LUTHERANS IN UTAH
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Salt Lake
During Utah's territorial period, there were six evangelical Christian churches
present. The Lutheran church was part of this evangelical effort. There
were two main reasons for the Lutherans coming to Utah. One was to proselytize
among the Mormons and the other was to serve the Lutherans living in Utah.
The Lutheran church was the state church of Scandinavia. It was thought
that some of the 10,000 Scandinavian Mormons living in Utah would be won
back to their original religion. For this reason, they considered Utah their
special field. Many Lutherans had migrated to Utah as employees of the railroad
and as merchants, miners and farmers. These settlers expected establishment
of the church they were accustomed to in other parts of the country.
Many ecclesiastical councils or "synods" make up the Lutheran
church. Before the twentieth century the distinctions were made mainly by
nationalities. Doctrine difference is another reason for the various synods
then and still is today. Presently, Lutherans in the United States are associated
with three major synods. The Lutheran Church in America and the American
Lutheran Church are more liberal in doctrine. The Lutheran Church in America
is the most socially conscious. The Lutheran Church --Missouri Synod is
more conservative and believes in a fundamentalist interpretation of the
Bible. They maintain a large parochial school system. From 1882 to 1900
seven different Lutheran synods were present in Utah. The most active was
the Augustana (Swedish) Synod which in 1962 became part of The Lutheran
Church in America. Other synods representing Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian
immigrants were also active. The Missouri Synod did not appear in Utah until
early in the twentieth century. Members were mostly of German background.
As with the other evangelical churches in the territory, the mission of
converting "deluded" Mormons was not very successful. Various
denominations organized and operated schools in order to provide a quality
standard education as well as Christian education. The hope was to encourage
the children to leave the Mormon church. Most schools had to close by 1910
because of financial problems, including the one Lutheran school.
In 1881, the Rev. John Telleen, of the Scandinavian Lutheran Augustana Synod
in North America, went to Utah to investigate the religious wants and needs
of the Scandinavian population. He discovered a congregation was needed.
On July 18, 1882, Pastor Telleen and the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Samuel M. Hill
met with three others in St. Mark's Episcopal Chapel. They organized the
Zion Swedish Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City. After Pastor Hill served
for two years, there were interim pastors until June 1885 when the Rev.
J. A. Krantz became the pastor of the church. At that time the name was
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. Church membership grew and in 1885 a church
was built on the corner of 200 South and 400 East. Membership continued
to grow and in 1957 a new church was built at 1070 Foothill Dr.
There were many Scandinavian settlers in Utah and Sanpete counties also,
so the Augustana Synod concentrated in those areas for mission possibilities.
The area was canvassed beginning in 1885 and by 1888 a chapel was built
in Provo. Rev. Krantz, minister from Salt Lake City, helped to establish
the church and Rev. E. Hedsen was the first pastor of the church. During
1888 a mission was established in Mt. Pleasant also. This mission was served
by Rev. G. Stenborg. At the end of 1888 both Rev. Hedsen and Rev. Stenborg
resigned the Utah Mission. The Rev. A. P. Martin carried out the duties
as pastor to both congregations. He also started a mission at Santaquin.
The congregation at Provo was formally organized on January 1, 1891, as
the Bethania Swedish Lutheran Church. The congregation at Santaquin organized
in 1894 as the Swedish Lutheran Nebo Church. The Mt. Pleasant mission was
closed in 1893 in order to support a parsonage in Provo. By 1902 the membership
had declined and the Rev. Emanuel Rydberg, pastor in Salt Lake City, ministered
to the few Lutherans remaining in Provo and Santaquin.
The Rev. Frans August Linder was sent to Ogden by the Augustana Synod to
organize a congregation there. He began the work in October 1888 and experienced
hostilities towards him by the native population. He was determined to complete
the job he started and on December 8, 1889, a congregation was formally
organized as Elim Lutheran Church. Nine of the ten charter members were
Swedish. Railroad jobs brought many Lutherans to Ogden and membership increased.
During World War II, defense jobs brought more non-Mormons to the Ogden
area and membership continued to grow. Today, Elim Lutheran Church is one
of the largest Lutheran Church in America congregations in Utah.
In 1889, work was begun for an English-speaking mission in Utah. In September
1890, the Rev. P. Doerr arrived in Salt Lake City and started holding both
English and German services in Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. On November
9, 1890, he organized Holy Trinity English Lutheran Church. An edifice was
not built until February 1, 1894, while Rev. James F. Beates was pastor.
At this time it was associated with the English Mission Board of the General
Council. In June 1894, the church was admitted to the English Synod of the
Northwest which later became the Pacific Synod. By 1913 Holy Trinity was
financially unable to remain in Salt Lake City.
Lutheran congregations continued to form on the basis of language. The Norwegian
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Savior established a congregation in
1892. The Rev. Elvind Skabo arrived straight from Norway to organize the
mission and bring back the "deluded" Norwegian Mormons who had
been led astray. As with other synods, there were very few Mormons converted
and most of the congregation was built around the Norwegians who had moved
to Utah for other reasons. After twenty years, this mission closed.
A group of Icelandic Mormon converts settled in Spanish Fork. They were
so pleased with Utah Valley they encouraged their non-Mormon relatives to
join them. A number of Icelandic Lutherans did immigrate to Utah. The Icelandic
Synod started a mission at Spanish Fork in 1892. Rev. Runolf Runolson was
a Mormon convert who had rejoined the Lutheran church and became ordained
as resident minister. The Icelandic Evangelical Lutheran Congregation was
started in January 1893. The church prospered during the first twenty years,
then began a steady decline until it closed in 1929.
The Rev. Otto Kuhr, of the General Council, arrived in Salt Lake City in
March 1892 and began German worship services in Zion Evangelical Lutheran
Church. He also started holding German services at Elim Lutheran Church
in Ogden. By the end of the year, he had organized congregations in both
cities -- St. John's German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City
and The German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ogden. The Ogden congregation
eventually dissolved in 1923-1924. St. John's eventually became part of
the Missouri Synod.
During the beginning of the twentieth century, the Missouri Synod became
active in work among the German Lutherans in Utah. The location of St. John's
on the west side of Salt Lake City was inconvenient. The Missouri Synod
purchased a piece of property on Seventh South near State in 1904. The congregation
met in rented spaces until the chapel was built in 1905. During that period,
the Rev. William J. Lankow was pastor. After Pastor Lankow left in 1913,
several pastors ministered temporarily until the Rev. Frederic E. Schumann
served in Utah from 1926 until 1945. During his time a new church was built,
a school was reopened in 1935, and other Missouri Synod missions were started
throughout the state. St. John's Lutheran Church is considered the "mother
church" of the Missouri Synod in Utah.
At the 1902 annual convention of the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran
Church, plans were formulated for a mission to serve Utah Danish Lutherans.
In 1904 Pastor H. Hansen was the first to begin ministry to Salt Lake City.
Services were held in private homes, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, and
First Presbyterian Church. Pastor Harald Jensen was the next pastor and
served from 1906 until 1912. The congregation was formally organized on
October 14, 1907 as Tabor Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church while meeting
at the Norwegian Lutheran Church. The first church building had been built
in stages and dedicated on August 20, 1911. During the 1950s Tabor experienced
some growth and became part of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church. A
new edifice was built on the corner of Seventh East and Second South and
dedicated in 1964.
Since congregations were started on the basis of nationality and language,
worship services were conducted in the native language or at least alternating
with English services. Congregations and synods maintained a separateness
by this practice, but at the same time there was cooperation among pastors
and congregations. They all had the same goals in mind. The next generation
of Utah Lutherans brought a greater need for more English services. As time
went on, the Scandinavian and German languages were left out of worship
services, making even greater harmony among the Lutheran congregations.
The mining camps of Utah were populated by people of a variety of nationalities
and diverse religious backgrounds. Many of them were Swedes and Finns of
Lutheran background. The Augustana Synod ministers of Salt Lake City and
Ogden traveled to the mining camps on an irregular basis. St. John's Lutheran
Church in Park City was organized in 1902 by Oscar Anton Elmquist, a student
minister of the Augustana Synod. After becoming ordained, he was called
to the Elim Lutheran Church in Ogden. From there he traveled to Park City
by train to continue to serve the Park City congregation as well. Additionally,
he organized the Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Bingham Canyon. It too was
part of the Ogden pastorate of the Augustana Synod. A mission was established
in Eureka in 1902 by the Augustana Synod. Bethel Lutheran Church was part
of the Salt Lake City pastorate. Pastor Rydberg of Zion Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Salt Lake City served the Eureka community. This mission was discontinued
in 1915. In 1931 the Missouri Synod established a congregation in Eureka.
Pastor Skov of Provo began holding worship services there. Attendance was
good at first, but as mines closed and workers left to find work the mission
From the beginning of Lutheranism in Utah, congregations were established
and dissolved on the changing needs of members in the state. The biggest
boom to Lutheranism in Utah was during the time following World War II when
there was an increase in defense installations and industries. An influx
of military and civilian workers brought about establishment of churches
in nearby communities. Into the next decades, the growth of other businesses
and industries and the subsequent increasing non-Mormon population expanded
the need for the establishment of additional congregations.
See: T. Edgar Lyon, "Religious Activities and Development in Utah,
1847-1910." Utah Historical Quarterly 35 (Fall 1967), 292-306;
Leo Rosten, ed. Religions of America New York, (1972).