Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » No Time for Boredom

No Time for Boredom

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 27, 2009

There is always a debate over the question as to how far the church shall go in promoting Recreation as a part of its program. there are still a few who think that the Church has no responsibility for aught except purely ‘religious’ things. Other enthusiasts hold that the Church should provide for all the recreational life of the community. On the whole, the modern church, with a social gospel and a program of religious education, considers recreation an integral part of its program.

The [MIA] Community Activity Manual, 1935-36

By today’s standards, with so many opportunities for private recreation, the ward recreation schedule for 1935-36 seems overwhelming, with a major activity every two weeks – and that doesn’t even count the socials held by auxiliaries other than the MIA, the Relief Society bazaar, class parties, Boy Scout outings, banquets, and a very elaborate system of tournament sports (which in 1935-36 included basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball, horseshoes, and quoits). Nor does this list include stake activities, conferences, general church activities, nor the many hours of preparation that would go into any of the ward activities scheduled that year — and they were ward activities, not solely youth activities. The MIA manual includes elaborate instructions for each of the activities listed here.

Before you decide this is overload, though, think of how you spent your free time last week – and recognize how many of those activities would have been unavailable to you in 1935-36, either because the technology hadn’t been invented or because of Depression-era poverty.

Ward Social Activities Scheduled by the MIA in 1935-36

M.I.A. Opening Social

To provide an evening of sociability where all the members of the ward can meet in a great mass gathering to felicitate each other on the opening of the season’s active work and express loyalty to the group who are charged with providing the leisure time program for the ward.

Hallowe’en Party

To center an evening of happy, joyous play around a unique event, and provide wholesome direction for its traditional activities.

Ward Fair or Carnival

To win cooperative action of all Church agencies in a festive occasion, and (where wards are on a budget system) to give opportunity for the raising of funds.

Ye Olde English Party

To vary the ordinary dancing party by introducing novel features of English flavor, in order to prove that variety is the spice of life, and ward recreational life may be improved by means of a little spice.

Harvest Ball

To give opportunity for this group of young people to express their ideas and ideals along lines of model entertainment.

Leadership Social

To socialize the group and develop a cooperative spirit among all auxiliary leaders in an exhibition of loyalty to the Church program.

Old Time Party

To renew the delights of old-time social life and revive some of its customs in which adult and youth can participate in real enjoyment.


To give opportunity for wholesome entertainment and cultural and educational development through the presentation of a carefully selected and well produced play.

Christmas Cheer Week

To promote true Xmas [sic] spirit – with caroling, Christmas tree, presents for the children, public programs, and a joyous, friendly time for all.

Costume Ball

To endow the ever-popular dancing party with new atmosphere, providing for the delightful informality which is the foundation of spontaneous enjoyment and the guarantee of real sociability.

Moving Picture

To provide an evening that will give to the community the best that has been produced of this interesting type of modern entertainment.

Gold and Green Ball

To feature in beautiful arrangement the M.I.A. Colors, endearing to the hearts of all their significant meaning, and to combine beauty, art, culture, and comradeship in a glorious occasion.

One-Act Play Festival

To provide for friendly rivalry in achieving the best that is possible in this universally loved art.

Youth-Host Party

To provide an occasion where youth can express in a social way their love and respect to parents and friends.

Ice Carnival or “Snow Ball”

To promote active interest in the finest of all fun – winter sports; and to carry the exhilaration of this day-time activity into an appropriately arranged evening event of genuine joy and comradeship.

Ward Reunion

To unite all members of the ward in a great family gathering where with song, banquet, speech and dance, everyone is made to feel the ward family spirit.

Valentine Party

To celebrate an ever-popular occasion in a delightful and beautiful manner, details being introduced which demonstrate the fact that games and decorations contribute as much to the complete success of a community gathering as do music and dancing.


To provide for a large participating group musical and dramatic training and for the public a delightful form of entertainment.

Scout Jamboree – Bee-Hive Swarm Day

To give opportunity for the participating organizations to present the delightfully entertaining features of their program, and receive recognition for their achievements.


To make use of the experience and knowledge of those in the community who have seen the world and can tell about it in order to stimulate among the people greater interest in world conditions and affairs.

Road Show

To arouse the spirit of friendly competition which adds the impetus necessary to insure the finest type of entertainment; to increase stake loyalty through solidarity of purpose and effort among the various wards.

Humpty-Dumpty Party

To cap a season of rejoicing with an event unique to the occasion, and invest a ward entertainment with the atmosphere and charm which is so easily achieved at an Easter celebration.

Honor Day

To bring to a delightful culmination the M.I.A. season’s activities in contest and demonstration featuring the outstanding talent and ability of community members.

Fathers and Sons’ Outing – Mothers and Daughters’ Day

To develop between the two generations appreciation of each other, and demonstrate, through this opportunity for mutual expression of love and interest, the fine possibilities for complete understanding to be found in play.

Independence and Pioneer Day Celebrations

To renew in every heart the hallowed memories of the sacrifices made by those who have gone before, and to prove our gratitude for our marvelous heritage of freedom through concerted expression of love and respect which bind our devotion to the living as well as to the dead.

I expect to be in the minority, but I think this schedule sounds fun!



  1. Fun, yes, but exhausting!

    I look at this schedule and think of this on top of three separate Sunday meetings, mid-week fast and testimony meetings, additional quorum and auxilliary meetings, presidency meetings, home and visiting teaching and I wonder how anyone could survive before consolidated schedules and corelation. How did the church manage to have a reputation for its work ethic?

    Comment by Eric Boysen — May 27, 2009 @ 6:42 am

  2. Ahh…the days before television.

    Comment by Researcher — May 27, 2009 @ 8:18 am

  3. This raises a question about BALANCE. To be honest I know people who believe that the Church should provide everything in their daily lives including entertainment. On the other hand, in my unit we are lean on activities and feel that we need to have more socials. As I said, it’s about striking the right balance.

    Comment by Steve C. — May 27, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  4. Eric B stole my answer, word for word, in his first sentence. 🙂

    We should keep in mind that this was a different era, when the ward was the center of one’s social life. We’ve moved on from that, both in terms of focus and in terms of Church funding. I think that things like the opera have been replaced by other community capabilities such that the Church doesn’t need to provide it.

    Comment by queuno — May 27, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  5. Yup. I think we’re agreed. If you imagine this program implemented in a ward today, it raises quite a different reaction than when you think about its being implemented in a hundred small, rural Western communities of 1935-36 where virtually all of the fun was home-made, and the making of it was part of the fun. Even in a city like Salt Lake with more variety and opportunities this must have been welcome entertainment.

    My mother turned 14 at the beginning of this MIA year. In her stories of her youth, ward activities were prominent and fondly remembered.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 27, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

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