Church sports study to be conducted by BYU Western Studies center

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    By Tisha Whitmill

    For many years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held church wide tournaments for basketball, softball and volleyball.

    The tournaments aren”t held any longer, but sports on a local level remain an integral part of programs offered through The Church of Jesus Christ.

    The Charles Reed Center for Western Studies at BYU is studying sports in The Church of Jesus Christ. Jessie L. Embry, assistant director, is conducting the study.

    “I have an interest in amateur sports,” Embry said. “It”s not only the all-Church basketball tournaments, but the overall playing of sports in the Church.”

    Embry hopes to collect stories from people who were a part of, or attended, the all-Church basketball tournament. She has hired two interviewers to collect stories and find information on the experiences people had at the tournament.

    “The tournament had a lasting impact on those who played at the time and it has not been documented,” Embry said. “We will be conducting oral history interviews.”

    Embry said the interviews will become part of the BYU archives and could be used in articles and a book.

    “I”m looking for any kind of story,” Embry said. “I”m interested in those who played in the all-Church basketball tournament and those who have played in their wards.”

    Embry got the idea to do the project because she had written some books and done research on other aspects of sports in Utah and realized that no in-depth research been done on the church aspect of sports in Utah.

    The all-Church basketball tournament began in 1922 and was discontinued in 1970. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism said the tournament ended because the worldwide growth of the Church made it impractical to hold the tournament. Sports in the Church are emphasized on a local level today.

    The Encyclopedia said The Church of Jesus-Christ cultural halls around the world are used for many athletic events. In 1990 it estimated that more than 552,000 members participated in church basketball, 690,000 in church softball, and 207,000 in church volleyball.

    “I can only speculate why the tournament was canceled,” Embry said. “My guess is that the Church was far too big. The whole focus of the Church was changed from being centrally located to more of a regional level.”

    People who want to submit church sport”s stories should contact Jessie L. Embry at 801-422-7585 or e-mail .

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