Summarized by Kent Larsen
No Missionary Garb for LDS Seminaries
Salt Lake Tribune 13Apr00 N1
By Heather May and Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The LDS Church has decided to ban "Missionary
Week", a seminary activity in which students dressed as LDS
missionaries during a week. Traditionally, seminaries throughout the
Intermountain West have held the week for the past 15 years as a way
of encouraging students to prepare for missions. But in recent years
the activity has become a problem in some public schools, where
non-Mormons and inactive members have found the event alienating.
Two years ago a group of students from Hunter High School in West
Valley City wrote a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune calling the
activity offensive because they became proselyting targets. "Some
students got a little too exuberant, a little too gung-ho," said J.B.
Haws, an instructor at Salt Lake City's East High School seminary.
Because of this and other incidents, the LDS Church's Church
Educational System has asked in the past that the week be scaled back.
Now, CES is requiring that the activities be limited to seminary
buildings and kept to a single day instead of a week. Current and
former missionaries may also be invited to speak to seminary
students. However, wearing missionary garb in public schools has been
According to Larry Tippetts, director of the Salt Lake Valley East
CES area, the week was never meant to be a "mass proselytizing of the
high school," but that is what happened at times as students became
enthusiastic about missionary work. "There is a definite spirit among
students of wanting to share their faith with others," said Tippetts.
"We are not trying to say they shouldn't do that. But the danger is
you always get some who are a little self-righteous or condemning and
that is never right in any setting."And even in situations where
proselyting wasn't involved, the day made it clear who was an active
LDS Church member and who wasn't. The American Civil Liberties Union
of Utah's executive director, Carol Gnade, says she gets a few
complaints every year about the practice. Different LDS seminaries
hold the week at different times.