The Improvement Era, Church News and other sources for Mormon news speak very often in the first half of the 20th century about activities that we don’t usually think of as standard missionary assignments today: Basketball teams entered in regular league play, singing groups traveling throughout a mission to perform wherever they could get an opening, elders running radio programs, runners competing in Finnish races and pianists studying in French conservatories – all while reporting to mission presidents and publicly identifying themselves as LDS missionaries. Here is news from the non-Mormon world describing the Deseret Orchestra, a group of elders from the Northern States Mission, who garnered publicity for the Church in the late 1940s while taking a break from tracting.
The Gold and Green Ball, should you not have picked up on that from the pictures that have appeared from time to time in the Latter-day Saint Images series here, was the annual “prom” of the MIA – a formal dance, usually with a live orchestra and floor show, and usually with a queen crowned during the evening in an elaborate ceremony often involving a costumed court, right down to little boys in satin shorts and capes bearing the queen’s crown on a velvet pillow.
Detroit News, Magazine Section
24 February 1949
You boys and gals who like to step lively to the cadence of a swing band couldn’t do better than attend the Gold and Green Ball, which will be held Friday night at Veterans’ Memorial Hall on Greenfield Road, just north of Schoolcraft.
Never heard of the Gold and Green Ball? Let me tell you about it, because it’s unique and traditional and all that. And the music will be out of this world, and I can vouch for that, too.
The music is provided by an orchestra the like of which you never heard. It’s called the Deseret Orchestra, and it’s as swing as all get out and it has 15 pieces in it, and it is now touring the northern states.
They’re All Ministers
What makes this band unique? Well, for one thing, its members are all ordained ministers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That’s Mormon. Ever heard of a swing band with an exclusive ministerial personnel?
The boys’ age-range is from 19 to 23. All have temporarily abandoned their college education for a two-year mission for their church. Some of them have previously been in the armed services. They are typical of more than 5000 young men and women missionaries of the Mormon Church, now serving throughout the world, expending all of their time at their own expense, paying their own living and traveling costs.
Gold and Green Ball
The band got here Wednesday and the boys are going to stay with us until Thursday, March 3rd. You’ll be hearing them over the radio and in concerts in the high schools, hospitals and service clubs in this area.
But the main purpose of the swing of this swing band in this direction is, I repeat, the Gold and Green Ball. That, too, is as traditional as all get-out. It’s the annual important event of the Mormon Church – of all Mormon Churches everywhere. A queen and her attendants are selected and she gets crowned at a beautiful coronation ceremony, and she reigns in splendor throughout the evening. That sort of thing goes on all over the country.
Incidentally, the Gold and Green Ball is different from any dancing party I ever heard of. It begins with a prayer and ends with one.
The Long Trek West
Maybe you’ll be asking how it happens the Mormons tie in so frivolous a pastime as dancing with their religion. You didn’t know, perhaps, that there has been a tradition of music with the Mormons from the very start.
It began when Brigham Young led his people over the westward trail to found a church and set up a colony in Utah. That was a long, tough journey. No streamliners ploughing across the plains and through the rugged mountain passes. Just covered wagons and pioneers with faith and courage.