Filed Under Education

Brigham Young Academy

Since the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormons have emphasized the importance of education. An 1832-33 revelation given by Joseph Smith stated that church members were to learn not just religious doctrines, but "Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms." In 1876, the LDS Church founded an Academy to accomplish that goal.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Mormon leaders became concerned when the youth in their church began attending missionary schools sponsored by other Christian denominations. They wanted their youth to obtain quality educations, but to do so from faithful LDS teachers. On October 16, 1875, Brigham Young moved forward with his educational goals for the Church by purchasing the Timpanogos branch of the University of Deseret in order to found Brigham Young Academy. Young declared that this school would teach secular and religious knowledge.

January 3, 1876 marks the first day of classes at Brigham Young Academy, with a meager 29 students registered. Karl G. Maeser served as the first permanent principal of BYA from 1876-1892. He used his talent in education and faith in God to transform the school. When he arrived at BYA, he remarked, “There were no records, not much system, and certainly no regularity." He found the "premises inadequate, the facilities limited, students few in number and poorly prepared, and financial conditions exceedingly discouraging." Fortunately, Maeser was ready for the challenge. He trained teachers, taught classes, and enforced a strict list of rules for behavior. Under his leadership, BYA flourished scholastically.

In January of 1892, Benjamin Cluff was made BYA’s new principal. BYA’s financial situation was at an all-time low, but Cluff worked diligently through continual fundraisers to keep the school afloat. However, despite his best efforts, Cluff knew that the only way to truly save the school was to have the Academy incorporated by the Church. Despite the Church being in its own precarious financial situation, it had invested too much into BYA to see it disappear, and they agreed to take on financial responsibility for the school. Because of Principal Cluff, BYA was saved. In 1903 BYA was changed to Brigham Young University, and to this day pursues the stated goal of providing education that is spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, character building, and that leads to lifelong learning and service.


Brigham Young Academy
Brigham Young Academy This photo shows a newly built Brigham Young Academy (the predecessor to Brigham Young University). Today this building is used as a library. Source: Date: 1898
Brigham Young Academy Faculty
Brigham Young Academy Faculty The Brigham Young Academy faculty in 1888. Seated, left to right: Joseph B. Keeler, Ottilie Maeser, Karl G. Maeser, Laura Foote, N. L. Nelson; standing: E. B. Isgreen, A. L. Booth, Hyrum Anderson. Source: Date: 1888
Brigham Young Academy Theory of Teaching Class
Brigham Young Academy Theory of Teaching Class In 1891 Benjamin Cluff, Jr., organized a Normal College at Brigham Young Academy. In this 1898 photograph he is teaching a class in the Academy Building that is, according to the beautiful writing on the blackboard, a "Brigham Young Academy Theory of Teaching" class. Source: Date: 1898
Brigham Young Academy Choir
Brigham Young Academy Choir This large Brigham Young Academy Choir was conducted in 1902-03 by Anthony C. Lund, second row center, who later became director of the Salt Lake Tabernacle Choir (1915-35). Date: 1902-3
Young Ladies from Brigham Young Academy <br />
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Young Ladies from Brigham Young Academy

These young ladies were students at Brigham Young Academy before the turn of the century. Unfortunately, the only ones identified on the photograph are Catherine Snydergaard Frisby, top left, who became a faculty member, and Louise Whitaker Cheney, center left. Source: Date: 1899
Brigham Young Academy’s Women’s Basketball Team
Brigham Young Academy’s Women’s Basketball Team : Not men, but girls, played the first basketball at Brigham Young Academy. They won the championship in 1900. Here with their manager, E. Kimball, left, are Ovena Jorgensen, Serepta Sevey, Maud McArthur, Nora Jorgensen, Aretta Snow, Ethel Crane, and M. R. Gates. Their costumes included bloomers, caps, and ties. Source: Date: 1900



Ezra Anderson, Brigham Young University, “Brigham Young Academy,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 22, 2024,