My wife and I have subscribed to the church magazines–The Ensign, for our tweens and teen-agers The New Era, and for our younger children The Friend–for all of our married life, more than 20 years. But this year, after some discussion, we simply decided that we were giving up on them entirely. No more subscribing. We’ve saved ourselves $26.
Part of the reason for this decision is changes in our family, and changes in technology: so much is available for free online (recommendations for home teaching and visiting teaching, policy changes, etc.), and plus our oldest is essentially off living her own life now, and our youngest have outgrown making use of the puzzles and stories that the church offers for children. But a larger part of the reason, I suppose, is that we never felt any deep attachment to them–and as their content and editorial styles have changed, that lack of attachment has grown even more pronounced.
For myself, I have no memory of ever getting anything positive out of The Friend as a child or The New Era as a teen-ager. Possibly I did and I just don’t remember it, but in any case, it doesn’t weigh on me now. As for The Ensign, there I do have some fond memories–but they only make my own current lack of affection for the magazines more poignant. Specifically, I can remember finding old copies of The Ensign from the late 1970s and early 1980s in various mission apartments while in serving in South Korea from 1988 to 1990, and I became a real fan of the magazine, cutting out and photocopying old articles right and left. Why? Because it seemed to me to be filled with doctrinal substance–reprinting complete talks by Hugh B. Brown or J. Reuben Clark or Melvin J. Ballard or Lowell Bennion. Plus, long and detailed and actually (though never heavily) scholarly pieces by Hugh Nibley or John L. Sorenson. Not to mention having a fair amount of often genuinely decent (or so I thought at the time) adult essays and fiction. So yes, for The Ensign, that attachment used to be there.
Of course, the fate of that which I appreciated about the magazine was predictable: eventually, whether in the 1990s or in the past decade or more recently than that (I haven’t paid close enough attention to tell just when), Correlation finally caught up with whatever elements of the institutional culture of the old Improvement Era and other earlier church magazines, which presumably had somehow managed to hang on for however long, and stamped them out. I page through the magazine now, not just The Ensign but all of them, and I see almost nothing which I feel properly challenges or informs or edifies me. Lots of homilies and exhortations (many of which, I don’t deny, are needful!), and almost all of them from general authorities. Whatever happened to that fine stable of writers who once produced good, original, creative copy for those magazines, I don’t know. (Well, except I can guess, anyway–when policies changed such that much fiction was discouraged, and everything they accepted was supposed to 1) be based on “actual events” and 2) be applicable to a particular statement by a general authority, you can imagine how appealing that was to truly talented writers.)
Anyway, the church lost us a diligent readers of the magazines years ago, and now they’ve lost some of our loose change. What about you? Do you still read The Ensign? Do you kids still makes use of The Friend? I’m curious how common or uncommon my feelings are.