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Ensign College History & Background

Why Ensign?

Ensign College is named after Ensign Peak. On July 26, 1847, two days after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young and several other men hiked to the top of a mountain he had seen in vision prior to beginning the trek west. From their vantage point, one thousand feet above the valley floor, the men "began to lay plans for the future city."

That spot was later named Ensign Peak because it was a symbol of the "spirit of international outreach and the ancient promise that here one could learn the ways of God." Throughout its history, Ensign College, now located in the shadow of Ensign Peak, has provided such an environment.

Our Beginnings

In 1886, William B. Dougall gathered several local leaders from Salt Lake City together to make an important proposal: that the youth of Salt Lake City should have a school of their own. And so, what we know today as Ensign College was born.

It was a meeting that almost didn’t take place.

The gathering was scheduled to occur in a bookstore owned by James Dwyer, but the night before the meeting a fire broke out in the building. The next morning, water that had been used to put out the fire was still dripping from the destroyed roof. That could have been the end of Dougall’s dream, but his group of determined, resourceful pioneers met anyway, sitting on boxes and crates in the charred, damp remains of the bookstore.

The symbolism of that first meeting cannot be ignored. Surrounded by the ashes of books, the gathered leaders made plans for a place of learning. The phoenix that rose from those ashes was the Salt Lake Stake Academy, now known as Ensign College.

A History of Change

Since its founding, Ensign College has moved eight times, and instruction has been provided in a total of 16 buildings. It stood on the location of the current Church Office Building for the longest span of time, from 1901 to 1961.

From 1962 to 2006, Ensign College occupied the Wall Mansion in downtown Salt Lake City before moving to its current location at the Triad Center, just west of Temple Square.

The school’s purpose is to provide a spiritually grounded, career-based education. Ensign College provides a wide variety of programs, including business, health professions, information technology, software development, interior design, paralegal studies, social media marketing and applied technology.

Through these in-demand professional certificates, associate degrees and applied bachelor degrees—with programs offered both on campus and online—students become job-ready in one, two or four years and are prepared to earn a working wage quickly after graduation.


  • Ensign College is an institution of higher education founded and sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The school’s mission is to develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • The College has had five names and six name changes: Salt Lake Stake Academy (1886-1890), LDS College (1890-1901), LDS University (1901-1927), LDS College (1927-1931), LDS Business College (1931-2020), Ensign College (2020-present).

  • Each year 2,000 students come to Ensign College from all 50 U.S. states and more than 60 countries.

  • Nearly 45 percent of the students are returned missionaries.

  • International students comprise approximately 35 percent of the student body.

  • Since it opened its door, 100,000+ students have attended Ensign College.

  • The 2020 graduating class included 522 graduates; 271 females and 251 males. The College awarded 601 two-year degrees in 20 programs and 265 certificates. 66% of graduates came from the U.S. and 156 students were first-generation college students.

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