Sports in Zion

Mormon Recreation, 1890-1940
Author: Richard Ian Kimball
A unique look at the Latter-day Saints' recreational efforts intended to "Mormonize" a rising generation of young men and women
Paper – $28
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/26/2009
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About the Book

If a religion cannot attract and instruct young people, it will struggle to survive, which is why recreational programs were second only to theological questions in the development of twentieth-century Mormonism. In this book, Richard Ian Kimball explores how Mormon leaders used recreational programs to ameliorate the problems of urbanization and industrialization and to inculcate morals and values in LDS youth. As well as promoting sports as a means of physical and spiritual excellence, Progressive Era Mormons established a variety of institutions such as the Deseret Gymnasium and camps for girls and boys, all designed to compete with more "worldly" attractions and to socialize adolescents into the faith.

Kimball employs a wealth of source material including periodicals, diaries, journals, personal papers, and institutional records to illuminate this hitherto underexplored aspect of the LDS church. In addition to uncovering the historical roots of many Mormon institutions still visible today, Sports in Zion is a detailed look at the broader functions of recreation in society.

About the Author

Richard Ian Kimball is an associate professor of history at Brigham Young University.


"Well-written, comprehensive. . . . The best available history of Mormon recreation."--American Historical Review

"A significant contribution to the history of Mormonism in American society and to the sociology of religious accommodation. . . . A fine case study."--Journal of American History

"An illuminating view of the history of Church recreation. . . . By carefully analyzing a time when recreation and sport were systematically utilized to do good, Richard Kimball furtively asks us if the same might be utilized again."--BYU Studies

"For those interested in such diverse topics as Progressive reform, sports and recreation history, Mormon history, and the history of childhood and youth, there is much in Kimball's book to recommend."--History of Education Quarterly


"Richard Ian Kimball has written an innovative analysis of Mormon culture from a novel perspective, opening up a whole new window to help us understand Mormon culture and society."--Steven A. Riess, editor of American Sporting Experience: A Historical Anthology of Sport in America