Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake
The large island in the Great Salt Lake is currently known as Antelope Island, but what was it known as in early Utah Territory?
a. Pronghorn Island
b. Pioneer Island
c. Church Island
d. Young Island
In addition to the traditional but monotonous proselytizing activity of door-to-door tracting, South African missionaries held public services, formed touring choirs and of course played baseball. The emphasis on sports—specifically its baseball project—was not unique to South Africa. Works by Richard Ian Kimball and by Jessie L. Embry and John H. Brambaugh explored sport-related missionary techniques. . . .
According to Kimball, Mormon missionaries in Japan were playing baseball as early as 1911; however, the “Tokyo-American Baseball Team” was religiously eclectic mix consisting of “a Baptist, an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, a Quaker, a Methodist, and a ‘Mormon’ missionary,” not to mention an army officer who was not religiously affiliated, an electrical engineer, and two employees of the American embassy. Somewhat less formal then league play in Japan were a series of games played in the Samoan Islands in 1923-24, during which a team of LDS missionaries took on “experienced baseball players from American and British Samoa.” More important than the outcome was the “hope that his play may be the means of more friendly relations and better understanding between us ‘Mormon’ missionaries and the local people in charge here.”
A decade later in April 1935, Harry Holland of the National Baseball Association of Great Britain called the Millennial Star office and asked whether the Mormon missionaries would like to join the West-London League. The missionaries accepted the invitation enthusiastically and entered the association as the “Latter-day Saints.” A total of eight teams comprised this league with fifty-nine other clubs competing in various divisions throughout England that same year. “To the Church,” reported missionary and baseball player Wendell (“Buzz”) Ashton, “baseball in Britain is proving a powerful instrument for breaking down barriers of prejudice that existed for nearly a century and for opening the way” for Britons “to hear the Gospel message. . . . Scores of people in Great Britain are learning through baseball that Mormon means ‘more good.’”
Embry and Brambaugh used these examples, among many others, to examine the efficacy of sports programs and other organized recreational activities in missionary work. Taking their findings one step further, Embry and Brambaugh subjected their case studies to a series of questions, perhaps the most demanding of which was: “How successful were these sports programs?” According to their results, they concluded” “In terms of directly generating baptisms, the answer is ‘probably not,’ especially since many other factors had to come into play even if sports had provided the initial introduction of Mormonism. But if the definition of ‘success’ includes the element of creating a positive public image and ‘making friends’ for the Church, the program was questionably successful.”
For missionary baseball in South Africa, these results hold true in both regards—unsuccessful in terms of convert baptisms but highly successful in terms of positive publicity.
Booker T. Alston, The Cumorah Baseball Club: Mormon Missionaries and Baseball in South Africa, Journal of Mormon History, Summer 2014, 96-98.