History of Christian Science in Utah

Christian Science is a Bible-based world wide religion and a prayer-based method of spiritual healing. In 1866, Mary Baker Eddy had a spiritual discovery, which resulted when she was healed by reading an account of one of Jesus’ healings in the Bible, and named her discovery Christian Science.  In 1879, she organized and founded The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. The history of Christian Science in Utah began over a century ago, when in July 1891, several Christian Scientists arrived in Salt Lake to organize a branch church.

This led to the formation of the first Utah congregation, which later became First Church of Christ, Scientist, Salt Lake City, incorporated on August 27,1891. The small group initially met at various sites, including members' homes, the Odd Fellows Hall, and the Jewish synagogue. In 1897, these local members voted to build their own church located at 352 East 300 South. Architect Walter E. Ware, who also designed the First Presbyterian Church, the original St. Mark’s Hospital, the old Masonic Temple, and many other structures in Salt Lake City, planned the Richardsonian Romanesque Structure. On Sunday, November 27, 1898, the new church was dedicated, according to church policy, free of debt. At least 1,000 people crowded into the church, which was designed for a seating capacity of 650. Christian Scientists from several nearby states traveled to Salt Lake City for the occasion. Mrs. Frank D. Kimball opened the service and read a letter from Mary Baker Eddy praising Utah members for dedicating their church. Thus began the thirty-second Christian Science branch church in the United States. The church building was restored in the 1970s and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The members sold the building in 2002.

In 1909, increased participation at First Church, Salt Lake City, led to the formation of a new congregation. Some of the members organized to erect a new building that became Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Salt Lake City at 566 East South Temple. G. H. Kent was the architect. This building, free of indebtedness, was dedicated on March 17, 1918. It was sold in the early 1960s and Second Church held its first services in a new church, which is there present location, at 1165 Foothill Drive in 1965.

The third Christian Science church in Salt Lake City began in 1952 when 12 individuals organized a society to serve the southeastern part of the city and to relieve members of the long drive to the two other churches in the downtown area. Services were first held in a rented house at 2605 East 3300 South. This congregation was renamed First Church of Christ, Scientist, Millcreek, in 1964.  In 1974, it became known as Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Salt Lake City. Today Third Church, Salt Lake City is located at 1306 Spring Lane (5000 South) and its Reading Room is at 2309 South Highland Drive.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, Ogden, was started in May 1895. Meetings were held in various locations until 1899, when members purchased the former Presbyterian meetinghouse at 24th Street and Lincoln Avenue.  In 1907, that structure was sold and meetings were held in the local Congregational church and the Masonic Temple. A new church building, located at the corner of Monroe Avenue and 24th Street, was built in 1914 and was dedicated on December 26, 1915. Today the church continues to holds services at that location, 780 24th St, Ogden.  Their Reading Room is also located in the church building. 

First Church of Christ, Scientist, Provo, began in 1897 when four persons organized an informal society. On November 29, 1902, it become incorporated according to state law. Some members came from other parts of Utah County. For example, Medora Pierson traveled by train from American Fork to serve as First Reader in Provo. After meeting in temporary quarters, members built their own edifice at 105 East 100 North. The first services were held on July 18, 1926, and the new church was dedicated debt-free in 1933. Christian Science members in Provo sold their historic building at the end of the 20th century.

The St. George Christian Science Society, formed in 1979, serves as a religious "oasis" on Interstate 15 between the Salt Lake and Las Vegas churches. Its members currently meet for Sunday services at 11 a.m. at 373 South 100 East. This is also the address for their Reading Room.

In 1979, a group of Christian Scientists in Park City began meeting in a private home. They formed a Christian Science Society in 1982, meeting at various locations in Park City until 2001. In anticipation of the upcoming 2002 Winter Olympic Games, the Park City congregation joined with other Christian Science churches in Utah to open a Christian Science Reading Room in Park City’s Main Street Mall.  During the Olympics, from February 8-24, 2002 over 300 visitors from over 20 different countries entered the Park City Reading Room, which was staffed by 18 volunteers from all across the U.S. Members held church services at that location until 2005, when they formed First Church of Christ, Scientist, Park City and purchased space at 605 Main Street for its Reading Room and church services.

In past decades there have been temporary Christian Science meeting sites in several other communities, including Milford, Logan, Helper, Price, Green River, Richfield, Cedar City, Eureka, Garfield, and Tooele. Since some members were transient college students or railroad workers, those groups have ceased.

One of the major Christian Science contributions to Utah has been Christian Science Reading Rooms set up in downtown locations or in church buildings. These are places where anyone can come to purchase, read or  borrow  the Bible and Christian Science literature, including the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, and the international Pulitzer Prize-winning publication, The Christian Science Monitor.

Church services are open to the public where The Holy Bible and Science and Health are read and hymns are sung. Also, each Christian Science Church in Utah annually sponsors public talks on current topics given by a member of the Christian Science Board of the Lectureship in Boston.  In September 1898, Edward A. Kimball gave the first lecture in Utah in the original Salt Lake Theatre.

To interface in public settings, such as media and government relations, Christian Scientists are annually appointed to serve as the state Committee on Publication. The current Committee on Publication for Utah is Elizabeth Beall of Park City: utah@compub.org. For more information about ChristianScience see: www.christianscience.com.

Updated: 2/28/11