“In Celebration of Sunday School,” Ensign, Oct. 1998, 67
We are on the eve of celebrating the sesquicentennial of the founding of the Sunday School—the Church’s oldest formal teaching organization. Even though there have been changes over the past 150 years, the purpose of Sunday School remains the same—to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to strengthen individuals and families.
On Sunday, 9 December 1849, Richard Ballantyne gathered a group of children into his Salt Lake City home and taught them from the scriptures. His stated purpose was to “gather them into the school where they could learn … the goodness of God, and the true Gospel of salvation given by Jesus Christ” (in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. , 3:1424).
From this beginning, the Sunday School grew rapidly. Fifty years later, in 1899, celebrations throughout the Church recognized the organization’s importance, and a box containing memorabilia was prepared, to be opened in 50 years.
Placed in the box was a letter from Sunday School leaders containing these words: “We beseech you that whatever … may be the changes wrought in the fifty years to come, that you never forget for an instant the object of the great Sunday School work, viz: To teach the children the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; to make Latter-day Saints of them.” (Adult classes became part of Sunday School in 1904.)
In 1949, as part of the centennial celebration of the organization’s founding, another box was crafted. It was made of wood from many parts of the world where Latter-day Saints lived. This box, packed with Sunday School memorabilia, will be opened publicly in April 1999. It is on display in the Museum of Church History and Art until 15 November 1998.
We reaffirm that Sunday School and good teaching are as important today as they have been in the past and that individuals and families will be strengthened in their ability to understand and live gospel principles by studying the scriptures and fully participating in Sunday School.