Mormon Missionaries Played in Olympic Games in Australia

Additional Resource

In light of the Olympic Games taking place in China, it is interesting to reflect on an event involving Mormon missionaries that took place in Australia for the 1956 games held in Melbourne. A men’s basketball team called the “Mormon Yankees” brought favorable publicity when they were asked to play practice and exhibition games with various Olympic teams in the weeks preceding the official games. Composed mostly of missionaries serving in the Victoria District of the South Australia Mission, the team played the Russians, Chinese (Taiwanese), Chilean, French, American and Australian Olympic teams, defeating all but the Russians and the Americans, who eventually won the Olympic silver and gold medals respectively. After the Olympics, the Mormon Yankees then traveled to Tasmania and played three exhibition games against the Chinese team, winning two out of three games.

Reports in the LDS Church News of 17 November 1956 indicated that “throughout the games literature of the Church was distributed to the hundreds of spectators which has resulted in a growing interest of investigators and a great deal of favorable publicity for the Church in Australia.” The article also reported that proceeds of each game were given to the building fund of the various branches of the Church in Melbourne. 

Members of the Mormon Yankees included Elders Rodney L. Burt, Donald Hull; James N. Garn, David A. Kimball, Delmar Bjork, Wilburn C. West Jr.; Mark J. Frodsham,  DeLyle Condie and James N. Kimball. After their missions, some of the players went on to successful careers in college basketball in the United States.

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