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Sports in Zion

Mormon Recreation, 1890-1940

Richard Ian Kimball

Publication Year: 2003

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.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Sport and Society

Title Page

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pp. i-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv

Table of Contents

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Religion, Reform, and Recreation

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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...

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1. "Not Playing without a Purpose": The Construction of a Mormon Recreation Ideology

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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...

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2. "A Strong Arm to the Church": Recreation Building Boom

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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...

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3. "For the Uplifting and the Betterment of the Youth of Israel": Athletics, Socialization, and the "Selling of the Word of Wisdom"

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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...

Illustrations follow page 124

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4. "A Means of Preserving the Memory of the Mormon Pioneers": LDS Recreation in the Great Outdoors

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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)...

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5. To Make the Most of Leisure: Recreation Responds in a Depression Decade

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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...

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Conclusion: Recreation Recedes

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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...


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pp. 193-212


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pp. 213-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780252091612
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252076367

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Sport and Society