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by Robert Nelson, Jr.

THE CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints endorses a corps of chaplains who serve in the U.S. armed forces. The history of LDS chaplains began with the appointment of Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy, at age sixty, and two others to the U.S. Army chaplaincy in 1917. The first LDS Naval chaplains served in World War II, and the first LDS Air Force chaplain was appointed in 1948.

By the beginning of the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia, most LDS chaplains who served during the Korean War had been released and new eligibility requirements precluded the appointment of most lay ministers, including Latter-day Saints. In 1965, however, the requirements were altered to allow for the lay ministry background of many LDS applicants. As with other religious groups, a person must be endorsed by a church before applying to the government for appointment as a chaplain. Prerequisites for an LDS chaplain include the Melchizedek Priesthood, an honorable mission, temple marriage, and a master's degree in counseling.

LDS chaplains have contributed to the development of military chaplaincy policy. For example, an LDS chaplain played a significant research role in the constitutional defense of the U.S. chaplaincy in federal court in 1979 and 1985.

LDS chaplains conduct religious services comparable to those led by chaplains of the Protestant faiths, and they provide counseling, classroom instruction, and other support activities to military personnel and their families. They provide such services through coordination with other chaplains or ministers. LDS chaplains are approved and supervised by the Church's Military Relations Committee.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page; Military and the Church home page)


Boone, Joseph F. The Roles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Relation to the United States Military 1900-1975. Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1975.

Maher, Richard T. For God and Country: Memorable Stories from the Lives of Mormon Chaplains. Bountiful, Utah, 1975.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Chaplains

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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