First Church of Christ, Scientists

Written by Gabe Martinez

Both markers placed by: The National Register of Historic Places, Division of State History

GPS Location: N 40° 45.755 W 111° 52.843

Historical Marker 1: No. S-28

Reads: First Church of Christ, Scientists, Salt Lake City: Organized July 17, 1891: Cornerstone laid June 4, 1898: Dedication November 27, 1898: Built of brick and kyune sandstone: Architect: W.E. Ware: First Christian Science Church established in Utah: Marker placed 1973

Marker placed by Division of State History
Taken by Gabe Martinez

Historical Marker 2: No. N-120

Reads:First Church of Christ, Scientists, The First Church of Christ Scientists in Utah was organized in Salt Lake City on July 17, 1891. The church, designed by architect Walter E. Ware, was constructed of brick and kyune sandstone. Dedicated on November 27, 1898, the building is the oldest Christian Science Church in Utah and one of the oldest continuously Christian Science Churches in the world.

Marker placed by Division of State History
Taken by Gabe Martinez

Extended Research:

Front of the First Church of Christ Scientists building
Taken by Gabe Martinez

This building upon its dedication on November 27, 1898 housed The First Church of Christ, Scientists. The First Church of Christ, Scientists began in 1866 in Boston Massachusetts. The church was founded by Mary Baker Eddy through a healing experience with The Bible after a severe slip and fall [1]. Upon establishing the church, years later in 1879, Eddy received a state charter to create the Massachusetts Metaphysical College where the doctrine of Christian Science was taught to missionaries [3]. One of her students, Mrs. M. A. Bagley graduated and brought the doctrine to Salt Lake City. On July 17, 1891 in the home of Mrs. M.A. Bagley along with 10 other individuals (8 women and 3 men total) The First Church of Christ, Scientists was formed in Salt Lake [3]. This building was fully funded by donations of the congregation and with the help of Walter E. Ware as the architect [4]. At the time of dedication, the church was able to seat 650 people but more than 1000 would show up to the services from all across the western frontier, with Mrs. M. A. Bagley leading  the service [1]. Little is known about all the members in the congregation but you can find accounts of individual members and their stories.

Second level of First Church of Christ, Scientists building
Taken by Gabe Martinez

One of these members is Anna K. Craig. In 1892, Craig travelled to Utah to teach kindergarten at Brigham Young Academy. Along with being a devout practitioner of Christian Science, Craig was also a member of the Utah Sororis Club, Nineteenth Century Club in Provo, and a member of the first Board of Directors of the Woman’s Council [8]. Craig was one of many great women of not only the Christian Science Church but also her community. She played an active role in pushing the state to implement kindergarten in the Utah educational systems [8].

In 1869, several years before the dedication of the First Church of Christ Scientist building, the first non-Latter-day Saint worship building, The Church of the Good Samaritan, in Corinne, UT was constructed. Following the Good Samaritan, the first Catholic Church in Salt Lake City was built in 1871 [6]. After that, in 1883, a Baptist church joined the growing list of new religious buildings [7]. These along with many others like the First Church of Christ, Scientists were a part of a worship space revival in Utah as faith began to diversify due largely to an influx of immigrants from diverse religious traditions who arrived in the state from the 1880s to the 1920s.

Inside of First Church of Christ, Scientists building. Original organ pipes
Taken by Gabe Martinez

Most of the elaborate architecture and building features of the First Church of Christ, Scientists still stand today. For example the original organ and pipes remain but are not in use (pictured above). A majority of the wooden pews, including the ones on the second level, are original to the building (pictured above). All of the stain glass seen throughout the building is also original. Pictured below is the original stain glass window which reads “First Church of Christ Scientist” that can only be seen from the inside of the building.

Inside view of the front entrance stain glass of the First Church of Christ, Scientists building
Taken by Gabe Martinez

This building now houses The Light of the World Church (La Luz Del Mundo). The Light of the World Church is not affiliated with the First Church of Christ, Scientists or Christian Science. The Light of the World Church obtained no historical records regarding the building upon its purchase making it difficult to know the exact date of departure for the First church of Christ Scientist. The Christian Scientists likely left the building in the 1980’s, after worldwide broadcasting revenue for the national church was starting to decline [5]. This could have been a contributing factor in the Salt Lake City congregation’s decision to sell its property as it was starting to lose money. Overall membership suffered a decline in the Salt Lake Valley which also prompted the church to move and sell the property.

Primary Sources:

[1] Eddy, Mary Baker, 1821-1910, and Scientist First Church of Christ. The Christian Science Journal. Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society

Secondary Sources:

[2] Johnson, Jeffery Ogden. “Lucretia Heywood Kimball (1856–1920): Pioneer in Utah’s Early Christian Science Movement.” Worth Their Salt Too: More Notable But Often Unnoted Women of Utah, edited by Colleen Whitley, University Press of Colorado, 2000, pp. 55–60. JSTOR, .http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgpjz.7

[3] Cannon II, Kenneth L. “Brigham Bicknell Young: Musical Christian Scientist.” Utah Historical Quarterly 50.2 (1982): 124-38.

[4] United States Government, National Register of Historic Places Collection, First Church of Christ Scientist, 30 July 1976, https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/AssetDetail?assetID=005ff433-712f-44ef-bd56-4ac9d0530b39

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Christ,_Scientist#Recent_problems

[6] http://www.ereferencedesk.com/resources/state-history-timeline/utah.html

[7] http://www.firstbaptist-slc.org/find-out-more/church-history/

[8] Ventilla, Andrea. “Woman and the Kindergarten Movement in Utah”. Utah Historical Quarterly 81. 1-4 (2013) 133-150.

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