(A looong post – mostly for skimming)
For much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Church’s mission president in Liverpool (and later London) directed not only the work on the British Isles but also supervised missions throughout Europe. Perhaps for this reason, this responsible post was nearly always filled by an apostle. In 1929, under mission president John A. Widtsoe, the Church began calling a president exclusively for the British Mission, so that the European Mission president could devote his full time to coordinating the work and solving the problems common to the by-then eight European missions (with the South African and the Armenian or Palestine-Syrian missions were also in his jurisdiction). In today’s terms, we’d probably call the European Mission president an Area Authority.
In 1927, European Mission president James E. Talmage called all of the European mission presidents, or as many as could come, to a conference of mission presidents, establishing a tradition of meeting annually until World War II disrupted everything. The presidents and their wives spent approximately a week together, gathering in a different city every year, discussing their work, sharing ideas, working out their common problems. The minutes of their meetings were then typed up and distributed among themselves, with copies going to a few other missions and leaders in the U.S.
One feature of their reports was usually a list of Resolutions memorializing their decisions and their aspirations. The list of Resolutions – more than a hundred of them – for 1935 gives us a good idea of their concerns for the whole era, divided into the three main areas of a mission president’s work: directing the affairs of the branches, conducting proselyting work, and supervising the missionaries.
What do you find here of interest from Mormon activity of 80 years ago?
Accepted Resolutions submitted by the Committee on Organization and Conduct of Work of Branches and Districts.
1. That we reaffirm our determination to extend local government as rapidly as possible.
2. That Elders should not attend the weekly meetings of the branch presidency when laboring as traveling elders in that branch unless invited to do so, or, unless because of some need, they ask to be allowed to attend.
3. That the relationship between a local district president and a missionary presiding over a small branch within his district must be understood to be temporary and does not change the situation whereby the traveling elder is still the direct representative of the mission president and presides over the local district president.
4. That more attention be given to the Priesthood as to organization into groups according to office in the same, and as to activities, duties and functions.
5. That great care be exercised in recommending men to, and ordaining them in, the Priesthood. That before they are recommended, they be carefully examined as to their worthiness by the branch president or other authority whose duty it is to examine them.
6. That in the conduct of all work pertaining to the Priesthood, the pattern of the Church be followed as clearly as feasible.
7. That the district and branch presidencies be charged with the task, under direction of the mission president, to carry on missionary work through the use of their organizations and where such will not conflict with or duplicate the work of the regular missionaries.
8. That real effort should be made to bring about effective branch teaching.
9. That careful thought be exercised toward the auxiliary associations that they be not given undue prominence or position to the detriment of the Priesthood and its program, nor the fast or sacrament meetings.
10. That care be taken not to multiply the auxiliary associations in the branches where membership and talent do not justify their organization.
11. That the Church program for the Relief Societies of the missions be followed as far as possible, but with such modifications as may seem necessary to make them most effective; and that particularly, as far as feasible, the social service program be carried out.
12. That the Relief Societies be charged with the task of teaching mothers the proper relationship of their daughters to the Elders, both in their homes and out of them.
13. That the plans for financing the Relief Societies, such as penny annual fund, opening banks on the 17th of March, etc., mentioned in this conference, be considered for adoption in the respective missions.
14. That the keeping on hand of baptismal and temple clothes be recommended for all missions.
15. That but little public entertainment be carried out by the Relief Society as that is the function of the M.I.A.
16. That handbooks or guides for the various organizations be prepared as soon as possible to suit the needs and conditions of the various mission.
17. That all missions notify the European Headquarters of any work being done in the preparation of handbooks or guides.
18. That the best methods of carrying on teacher training work for: 1. Those new teaching. 2. Prospective teachers, be adopted.
19. That under proper conditions outsiders be solicited to contribute to Church projects.
20. That we teach our members to contribute toward the purchase and maintenance of branch chapels or halls.
21. That sanction be asked of the First Presidency for the appointment of permanent translators for the foreign language missions, and that the translating work be done in Europe.
22. That in all branches, large and small, the program should be so arranged as to encourage home evenings, as recommended by the Church.
23. That each mission submit at least one folk dance to the European Mission Office, with the thought that they might be used in the Church recreation program.
24. That we urge the young people of the Church to marry. However, that while we try to create all possible means for their marrying in the Church we give no instructions that they would violate their standing by marrying good persons who are not members. When such marriages do occur, we should urge our members to be true to all their covenants, to endeavor to bring their mates into the Church and to have their children blessed, taught the Gospel and baptized.
25. That Church marriages should be encouraged even though one of the contracting parties is a non-member.
26. That books for keeping the permanent office record of the mission membership be supplied by the Presiding Bishopric or that we be informed by the P.B.O. where approved books can be obtained.
27. That district presidents be urged to heal split branches, by the use of such spiritual and persuasive means as they can wisely employ.
28. That all members be charged with the task of devising such means and methods as possible to overcome gossip.
29. That care should be exercised not to choose members to be ordained to, or promoted in, the Priesthood or to hold responsible positions in the organizations before they are ready.
Accepted Resolutions submitted by the Committee on Proselyting and Publicity.
30. That we apply literally the instructions of the First Presidency in seeking out and employing new methods of proselyting.
31. That we develop methods which will induce people to come to us instead of our constantly going to them.
32. That we continue to urge by letter and cooperation the organization in Salt Lake City of a Church Publicity bureau.
a. to present Mormonism to the world in the best possible light;
b. to act as an exchange for ideas, methods and materials among the missions;
c. to supply the missions with photographs, films, feature articles, statistics, current information and other publicity items.
To bring this about practically and immediately it is recommended that all European missions send not only to the European Mission Office but also to the Church Publicity Bureau, c/o Presiding Bishop’s Office, ideas, methods and publicity items the missions have found useful.
33. That until this organization is functioning the P.B.O. be asked to furnish the European Mission Headquarters with pictures, photos and related material dealing with Church History, Book of Mormon evidences, and other suitable subjects for publicity to be circulated to all missions upon request.
34. That in the meantime the European Mission Office also act as a central clearing house for all publicity ideas, and for auxiliary activity material.
35. That the missions send facsimiles of their new cuts to all other missions and that missions exchange their cuts for publication purposes.
36. That missions join Press and Publicity Bureaus, after the pattern of the Netherlands Mission, to secure, when feasible, free announcements of their meetings over the radio and in the journals of such organizations.
37. That the missions include int heir budgets a reasonable amount for translators and for publicity.
38. That we develop efficiency in following up publicity leads.
39. That each mission appoint a competent Elder to assist the President as publicity man.
a. to make contacts with newspapers,
b. to secure publication of articles favorable to us,
c. to furnish correct information to encyclopedias and almanacs,
d. to supply authors with correct information,
e. to make posters and signs for publicity purposes, and
f. to follow up adverse publicity.
40. That we utilize our halls or chapels for library, study and discussion purposes; that our halls become community centers.
41. That a large permanent announcement bearing the name of the Church and time of meetings be placed at entrance of all halls and chapels; that placards prepared by a sign-0writer be placed there for every special occasion, i.e., visit of European Mission President, Mission President, District President, auxiliary programs, illustrated lectures, etc.; that each branch plan as many special occasions as possible.
42. That visitors at our meetings be heartily welcomed, that ushers be there to show them to favorable places, and that they be given a hearty send-off when they depart, with literature to interest them.
43. That a greater effort be made to induce non-members to join our Relief Societies, Sunday Schools, Choirs, M.I.A., and Primaries; that invitational tracts be prepared and used systematically to increase membership, especially in neighborhood of halls or chapels; that every L.D.S. family living distant from our halls be a focus of proselyting through the organization of home and neighborhood Sunday Schools, Primaries or other auxiliaries.
44. That each Relief Society be encouraged to sponsor neighborhood Primaries as a project.
45. That we need to increase the male population of our missions and to do so, that we support the M-Men program of the Church whole-heartedly; that all of our missionaries become active M-Men and promote the M-Men program, including the Achievement Plan, and other activities; soft-ball, baseball, basketball, public speaking, quartet work, dramatics, etc.
46. That we plan Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Daughters, Outings and Old Folks’ Days as M.I.A. projects.
47. That the missions prepare window displays on Bee Hive and Gleaner work, with members of those organizations distributing tracts at them and distributing invitations to join their organizations.
48. That we advise the preparation of Book of Mormon, Word of Wisdom and other displays, as good publici8ty.
49. That the missions are encouraged to hold June M.I.A. and Primary Conferences and that such conferences be properly publicized.
50. That the missions employ dramatic means of interesting the public in our message such as plays, playlets, pageants, and dialogues, and that each mission send English copies of such productions, or at least a synopsis, to the European Mission Headquarters so these can be circulated.
51. That we employ music in greater measure as a proselyting agent through concerts, congregational singing, choirs, concertized opera, traveling quartets, and the development of instrumental music.
52. That to attract a b3etter class of people we advertize our special programs, as well as illustrated lectures, properly, and, where conditions will permit, charge admission to them; and on these occasions that we devote at least ten minutes to explaining our message.
53. That country “out-of-doors” meetings with singing groups be popularized.
54. That we use funerals to preach a special Gospel message, not forgetting to properly decorate our chapels and presenting fitting musical numbers.
55. That competent elders be trained for illustrated lectures; that new lectures be secured and circuited through the missions, using all feasible means to get them before the public, including cottage meetings.
56. That we encourage public lecturers not of our faith to deliver lectures on Utah and the Mormons by aiding them with suitable material.
57. That we use paid newspaper advertising, and also make news opportunities to secure free comments and write-ups; that we use billboard, tube-station, and street-car advertising where it is practical and effective.
58. That the foreign language missions use cautiously the teaching of English and English classes as a means to create interest; that such ventures may uncover new translators. But wherever such ventures prove unfruitful they should be abandoned.
59. That we occasionally concentrate our missionaries to put on drives and increase enthusiasm; such drives might also be used to unload our surplus stocks of literature which should be placed in the hands of people rather than be allowed to deteriorate on our shelves.
60. That all missions be alert to possible participation in international exhibits, congresses, and conferences.
61. That tracting is indispensable as a warning and for extensive proselyting; that we adopt the Norwegian slogan: “The harder it rains, the more people at home”; that every mission develop new methods of approach and exchange them through the European Mission Headquarters; that the personal value of steady tracting be pointed out to the missionaries; that we emphasize the human interest phase of tracting and the missionary’s own growth in human understanding.
61a. That we advise evening tracting as a means of contacting men.
62. That we call local part-time missionaries, that we vitalize existing societies and develop new tracting societies wherever feasible; that these be directed effectively.
63. That mission presidents, missionaries, and members be advised to carry tracts and other literature with them when traveling and that they seek constantly opportunities to distribute such literature.
64. That we hold up as a standard of the effective missionary a contact every night – open-air, cottage, chapel or hall meetings, or visiting investigators.
65. That where possible, we induce publishers to acquire copyrights and issue books and pamphlets favorable to our cause.
66. That there is a need in the foreign language missions of literature on Church history, faith-promoting incidents and presentations of Mormonism in a way that will, if possible, attract the attention of the scientific minded.
67. That we encourage publishing books in serial through the “Stars,” saving the plates or having additional copies run off each time and binding them when the book has been completed.
65. That Mission Presidents desiring new tracts on such subjects as War, the Catholic Question, or as a greeting to the new-born babe, or as a word of solace to those who have lost a loved one, are encouraged to write or delegate someone to write such tracts and submit them to the European Mission Headquarters.
69. That we recommend that tracts be illustrated where suitable pictures or photographs to fit the subject can be found.
70. That the Church books we have for sale be placed in bookstores with suitable sales-covers to help sell them.
71. That thoughtful consideration be given to printing the Missionary Questionnaire prepared by Sister [Martha] Gaeth [of the Czechoslovakian Mission] as a Catechism.
72. That we see to it that articles are submitted to the radios by individuals in order to interest the public and create favorable notice to the Cause.
73. That where good results can be obtained, we make an attempt to entertain at the Mission Home newspaper men, public officials and all such as can favorably affect public opinion.
74. That we become acquainted and cooperate with American Consuls and other diplomatic officials and the local government officials.
75. That we adopt the card system of the South African Mission to follow up our contacts with friends and investigators.
76. That we recommend a free copy of the Church section of the Deseret News be furnished each pair of missionaries, as is done with the Improvement Era.
77. That we favor a neat, cheap pin or means of recognition as an insignia for all missions be given to the missionary when he leaves the Missionary Home; that we discourage the separate expensive mission pins.
78. That every effort be made to improve the mission “Stars”; by diminishing time between deadline and issue and speeding up printed news, digesting sermons and long articles, putting subscriptions on a cash basis, using illustrations, obtaining new pictures from the Deseret News or mission information bureau, exchanging cuts among ourselves; also that “Stars” be sent to public libraries.
Accepted Resolutions Submitted by the Committee on Problems with Missionaries.
79. That we thankfully take the missionaries as they come to us and by the power of love try to get their confidence and inspire them to acquire the missionary spirit as soon as possible.
80. That we recommend a closer examination be given these Elders before leaving the Missionary Home relative to their moral, physical and spiritual fitness for missionary service.
81. That we recommend that each missionary be placed on his honor to observe proper conduct in transit from the Missionary Home to his field of labor, any lapses to be reported to his mission president.
82. That mission presidents be furnished with Bishops’ confidential reports on he characteristics and qualifications of new missionaries.
83. That we favor mission residents examining carefully into the qualifications and abilities of new missionaries.
84. That we favor changing a missionary’s field of labor only for the best of reasons. Frequent shifts do not contribute to efficiency.
85. That mission presidents frequently visit Elders unannounced and also write them personally as often as possible.
86. That honorable releases of Elders, with personal letters, be sent to bishops only after it is reasonably certain the Elders have reached home honorably. Copy should be sent to stake presidents.
87. That each mission develop a careful study program for its missionaries, giving special care to the best methods of quickly learning the language of the mission (if this is foreign), and of learning the message of the tracts used and of the principles of the Gospel as explained in Talmage’s “Articles of Faith.”
88. That missionaries engage daily in vocal bed-side praying in the language of the mission.
89. That we urge the missionaries to make an earnest, prayerful preparation of subject-matter of all their sermons, which should be devoted to fundamentals, avoiding discussion of mysteries.
90. That upon their release the missionaries be given definite instructions relative to their conduct while going home and advised, if visiting in other missions, to call at mission headquarters where they will be given advice and directions relative to sight-seeing, etc.
91. That we give vigorous instructions to traveling elders to obey the laws of the country where they find themselves, and that they keep free of the sin of smuggling.
92. That missionaries be instructed at the time of their release not to expect free entertainment at the mission homes where they call. A charge should be made of these Elders for meals eaten at the mission homes where they may be entertained.
93. That traveling elders visit with members only when, in general, good can be accomplished by these visits, and then the visits should not be prolonged after 10:00 P.M. and should not be longer than two hours. The local Priesthood and Relief Society teachers should regularly visit the homes of the saints.
94. That we discourage traveling elders from receiving fancy or luxurious presents from sentimental saints. Contribution of lodgings, meals or necessary article3s of clothing to needy missionaries are welcomed; but sentimental gifts should be declined, especially from women.
95. That w try to regular the recreational activities of the missionaries, especially urging non-attendance at questionable theater and motion-picture houses. Lectures, musicals, athletic games, museums and art galleries, should always be preferred to the usual type of “movie.” In any case, going frequently to commercial entertainments should be avoided.
96. That traveling elders do not attend conferences or make visits outside their assigned districts except by special permission, in each case, of the Mission President.
976. That in general, missionaries be not granted vacations for traveling during the term of their mission.
98. That each Mission President advise Brother Harold G. Reynolds relative to suitable clothing, luggage, etc. of Elders leaving for a European mission.
99. That Missionary Home authorities in Salt Lake City be advised of the desirability of instructing Elders from Europe in Temple work, Temple record keeping and genealogical work.
100. That we respectfully call the attention fo the brethren at home to the need of a few mature missionaries in each mission in Europe.
101. That mission presidents consult with parents regarding the extension of an Elder’s stay beyond the usual length of time.
102. That requests for early release of missionaries due to adverse conditions at home should come through the office of the First Presidency.
103. That we reaffirm approval of resolutions of previous mission presidents’ conferences, especially thos3e of 1931 and 1932, subject to such modifications as may be made by the above resolutions.
The above resolutions were approved unanimously.