Although a few Sunday School groups met before the Church’s pioneer exodus began in 1847, the Sunday School program really was launched when Scottish immigrant Richard Ballantyne organized a Sunday School in his Salt Lake City home in 1849. Other independent Sunday Schools subsequently spread throughout the Church, and in 1867 a central Sunday School organization was formalized.
Early members put a tremendous amount of work into laying the foundations for Sunday School. Specially called missionaries traveled throughout the Church to teach local members how to lead successful Sunday Schools. A periodical that focused on Sunday School was published, and training meetings were frequently held, including general conference sessions devoted to Sunday School. President Brigham Young charged the Sunday Schools to study the standard works, and that tradition continues today.
The following contemporary accounts of members who have been powerfully influenced by Sunday School are presented to commemorate Sunday School’s 150th anniversary.
Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900–1984) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles summed up Sunday School’s impact: “Sunday School is everybody’s business! It is also everybody’s responsibility. Everyone needs it, and all should have it.
“It creates stronger homes and better citizens. It develops faith where previously there was no faith, and it strengthens the testimonies of those who already believe.
“It is an inspired organization, not only in its inception, but also in its present operation. It can be a mighty saving power in the lives of all who attend” (“Sunday School Is Everybody’s Business,” Ensign, Dec. 1974, 8).