Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

History of the fraternity for returned missionaries is presented to Church

Published: Saturday, March 30, 1991

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From 1928-78, some 10,000 returned missionaries found fellowship and service opportunity in the Delta Phi (later Delta Phi Kappa) college fraternity. A 294-page history of the fraternity was presented to the Church Historical Department March 14.

Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy received two copies of the published history, along with three archival boxes of records, from Harold Smith, the last national president of the fraternity. Elder Carmack is executive director of the Historical Department, Church historian and general Church recorder.William Hartley, author of the history and a faculty member in BYU's Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History, was present for the brief presentation, along with Eldred Waldron and Richard Sadler, board members of the Delta Phi Kappa Holding Corp.

Brother Hartley said the history is in part a project of the Smith Institute.

"Delta Phi Kappa was founded in 1920 by University of Utah Pres. John A. Widtsoe to provide a social unit for LDS returned missionaries on the campus," Brother Hartley recounted.

"Called at first the Friars Club, it spread to campuses at Weber College, BYU and Utah State Agricultural College. In 1932 the Friars adopted the Delta Phi name, by permission of alumni of the University of Utah's Delta Phi Literary and Debating Society, and this linkage made the group part of Utah's oldest fraternity, which was founded in 1869."

Elder Widtsoe, a member of the Council of the Twelve at the time, became Delta Phi's grand president in 1936. Among successors have been Elders Matthew Cowley, Milton R. Hunter, Henry D. Taylor, Paul H. Dunn and Marion D. Hanks, all General Authorities.

"At its peak in the 1940s through the 1960s, Delta Phi Kappa had nine chapters on eight campuses: University of Utah, Utah State, BYU, Weber College, Ricks, Dixie, Arizona State and Idaho State, and a U. of U. alumni chapter," Brother Hartley said.

"The fraternity, although not Church sponsored or funded, had Church encouragement. It was a social fraternity committed to maintaining LDS standards. It was designed to let returned missionaries associate with a group of men with similar high standards who could help them adjust to dating and social lives again after two years of non-dating."

Chapters of the fraternity provided hundreds of special sacrament meeting programs of music and speaking in wards near their campuses. They presented spiritual and talent programs at prisons and mental hospitals, attended the temple regularly, and helped train future missionaries on campuses and at the Church's Mission Home, forerunner to today's Missionary Training Center.

In 1978, under the priesthood correlation movement, Delta Phi Kappa was merged with and replaced by Sigma Gamma Chi, the current LDS men's fraternity on many campuses. Sigma Gamma Chi is not restricted to returned missionaries.

But the Delta Phi Kappa Holding Corp. continues to award scholarships to LDS college students today, a practice begun in the 1950s.

Among records donated to the Historical Department are minute books, correspondence, handbooks, scholarship files, housing documents, fraternity newspapers, photographs, oral history tapes and memorabilia. The records complete the set of the fraternity's official files already in the Church Archives.