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.