Church History
Broadcast Media

“Broadcast Media,” Church History Topics (2022)

“Broadcast Media,” Church History Topics

Broadcast Media

In just two years, from 1920 to 1922, the number of licensed radio operations in the United States grew from one station to more than 500.1 Church leaders were early adopters of this emerging technology, obtaining for Latter-day Saints University in Salt Lake City the first radio license granted to an educational institution. President Heber J. Grant delivered the Church’s first radio broadcast on May 6, 1922, using Salt Lake City station KZN, which had a single transmitter in a tin shed on the roof of the Deseret News Building. For his brief remarks, President Grant quoted Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s testimony in Doctrine and Covenants 76.2 The following year, general conference was broadcast by radio to a service area of approximately one million residents.3 The Church acquired majority ownership of the station in 1925, and the name was changed to KSL. It was still operating under Church ownership a century later.4

President Heber J. Grant

President Heber J. Grant delivering the Church’s first radio broadcast from the KZN tin shed on the roof of the Deseret News Building in Salt Lake City, May 1922.

Over the next decade, the Church worked to expand its radio operations beyond Utah. In 1929, KSL partnered with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in New York City and launched a weekly broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.5 The Choir’s Music & the Spoken Word program, which included messages delivered by radio announcer Richard L. Evans, grew to reach a national audience. It is the longest continuous radio broadcast in the world.6 In 1933, KSL became an affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and added a series of Church-sponsored programs called “The Church of the Air.”7

In 1935, Church leaders formed the Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee. The committee employed recently returned missionary and future Church President Gordon B. Hinckley to write devotional messages and dramas for radio, including programs like the Sunday Church Hour, The Fulness of Times, A New Witness for Christ, and The Church’s Attitude.8 At the same time, the Church expanded the reach of its programming by purchasing radio stations throughout the United States.

Although experimental devices had successfully transmitted images over radio waves since the early 1900s, it was the circuitry inventions of Edwin H. Armstrong and Philo T. Farnsworth, a Latter-day Saint from Idaho, that brought television to homes.9 In October 1948, Church leaders experimented with televising general conference using closed-circuit televisions in buildings on Temple Square. KSL launched the first commercial television station in Utah the next year and carried the first broadcast of general conference over open airwaves in October 1949. As the Church continued to grow outside the western United States, KSL’s partners and other Church-owned stations helped reach audiences around the United States and in Europe and Latin America.10

In 1962, the first communications satellites orbiting the earth sent radio, television, and telephone transmissions across the world. The Tabernacle Choir appeared that year in the first worldwide satellite telecast, a patriotic performance transmitted from Mt. Rushmore in the United States.11 David M. Kennedy, a Latter-day Saint banker and occasional special representative of the First Presidency, served on the board of COMSAT, a satellite service arm of the United States federal government.12 Drawing from Kennedy’s experience, Church leaders moved quickly to implement this new technology amid sometimes fluid regulations. They installed satellite dishes at many meetinghouses throughout the world and incorporated Bonneville International to deliver satellite transmissions. By the 1980s, arrays of Church-operated satellite dishes relayed and received broadcasts of general conference and other meetings, allowing Latter-day Saints across vast distances to share in live events. International broadcasting also facilitated the interpretation of general conference into other languages, a practice initiated in 1961 when the event was interpreted into Dutch, German, Samoan, and Spanish. In April 2000, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley conducted the first temple dedication telecast from the Palmyra New York Temple near the Sacred Grove to stake centers throughout the world.13

The Tabernacle Choir

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing at Mt. Rushmore for the first worldwide satellite television broadcast, 1962.

The steady growth of radio and television offered immense and diverse mass media for international audiences. Since the 1990s, internet technology has continually expanded the Church’s media reach, especially after broadband internet began to support digital streaming. The October 1999 general conference was the first to be widely available worldwide via internet broadcast, and the Church has since broadcast events of all kinds through mobile and traditional media platforms.14 In 2021, general conference was broadcast over television and radio in more than 70 countries, with millions more people accessing it online.15

Related Topics: Public Relations, Tabernacle Choir

  1. Erik Barnouw, A Tower in Babel: A History of Broadcasting in the United States to 1933 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), 4; Bruce L. Christensen, “Broadcasting,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 232.

  2. Pearl F. Jacobson, “Utah’s First Radio Station,” Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 32, no. 2 (1964), 130–39.

  3. Heber J. Grant, in Conference Report, Oct. 3, 1924, 2.

  4. Jacobson, “Utah’s First Radio Station,” 142–43.

  5. Between 1915 and 2018, the Choir went by the name “Mormon Tabernacle Choir”; the name was changed to “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square” in 2018; see Topic: Tabernacle Choir; Michael Hicks, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 61.

  6. Jacobson, “Utah’s First Radio Station,” 142–43; Christensen, “Broadcasting,” 232–33; “Music & the Spoken Word,” The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square,; Barnouw, A Tower in Babel, 250. See also Topic: Tabernacle Choir.

  7. Christensen, “Broadcasting,” 233; Ryan Morgenegg, “A Historic Look at the Church’s Use of Media,” Church News, Oct. 9, 2014,

  8. Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 94, 100–101.

  9. Erik Barnouw, Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 77–83.

  10. Christensen, “Broadcasting,” 233; Sherry Baker, “Mormon Media History Timeline: 1827–2007,” Faculty Publications, no. 959, 48–50, Brigham Young University,

  11. J. B. Haws, The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 23–24; Michael Hicks, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 121.

  12. Martin Berkeley Hickman, David Matthew Kennedy: Banker, Statesman, Churchman (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 179–80; Barnouw, Tube of Plenty, 310–15.

  13. General Conference Interpretation Fact Sheet,” Newsroom,; Baker, “Mormon Media History Timeline.”

  14. Conference Broadcast on the Internet,” Ensign, Nov. 1999,; Baker, “Mormon Media History Timeline.”

  15. Another General Conference of Firsts This Easter Weekend,” Deseret News, Mar. 29, 2021,