Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Sister Missionary, 1946-48: Part One
 


Sister Missionary, 1946-48: Part One

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 06, 2010

What was it like to be a sister missionary in the post-World War II era? My aunt, Evelyn May Taylor, was such a missionary, serving in the Northern California Mission. She kept a journal and her mother carefully saved all the letters she wrote home. Evelyn herself took photos and kept the documentary odds and ends associated with her mission, allowing us to reconstruct the outward signs of missionary life and something of the interior meaning of that mission.

This post, the first of several, sets out the record of Evelyn’s preparation to be a missionary (not counting a young lifetime of active church life, including graduation from seminary), through the end of her weeks in the Missionary Home in Salt Lake City on the eve of her departure for the mission field.

I have not found a record of Evelyn’s initial interest in serving a mission, nothing that suggests whether she approached her bishop, or whether he called her first. The first indication of mission preparation in her papers is the carbon copy of her temple recommend, issued on May 18, 1946. The reverse of the recommend lists the questions used at that date for determining worthiness. In a twist from today’s procedure, the candidate answered those questions in writing, over her signature.

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Evelyn first went to the temple on June 6, 1946. She saved the small pink ticket that was pinned to her dress when she went to the temple – that pink card alerted temple workers that she was a first-time temple-goer who might need an extra directing hand from time to time. The same system was still used when I attended the temple in St. George in 1981 (I didn’t save my ticket, though). Is that system still used today?

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Late in October, 1946, an envelope with a familiar return address – the Church Administration Building – and a 3¢ stamp! – arrived with Evelyn’s mission call, signed by President George Albert Smith.

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The mission call was accompanied by three other documents:

A form letter regarding missionary wardrobe –

A form letter regarding medical issues –

And a form letter asking for basic identifying and genealogical information about the missionary, something that today is collected during the pre-mission phase and submitted by the missionary before she receives her mission call. There is no copy of Evelyn’s completed form in the preserved paperwork.

Evelyn posed for pictures wearing her new missionary finery:

Today’s missionaries are discouraged from having any more show in their home wards than simply speaking at church before their departure. For many years in the middle of the 20th century, departing missionaries were given a “farewell testimonial” often followed by a dance. Programs were printed, financial contributions were solicited, and refreshments were served.

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At some point in her preparation, Evelyn purchased a blank book to be used as a missionary journal. The journal does not cover her mission preparations; the first entry was made as she traveled between Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

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Most missionaries purchased cards with the Articles of Faith printed on one side and a view of Temple Square, with the missionary’s name and addresses, to use as business cards during their missions –

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Training in the Salt Lake Missionary Home lasted for two weeks. A printed program outlines the activities of missionaries-in-training –

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A group photograph of the missionaries at the home was taken on Tuesday of the first week. Each missionary was given a print of that photograph.

Such group photographs were printed in the Improvement Era, with captions identifying each missionary. The missionaries in Evelyn’s group were –

At the conclusion of her training in the Missionary Home, Evelyn received her missionary certificate, signed by all three members of the First Presidency: George Albert Smith, and his counselors J. Reuben Clark, Jr. and David O. McKay.

Next in the series: Travel to California, and early days in the mission field.



36 Comments »

  1. What a wonderful collection! It seems that the missionaries had much more freedom than today’s missionaries do, such as being allowed to leave the MTC.

    I had a pink ticket on my dress when I went through the Mesa temple in 2005.

    What kind of hat was recommended? I can’t make out the the word in the letter. It is interesting to note that the women are not wearing hats in any of the pictures, but that the guidelines recommend they always be worn.

    Comment by kew — October 6, 2010 @ 7:19 am

  2. I had a pink ticket this April. Afterward, given that I had some garment packages and said ticket, I asked if there was a wastebasket in the locker room. My temple worker escort person was horrified. “Don’t you want to save that?” “No. I don’t scrapbook.” She eventually let me throw it away, but after reading this post I’m suddenly aware that she probably still has hers from when she went through 160 years ago (judging from how old she looked).

    Comment by Ariel — October 6, 2010 @ 7:26 am

  3. kew, the hat paragraph reads: “Hats should always be worn on the street and in public places other than religious meetings. A conservative selection will add to the dignified appearance of the missionary.” I don’t notice hats on the sisters in any of Evelyn’s photographs, either, although there might be one somewhere — most of this stuff I saw for the first time after 8:00 last night (I worked from 9:00 to 1:30 getting documents scanned and uploaded and formatted for this post) and haven’t studied it completely.

    As for the pink tickets, I guess if the system ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Thanks, kew and Ariel, for answering my question as to whether it was still in use.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 6, 2010 @ 7:50 am

  4. This is wonderful, Ardis! It inspires me to look through all my mother’s papers from her mission–which she began at about the same time as Sister Taylor. (But, alas, not this group–she’s not in that photograph.)

    Comment by Mark B. — October 6, 2010 @ 7:59 am

  5. Mark, if you can pin down the dates of her presence in the Missionary Home, I can look up and scan her group photo from the Era. Won’t be quite as high quality as this one made from a real photograph instead of a half-tone magazine print, but it will be something. (Same offer for others who can identify the exact dates of someone’s missionary training from this general era — I can’t offer to browse through an estimated period.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 6, 2010 @ 8:14 am

  6. Hey, connection! Louise Rohbock (second row, second from the right) is a relative of mine.

    Comment by SilverRain — October 6, 2010 @ 8:44 am

  7. Score!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 6, 2010 @ 8:53 am

  8. Nice. I have some similar mission memorabilia, but almost 50 years more recent. I didn’t wonder until this very moment whether I should scan some of the more important documents instead of leaving it all in the apple box in the corner of my closet.

    Comment by Researcher — October 6, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  9. I got a “ticket” pinned to my shirt when I went through the temple for the first time in 1991. I can’t be sure, but I think I still see them from time to time now, too.

    Anyhow, what a great post. It’s great that your aunt saved all these documents. I loved seeing an actual recommend from the time, as well as what looks like an original signature on the mission call letter. Thanks!

    Comment by David Y. — October 6, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  10. Ardis, this is an absolutely extraordinary collection. Rich, and exciting. Thank you so much for sharing this. I love temple recomends, so that alone was sufficient. The rest is just gravy!

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 6, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  11. If only all these documents had been together in an apple box. But Noooo! Some were in files in the computer room, some were in drawers and odd stacks of paper at random places in the house, or stuck between books in a bookcase. The letters I found last night in a box behind craft supplies stuffed in the linen closet of an unused basement bathroom. It wasn’t until I piled them all together in a box at home last night that I realized what I had. These things survived all these years, and then were in danger of being tossed out because they were so disorganized — even a nutty historian like me has had to fight the urge to throw everything away without really examining it, because there is so much “stuff” to go through.

    David, that’s an original signature on the mission call, and original signatures on the missionary certificate. (The sigs on the form letters accompanying the mission call are just ink stamps.) And at first I thought I would just transcribe the recommend and the Missionary Home schedule and post them as separate documents to show in an abstract way how things had changed/stayed the same over time — but then I decided it would be far more interesting to see them in context of one young woman’s life.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 6, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  12. I’ve been waiting for you, J. — I thought that recommend might tickle you. :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 6, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  13. I have recently seen a similar group photo in my mother’s photo album, with the same building entrance in the background. I thought is was probably missionaries at her mission headquarters in Minneapolis (1941). Now it is clarified for me that it was from the mission home. Thanks!

    Comment by Julie — October 6, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  14. Great stuff Ardis, my grandmother Willis went on a mission to Texas in the early 1950′s after my grandfather had died. I now understand the experience she went through better. Look forward to further posts describing your aunt’s mission.

    Comment by john willis — October 6, 2010 @ 10:59 am

  15. Julie, for two other photos of the Missionary Home (one in the original post, one in a comment), showing more of the architecture of that building, see the linked post.

    Thanks, john. I’m learning to know my aunt in a whole new way through her records from a time before I knew her. I hope this adds to your understanding of your grandmother, too.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 6, 2010 @ 11:01 am

  16. This is awesome. My grandmother was a missionary at about this same time period and now I know more about her than I did when I woke up this morning. If she were the least bit computer literate I would have her look at this post, but I fear that that would be Sisyphean agony. Loved the post.

    Comment by oudenos — October 6, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  17. This is so wonderful. What a great look into history and into Miss Taylor’s service. ( I saved my pink ticket, too :)

    Comment by Tracy M — October 6, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  18. Thanks, oudenos and Tracy. I know a lot more about my aunt’s service than when I woke up yesterday, too.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 6, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

  19. Really great, Ardis. In the 10th row is Alvin Adams Gabrielson, father of a classmate from high school, and long time neighbor of my father-in-law in Ogden.

    Also, hiding in the 8th row is Oscar Wilde (who knew?)!

    However, this makes me cringe a little about some of the things that I suspect I have discarded over the years. Any one of these items may have some value by themselves, but a complete collection like this is awesome! The little tickets with the pins are still in use, as far as I know, as I’ve been pinned in recent years with a purple sticker as father of the groom in more than one temple.

    Comment by kevinf — October 6, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

  20. Inspiring, Ardis. Now I want to collect my family Church history together like this.

    On the eighth row is Clifford E. Carter, who was one of the first two missionaries (along with Robert E. Neilson) to return to Cane Creek when it was “really” re-opened to missionary work in February 1947.

    And I didn’t have a pink slip……mine was blue.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — October 6, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

  21. Really fascinating! I love the Farewell Testimonial brochure and I’m not exactly sure why. All the ephemera is great (I’m really loving the look of typewritten paper, now), but the brochure is somehow extra charming.

    I really like her suit, too…

    Comment by Mina — October 6, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  22. Ardis, can I ask, did the Mission Home Secretary, Franklin Murdock, draw on his experience to set up Murdock Travel, or was it the other way round? Or is it just one of those name coincidences?

    The own endowment tickets in used today are more formalised and larger (to hold more information) but are essentially still affixed with pins! Which reminds me of an old joke about the baby brought for christening: when the minister asked her names, the Scottish mother whispered, “It’s pinned oan her,” whereupon the child was duly christened “Spindona”.

    Sorry.

    Comment by Alison — October 6, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

  23. I bought a used book from DI and found a little blue own endowment paper with pin holes in it from 1972. I’ve been wanting to give it back to the owner. Anyone know Dalene Farmer?

    Comment by Carol — October 6, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  24. Carr Printing Company in Bountiful used to have the monopoly on printing Missionary Farewell Programs during the 1950s and 1960s (at least). The front cover was a black and white picture of the Salt Lake Temple with a red or green background. Inside the front section was a picture of the missionary. If I were to look in my old Treasures of Truth binders, there would be dozens and dozens of farewell programs for my boyfriends, cousins, ward members, and classmates. The one difference I see between the programs of my day and of your aunt Evelyn is that hers is on a Thursday, wherein the ones I remember were on a Sacrament Meeting on Sunday.

    Comment by Maurine — October 6, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

  25. I loved looking at the temple recomment, also. Great post!

    Comment by Maurine — October 6, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

  26. When did the Improvement Era stop printing group photos of the departing missionaries? Anyone?

    Comment by David Y. — October 7, 2010 @ 12:33 am

  27. I guess I really didn’t know, but I had the impression that the transition from Latter Day Saints to Latter-day Saints would have happened before then. I do see a hyphen on the temple recommend, though, and I have a military Book of Mormon that my father had during WWII that uses a hyphen in the Church name. So maybe the process had already started, but they hadn’t used up their old stationery and certificates? Do we know when the change occurred?

    Comment by Left Field — October 7, 2010 @ 6:20 am

  28. Left Field, I’ve spent some time this morning leafing through publications at the library trying to answer your question. For decades before this 1946 recommend, I’m finding the now-standard “Latter-day Saints” … but I’m also finding “Latter Day” and “Latter-Day” during the same years. I have some letters written by Joseph Fielding Smith on his Historian’s Office stationery in 1949 which give it as “Latter Day,” too.

    I’m guessing that at some point there was an official edict standardizing the use, but I’m not sure how to find that. And even with a date, I suspect that there would have been a lot of old stationery around that the budget wouldn’t allow to have been discarded, as well as continued slips until everybody got into the habit.

    Trivial point, perhaps, but interesting question. I’ll continue to think about it and maybe will eventually find a real answer. Or even more likely, Justin will show up in a minute with the answer!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 7, 2010 @ 9:50 am

  29. It is noteworthy that the two letters from President Smith both use “Latter Day” in the typewritten text, and not just in the letterhead. It would be interesting to see in which edition the modern form of the name first appeared in section 115:4.

    In any case, it does seem there was a time when they started to use the hyphenated form with “The” (complete with a capital T) appended to the name, but didn’t really obsess about consistency.

    Clearly, it has become more and more important in recent years, that we distinguish ourselves from the Strangites.

    Comment by Left Field — October 7, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  30. Although it was probably the RLDS from whom we were distinguishing ourselves when the modern form became standard — in pre-Internet days, there couldn’t have been many people who had even heard of the Strangites, much less read about them under their formal name.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 7, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

  31. You are as usual, correct, Ardis. I was being facetious about the Strangites. But the RLDS at least had that R-word in their name to help keep them straight, whereas the 1940s stationery has a name that is exactly identical to the Strangite Church.

    Comment by Left Field — October 7, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

  32. Sorry, Left Field, I’m running on fumes tonight. When I rev up enough to realize you’re pulling my leg, I recognize the funny. :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 7, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  33. WOW. This is amazing. Love the visual representation of it all.

    I have one of those missionary cards from my Grandpa’s mission on a shelf dedicated to him and my grandma. I love it.

    Comment by michelle — November 29, 2010 @ 12:36 am

  34. In the ID/genealogy form letter, we read, “Please be sure that you have taken the Wasserman test before reporting to the Missionary Home.” Anyone have an explanation for this, other than a slight misspelling of the Wassermann antibody test for syphilis?

    David Y., #26: I don’t know about group portraits and the Improvement Era, but I saw individual portraits of newly called missionaries from Russian-speaking countries in the Russian-language Liahona last time I looked at it (2006). Obviously, this is less likely for languages with a larger circulation.

    Comment by Nathan E. Rasmussen — November 30, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

  35. The test is usually used to diagnose syphilis, Nathan, but also diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, scarlet fever, yaws (whatever that is!) and some kinds of cancer — or at least, that’s what my Googling indicates. I suspect the test was mandated due to a concern about tuberculosis more than anything else.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 30, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

  36. Ach, I didn’t Google hard enough earlier. Paydirt: Time on 31 March 1923 mentions a test for TB developed by Dr. Wassermann himself. And that sounds like the most likely target to me, too. (Shoot, I myself had to be tested for it before and after serving, ten years ago.)

    Comment by Nathan E. Rasmussen — November 30, 2010 @ 11:11 pm

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