Skip to main content Accessibility help

Body and Soul: The Record of Mormon Religious Philanthropy

  • Dean L. May (a1)


Some years ago, as part of his Rotary International commitments, Mormon General Authority Marion D. Hanks spent several holiday afternoons ringing the bell over a Salvation Army charity kettle on Main Street in Salt Lake City. Though he never was approached directly on the matter, rumors spread that other high church officials were not happy with his participating so publicly in the activities of another religious organization. The incident suggests that there are ambiguities in the principles and practice of philanthropy by the Latter-day Saint church which may not be fully understood. It is the purpose of this paper in an exploratory and suggestive way to unravel these ambiguities.



Hide All

An early version of this paper was delivered at the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History, San Francisco, December 1983. The author wishes to thank Davis Bitton, Robert A. Goldberg, and Marion D. Hanks for thoughtful and helpful comments on earlier drafts. None has read, nor of course are they responsible for the final product. Betty Sedgley Kenyon typed the manuscript with her unfailing skill and good cheer.

1. Doctrine and Covenants 29: 34.

2. Ibid., 131: 7.

3. Smith, Joseph Jr., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2d ed., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City, 1964), 4: 571581.McMurrin, Sterling M. discusses the importance of this monistic teaching in his The Philosophical Foundations of Mormon Theology (Salt Lake City, 1959), pp. 610.

4. Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (18541886; reprint, Salt Lake City, 1967), 18: 243. The church's concern for secular affairs is the principal theme of Arrington, Leonard J., Great Basin Kingdom (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), esp. pp. 513.

5. Book of Mormon, Fourth Nephi, verse 3.

6. Ibid., Mosiah, 4: 16–19.

7. Pearl of Great Price, Moses 7: 18.

8. Doctrine and Covenants 42:30.

9. Photographs of the original deeds can be found in Arrington, Leonard J., Fox, Feramorz Y., and May, Dean L., Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation Among the Mormons (Salt Lake City, 1976), pp. 365372.

10. A fuller discussion of the workings of Consecration and Stewardship is in Arrington, , Fox, , and May, , Building the City of God, pp. 1540.

11. See ibid., p. 367.

12. This “United Order” movement, as it was called, is the major theme of Arrington, , Fox, , and May, , Building the City of God, pp. 1540.

13. Smith, , History of the Church, 3: 249250.

14. A description of the fast-offering program is in Arrington, Leonard J. and Bitton, Davis, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints (New York, 1979), pp. 210211.

15. Beecher, Maureen Ursenbach discusses the origins of the Relief Society in “The ‘Leading Sisters’: A Female Hierarchy in Nineteenth Century Mormon Society,” Journal of Mormon History 9 (1982): 2539. The quote is from May, Cheryll L., “Charitable Sisters,” in Mormon Sisters, ed. Bushman, Claudia L. (Cambridge, Mass., 1976), pp. 225226. Closer studies of Mormon welfare programs in the twentieth century are in Blumell, Bruce D., “Welfare Before Welfare: Twentieth Century LDS Church Charity Before the Great Depression,” Journal of Mormon History 6 (1979): 89106; and Arrington, , Fox, , and May, , Building the City of God, pp. 337358.

16. See Underwood, Grant, “Millenarianism and the Early Mormon Mind,” Journal of Mormon History 9 (1982): 4151.

17. Doctrine and Covenants 29:7–11.

18. Mulder, William, Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia (Minneapolis, 1957).

19. Journal of Discourses, 2: 66.

20. This process is described in Mulder, , Homeward to Zion; P. A. M. Taylor, Expectations Westward: The Mormons and the Emigration of Their British Converts in the Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh, 1965); and in Larsen, Gustive O., Prelude to the Kingdom: Mormon Desert Conquest. A Chapter in American Cooperative Experience (Fancestown, N.H., 1947), esp. p. 239. See also Jensen, Richard L., “Steaming Through: Arrangements for Mormon Emigration from Europe, 1869–1887,” Journal of Mormon History 9 (1982): 323.

21. Bitton, Davis, “American Philanthropy and Mormon Refugees, 1846–1849,” Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 6381.

22. Dean L. May, “Wealth, Production, and Community in Two Western Towns,” paper delivered at the 1983 annual meeting of the Mormon History Association, Omaha, Nebraska, pp. 9–10.

23. Utah Industrial Promotion Division, Utah! Facts (Salt Lake City, 1978), p. II–5, table II–9.

24. The financial crisis of the turn-of-the-century Mormon church is discussed in Allen, James B. and Leonard, Glen M., The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, 1976), pp. 401465. Twentieth-century economic developments are discussed in Leonard J. Arrington, “The Commercialization of Utah's Economy: Trends and Developments from Statehood to 1910”; and Thomas G. Alexander, “The Burgeoning of Utah's Economy, 1910–1918,” and “The Economic Consequences of the War: Utah and the Depression of the Early 1920s,” in A Dependent Commonwealth: Utah's Economy from Statehood to the Great Depression, ed. May, Dean L. (Provo, Utah, 1974), pp. 334; 3555; 5789.

25. Utah's income distribution is included in a study by III, T. S. Sale, “Interstate Analysis of the Size Distribution of Family Income, 1950–1970,” Southern Economic Journal 40 (1974): 437.

26. Rauschenbusch, Walter, Christianity and the Social Crisis (New York, 1907), p. xiii.

27. Ibid., p. 355.

28. Bogen, Boris D., Jewish Philanthropy: An Exposition of Principles and Methods of Jewish Social Service in the United States (New York, 1917), esp. pp. 363374.

29. Clair Bishop, LDS Social Services, interview with author, Salt Lake City, Utah, 14 December 1983. Marion D. Hanks, letter to the author, 26 Januvary 1984.

30. Val D. MacMurray, LDS Social Services and the Thrasher Foundation, interview with author, 4 December 1983. For a broader discussion of these trends, see also MacMurray, Val D., “Christian Service in Developing Nations: Problems and Prospects in West Africa,” paper delivered at the First Annual Meeting of the Collegium, Aesculapium (Brigham Young University Academy of Medicine), 6 07 1983. See also Thrasher Research Fund, Annual Report, 1987.

31. LDS Church News, 29 12 1985, pp. 3, 10.Ensign (May 1988): 94.

32. Hinckley, Gordon B., “God Grant Us Faith,” sermon delivered on 2 10 1983, in “Report of the 153rd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Ensign (11. 1983): 53.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed