A Short History of Mormon Publishing: Foreign Missions Between the Wars

The sixth of at least nine posts and an introduction. See also Part V, Part IV, Part III, Part II, Part I, Introduction

With the end of the LDS Church’s efforts to “gather” members from the mission field to Utah and the beginning of correlation at the beginning of the 20th Century, foreign missions underwent a significant change, one that influenced how and what they published.

The end of the “gathering” meant that missions around the world had to provide much more of the Church’s program for members, so that members in the “mission field” could progress and receive all the benefits that members in Utah could. It took much of the 20th century to accomplish much of that effort for any of the non-English-speaking areas of the Church.

Like the effort to provide a complete program of the Church, correlation of Church efforts across multiple languages also took decades. In Utah and in the U.S., correlation initially meant (as far as publishing was concerned) the introduction and coordination of lesson manuals. The various auxiliary organizations of the Church had produced materials to support teachers since before 1890, and formal lesson manuals were introduced by about 1891. By the 1920s manuals were common in all these organizations.[]

Outside of English, local missions often tried to replicate these efforts, translating manuals into the mission language, and, in the case of German, occasionally writing their own.[] Missions continued to publish other materials, such as the Scriptures, hymnals and manuals needed for day-to-day Church operations and occasionally non-fiction missionary works. Proselyting works, such as A Voice of Warning (the 1837 Parley P. Pratt book which remained in use through the 1950s), remained a chief focus of mission publishing efforts.

While many of the long-running periodicals started in the 1800s continued, new periodicals seemed less and less oriented toward the local Church members, and more often to the missionaries. But new general-purpose periodicals did begin. Most missions had something. The Argentine Mission, for example, began publishing El Mensajero (also known as El Mensajero Deseret) in 1937, a few years after the missions in South American shifted from seeking German speakers to working with native speakers. El Mensajero continued until 1955. There appear to also have been publications in Dutch, Czech, Hawaiian, Tahitian, Swedish, and possibly other languages.[]

With the addition of auxiliary manuals, in some areas auxiliary magazines also developed. In Germany, the mission produced magazines for the Relief Society, the Sunday School, and the Primary, while in Argentina a magazine for the Primary was also published.[]

One periodical published in the 1940s stands out as unique, principally because of the events that led to it. In the mid 1930s Mexican saints became dissatisfied with the American mission president sent them, Harold W. Pratt, and rejected him, asking the First Presidency to name a Mexican as mission president. This effort, called the Tercera Convención (Third Convention), claimed to recognize the General Authorities, rejecting only the mission president, but established and maintained a separate organization, including a monthly magazine named the Sendero Lamanita (Lamanite Path). The group was eventually reconciled with local leaders in 1946 in a visit by President George Albert Smith.[]

Despite the emphasis on correlation, what was published outside of the U.S. generally remained the purview of the mission president, since the members in each mission were relatively few, dispersed and rarely had the resources needed to mount independent publishing efforts. Over time, mission presidents became familiar with a canon of approved books and tracts, and eliminated locally written materials in favor of those translated from English.

Occasionally mission presidents produced works that didn’t fit this standard — for example, the Uruguayan mission published a translation of James A. Little’s biography Jacob Hamblin in 1953, although today it is hard to see what interest Uruguayan members might have in Hamblin.[]


[] My own analysis of data drawn from Flake, Mormon Bibliography, 1830-1930. This database can be found online at (http://lib.byu.edu/dlib/mormon_bib/).

[] My own analysis of data drawn from Flake, Mormon Bibliography, 1830-1930. This database can be found online at (http://lib.byu.edu/dlib/mormon_bib/). Manuals written in German include Ein Leitfaden zum Studium des Buches Mormon edited by Jean Wunderlich.

[] My own analysis of data drawn from the Harold B. Lee Library catalog.

[] My own analysis of data drawn from the Harold B. Lee Library catalog.

[] Lozano Herrera, Agrícol. Historia del Mormonismo en México. México, D. F., Editorial Zarahemla, 1983. pp. 64-81.

[] Little, James A. Jacob Hamblin “El Pacificador.” Misión Uruguaya, 1953

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