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The Church Schools
BY GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT HORACE H. CUMMINGS
Some time ago I received a telephone message from a Chicago friend who was sojourning in this city, about as follows:
“Mr. and Mrs. L- are here from Chicago and I cannot get them to believe that the ‘Mormon’ schools are worth calling schools. Won't you come over to the hotel and take luncheon with us, and then conduct them through the Latter-day Saints' University?”
My Chicago friend was well acquainted with the work done by that school. I gladly accepted the invitation and had a very pleasant visit with them at the luncheon. Both were refined and cultured; he had acted twenty-two years as State Superintendent of schools in one of the most progressive middle-west states. After luncheon we went to the school for the afternoon, visiting the various classes, the library, the laboratories, and the different departments of work. I explained the various kinds of work to them, the intellectual, the industrial, and the religious, and their relation to each other and their effect upon the pupil, all of which seemed to surprise and interest them very much. They asked many intelligent questions about the school and seemed pleased with what they saw and heard.
I asked Mr. L- what he thought of the school. “It is one of the best, if not the very best high schools I ever saw,” he earnestly replied. This was after we had completed the inspection of the school.
If a man of his intelligence was so far misled by the false statements published against our people, from time to time, how can the less informed be blamed for thinking the “Mormons” are indifferent to education? It is astonishing how the effect of this misrepresentation persists, in the face of so much evidence to the contrary.
Another error quite widely believed, intended to take the place of this one, when it is counteracted by the knowledge of real conditions, is that our excellent schools are of very recent origin, being brought into existence through the influence of outside people of education and refinement who have come and settled amongst us. Without any conscious feeling of ingratitude for help received from any source whatever, I desire to present a few well-authenticated facts about the educational efforts and development among the Latter-day Saints.
True, the Prophet Joseph Smith was prevented both by age and circumstances from being educated when he began the establishment of the Church; but the Church had been organized only a trifle over a year when two of the principal elders, William W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery, were instructed (in June, 1831) “to
do the work of printing, and of selecting and writing books for the schools in this Church, that little children also may receive instruction before me as is pleasing unto me” (Doc. & Cov. 55: 4). In June, 1832, this instruction was peated in an article which appeared in the first number
the Evening and Morning Star: "The disciples should lose no time in providing
schools for PRESIDENT JOSEPH F. SMITH,
the children CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
that they may be taught as is pleasing unto the Lord, and brought up in the ways of holiness.
It is all-important that to become good they should be taught good.”
"The Glory of God is intelligence.” “Men cannot be saved in ignorance." "A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge.” These sayings and other teachings of the Prophet, together with the facts set forth in the New Testament that the Savior himself had to learn “line upon line and precept upon precept," and "was made perfect by what he suffered," destroyed the old sectarian notion that death-bed repentance and confession
of faith in Jesus, by some miraculous power prepared the sinner at once for celestial glory. Planted in its place came a belief that we must become “perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect," and that this was necessarily through a slow educative process as shown in the life of the Savior himself. Actuated by these teachings, the best schools possible have been maintained by the Church. The School of the Prophets and the Elders' school were established, in 1832 and 1833, and did much good in that early day. In August, 1833, the Lord said:
“Behold I say unto you concerning the school in Zion, I, the Lord, am well pleased that here should be a school in Zion, and also with my servant Parley P. Pratt, for he abideth in me; and inasmuch as he continueth to abide in me, he shall continue to preside over the school in the land of Zion until I shall give him other commandments."
The Saints are then commanded to erect a school building in which they can be instructed (See Doc. and Cov. sec. 97). The year 1834 was fraught with much persecution, which interfered very greatly with the schools of the Church. However, it was provided that a school should be opened in the lower portion of a building erected for a printing office (See Church History, Vol. 2, page 169). This school was conducted throughout the winter, and lectures on theology, which furnished an important part of the work, were prepared under direction of the Prophet, and are now found in the Doctrine and Covenants under the title, “Lectures on Faith.” Concerning the Kirtland school, William E. McLellan made the following report, dated February 27, 1835:
“The school has been conducted under the immediate care and inspection of Joseph Smith, Jr., Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery, trustees. When the school first commenced, we received into it both large and small, but in about three weeks the classes became so large and the house so crowded that it was thought advisable to dismiss all the small students and continue those only who wished to study penmanship, arithmetic, English grammar, and geography. Before we dismissed the small pupils, there were, in all, about 130 who attended. Since that time we have had upon an average of 100, the most of whom have received lectures upon English grammar; and for the last four weeks, about 70 have been studying geography one-half of the day and grammar and wri ing the other part. Burdick's Arithmetic, Kirkham's Grammar, and Olney's Geography have been used. The Noah Webster's Dictionary is standard. Since the year 1827 I have taught schools in five different states and visited many schools which I was not engaged to teach in. In none, I can say with certainty, have I seen students make more rapid progress than in this."
A Hebrew school was also taught in Kirtland during the winter by Prof. Joshua Seixas, who was engaged to teach seven weeks for three hundred and twenty dollars. Several classes were organized and great interest was aroused in the study of ancient languages. Other branches were also taught, a singing school being an important department. The next ten years was a stormy time in the history of the Church. Persecution interfered very much with school activities. From Ohio and Missouri the Saints were driven and settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, and there soon established thriving colonies, schools being an important, ever-present feature. On December 10, 1840, Gov. Thomas Carlin, of Illinois, signed the charter for the University of the City of Nauvoo. Adults, as well as children, attended these schools, and every effort was made to impart information
and make it general among the people.
The Saints were finally driven from their
DR. KARL G. MAESER, FIRST PRINCIPAL beautiful city, in 1846, BRIGHAM YOUNG ACADEMY and a brave little band of one hundred and forty-three pioneers piloted the way across the desert into the Salt Lake valley, arriving there July 24, 1847. The first few weeks were used in planting crops for themselves and others about to follow and preparing shelter for their families. As soon as practicable a school was started by Miss Mary Jane Dilworth (Hammond). A few weeks later, when the frosts of winter lessened the outside work, a larger school was established under the direction of Julian Moses, who was the first male teacher in Utah. From this small beginning, the system of public schools gradually grew. Within two years and a half a state university was chartered by the Utah legislature. At first a tuition was charged students of the university as well as the pupils of the elementary schools, but as population and wealth increased, they all became free. A most excellent system of public schools was thus provided by the “Mormons” who have always gladly maintained and patronized them and done all in their power to render them efficient.
As religion was not taught in public schools, the Church con tinued the original practice of maintaining Church schools. The Brigham Young Academy was founded at Provo, October 16, 1875. The Brigham Young College, at Logan, two years later. The latter was endowed by its founder, whose name it bears, with a valuable tract of land near the city of Logan. The deed of trust granting this endowment provided that besides the usual subjects taught in colleges, the curriculum this school should include instructions in what are now known as agriculture, manual training and mechanic art, domestic science, domestic art, branches which were not taught in other institutions at that time, but which HORACE H. CUMMINGS, GENERAL SUPERhave since become so
INTENDENT L. D. S. SCHOOLS important.
Under the wise direction of the General Church Board of Education, during the next decade, a system of Church schools was established in the principal stakes of Zion. An academy to do high school work was established in each of the most populous stakes and a seminary for elementary work in the more wealthy wards. In all these schools, besides the branches taught in the public schools of like grade, theology was required and the spirit and atmosphere of the schools made to conform to the ideals of the Church as far as possible.
The seminaries, however, did not continue many years be