Brigham Young University
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"The Innovations, Inspiration, and Implementations of Elaine Anderson Cannon on LDS Church Organizations" 

Mary Jane


            Elaine Cannon was a key figure in organizing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint Student Association and establishing Lamba Delta Sigma the Church’s sorority. Secondly, in 1978 she became the Young Women Organization general president.  In these two roles Cannon’s footprint is still seen in these organizations and the individual lives of young women who participated under her leadership.  

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leadership comes from the lay membership.  As individuals are called to lead auxiliaries their unique personalities and skills make indelible footprints upon the organizations of the Church.  Often the education, personalities and attributes of individuals has a great influence in the development and programs of these Church organizations. Elaine Anderson Cannon, the Eighth President of the Young Women’s Organization who served from 1978 to 1984. Cannon’s skills and gifts greatly affected the development of this organization and made a lasting impact. Under her direction a worldwide Young Women’s meeting was held and various programs were established.  Likewise, she was instrumental in forming the LDSSA which still serves thousands of young college students nationwide.

            This study supports the premise that Cannon's ideas were revelatory in nature and prepared a rising generation of Latter-day Saints for parenthood and Church leadership.  This work is an attempt to show that Cannon’s teachings permeated every aspect of the Young Women’s Organization for many years but more importantly those innovations still are being used today in the LDS Church wide. This study investigates the extent to which Cannon was a prophetic innovator.  Research includes analysis of every speech, address, and sermon that Cannon gave during her tenure as a general officer of the Church.

This research synthesizes and interprets data so that readers are provided with a better understanding and perspective of Cannon’s teachings and programs within a historical context. This research can also guide historians and educators in achieving a better comprehension of contemporary LDS Church institutions, practices and issues that evolved during Cannon’s leadership.



Mary Jane Woodger, Ed.D., is a professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. Born and raised in American Fork and Salt Lake City, Utah, Mary Jane has always had a great love for teaching. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in home economics education, she taught home economics and American history in Salt Lake City. She then completed her master of education degree at Utah State University, and received from Brigham Young University a doctor of education degree in educational leadership, with a minor in Church history and doctrine.

            Since then, Dr. Woodger has written and published over a dozen books including three books about the life and teachings of David O. McKay, as well as a book on the timely subject of self-esteem. She has also authored numerous articles on doctrinal, historical, and educational subjects. These articles have appeared in various academic journals, as well as the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, the Church News, the Ensign, and The Religious Educator. Awards Dr. Woodger has received include the Best Article of the Year Award from the Utah Historical Society, the Brigham Young University Faculty Women’s Association Teaching Award, The Harvey B. Black and Susan Easton Black Outstanding Publication Award and the Alice Louise Reynolds Women-in-Scholarship Honor. Dr. Woodger’s current research interests include twentieth-century Church history, Latter-day Saint women’s history, and Church education.