A few months back, I wrote a general post about the little known Religion Class program which lasted from 1890 to 1929. One of the responses to this post noted the role of gender in this male-led program’s dissolution in favor of the female-led Primary program. This observation led me to look more closely into the role that gender played in the conflicts between the Religion Classes and the Primary.Throughout the forty year history of the Religion Classes, the program consistently came into conflict with the other auxiliaries of the Church, particularly the Primary. There are several reasons for this conflict. Both auxiliaries targeted the same age groups and, accordingly, recruited the same children. The minutes of a 1901 meeting of the General Board of the Primary Association reveal the sense of antipathy that had developed between the two programs over this competition:
In answer to a question in regard to adjourning Primary meetings and let[ting] the children go to the Religion Class in the Winter, President Felt stated that it would not do to lose the children in our Primary meetings. . . .
A sister from Juab Stake reported that Religion Classes were for the purpose of getting the children who did not attend the Primary and through their influence attendance in Primary was increased. Sister Rogers corrected those remarks, but thought they should not conflict with Primary. Sister Clayton stated the original purpose for organizing the Religion Class was to gather boys and girls between the ages of twelve and fourteen who would not attend Primary.
While some of the Primary leaders apparently disagreed that the two organizations were intended to train children within the same age groups, this overlap seems to have been a core part of the problem between the two organizations. By teaching the same age group as the Primary, the Religion Classes not only infringed upon the Primary’s pool of children, but it also infringed upon the pool of Church members from which the Primary drew its teachers. In some stakes, this problem was heightened as members were asked to split their time between the two programs. Ultimately Primary officials felt compelled to complain to the First Presidency about the diminished number of effective Primary teachers. George Q. Cannon responded to these complaints by reaffirming the importance of the Religion Classes and urging the two programs to work the problem out together. These problems between these two organizations eventually became a major factor in the church’s first attempts to develop a program to correlate the curricula of the auxiliaries and to eliminate unnecessary overlap between the various programs.
While organizational overlap played a crucial role in this conflict, gender also played an integral role. The Primary was led and staffed chiefly by female members of the church. Indeed, the very idea for the Primary had come from the consultations of two Mormon women. On the contrary, the Religion Class program was a male dominated program. While some of the teachers for the Religion Classes were female, the leadership of the program was decidedly male. Indeed, the General Board of Religion Classes sharply chastised one stake president who had appointed a woman to serve as the Stake Superintendent of Religion Classes. The board wrote to the stake president that “At a meeting of the General Board of Religion Classes…it was moved and unanimously carried, that in the future when a vacancy occurs in the Stake Superintendent of Religion Classes, that the Stake Presidency appoint MEN only to that position.”
Since both programs were concerned with the teaching of Mormon youth, this rivalry came down to a question of which gender was best suited to the training of children. Some attempted to take a middle of the road approach, suggesting that “the Religion Classes and the Primary Association be united into one organization whose field shall be the teaching of manners, morals, and religion, and that these combined organizations be placed in charge of one general board comprising both women and men.” Two decades later, in 1929, the programs were officially combined; however, it was a combination in name only, as the Religion Classes were absorbed into the Primary Association. Hence, Mormon leadership concluded that women were more suited to the teaching of LDS children than were the men. At the same time, teaching positions for adolescent Mormons in the seminaries remained decidedly male. Indeed, historian Frederick Buchanan notes that in turn of the century Utah, there was a “bias towards viewing men as more capable of dealing with the intellectual content of the schools, while women were perceived as ‘nurturers.'” While the decision to eliminate the Religion Classes served to expand female autonomy in some ways, it also underscored and strengthened Mormon constructions of gender.[i]
Although the changing Mormon concepts of gender must not be viewed as the sole motivating factor in the dissolution of the Religion Class program, its contribution cannot be ignored. While the Religion Class program has long since been forgotten by the vast majority of Mormons, the contributions that it made to Mormon concepts of gender are still in practice.
 Stake Officers and General Board Minutes of the Primary Association, 6 April 1901, as quoted in Harward, “A History of the Growth and Development of the Primary Association,” 131.
 Harward, “A History of the Growth and Development of the Primary Association,” 132.
 Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, (April 1906): 3; James E. Talmage and Mae T. Nystrom to First Presidency, July 29, 1907, in Kenney Collection, box 9, folder 23, Special Collections, HBLL.
 James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 378-379.
 Edwin S. Sheets to John F. Tolton & Counsellors, 3 September 1914, Tolton correspondence, folder 11, LDS Church Archives.
 Talmage and Nystrom to First Presidency, 29 July 1907, Kenney Collection, Special Collections, HBLL.
 See “LDS Seminary Teachers at Brigham Young University 1929,” PH 6124, LDS Church Archives. This picture demonstrates that during the late 1920s, the seminary and institute faculty of the church remained primarily male. A picture 5 years later, in 1934, reveals little change in this trend. Sainsbury Photo Co, “Department of Education Seminary Teachers Convention 1934,” PH 2640, LDS Church Archives.
 Buchanan, Culture Clash and Accomodation, 17.
[i] First Presidency to Presidencies of Stakes, 29 May 1929, in Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 5:267.