Further to part of our discussion in the comments here about the Salt Lake Missionary Home and its location at various eras, I found this article written by the Home’s first president, LeRoi C. Snow, published in the May 1928 Improvement Era, discussing the earliest history of the Home. It was concise enough, and packed with such detail, that I’ve chosen to post it as is. We might have some fun considering how that first Missionary Home was both like and unlike the current training given at the Missionary Training Center. Or, knowing Keepa’s regulars, we’ll have some fun regardless of what direction the comments go.
The Missionary Home
By Elder LeRoi C. Snow
Practically all who are called to represent the Church as missionaries come first to Salt Lake City. Here they receive instruction, go through the temple, are set apart by members of the Council of the Twelve or the First Council of Seventy, arrange for transportation and leave in groups for their mission headquarters. This policy has been followed for many years.
The original purpose of the Missionary Home in Salt Lake City was to be a place for outgoing missionaries to stay during the two or three days required for this preparation. The Home has since developed into a two weeks’ preparatory school of intensive teaching and training, for the benefit of all missionaries.
For a number of years, Bishop David A. Smith had recommended the establishment of such a home for missionaries. Approval by the First Presidency was given in May, 1924. The following month, the writer was appointed to be in charge of the Home, under the direction of a supervisory committee, which was soon afterwards named: Bishop David A. Smith, chairman, Axel A. Madsen and Harold G. Reynolds. The residence at 31 North State street was selected and extensive alterations and additions made, requiring nearly eight months to complete. In the meantime, the supervisory Committee was reorganized thus: Elder David O. McKay, who had just returned home after presiding over the European mission, chairman, President Rulon S. Wells and Bishop David A. Smith.
President Heber J. Grant dedicated the Home February 3, 1925. On March 4, the first group of missionaries arrived, and the class work began the next day, with five elders, continuing for one week. January, 1926, the course was increased to a period of two weeks.
During the two weeks, seventy-one classes are held, beginning with devotion each morning at 7 o’clock. These classes are conducted by more than thirty instructors, among whom are a number of the Church Authorities. The work covers instruction in the gospel, Church organization, the standard Church works, English and foreign languages, singing, genealogy, priesthood and auxiliary work, personal health and hygiene, gymnasium exercises and swimming, table etiquette and manners. By courtesy of the Salt Lake Transportation Company, the missionaries are taken on a sightseeing trip around the city. They attend the organ recital at the tabernacle, after which they join the party of tourists in a visit of the Bureau of Information, the museum and the buildings and grounds in the temple block, and listen to Elder Joseph S. Perry’s splendid lecture to the tourists.
In addition to the class instruction, the missionaries are trained, during their stay in the Home, in proper association, dignified conduct, personal appearance, dress, cleanliness and neatness, order, punctuality and are urged to eliminate from their lives all “light mindedness, loud laughter,” etc.
We try to have them apply these teachings in their lives because they know it is the right thing to do, not because they are compelled to do it. Their acceptance of the call is voluntary – not compulsory. We want them to accept the training at the Home entirely in this same spirit.
The great majority who report at the Home are earnest and sincere and filled with a desire to do their very best. They adjust themselves readily to the program and requirements of the Home and profit much from the classes. Many have been active in Church service in their wards and stakes, have a college education and are prepared to represent the Church in a dignified, creditable and able manner. We all might well be proud of this army of devoted and faithful messengers of truth.
The information which the missionaries receive in the classes is very important, and they are greatly improved by the training in proper conduct. I believe, however, that the greatest good accomplished by the Home is in helping them obtain the missionary spirit. This most of them do. The degree to which they obtain this missionary spirit depends largely upon the attitude of the individual missionary himself. The three visits to the House of the Lord, the close contact in classes with so many leading men and women (Elder David O. McKay, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, President Rulon S. Wells, President Levi Edgar Young, Bishop David A. Smith and others), concentrating their minds and interest for two weeks upon the work of the Lord, their blessings by the patriarch and those who set them apart, their secret and devotional prayers, expressing themselves before their associates – all these experiences result *in increased faith and strengthened testimonies in God’s great latter-day work.
Many, during their stay at the Home, perhaps in the temple, or during their visit on the temple block, or in some of the classes, have been thrilled as never before in their lives. Their hearts have been touched, their understandings opened, and God has given them a testimony of the divinity of his work. When this spirit and understanding come upon them, they want to tell of their happiness and can hardly wait for the opportunity to preach the gospel and to bear witness of its truth. This is the missionary spirit and most of the elders and sisters who report at the Home receive it before they leave. Though they may be serious and feel their responsibility on arrival, the work at the Home makes them realize this responsibility much more.
Until the spring of 1927, many of the classes were held in the Y building of the L.D.S. high school [L.D.S. University, across the street from the temple] and in the Bishop’s building. Another building, just north of the Home, was then added to give additional sleeping rooms and a fine class room. We can now accommodate sixty elders and twenty women missionaries. There are, frequently, groups of this size. The smallest group this year, forty-one, has just left the Home.
Since the work began, nearly three thousand young men and women have passed through the Home on their way to the mission field. These representatives of the Church are the cleanest, sweetest and finest young people in all the world. They are young, their average age being less than twenty-one years. There are more than two thousand of them now out in the world. They have the sacred and tremendous responsibility of “preaching the gospel to every kindred, tongue and people.” The greatest joy that Sister Snow and I have felt in our labors at the Home has been our acquaintance and association with these thousands of splendid boys and girls, winning their confidence and helping to make them happy in their work. We have made friendships which will last through life. About a thousand have completed successful missions, and have returned happy and satisfied. It has been a great pleasure to welcome them back. This is another purpose of the Home, where returning missionaries may stay a few days and mingle with those who are preparing to leave.
The great good accomplished by the Missionary Home thus far is but a beginning. its effectiveness will continue to grow and its fine influence will be felt more and more, both in the mission field and here at home.