The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Their “Three-Fold Mission,” and Practical and Pastoral Theology

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In recent years scholars have expanded their investigation into the intersections between religion and tourism. While most of this research has focused on the ways in which religion can be commodified for touristic consumption, there has been but little written on the ways in which religions view tourism and/or embrace tourism to meet their spiritual and ecclesiastical goals. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use tourism to its religious and historical sites to further their religious and institutional goals/missions as they revolve around its “three-fold mission”: proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead.



In the past two or three decades the intersections between religion and tourism have become a topic of study by tourism scholars and more recently religious studies scholars.[1][2] Much of the existing literature has focused on the use of the tangible and intangible aspects of religion as a tourism resource, with scholars trying to understand the motivations of those who travel to religious sites in order to better understand the religious tourism market as well as how to overcome the negative impacts of tourism on these sites through management.[3] Less studied are the ways in which religious leaders view tourism as a social phenomenon and how tourism can be utilized to further religious goals and missions.[4] This is odd in part because religious prescriptions and proscriptions have long affected the types of activities in which people choose to engage in during their leisure time, and also affect why people travel, where they travel to, and the activities in which people engage as tourists.[5] Religion has long affected how hospitable cultures are to strangers, what constitutes appropriate dress in religious spaces, the creation of gendered religious spatial practices, and the use of aesthetics to enhance religious experiences at sacred sites as well.[6]

However, very few religious faiths outside of the Roman Catholic Church have articulated a specific “theology of tourism” which “examine[s] the religious meaning, justification, or legitimation of tourism and relate[s] it to broader religious goals and aspirations.”[7] This is also odd considering that most major world religions have some sort of doctrinal basis for pilgrimage travel. In some cases pilgrimage is a required element of religious worship, whether it is essential for a happier afterlife or for initiatory purposes.[8] But even faiths that do not fully embrace the notion of pilgrimage in its traditional sense, such as Protestantism, usually have informal pilgrimage-like practices that take place among their adherents.[9] As well, religious communities have also long used their religious sites and culture to educate non-believers of their religious values and as a way to gain new converts, such as the Shakers in the nineteenth century and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the present day.[10] Also, with millions of people visiting religious sites and sites related to the history of different belief systems,[11] religious leaders not only have had to come to terms with how to deal with the non-adherents that visit their religious and historical sites but also with how to engage in pastoral or outreach activities for those within their congregations who are “on the move” recreating themselves through recreational and tourism pursuits.[12]

The purpose of this paper is to investigate how leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use tourism as a medium to further the religious goals and mission of their faith. While leaders of LDS Church have not promulgated a specific “theology of tourism,” and, like Protestants, feel that “Neither shrines nor pilgrimages are a part of true worship as practiced by the true saints….[T]here is no thought that some special virtue will attach to worship by performing [pilgrimage to sacred sites],”[13] they recognize, as do Church members, the existence of sacred spaces and have long held that certain places are more holy or sacred than others.[14] As such, every year thousands of Church members travel to places associated with the history and practice of the Church, whether that travel involves attending Church-run pageants or pioneer re-enactment treks, taking tours related to Book of Mormon lands or to the Holy Land, viewing Christmas displays at Temple Square and Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, or participating in informal worship and ritual activities away from home, such as performing temple rituals at different temples throughout the world, being baptized in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania where Church founder Joseph Smith was first baptized, or having a prayer meeting in the Sacred Grove where Joseph Smith experienced his first theophany.[15]

While I have written elsewhere on the travel motivations and patterns of Church members and how Church leaders use tourism to their historical sites and temples—which uses revolve around the key themes of hospitality, remembering and witnessing, proselytizing, and outreach[16]—in this paper I wish to delve a little deeper to examine particular aspects of Latter-day Saint religious belief that might explain why the Church utilizes tourism as a tool to fulfill its most important religious mission—to save souls.[17] To do so, I focus here on what is known as the “three-fold mission” of the Church—proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead—which I argue leads Church leaders to place great importance on preserving, maintaining, and interpreting their historical and religious sites in a particular manner, and why Church members are motivated to travel to these sacred sites.[18]

Tourism and the Saving of Souls

As noted earlier, Church leaders have not outlined a systematic “theology of tourism” that highlights the way in which tourism is viewed within the context of core Latter-day Saint beliefs. This may be in part because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not directly in the business of tourism but rather the business of “saving souls” in accordance with its particular understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[19] The religious teachings that are developed and promulgated by Church leaders, according to Robert Millett, tend to have “a rather narrow focus, range, and direction,” in that these teachings focus specifically on the “central and saving doctrines” of the Church.[20] To Latter-day Saints, the core of their faith is not “a confession to a creed but a personal witness that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.”[21] From a doctrinal perspective, the “core doctrine” of the Latter-day Saint faith is the “doctrine of Christ”; that it is only through the atonement of Jesus Christ that all humankind can be saved. As the founder of the Church, Joseph Smith, once taught, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose on the third day, and ascended unto heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”[22]

This “doctrine of Christ,” then, is at the heart of the Church’s work and God’s glory, which is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,”[23] and provides the foundation upon which all other Church teachings rest.[24] As such, the focus of the Church is on bringing individuals unto Christ, which comes through acknowledging Christ as their Lord and Saviour, having faith on his name, being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by persons in authority (i.e., LDS priesthood), and striving to remain faithful to the commandments of God until the end of their lives.[25] As such, the core mission of the Church is to “save souls” and the Church leadership focuses its efforts in areas that help it to achieve this goal.

Spencer W. Kimball, a former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expanded on this core mission of saving souls and suggested that the Church has a “three-fold mission,” which he summarized as being “proclaiming the gospel,” “perfecting the Saints,” and “redeeming the dead.”[26] While seemingly tangential to the “core doctrine” of the Church, I argue that tourism plays an important role in helping Church leaders accomplish its “three-fold mission” and to achieve broader religious goals and aspirations. However, before discussing the linkages between each mission and tourism it is important to note that tourism is generally seen by Church leaders as an outward facing activity, in that any engagement the Church has with tourism tends to be the responsibility of departments within the Church’s vast bureaucracy which focus on the Church’s relationship towards and to and with Church members (e.g., the Priesthood Department) and non-members (e.g., Public Affairs and the Missionary Department) rather than a direct ecclesiastical department dealing specifically with leisure, recreation, and tourism concerns. So for example, even though the Church’s Historical Department’s Historic Sites Committee oversees the Church’s historical sites, the Missionary Department is responsible for the interpretation of most Church’s historical sites, whereas activities that are member-centered, such as concerts at Temple Square or world-wide cultural celebrations, are run through the Priesthood Department.[27]

Proclaiming the Gospel

As a part of making salvation readily available to all of humanity, Latter-day Saints believe that God has revealed through his prophets what is called the “Plan of Salvation.” This plan provides knowledge about many of the questions about life, including: “Where did we come from?” “What is the meaning of life?”—or more specifically, “What is the meaning of my life?”—and “What happens after we die?”[28] John Welsh contends that understanding that humanity was not created by happenstance, but that there is a purpose to life as outlined through the Plan of Salvation, makes it easier for individuals to find meaning in their own lives.[29]

Latter-day Saints believe that all humans lived with God as spirit children prior to coming to this earth.[30] During this pre-mortal existence God presented the Plan of Salvation which would allow his spirit children to progress to become more like God. This plan included sending God’s spirit children to earth where they would both receive a physical body and be placed in an environment in which, through the exercise of agency, they could demonstrate their willingness to keep God’s commandments. Through exercising agency in a righteous manner people could one day return to God’s presence and attain godhood for themselves.[31] Since no one would remember their pre-mortal life, the Plan of Salvation would be made known to humanity through God’s prophets who would dispense knowledge of the plan to others. However, knowing that many people would choose to disobey God’s commandments and estrange themselves from him, this Plan of Salvation included having Jesus Christ serve as the redeemer of humankind, through whom people could repent and turn back to God.[32]

Latter-day Saints feel a responsibility to save souls by making this plan known to everyone who will listen.[33] This responsibility comes from the belief that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains the “fullness” of the gospel,[34] having both a clear knowledge of the Plan of Salvation through its founder Joseph Smith and his prophet successors and the priesthood authority to perform the ordinances or rituals necessary for salvation.[35] Church members therefore take seriously the commission of Christ who instructed his followers anciently to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”[36] so that people can have an opportunity to “come unto Christ” and receive the ordinances necessary for salvation. While missionary work is a responsibility of all members of the Church, there is an active proselytizing program in place where young men and young women, at the ages of 18 and 19 respectively, are encouraged to volunteer for full-time missions. These missions are between eighteen months and two years in length, and missionaries are assigned to proselytize in a specified geographic area called a “mission.” Currently there are just over 85,000 missionaries serving in 405 missions around the world.[37]

While Church leaders have long focused on active proselytization as a means of spreading the message of the Church to others, tourism has become another vehicle through which Church messages can be disseminated. In particular, hospitality towards non-Mormon visitors has long played a key role in fulfilling the Church’s mission of proclaiming the gospel. In addition to hospitality being a religious responsibility in the Old and New Testaments,[38] specific modern revelations to the Church relating to hospitality have been given. For example, in 1841 a revelation was given to the Church to build a boarding house or hotel where visitors to Nauvoo, Illinois who were interested in learning more about the Church could rest.[39] According to Hyrum Smith and Janne Sjodhal, “this revelation proves that the Lord wanted the tourists of the world to visit and become acquainted with the Saints. [They] were not to be surrounded by a wall of isolation. They had nothing to hide from the world.”[40]

Hospitality as a way of spreading the gospel message was also practiced in Salt Lake City. The establishment of the Church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City and the building of the Salt Lake Temple in the city center was seen by Church leaders as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy where “in the last days…the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”[41] Tourists were seen as one of the groups that would travel to the “tops of the mountains,” and as such the Latter-day Saints have a responsibility to be hospitable and courteous to visitors who, according to this scripture, will actively come to Salt Lake City to see the “house of the God of Jacob,” as well as a responsibility to prepare to receive those who seek to learn the “word of the Lord” through visiting the Lord’s house. Thus, when curious visitors came to Salt Lake City soon after the Church was established in Salt Lake City Church leaders not only actively greeted and attempted to educate tourists, most of whom came with strong views and prejudices against the Mormons, on the beliefs and culture of the Church and its members,[42] but also helped build the Hotel Utah to house these visitors from the east.[43]

As such, Church leaders continue to use tourism to educate the general public about the Church. Throughout its history, the Latter-day Saint Church has weathered abuses from various media sources that perpetuated stereotypes and falsehoods by focusing on the unique Latter-day Saint beliefs that differed from other Christian groups, with the media often depicting Mormons as a group to be admired because of their moral and social convictions but not “truly belong[ing] in mainstream society” or mainstream Christianity.[44] While public relations efforts have helped to improve the image of Mormonism over time,[45] the fact that non-Mormons come to Salt Lake City and dozens of other Latter-day Saint heritage sites and interpretive centers throughout the United States provides both fertile ground and a captive audience for sharing its religious message and history to non-Mormon visitors.[46] The expectation is that visitors who come to these religious heritage sites will leave with at least a more correct understanding of the tenets of the LDS Church, if not a desire to learn more about these beliefs by inviting Latter-day Saint missionaries to their homes.[47]

Presently the Church owns and operates over thirty-five religious heritage sites and nineteen interpretive centres, which stretch from Vermont to California.[48] As mentioned earlier these sites and interpretive centres are staffed by the Missionary Department of the Church, which explains the missionary-focused agenda at many of these sites.[49] At some historical sites the proselytizing is overt, in that service missionaries bear their “testimony” or “witness” to visitors as they take tours,[50] while at Temple Square in Salt Lake City the proselytizing is more passive, in that people are educated about the history and beliefs of Mormonism and then invited to have Latter-day Saint missionaries visit them in their homes to learn more about the Church without overt witnessing taking place.[51] The fact that the Missionary Department is responsible for the management and interpretation of these religious heritage centers demonstrates the importance of these sites as a part of fulfilling the mission of proclaiming the gospel.[52]

Perfecting the Saints

According to Linda Charney, while people have different motivations for becoming members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they all share three common experiences when they join.[53] First, people interested in the Church meet with the Church’s full-time missionaries and go through a series of lessons about the basic beliefs of the Church. Second, prospective members must demonstrate in a pre-baptism interview that they are making an informed decision to be baptised of their own free will. Third, every convert receives the ordinances of baptism and confirmation by authorised representatives of the Church. However, the conversion process “implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teaching[s] but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel—a faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his [sic] allegiance to God—in interest, in thought, and in conduct.”[54] The transformation part of the conversion process occurs through the gaining of a “testimony,” which is “the sure knowledge, received by revelation from the Holy Ghost, of the divinity of the great latter-day work.”[55] Prospective converts are invited to pray to receive a spiritual witness through the Holy Ghost of the truthfulness of the teachings of the Church,[56] which witness, according to Bruce McConkie, revolves around three great truths:[57]

  • That Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world;
  • That Joseph Smith is the Prophet of God through whom the gospel was restored in this dispensation; and
  • That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.”[58]

Receiving a spiritual witness of these truths through the Holy Ghost, then, is “the dominant element in the Latter-day Saint understanding of conversion.”[59] Conversion in the Latter-day Saint Church, therefore, is more of an experiential process rather than a rational one.

Conversion to the Church is not precipitous,[60] however, as spiritual transformation through conversion is an ongoing process which continues throughout converts’ lives as they learn more about the doctrines of the Church and conform their lives to the teachings of Christ. As a part of the baptismal process individuals covenant to serve God and keep his commandments—in other words, to strive for holiness.[61] Davies defines holiness as “the value attributed to a focal source of identity that furnishes the moral meaning of life for members of a social group in a process that transcends ordinary levels of experience.”[62] While Latter-day Saints believe that they are saved through the grace of Christ’s atonement, Latter-day Saint understandings of soteriology (i.e., the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ) suggest that the atonement “becomes operative in the life of an individual only on conditions of personal righteousness.”[63] While “Latter-day Saints readily acknowledge that though [their] efforts to be righteous are necessary, they will never be sufficient to save [them],”[64] the importance of works leads Church members to strive to emulate the behaviour and develop the characteristics of Christ.[65]

Latter-day Saints, therefore, feel strongly that their belief in Jesus Christ should translate into their daily practice.[66] Davies argues that this preoccupation with holiness through works serves as a foundation through which Latter-day Saint identity is created and maintained. In particular, efforts at holiness create a Latter-day Saint lifestyle and an identity that is related directly to aspects of embodiment, such as the emphasis on modest dress, the activities they choose to engage in, the language they use, and the way in which they treat others.[67] As such, Church members believe in being “honest, virtuous, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men [sic].”[68] In taking on these virtues and behaving in a Christ-like manner, Church members believe that they strengthen their testimonies of the gospel as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith and increase their desire to be holy.

Recreation is one of the ways in which Church members attempt to strengthen their faith. Church leaders have long encouraged Church members to participate in wholesome recreational activities as a way to relax from one’s labours.[69] McConkie notes that recreation plays a vital role in the gospel of salvation, as wholesome and proper recreation can be physically and spiritually edifying after one’s duties have been fulfilled.[70] An important recreational activity that many Church members participate in is travelling with family members to religious heritage sites where important historical Church events took place.[71] However, travel to religious heritage sites by Latter-day Saint adherents, as noted earlier, does not constitute a “pilgrimage” in the traditional sense. Rather, travel by Church members tends to fit Lloyd Hudman and Richard Jackson’s idea of “tourism pilgrimage”, which “describe[s] tourism that combines travel for recreation or pleasure with religious beliefs, whether or not church doctrines promote pilgrimage.”[72] Many Church members, then, combine other recreational and tourism activities with visiting Church heritage sites. As well, as noted earlier, some Church members also visit locations in Central America related to The Book of Mormon and sites related to the life of Christ in the Holy Land.[73]

Increasing interest by Church members to travel to Church heritage sites stems in part from the perspectives Latter-day Saints have on the role of history in the restoration of the Church.[74] The maintenance of these religious heritage sites by the Latter-day Saint Church, Steven Olsen argues, would occur even if no one came to visit them,[75] as they serve as reminders of God’s hand in guiding the Church to its present state. Indeed, the historical events of the Church is seen in and of itself as evidence of “the living God-who-acts-in-history.”[76] Therefore, Latter-day Saints believe in a form of “salvation history”;[77] that divine intervention has played an important role in the restoration and establishment of the Church. As Douglas Tobler and George Ellsworth note:

The foundations of the Church are grounded in a series of historic events, without which the Restoration would be incomprehensible and impotent. Joseph Smith recorded many visions and he received the gold plates from the angel Moroni, from which he translated the Book of Mormon. There followed many revelations to Joseph Smith and to the prophets who have succeeded him, revealing doctrines and applying eternal principles to existing historical and individual situations. That living prophets receive revelation from God, who is vitally interested in human needs in changing conditions, underscores the LDS view of God’s continuing place in history.[78]

As such, part of the Latter-day Saint conversion process includes a belief in the reality of certain key authentic historic events within the restoration of the Church. As Douglas Davies observes, “there are many Mormons for whom the primal story of the Restoration does constitute the truth: a basic epistemology that furnishes a template for history and for the stories of family life.”[79] In essence, the early events of the restoration of the Church play a critical role in the constitution of Latter-day Saint theology, with Latter-day Saint historians bearing the burden of producing “theological history,” which in other religious faiths is a task left to full-time theologians.[80]

While Church authorities have not explicitly stated that Church members should visit the religious heritage sites the Church maintains, many Latter-day Saints desire to visit the places where many key historical restoration events took place to “engage with the material remnants and reminders of the [religious] history through embodied memories of their engagement with the objects, buildings and narratives of their theology.”[81] Since the process of conversion and gaining a testimony is experiential in nature, coming about through intangible qualitative, spiritual, or emotional experiences, “visiting Mormon historical sites, museums [including art exhibits] and key buildings [have become] one way in which Mormons are able to participate actively in their theology and cosmology.”[82] Some of these visits to Church history sites are multi-generational in nature, for the Church’s strong emphasis on the importance of family relationships leads many Latter-day Saints to travel with immediate or extended family groups to Church religious heritage sites. Family trips, as Charles Lee suggests, “help develop a sense of attachment to a destination and support the notion that childhood travel with family members positively influences an individual’s attachment to a destination”[83] and also “assure[s] the passage of a given content of beliefs from one generation to another” through grounding faith in sites of historical and religious significance.[84]

These visits to Church history sites are facilitated informally by Church leaders in a number of ways. For example, the Church’s main website has a number of links that highlight the historic importance of a variety of Church historic sites, pageants, and visitors’ centers, and interactive maps allow users to highlight certain key areas of the United States and specific monuments or sites.[85] As well, newer versions of Latter-day Saint scriptures contain a series of maps that show the location of key heritage sites, in part acting as tourist maps for those who wish to visit these sites as well as sanctifying these sites as sacred spaces.[86] The Church also sanctions a number of pageants, special celebrations related to important foundational events of the Church—such as Pioneer Day which celebrates the entrance of Brigham Young and the Saints into the Salt Lake Valley—and Church-sponsored pageants such as the Hill Cumorah pageant in New York, held at the site where Joseph Smith obtained gold plates from which he translated The Book of Mormon, which draws thousands of Latter-day Saints to these locations.[87] Thus tourism serves a pastoral function for Church leaders, using their religious heritage sites to recover and maintain Latter-day Saint identity.

Redeeming the Dead

Latter-day Saint views of salvation go beyond accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ, being baptized and receiving the Holy Ghost through the proper priesthood authority, and enduring to the end. To Latter-day Saints, there is no monolithic state called heaven,[88] for “if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body the term ‘Heaven’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one.”[89] Therefore, in Latter-day Saint thought there are various levels of salvation or heaven.[90] The rationale for this thinking stems in part from both Christ’s reference to his father’s kingdom having “many mansions”[91] and the writings of the apostle Paul about three bodies, these being compared to the sun, the moon, and the stars in terms of glory or brilliance.[92] Latter-day Saints believe that revelations given to Joseph Smith provide additional information about these three glories, or “kingdoms” as they are referred to by Latter-day Saints, to which everyone will be assigned depending on their levels of acceptance of Christ’s gospel and reception of the saving ordinances while on earth.[93]

The highest degree of glory is the celestial glory or celestial kingdom, which will be the eternal home for those who have accepted Christ’s gospel, been baptized, received the Holy Ghost, and endured in righteousness while on earth.[94] To achieve the highest level of this kingdom men and women must both receive the “endowment” (discussed below) and be “sealed” together in marriage for eternity.[95] Within this kingdom there are different “privileges and powers.”[96] For example, Latter-day Saints believe that in attaining this highest glory—sometimes referred to as “exaltation”—they can become Gods and have an “increase” or have spirit children of their own in the eternities.[97] The second glory, the “terrestrial” glory,[98] is a place for those who either received the testimony of Jesus but were not sufficiently obedient to God’s commandments,[99] or those who “died without the law” but who lived honourable lives while on earth.[100] The “telestial kingdom” is reserved for those who rejected Christ’s gospel and did not live honourable lives.[101]

While Latter-day Saint missionary efforts focus on sharing the Plan of Salvation to people in the present, the questions arises as to what happens to people who do not get an opportunity to hear the Plan of Salvation during their time on earth and do not receive the saving ordinances? One of the distinctive doctrines of the Church is that when men and women die, their spirits go to a spirit world, “a time between death and the resurrection when men and women can continue their progression and further learn principles of perfection before they are brought to the final judgment.”[102] In essence, this spirit world is an extension of mortal life.[103] Joseph Smith taught that those in the spirit world “converse together the same as we do on the earth,”[104] and McConkie adds that “life and work and activity all continue in the spirit world. Men [sic] have the same talents and intelligence there which they had in this life. They possess the same attitudes, inclinations, and feelings there which they had in this life.”[105]

Church doctrine holds that in the spirit world “every man, woman, and child who has ever lived or whoever will live on this earth will have full opportunity, if not in this life then in the next, to embrace or reject the gospel in its purity and fullness.”[106] This is made possible, according to Latter-day Saint belief, from a visit Jesus Christ made to this spirit world which occurred during the time between his death and resurrection. During this visit, he inaugurated the preaching of the gospel to those who had not had the opportunity to hear it while living.[107] He organised the faithful spirits who had already accepted Christ’s gospel in mortal life to preach the gospel to those who had not had a chance to receive it. From that time until the present, Christ’s gospel has been

…preached to those who [have] died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.

These [are] taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,

And all other principles of the gospel that [are] necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.[108]

This doctrine of salvation for the dead, according to Joseph Smith, demonstrates the great justice and divine compassion of God: “One dies and is buried having never heard the gospel of reconciliation; to the other the message of salvation is sent, he hears and embraces it and is made the heir of eternal life. Shall the one become the partaker of glory and the other be consigned to hopeless perdition?…Such an idea is worse than atheism.”[109]

While the gospel of Jesus Christ might be preached to spirits in the spirit world, at the same time these spirits need to have the saving ordinances of the priesthood performed on their behalf, as these ordinance must be performed on those living on earth. Most of the sacred ordinances pertaining to the salvation of both the living and the dead are performed in Latter-day Saint temples.[110] Temples are deemed the most sacred spaces in the Church,[111] and only Church members who meet standards of personal worthiness and religious living are allowed to enter.[112] Temples differ from regular meeting houses in that they are reserved for initiatory-type activities that focus on making sacred covenants, whereas meeting houses or chapels are reserved for weekly Church and Sabbath-day worship activities. While meeting houses are the most dominant physical symbol of an established Mormon presence in an area,[113] the building of a temple changes the status of a city or area in the eyes of Latter-day Saint members and establishes an ideological and physical center of the surrounding Mormon community.[114] Currently there are 173 temples in operation, under construction, or whose construction has been announced.[115]

Within each temple there are rooms for different kinds of ordinances. A large baptismal font on the backs of twelve oxen is used to perform baptisms for the dead.[116] This practice stems from a Latter-day Saint reading of 1 Corinthians 15:29, where the apostle Paul, in arguing for a future resurrection, wrote “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”[117] Church members, acting as agents or proxy, are baptized for people who have died. Another ordinance is the “endowment”, which is a “ritual drama” where Church members are instructed “in theory, in principle, and in doctrine”[118] pertaining to the Plan of Salvation, which, John Widtsoe argues, “makes temple worship one of the most effective methods of refreshing the memory concerning the entire structure of the gospel.”[119] The endowment also includes Church members entering into a number of covenants, which include the “covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the [human] race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive…Jesus Christ.”[120] An additional ordinance performed in LDS temples is the sealing ordinance, where husbands and wives and their children are sealed to each other in eternal family units.[121] Referred to as eternal or celestial marriage, this ordinance is seen as the culminating ordinance of the LDS priesthood and allows families to remain together for the eternities and not just “until death do you part”. Even though these ordinances are done on behalf of those who are deceased, those for whom the ordinances have been performed have the agency in the spirit world to either accept or reject those ordinances.[122] Once Church members perform the endowment and the marriage sealing for themselves, they return to temples often to perform these ordinances for the dead.

In many ways the doctrine of salvation of the dead kindles a motivation in Latter-day Saints to search out their ancestral family so they can perform these saving ordinances on their behalf.[123] This motivation is sometimes referred to as the “spirit of Elijah” by Church members, in reference to the prophecy in the Old Testament where in the last days the prophet Elijah “will turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers.”[124] To Latter-day Saints, doing genealogy is a commandment. As Dallen Oaks points out, “[Latter-day Saints] are not hobbyists in genealogy work. We do family history work in order to provide the ordinances of salvation for the living and the dead”.[125] As such, thousands of Church members travel to Salt Lake City to do in-depth genealogical research at the Church’s Family History Library or one of the Church’s over 4700 Family History Centers located in over 134 countries around the world.[126] At the Family History Library or at one of these Family History Centers members, as well as anyone from the general public, can visit and do genealogical research. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City in particular is a large draw for genealogy tourists who wish to take advantage of the largest genealogical library in the world with over 2.5 million rolls of microfilm and about 300,000 volumes related to family history.[127] Over 1,900 people a day visit the Church’s Family History Library—many of them tourists—making the the second most visited attraction in Salt Lake City after Temple Square.[128]

In some ways, this emphasis on finding deceased ancestors and performing the saving ordinances for them in temples expands concerns for salvation from a personal level to a group level. Through the sealing power of the priesthood, past, present, and future loved ones can be bonded together for time and eternity. As such, Church members are encouraged by Church leaders to do genealogy work on their deceased ancestors and also to travel to temples often to both receive the saving ordinances necessary for exaltation and perform those same ordinances for those who have died.[129] In many ways this makes travel to temples a semi-obligatory ritual for Latter-day Saint adherents.[130] As a part of this travel to temples is for genealogical purposes, some Church members desire to “collect” temples or to visit as many temples as possible in their travels, even though rituals do not vary from temple to temple. Some tour agencies, especially those based in Utah, Arizona, and other areas where many Latter-day Saints reside, organize temple tours in conjunction with regular tourist activities. For example, some tour operators combine visits to Church temples in Central and South America with visits to Book of Mormon lands, or mix European temple visits with cultural events, such as the famous Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany.[131] Other tour companies provide circuits of various temples in the United States that are in close geographic proximity to each other.[132] In recent years, the Church has built temples located in proximity to major Latter-day Saint religious heritage sites, such as Palmyra, Nauvoo and Winter Quarters, where pioneers spent the winter on their trek to Utah, so Church members can combine their travels to these sites with temple worship.[133] In many ways, building temples by religious heritage sites bridges the gap between the past (religious history), the present (gaining of testimonies through sacred places), and the future (salvation of the dead).


The marking, maintenance, and management of religious sites is influenced by the views and belief structures of the faith that controls these sites, particularly as it relates to core theological goals and how religious leaders view tourism. As such, the management of sacred sites becomes an expression of the theology of that particular religious group through producing a certain type of space that expresses its religious beliefs, purposes, and goals. Not only is this manifest in the aesthetics of religious sites, but also in the way these sites are used to fill religious goals. For example, the mission of the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Colorado is to “provide a unique and peaceful environment for visitors to experience God’s loving presence through quiet meditation and prayer,”[134] and the St. Jude’s Shrine in New Orleans is staffed by missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who focus on a special outreach commitment to the poor.[135] In these two cases, these sites are run by special holy orders that focus on different aspects of welcome, education, outreach, and social justice.

This is the case of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where Church leaders utilize tourism as a way to fulfill its “three-fold mission” of the Church—proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead.[136] While leaders of the Church do not hold official positions on tourism, the way in which Church leaders use tourism for the purposes of proselytizing and pastoral care are in essence an expression of the theology or religious views of tourism that Church leaders hold. Church leaders therefore implicitly acknowledge the importance of tourism as a social phenomenon as it relates to both publicity for the Church and as an identity-building exercise for Church members. As well, while there is not a specific holy order per se that runs the Church’s historical sites, Church leaders have assigned the Missionary Department to oversee the interpretation of these their historical sites. This is done in part because the responsibilities of proselytizing missionaries are to preach the gospel, and in their interactions with tourists at Church history sites missionaries attempt to create an interpretational atmosphere where tourists have special or spiritual experiences. If believing tourists have a spiritual experience then the faith of believing tourists is strengthened, and if non-believing tourists have a spiritual experience they may, as noted earlier, at minimum have positive feelings towards the Church, or they may wish to investigate the teachings of the Church through further discussions with missionaries when they return home.[137]

While the theological background of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been discussed as backdrop to how the Church uses tourism to fulfill its “three-fold” mission and subsequently encourage informal pilgrimage among its members, discussions about theologies of tourism is lacking.[138] While Protestants, for example, do not practice pilgrimage in the same way as Roman Catholics do, Protestants also engage in quasi-pilgrimage activities,[139] and yet outside of brief discussions of Protestant religious ideologies in relation to tourism in the Holy Land,[140] little has been written on a Protestant theology of tourism. The same can be said about other religious groups, where discussions on the theological views of tourism are really theological treatises on pilgrimage.[141] Not only would further investigation of these theologies of tourism help researchers understand the motivations for the creation of pilgrimage sites and for travel, but also the role religion has in how tourism “works” at different destinations with regards to the attractiveness of a destination to tourists, the behavior of segments of a community towards visitors, the staffing of tourist establishments, and the interpretation of various sites,[142] as well as a better understanding of how religious prescriptions and proscriptions can influence where people travel, why they travel, and how they act while traveling.[143]

Photo by Cory Maylett.  CC BY-SA 3.0.


[1] While I discuss the theological background for why leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use tourism to fulfill some of their religious goals, I alone am responsible for the content of this article. I do not purport to speak for the LDS Church, and all views shared herein and any mistakes made are my own. I also wish to thank Sam Otterstrom, Greg Wilkinson, and the two anonymous reviewers for their extensive comments on this paper.

[2] There are numerous books and articles that have been written on this subject. For an overview of this multi-disciplinary subfield of tourism studies see Boris Vukonić, Tourism and Religion (Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd., 1998); Ellen Badone and Sharon R. Roseman, Intersecting Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage and Tourism (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004); David L. Gladston, From Pilgrimage to Package Tour: Travel and Tourism in the Third World (London and New York: Routledge, 2005); Philip Scranton and Janet F. Davidson, The Business of Tourism: Place, Faith, and History (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2006); Dallen J. Timothy and Daniel H. Olsen, Tourism, Religion and Spirituality (London and New York: Routledge, 2006); Faiths on Display: Religion, Tourism, and the Chinese State (Landham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010); Daniel H. Olsen “A Scalar Comparison of Motivations and Expectations of Experience within the Religious Tourism Market” International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage 1, no. 1 (2013): 41-61; Kobi Cohen-Hattab and Noam Shoval, Tourism, Religion and Pilgrimage in Jerusalem (London and New York: Routledge); Noga Collins-Kreiner and Geoff Wall, “Tourism and religion: Spiritual Journeys and Their Consequences,” in The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics, ed. Stanley D. Brunn (Berlin: Springer, 2015), 689-707; Razaj Raj and Kevin Griffin, Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Management: An International Perspective, 2nd ed. (Oxforshire, UK: CABI, 2015); Daniel H. Olsen, “Religion, tourism,” in Encyclopedia of Tourism, 2nd ed., ed. Jafar Jafari and Xiao Honggen (Berlin: Springer, 2016), DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-01669-6_1-1. For an examination of religion and tourism from a religious studies perspective see Thomas S. Bremer, Blessed with Tourists: The Borderlands of Religion and Tourism in San Antonio (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Michael Stausberg, Religion and Tourism: Crossroads, Destinations and Encounters (London and New York: Routeldge, 2011); Michael Stausberg, “Religion and Spirituality in Tourism,” in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Tourism, ed. Alan Lew, C. Michael Hall and Alvin Williams (Chichester: Wiley, 2014), 349-360. For a religious studies take on the relationship between spirituality and tourism see Alex Norman, Spiritual Tourism: Travel and Religious Practice in Western Society (London and New York: Continuum, 2011).

[3] Olsen, “Religion, tourism.” For a broad overview of how tourism scholars have attempted to segment the religious tourism market see Olsen, “Scalar Comparison,” 42-44. For a more specific example of segmenting the Christian religious tourism market see Amos Ron, “Towards a Typological Model of Contemporary Christian Travel” Journal of Heritage Tourism 4, no 4 (2009): 287-297; Young-Sook Lee, Nina Katrine Prebebsen, and Joseph Chen, “Christian Spirituality and Tourist Motivations,” Tourism Analysis 20, no. 6 (2015): 631-643. For a discussion of the management of religious tourism resources see Myra Shackley, Managing Sacred Sites: Service Provision and Visitor Experience (London: Continuum, 2001); Myra Shackley, “Management Challenges for Religion-Based Attractions,” in Managing Visitor Attractions: New Directions, ed. Alan Fyall, Brian Garrod, and Anna Leask (Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003), 159-170; S. C. Woodward, “Faith and Tourism: Planning Tourism in Relation to Places of Worship,” Tourism and Hospitality Planning & Development 1, no 2 (2004): 173-186; Myra Shackley, “Costs and Benefits: The Impact of Cathedral Tourism in England,” Journal of Heritage Tourism 1, no. 2 (2006): 133-141; Daniel H. Olsen, “Management Issues for Religious Heritage Attractions,” in Tourism, Religion and Spirituality, ed. Dallen J. Timothy and Daniel H. Olsen (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 104-118; Raj and Griffin, Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Management.

 [4] For a broader discussion on religious views of tourism see Vukonić, Tourism and Religion, 95-115; Daniel H. Olsen, “Towards a Religious View of Tourism: Negotiating Faith Perspectives on Tourism,” Journal of Tourism, Culture and Communication 11, no. 1 (2011): 17-30.

 [5] Olsen, “Towards a Religious View of Tourism.”

[6] Olsen, “Towards a Religious View of Tourism.” See also Eric Cohen, “Tourism and Religion: A Comparative Perspective,” Pacific Tourism Review 2, no. 1 (1998): 1-10; Peter J. Sorensen, “The Lost Commandment: The Sacred Rites of Hospitality,” Brigham Young University Studies 44, no 1 (2005): 5-32.

[7] Ibid, 4.

[8] Alan Morinis, “Introduction: The Territory of the Anthropology of Pilgrimage,” in Sacred Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage, ed. Alan Morinis (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 1-28.

[9] Thomas A. Tweed, “John Wesley Slept Here: American Shrines and American Methodists,” Numen 47, no. 1 (2000): 41-68.

[10] June Sprigg, “Out of This World: The Shakers as a Nineteenth-Century Tourist Attraction,” American Heritage 31, no. 3 (1980): 65-68. Daniel H. Olsen, “‘The Strangers within Our Gates’: Managing Visitors at Temple Square,” Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion 6 no. 2 (2009): 121-139; Daniel H. Olsen, “Teaching Truth in ‘Third Space’: The Use of Religious History as a Pedagogical Instrument at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah,” Tourism Recreation Research 37, no. 3 (2012): 227-238; Daniel H. Olsen, “Negotiating Religious Identity at Sacred Sites: A Management Perspective,” Journal of Heritage Tourism 7, no. 4 (2012): 359-366; Daniel H. Olsen, “Touring Sacred History: The Latter-day Saints and their Historical Sites,” in Mormons and American Popular Culture: The Global Influence of an American Phenomenon, ed. J. Michael Hunter (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publishers, 2013), 225-242.

[11] An estimated 300-600 million people a year visit religious site. See Antoni Jackowski Religious Tourism—Problems with Terminology,” in Peregrinus Cracoviensis, ed. Antoni Jackowski (Cracow, Poland: Publishing Unit, Institute of Geography, Jagiellonian University, 2000), 63-74.; Daniel H. Olsen and Dallen J. Timothy, “Tourism 2000: Selling the Millennium,” Tourism Management 20, no. 4 (1999), 389–392; Paul Russell, “Religious Travel in the New Millennium,” Travel & Tourism Analyst 5 (1999), 39–68; Jenny McKelvie, “Religious Tourism,” Travel & Tourism Analyst 4 (2005), 1–47; Tourism Review, “Religion is Back in (Travel) Business),” (accessed December 1, 2015); Dallen J. Timothy, Cultural and Heritage Tourism: An Introduction (Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications, 2011), 387.

[12] George B. Hertzog III, “A National Parks Ministry: A Model for Ministry in the Context of Leisure-Tourism” (PhD diss., School of Theology at Claremont, 1984), 4; see also David H. Fields, “Hospitality,” in New Dictionary of Ethics & Pastoral Theology, ed. David J. Atkinson and David H. Fields, Arthur F. Holmes and Oliver O’Donovan (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 459-460; Tidball, D. J. 1995. “Practical and Pastoral Theology,” in in New Dictionary of Ethics & Pastoral Theology, ed. David J. Atkinson and David H. Fields, Arthur F. Holmes and Oliver O’Donovan (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 42-48; Boris Vukonić, “Pastoral Care,” in Encyclopedia of Tourism, 1st Ed, ed. Jafar Jafari (New York: Routledge, 2000), 429.

[13] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966), 574. See also Tweed, “John Wesley Slept Here.”

[14] Richard H. Jackson and Roger L. Henrie, “Perception of Sacred Space,” Journal of Cultural Geography 3, no. 2 (1983): 94-107.; Steven L. Olsen, The Mormon Ideology of Place: Cosmic Symbolism of the City of Zion, 1830-1846 (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for LDS History, 2002); Martha S. Bradley, “Creating the Sacred Space of Zion,” Journal of Mormon History 31, no. 1 (2005): 1-30.

[15] Lloyd E. Hudman and Richard H. Jackson, “Mormon Pilgrimage and Tourism,” Annals of Tourism Research 19, no. 1 (1992): 107-121; Yael Guter, “Pilgrims ‘Communitas’ in the Holy Land: The Case of Mormon Pilgrimage,” in A Holy People, ed. Marcel Poorthuis and Joshua Schwartz (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2006), 337-348; Daniel H. Olsen, “Tourism and Informal Pilgrimage among the Latter-day Saints,” in Tourism, Religion and Spirituality, ed. Dallen J. Timothy and Daniel H. Olsen (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 262-265; Michael H. Madsen, “The Sanctification of Mormonism’s Historical Geography,” Journal of Mormon History 34, no. 2 (2008): 228-255; see also Daniel H. Olsen, Taylor Halverson, and Tyler J. Griffin, “Touring Scriptural Geography? The Case of Book of Mormon Tourism,” Tourism Geographies, under review.

[16] See Olsen, “Tourism and Informal Pilgrimage”; Olsen, “The Strangers within Our Gates”; Olsen, “Teaching Truth in ‘Third Space’”; Olsen, “Touring Sacred History.”

[17] While the term “soul” is usually used to describe the spiritual nature of a person, it has a very precise definition in Latter-day Saint terminology. The “soul” refers to both the body and the spirit of a person unified together (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-16). See Richard N. Williams, “Soul,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York:: Macmillian, 1992), 1392. As a side note, The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of important revelations given to the Church. According to the title page of The Doctrine and Covenants, this book contains “revelations given to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, with some additions by his successors in the Presidency of the Church.”

[18] Spencer W. Kimball, “A Report of My Stewardship,” Ensign 11, no. 5 (1981): 5-7. The phrase “three-fold mission” describes the Church’s all-encompassing mission and its activities as it relates to saving souls. However, in 2009 Church leaders added fourth mission—“to care for the poor and needy”— in part because the Church has long had an extensive welfare and humanitarian aid program. The reason why this fourth mission is not discussed in this paper is because this mission has very little connection with the way in which the Church uses tourism to further its other three missions. An exception to this is a recent event that took place in Kirtland, Ohio, where in March 2016 Church missionaries in Kirtland, Ohio, where the Church operates historical sites, held a “Fest of the Poor” that commemorated an event held in the 1830s thrown by Joseph Smith and church leaders for the poor in their community. See Andrew Cass, “Mormon Missionaries Partake in Three-day ‘Feast of the Poor’,” The News Herald, However, this event was probably with the missionaries trying to articulate the fourth principle of the four-fold mission rather than a specific emphasis by Church leaders to incorporate tourism into the fourth mission of the Church.

[19] Steven L. Olsen, “A History of Restoring Historic Kirtland,” Journal of Mormon History, 30, no. 1 (2004): 120. The emphasis is the author’s.

[20] Robert L. Millett, “What Is Our Doctrine?” The Religious Educator 4, no. 3 (2003): 19.

[21] Louis C. Midgley, “Theology,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1475.

[22] Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 121.

[23] Moses 1:39, The Pearl of Great Price. The Pearl of Great Price is “a selection of choice materials touching many significant aspects of the faith and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These items were produced by Joseph Smith Jr. and were published in the Church periodicals of his day” (Title page, The Pearl of Great Price). This book is divided into five sections, and includes sections from the Book of Moses (from Smith’s re-translation of the Bible), the Book of Abraham (taken from Egyptian papyri Smith purchased and translated), Joseph Smith—Matthew (again from Smith’s re-translation of the Bible), Joseph Smith—History (excepts from Smith’s journal about the founding of the Church), and the Articles of Faith, a list of the Church’s core beliefs as dictated by Joseph Smith.

[24] M. Gerald Bradford and Larry E. Dahl, “Meaning, Source, and History of Doctrine,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 393-397.

[25] Ibid, 394. See also Robert L. Millett and Noel B. Reynolds, Latter-day Christianity: 10 Basic Issues (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998). The “priesthood” in the LDS Church is “the eternal power and authority of God” which is given to “worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.” See Intellectual Reserve, Inc. True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 124.

[26] Kimball, “A Report of My Stewardship.”

[27] For more detail on the organizational structure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it relates to tourism see Michael H. Madsen, “Mormon Meccas: The Spiritual Transformation of Mormon Historical Sites from Points of Interest to Sacred Space” (PhD diss., Syracuse University, 2003); Daniel H. Olsen, “Contesting Identity, Space and Sacred Site Management at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah” (PhD diss, University of Waterloo, 2008).

[28] Gerald N. Lund, “Plan of Salvation, Plan of Redemption,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1088-1091; Daniel C. Petersen and Huston Smith, “Purpose of Earth Life: Comparative Perspective,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1180-1183; Daniel H. Olsen and Jeanne Kay Guelke, “‘Nourishing the Soul’”: Geography and Matters of Meaning,” In WorldMinds: Geographical Perspectives on 100 Problems, ed. Donald G. Janelle, Barney Warf, and Kathy Hansen (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Associates, 2004), 595-599. See also Martin Clark, “Developments in Human Geography: Niches for a Christian Contribution,” Area 23 (1991): 339-344. Intellectual Reserve, Inc., True to the Faith, 115-117.

[29] W. John Welsh, “The Purpose of Life” (accessed November 20, 2015).

[30] See Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 12:9.

[31] Lund, “Plan of Salvation”; Douglas F. Tobler and S. George Ellsworth, “History, Significance to Latter-day Saints,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 595-598.

[32] Lund, “Plan of Salvation.”

[33] Millet and Reynolds, Latter-day Christianity, 49.

[34] Ibid.

[35] In the LDS Church an ordinance is defined as “a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing. With each of these ordinances, we enter into solemn covenants with the Lord….Other ordinances, such as naming and blessing children, consecrating oil, and administering to the sick and afflicted, are also performed by priesthood authority. While they are not essential to our salvation, they are important for our comfort, guidance, and encouragement.” See Intellectual Reserve, Inc. True to the Faith, 109. See also Immo Luschin, “Ordinances,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1032-1033; Immo Luschin, “Administration or Ordinances,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1033-1034.

[36] Matthew 28:19-20.

[37] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Church Provides Additional Missionary Statistics,” Mormon Newsroom, (accessed November 23, 2015); Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormon Conversions Lag Behind Huge Missionary Growth,” Salt Lake Tribune, (Accessed: November 25, 2015). For more information on the missionary work of the LDS Church see Rield L. Nelson, “Mormon Missionary Work,” in The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism, ed. Terryl L. Givens and Philip L. Barlow (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 182-195.

[38] For some examples see Genesis 18-19; Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:33-34; Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 1:9. See also Fields, “Hospitality”; Sorensen, “The Lost Commandment.”

[39] Doctrine and Covenants 123:22-23. See also Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, A People of Promise (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 2002), 235-236.

[40] Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1978), 772-773. While construction on what was known as the “Nauvoo House” was begin by Church leaders to house visitors to Nauvoo, the House was never completed because of the exodus of the Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo to modern-day Salt Lake City. See Leonard, Nauvoo, 588.

[41] Isaiah 2:2-3.

[42] See Richard H. Jackson, “Great Salt Lake and Great Salt Lake City: American Curiosities,” Utah Historical Quarterly. 56, no. 2 (1988): 128-147; Eric A. Eliason, “Curious Gentiles and Representational Authority in the City of the Saints. Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 11, no 2(2001): 155-190; J. Philip Gruen, “The Urban Wonders: City Tourism in the Late-19th-Century American West,” Journal of the West 41, no. 2 (2002): 10-19; Olsen, Tourism and Informal Pilgrimage”; Olsen, “‘The Strangers within Our Gates.”

[43] Leonard J. Arrington and Heidi S. Swinton, The Hotel: Salt Lake’s Classy Lady (Salt Lake City, UT: Publisher’s Press, 1986); Eliason, “Curious Gentiles”; Gruen, “The Urban Wonders”; Olsen, “The Strangers within Our Gates.”

[44] Chiung Hwang Chen and Ethan Yorgason, “‘Those Amazing Mormons’: The Media’s Construction of Latter-Day Saints as a Model Minority,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 32, no. 2 (1999): 107-128. See also Chiung Hwang Chen, “‘Molympics’? Journalistic Discourse of Mormons in Relation to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games,” Journal of Media and Religion 2, no. 1(2003): 29-47.

[45] Michael H. Madsen, “Mormon Meccas: The Spiritual Transformation of Mormon Historical Sites From Points of Interest to Sacred Space” (PhD Dissertation, Syracuse University, 2003). See also J. B. Haws, The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

[46] Thomas S. Bremer, Tourism and Religion at Temple Square and Mission San Juan Capistrano. Journal of American Folklore. 113, no. 450 (2001): 422-435; Daniel H. Olsen and Dallen J. Timothy, “Contested Religious Heritage: Differing Views of Mormon Heritage,” Tourism Recreation Research 27, no. 2 (2002): 7-15.

[47] Olsen, “Touring Sacred History”; Olsen, “Teaching Truth in ‘Third Space’”; Olsen, “Negotiating Religious Identity at Sacred Sites.”

[48] See Olsen, “Touring Sacred History,” 228-229 for a partial list and historical background on some of these sites. For more information on Church historical sites see The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Church History,” (accessed November 26, 2015); The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Church History Maps,” (accessed November 26, 2015); The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Historic Sites,” Mormon Newsroom, (accessed November 26, 2015).

[49] Madsen, “Mormon Meccas.”

[50] Olsen and Timothy, “Contested Religious Heritage”; Madsen, “Mormon Meccas,”

[51] Olsen, “The Strangers within Our Gates.”

[52] Ibid.

[53] Linda A. Charney “Joining the Church,” In Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 758-759.

[54] Marion G. Romney, “Conversion,” Improvement Era. 66 (1963): 1065-1067; quoted in Kay H. Smith, “Conversion,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 231.

[55] McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 787.

[56] Smith, “Conversion.”

[57] McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 787.

[58] Doctrine and Covenants 1:30.

[59] Smith, “Conversion,” 321.

[60] Ibid.

[61] See Mosiah 18:10, The Book of Mormon.

[62] Douglas J. Davies, “The Sociology of Holiness: The Power of Being Good,” Holiness: Past and Present, ed. Stephen C. Barton (London and New York: T&T Clark Publishers, 2003), 50.

[63] McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 408.

[64] Millett and Reynolds, Latter-day Christianity, 37.

[65] While Latter-day Saints do believe in salvation by grace, they also believe that salvation comes from a combination of works and grace, referring to James’ statement that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20) and to a scripture in The Book of Mormon that states that “it is by grace we are saved after all we can do” (2 Nephi 24:23). Bruce C. Hafen, “Grace,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 560-563; See Intellectual Reserve, Inc, True to the Faith, 77-78.

[66] Ibid, 45.

[67] Davies, “The Sociology of Holiness,” 66.

[68] Articles of Faith 1:13, The Pearl of Great Price.

[69] Richard I. Kimball, Mormon Recreation, Sports in Zion: 1890-1940 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003).

[70] McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 622.

[71] Olsen and Timothy, “Contested Religious Heritage.”

[72] Hudman and Jackson, “Mormon Pilgrimage and Tourism,” 109.

[73] Ibid; Hudman and Jackson, “Mormon Pilgrimage and Tourism”; Daniel H. Olsen and Dallen J. Timothy, “Contested Religious Heritage”; “Olsen, Halverson and Griffin, “Touring Scriptural Geography.” Olsen, “Touring Sacred History.”

[74] The term “restoration” refers to the LDS belief that after the death of Jesus Christ and his apostles that Christ’s primitive Church entered into a prolonged period of apostasy, which apostasy ended when Jesus Christ restored his church through Joseph Smith. See R. Wayne Shute, “Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1220-1221; Intellectual Reserve, Inc., True To The Faith, 135-139.

[75] Steven L. Olsen, “Remembering and Witnessing at Church Historic Sites,” Paper Presented at the Symposium on “Remembering”, Brigham Young University, October 6, 2000.

[76] Douglas F. Tobler and S. George Ellsworth, “History, Significance to Latter-day Saints,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 596.

[77] Douglas J. Davies, The Mormon Culture of Salvation (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate., 2000), 13.

[78] Tobler and Ellsworth, “History, Significance of.”

[79] Davies, The Mormon Culture of Salvation, 12-13

[80] Ibid, 13.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Heidi Mitchell, “‘Being There’: British Mormons and the History Trail,” Anthropology Today, 17, no. 2 (2001): 9.

[83] Charles Changuk Lee, “Predicting Tourist Attachment to Destinations,” Annals of Tourism Research 28, no. 1 (2001): 231.

[84] Danièle Hervieu-Léger, “Religion as Memory,” in The Pragmatics of Defining Religion: Contexts, Concepts and Contests, ed. Jan G. Platvoet and Arie Leendert Molendijk. Eds. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill, 1999), 89-90

[85] See the web links in endnote 44.

[86] Madsen, “Mormon Meccas.”

[87] Steven L. Olsen, “Centennial Observances,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 260-262; see also Davis. Bitton, ed., The Ritualization of Mormon History and Other Essays (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

[88] Larry E. Dahl, “Degrees of Glory,” In Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 367.

[89] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 10-11.

[90] H. David Burton, “Baptism for the Dead: LDS Practice,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism. ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 95-97; Dahl, “Degrees of Glory.”

[91] John 14:2.

[92] 1 Corinthians 15:40-41.

[93] See Doctrine and Covenants 76, 88, 131, 132, 137, 138. See also Dahl, “Degrees of Glory.”

[94] Doctrine and Covenants 76:62.

[95] Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1982), 150-151; Victor L. Ludlow, Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1992; 348-349.

[96] Dahl, “Degrees of Glory,” 368.

[97] Ibid.

[98] 1 Corinthians 15:40.

[99] Doctrine and Covenants 76:71-80.

[100] Doctrine and Covenants 45:54.

[101] Doctrine and Covenants 76:103.

[102] Lund, “Plan of Salvation,” 1090-1091

[103] Walter D. Bowen, “Spirit World,” In Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1408-1409.

[104] Smith, Teachings, 353.

[105] McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 762.

[106] Elma W. Fugal, “Salvation of the Dead,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1257.

[107] 1 Peter 3:19-20; Doctrine and Covenants 138:11-17. (see Bowen 1992; Lund 1992).

[108] Doctrine and Covenants 138:32-34.

[109] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 10-11, 192.

[110] Burton, “Baptism for the Dead.”

[111] James A. Talmage, The House of the Lord (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1968); Jackson and Henrie, “Perception of Sacred Space.”

[112] Robert A. Tucker, “Temple Recommend,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1446.

[113] Dallen J. Timothy, “Mormons in Ontario: Early History, Growth and Landscape,” Ontario Geography 38 (1992): 21-31. See also Caitlin Finlayson and Victor Mesev, “Emotional Encounters in Sacred Spaces: The Case of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” The Professional Geographer 66, no. 3 (2014): 436-442.

[114] (Hudman and Jackson 1992; Timothy 1992; Parry 1994).

[115] LDS Church Temples, “Temple Statistics,” (accessed November 27, 2015).

[116] See 1 Kings 7:25.

[117] LDS theology relating to the afterlife and baptisms for the dead developed over the course of a number of years and was formally integrated into LDS religious doctrinal thought closer to the time of Joseph Smith’s death. For more information on the development of this doctrine see Samuel Morris Brown, In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), Terryl L. Givens, Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity (Oxford University Press, 2014).

 [118] Doctrine and Covenants 97:14.

[119] John A. Widtsoe, Temple Worship (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1986), 5.

[120] Talmage, The House of the Lord, 84.

[121] Paul V. Hyer, “Sealing: Temple Sealing,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 1289.

[122] Burton, “Baptism for the Dead,” 96.

[123] Mary Findlayson, “Elijah, Spirit of,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillian, 1992), 452; Samuel M. Otterstrom, “Genealogy as Religious Ritual: The Doctrine and Practice of Family History in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” in Geography and Genealogy: Locating Personal Pasts, ed. Dallen. J. Timothy and Jeanne Kay Guelke (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2008), 137-151.

[124] Malachi 4:5-6.

[125] Dallen H. Oaks, “Family History: ‘In Wisdom and Order,’” Ensign 19 (1989): 6.

[126] Family Search, “Introduction to LDS Family History Centers,” (accessed November 28, 2015). See also Otterstrom, “Genealogy as Religious Ritual.” For more information on the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and its importance for tourism see Visit Salt Lake, “Genealogy, Family History Library,” (accessed November 28, 2015); Marketplace, “‘Genies’ Head to Salt Lake City to Grow Family Tree,” (accessed November 28, 2015); Rachel Brutsch, “LDS Family History Library is a Destination for Genealogy Tourists, BBC Reports,” (accessed November 28, 2015). For more information on the connection between genealogy and tourism see Dallen. J. Timothy, “Tourism and the Personal Heritage Experience,” Annals of Tourism Research 24, no 3 (1997): 751-754; Gary McCain and Nina M. Ray, “Legacy Tourism: The Search for Personal Meaning in Heritage Travel,” Tourism Management 24, no. 6 (2003): 713-717; Dallen J. Timothy, “Genealogical Mobility: Tourism and the Search for a Personal Past,” in Geography and Genealogy: Locating Personal Pasts, ed. Dallen. J. Timothy and Jeanne Kay Guelke (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2008), 115-136; Bharath M. Josiam and Richard Fraizer, “Who Am I? Where Did I Come From? Where Do I Go To Find Out? Genealogy, the Internet, and Tourism,” Tourismos: An International Multidisciplinary Journal of Tourism 3, no. 2 (2008): 35-56.  Nina M. Ray and Gary McCain, “Guiding Tourists to their Ancestral Homes,” International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research. 3, no. 4 (2009): 296-305.

 [127] R. S. Wright, “Family History Library,” Encyclopedia of Latter-Day Saint History, ed. A. K. Garr, D. Q. Cannon, and R. O. Cowan (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 2000), 359- 360; Family Search, “About FamilySearch,” (accessed November 28, 2015).

[128] Olsen, “The Strangers within Our Gates.”

[129] Otterstrom, “Genealogy as Religious Ritual.”

[130] Olsen, “Tourism and Informal Pilgrimage.”

[131] Hudman and Jackson, “Mormon Pilgrimage and Tourism”; Olsen, “Tourism and Informal Pilgrimage.”

[132] Ibid.

[133] While temple worship is a solemn and reverent event, there is no Church teaching or tradition that requires travel to the temple to be austere or single-purposed. As such, Church members are free to combine religious and recreational activities in the same journey. Also, as noted by one of this paper’s anonymous reviewers, there is a Church Family History Center at the Church’s historical site in Nauvoo, Illinois, where LDS tourists can look up the plots of land in Nauvoo that were once owned by their ancestors. As such, for many LDS tourists/pilgrims who come to Nauvoo they think of the history of the Church at this site not just in terms of narrative but in terms of individual plots of land owned by their ancestors. The LDS Family History Center in Nauvoo is a great example of how LDS historic sites are structured to fulfill certain Church objectives (in this case connecting LDS tourists to their dead ancestors in a very direct and personal manner) and thus harnessing the cultural practice of tourism to reinforce a particular ideological program and praxis.

[134] Mother Cabrini Shrine, “About Us,” (accessed November 29, 2015).

[135] Saint Jude Shrine, “Nationwide Center of St. Jude Devotions,” (accessed November 29, 2015).

[136] Kimball, “A Report of My Stewardship.”

[137] Olsen, “Teaching Truth”; Olsen, “Negotiating Religious Identity.”

[138] Olsen, “Towards a Religious View of Tourism”; Olsen, “Religion, tourism.” In the 1960s there were changes in the Church’s bureaucratic organization that streamlined and coordinated the work of various Church departments, and simplified and standardized Church curriculum and religious practices for a growing international Church membership. This restricting process, called “Correlation,” has created a formal and very efficient and effective bureaucratic program that underlies the ways in which tourism is used to meet its spiritual goals and to maintain solidary and order across its congregations internationally. See Armand L. Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 157-176; Matthew Bowman, The Mormon People: The Making of an America Faith. New York: Random House, 2012), 184-215; Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City, UT: The University of Utah Press, 2005), 139-158. As such, there may not be a need for a stated formal theology of tourism per se by Church leaders as their view of tourism, as noted in this paper, implicitly flows from its organization and general orientation in a very unstated and naturalized way; tourism therefore is already an important and necessary medium through which the Church accomplishes its goals.

[139] Glenn Bowman, “Christian Ideology and the Image of a Holy Land: The Place of Jerusalem Pilgrimage in the Various Christianities,” in Contesting the Sacred: The Anthropology of Christian Pilgrimage, ed. John Eade and Michael Sallnow (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 98-121; Tweed, “John Wesley Slept Here”; Noga Collins Kreiner, Nurit Kilot, Yoel Mansfield and Keren Sagi, Christian Tourism to the Holy Land: Pilgrimage During Security Crisis (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006); Vida Bajc, “Creating Ritual through Narrative, Place and Performance in Evangelical Protestant Pilgrimage in the Holy Land,” Mobilities 2, no. 3 (2007): 395-412; Jackie Feldman, “Constructing a Shared Bible Land: Jewish Israeli Guiding Performances for Protestant Pilgrims,” American Ethnologist 34, no. 2 (2007): 351-374; Yaniv Belhassen and Jonathan Ebel, “Tourism, Faith and Politics in the Holy Land: An Ideological Analysis of Evangelical Pilgrimage,” Current Issues in Tourism 12, no. 4 (2009): 359-378; Amos S. Ron and Jackie Feldman, “From Spots to Themed Sites—The Evolution of the Protestant Holy Land,” Journal of Heritage Tourism 4, no. 3 (2009): 201-216; Killary Kaell, Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage (New York and London: New York University Press, 2014).

[140] Belhassen and Ebel, “Tourism, Faith and Politics.”

[141] Uli Cloesen, “Religious Tourism—Braj, Center of Vaishnava Pilgrimage,” Acta Turistica 17, no. 1 (2005): 3-28; Rana P. B. Singh, “Pilgrimage-Tourism: Perspectives and Vision,” in Hindu Tradition of Pilgrimage: Sacred Space and System, ed. Rana P. B. Singh and Robert H. Stoddard (New Delhi: Dev Publishers and Distributors, 2013), 305-332. See Olsen, “Towards a Religious View of Tourism.”

[142] Cohen, “Tourism and Religion”; Eritha Huntley and Carol Barnes-Reid, “The Feasibility of Sabbath-Keeping in the Caribbean Hospitality Industry,” International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 15, no 3 (2003): 172–175.

[143] John R. Kelly, Leisure (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1982), 52; Cohen, “Tourism and Religion”; Anna S. Mattila, Yorghos Apostolopoulos, Sevil Sönmez, Lucy Yu and Vinod Sasidharan, “The Impact of Gender and Religion on College Students’ Spring Break,” Journal of Travel Research 40 (2001): 193–200.

By Daniel H. Olsen
Daniel H. Olsen is Associate Professor of Geography at Brigham Young University.