Let’s flip through a church magazine that’s nearly a century old. The pages are slightly yellowed; there are a few stains on the cover and the staples are rusting.
It has advertisements: for garments (“lowest prices on the market;” you could get them in wool, cotton, or silkalene), train travel to California (round trip from Utah for 52.50$), and life insurance. “No substitute for Life Insurance can be found until you find a Remedy for Death:” slighty ironic for a Church publication if you think about it.
Keeping with that theme, one of the articles is entitled “Postpone Your Funeral.” It contains sad markers of its time (“More than eighty-five percent of the deaths occur before the age of seventy-five.” “100,000 persons died from tuberculosis alone last year in the United States.”) and some advice that could have come from a current magazine article on dieting (don’t overeat, eat more vegetables, drink plenty of water). I liked this idea for maintaining health: “Generally speaking, eight hours’ play, eight hours’ work and eight hours’ sleep is a pretty fair division of the twenty-four-hour day.” He also notes in the article that Church members would be expected to buy Christmas Seals (presumably similar to Easter Seals?) in order to support health education.
Reader’s Digest style jokes are found at the bottom of some pages:
A number of men were reporting in their Quorum on the harmony existing in their homes. John was reporting and stated that he and his wife were always in perfect unity. “If, for example, we are decorating the house and my wife prefers a red color, and I prefere a more modest gray, we compromise by choosing red.”
Most striking, perhaps, is the number and length of short stories. I don’t think the Church magazines publish any fiction now.
And while you could certainly find an article about Brigham Young in a more recent Church magazine, it would be about one-tenth as long–and with none of the lengthy original-source quotations–as the one written by Preston Nibley and leading off this issue.
A brief recounting of an outing of the Ohio Conference to visit some ancient burial mounds (complete with two pictures) was written in a charmingly informal way (“Shortly after leaving Bainbirdge [sic?], we were overtaken by a severe electrical storm and a downpour of rain. We arrived home drenched, but felt repaid by our day’s experience.”) by the two “lady missionaries” who went on the trip. They describe the mounds as being “just like the forts described in the 48th and 50th chapters of Alma.” Their tone puts an entirely different spin on their apologetics; it’s intriguing.
You’ll perhaps be pleased to learn that cheesy, sentimental poetry was not invented recently.
Here’s a sentence you won’t find in an Ensign article:
It has always been a favorite cry with enemies of “Mormonism” to charge it with national disloyalty and to seek to discredit our Church organization as being motivated by strictly sectarian and unpatriotic desires.
(One wonders if the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, but that’s a topic for another post.) It comes from an article titled “Citizenship and Religion” that works hard to make the case that Mormons are good citizens.
An article on tithing and temple work is standard fare–except for the precise dollar figures given (200K for the Kirtland Temple; 2.8M for St. George, Logan, and Manti temples combined; $3,398,785 spent in 1925 on stake and ward expenses, Church schools, “care of the worthy poor,” missions, and church buildings.)
I love the report on the banquet given for Elders Melvin J. Ballard, Rey L. Pratt, and Rulon S. Wells before they left to open the South American mission. Why did I like it? Because they included the menu: Brazilian cocktail, Buenos Aires roast turkey, Amazon dressing, Andes potatoes, Giblet Gravy, Peruvian Peas in Timbale Cases (what the heck is that?), Cranberry Jelly, Bolivia Olives, Celery, Rolls, Argentina ice cream, and Spanish Cake. Thanksgiving meets a geography lesson–for 140 people at the Beehive House. The talks given are quoted at length, including the bad jokes: “The first elders who went to that land were given a Chili reception.” We learn that their wives will not be going with them.
The “Messages from the Missions” section proudly notes “Fifteen Baptisms in Oklahoma” and describes the experience of two elders who saw a Zulu war dance performed by 1000 warriors. There’s a picture, too.
A sermon from (presumably non-LDS) Bishop G. Ashton Oldham, published by The National Council for the Prevention of War, is reproduced. (It includes an umlaut over the second ‘o’ in ‘cooperation’–never seen that before.)
The back contains several lesson outlines. They are better than what we have today, in my opinion. The topic for all of the lessons was “The Home.” I was pleased to see the wife viewed as a “working partner, not a silent partner” in the marriage. While a mother who “becomes a money earner at the expense of her motherhood . . . is out of line of her duty” whether she should earn money “is a question to be decided by each individual family.” It is noted that a mother earning money should be exempted from some household duties. The fiscal value of a woman’s household labor is mentioned several times.
I also liked this: “The following pictures have been previewed and found acceptable by the [Mutual] Committee:” followed by a list of a dozen or so movie titles. Hard to imagine that today, eh?
There’s a statistical report in the back, listing Mutual enrollment and attendance by stakes. There’s this note at the bottom: “Notice that over half of stakes have not reported for October. Many errors have appeared on the reports submitted.” There’s also something called an “Efficiency Report” with scores for items such as recreation, slogan, Era, and fund.
“Passing Events” notes everything from the death of a member of the Idaho Falls (stake?) presidency to the discovery of King Tut’s tomb to a study being conducted to determine whether one’s shadow weighs anything.
I only barely recognize my Church in these pages.