Before there were Young Men and Young Women, there were the Young Menâ€™s and Young Ladiesâ€™ Mutual Improvement Associations. Before there were correlated lesson manuals and basketball and scouting and Young Womanhood awards and dancing-a-Book-of-Mormonâ€™s-width-apart there were homemade programs.
MIA meetings consisted of songs and prayers, recitation of memorized scripture, and short lectures on every imaginable subject. Many MIAs of the 19th century produced â€œnewspapers,â€ handwritten, single-copy publications with contributions by members on both serious and comic topics, read at weekly meetings.
And there were Questions and Answers.
The MIA secretary of the United Order community of Kingston, Utah, carefully recorded the answers provided by members to questions assigned a week earlier. Some of my favorites, from 1879-1881:
Q. What is the Exclamation point used for?
A. It is used in Reading after a sentence expressing Joy, Greif, Supprise &c
Q. Who was the first chief [justice] of Utah.?
A. Judge Brochas an unmittagated Rascal.
Q. Which is the Longest Chpt in the Bible?
A. Psalms CXIX containing 176 v[e]rses.
Q. Where is [a] girl mentioned in the Bible?
A. In the 3rd Chapt of Joel 3rd vrs.
Q. What is the population of Kingston?
A. There is 119 Souls & seven Transients.
Q. What is known by the middle or dark Ages & what period of time does it comprise?
A. The middle ages embrace the time intervening between the extinction of ancient literature & the appearance of modern literature. During this period Europe was sunk in ignorance & barbarism hence it is often styled the dark ages This period comprises a bout a thousand years from the fifth century to the fifteenth century or from the subversion of the western empire of the Romans to that of the eastern Empire
Q. In what year will the last of the Gentile Nations be destroyed?
Q. What is the dista[n]ce to the Sun?
A.. If some celestial Railway could be imagined. If a train ran night & day it would require 175 years to reach the Sun. Sensation could not travel fast enough If an infant [had] an arm long enough to touch the sun he would die of old age before he would feel the burn for sensation is communicated only about 100 ft per second or 1637 miles a day and would need more than one hundred & fifty years to make the Journey. Sound would reach it in 14 years could it be transmitted through celestial space & a cannon ball in 9 years if it mooved uniformly at the rate it left the muzzle of the gun. The earth traveles 19 miles per second or 50 times farther than a rifle ball Yet if it were to moove in a straight line to the sun it would take a little less than 50 days to make the 96 million of miles.
Q. What was it that cause the savior to weep as he looked upon the situation of his people?
A. It was the scattered condition of his people. Mat[t]hew 23rd Chap 37 verse.
Q. When was the America[n] constitution adopted & signed by the convention?
A. July 4th 1876. [sic]
Q. Which is the most beautiful country in the world?
Q. Why should we love and obey our parrents?
A. Because itâ€™s a commandment of God and because they were the means of bringing me into this world they nursed and fed me when I was a little babe and now continually love me and provided food and clothing and lodging for me, they watched over me in sickness, direct me in health and teach me to be clean neat industerous and orderly, so that when I have grown up I may become useful.
Q. Was Joseph Smith ever condem[n]ed by the Law of the lan[d]?
A. Never although there were about fifty law suits instituted against him.
Q. Why should flesh be eaten by man in winter and in times of famine and not at others times?
A. Flesh is heating to the human System therefore it is not good to eat flesh in summer but God allowing his people to eat it [in] winter sparingly and in times of famine because all animals suffer death naturally of [if] they do not by the hand of man.
Weâ€™ve come a long way, baby.