthood according to their worthiness, regardless of race. Despite previous understanding that blacks were not to receive the priesthood until the millennium, the members of the church receive the announcement with jubilation and it gains worldwide press attention.
  • June 23: Joseph Freeman, Jr., 26, the first black man to gain the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, went in the Salt Lake Temple with his wife and 5 sons for sacred ordinances. Thomas S. Monson, a member of the church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles, conducted the marriage and sealing ordinances. This event shows that blacks not only are able to gain the priesthood, but are able to interracially marry in the temple with the church's blessing. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 24, 1978)
  • August 19: Delbert L. Stapley dies.
  • September 9: The Missionary Training Center opens in Provo, Utah, replacing the Language Training Mission and also the Mission Home in Salt Lake City.[59]
  • September 17: Battlestar Galactica first airs on American television. It is produced by church member Glen A. Larson, and he incorporated many themes from Mormon theology into the shows.
  • September 30: N. Eldon Tanner reads Official Declaration—2 in General Conference, and it is unanimously adopted as the word and will of the Lord. This is the declaration released publicly earlier in 1978, allowing blacks to receive the priesthood.
  • September 30: General authority emeritus status is introduced for those above age 70, with the exception of the First Presidency and the Apostles.[3]
  • October 1: James E. Faust is ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  • October 30: São Paulo Brazil Temple opened, the first in South America, Latin America and in Brazil.
  • Gospel Principles, an official church lesson manual, is released.
  • LDS Church membership surpasses four million.[64]






  • April 2: Local congregations are now only required to fund 4% of building their new meetinghouses, with the remaining 96% paid by the LDS Church's general fund.[3]
  • June 1: Ground broken for construction of the Triad Center on June 1, 1982 by Essam Khashoggi, chairman of Triad America.
  • October 3: The subtitle Another Testament of Jesus Christ is added to the LDS Church's recently revised edition of the Book of Mormon.[59]
  • October 30: The Grandin Print Shop opens as an LDS historic site in Palmyra, New York.[3]
  • November 27: N. Eldon Tanner dies. Consequently, Marion G. Romney is named as First Counselor, and Gordon B. Hinckley is named as Second Counselor.
  • December 31: The God Makers, an anti-Mormon film by Ed Decker, is premiered, finding screenings in evangelical Christian churches. Its popularity results in books and sequels, and impacts public perception of the LDS Church, although its claims and tone are strongly criticized, even by opponents of the church, for misrepresenting or defaming Mormonism.
  • LDS Church membership surpasses five million.[69]





  • October 4: Stake quorums of Seventy are dissolved.[3]
  • October 9: Joseph B. Wirthlin is ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  • Arabic edition of Book of Mormon.
  • Protests against BYU president in Jerusalem by Jewish groups, shouting slogans such as "Conversion is Murder!" and "Mormons, stop your mission now".




  • April 1: The Second Quorum of the Seventy is created,[83] its members being term-limited to 3–5 years.
  • May 16: Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center dedicated.
  • September 1: George P. Lee, the first Native American general authority is excommunicated. He is the most recent GA to have been excommunicated.
  • November 25: Announcement that local ward and stake budgets will be funded by general Church funds, from tithing, and will no longer have assessments.[3][84]
  • LDS Church membership surpasses seven million.[85]



  • March 31: Helvécio Martins becomes first black general authority.
  • April 2: The release of FamilySearch software, which allows Family History Centers to access the church's genealogical resources on CD-ROM.[86]
  • April: Wording of endowment and temple ceremony altered, and wording changed to remove penalty oaths.
  • November 20: Costs are equalized for all missionaries, so all pay the same amount regardless of where they are serving, effective January 1, 1991.[87]


  • May 1: The 500,000th LDS missionary is called.[3]
  • May 31: LDS Church membership surpasses eight million.[88][89]
  • June 8–29: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs through a tour of Eastern Europe and Russia, amidst the thaw in the Cold War, fostering goodwill and publicity just months before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.[90]
  • June 24: The LDS Church is granted formal recognition in Russia.[3]
  • December: The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is published.[88] A joint production of BYU and Macmillan, it holds 1,500 entries from over 730 contributors.
  • December 26: Collapse of the USSR, end of Cold War and start of CIS. Missionaries increase in the region.



The San Diego California Temple is dedicated.


Howard W. Hunter becomes President of the Church.


Gordon B. Hinckley becomes LDS Church president.


The Hong Kong China Temple is dedicated.
  • January 18: General Authorities are no longer to serve on boards of directors for public or private corporations (with the exception of the church's Deseret Management Corporation).[95]
  • February 25: More LDS members live outside the United States than inside it.[96]
  • April 6: Gordon B. Hinckley announces plans for the LDS Conference Center.
  • April 7: Gordon B. Hinckley is interviewed by Mike Wallace on the popular TV show 60 Minutes.[97]
  • May 26: Hong Kong China Temple dedicated. It is the first "high rise" temple due to land shortages.
  • May 27–28: Gordon B. Hinckley visits mainland China, the first LDS Church president to do so.[3]
  • June 29: Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the LDS Church, receives the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement.[88]
  • December 9: Launch of, the official LDS Church website.[3]
  • Indian Placement Program ends.


Reenactments celebrate the Utah pioneer sesquicentennial.


The Monticello Utah Temple was the first of the new, small design.


The Salt Lake City Tornado of 1999 rips through downtown

See also


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  • Reeve, W. Paul;  
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