Why you should subscribe to BYU Studies

Stirling Adams, a member of the Dialogue board of directors, is one of BCC’s regular guest Dialogue bloggers.

June_2006_45-1 cover1The latest issue of BYU Studies (45:1) just came out. After my initial glance at the cover art (by Brian Kershisnik) and the table of contents (which includes Givens’ “’Lightning Out of Heaven’: Joseph Smith and the Forging of Community,” and David Paulsen’s “Are Christians Mormon? Reassessing Joseph Smith’s Theology”) I’m excited to dive into the text.

Before moving to Utah, I had little sense of the academic focus or past content of BYU Studies. I’ve now been a subscriber for several years, and have used its archive for research on many subjects. I’m confident that whatever your area of interest in Mormon studies, odds are there are multiple, useful, BYU Studies articles exploring the topic. If you doubt, test that assertion. Go to the search option at byustudies.byu.edu, or to the BYU library on-line BYU Studies archive, and search on your topic. As examples, two ongoing interests I have are Latin American Mormon Studies, and the intersection of ichthyology and Mormon history. BYU Studies is a main source of quality works exploring those topics (though I’d certainly like to see more on the piscine practices of the peculiar people).

As could be expected (and is welcome), a majority of the articles are from BYU faculty and Church employees. But, significantly, BYU Studies publishes a good number of academic works that come from without BYU (and outside the church). For example, Charles L. Cohen, director of the Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions, is an exciting scholar who has recently given attention to Mormon Studies (see the latest Journal of Mormon History for his excellent MHA 2005 Tanner Lecture, “Jews, Gentiles, Israel, and the Construction of the Mormon People”). Cohen wrote God’s Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience, and last year (in 44:1), BYU Studies published his “No Man Knows My Psychology: Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith, and Psychoanalysis.” As the title suggests, Cohen criticizes Brodie’s use of (or failure to use) psychoanalysis.

For those worried that the publication might have an editorial viewpoint that would overly squelch negative historical information, consider that in Ron Walker’s biography of Heber J. Grant (which takes up all of issue 43:1, 2004), he tells the story of Rachel Ivins’ (Heber’s mother) response to a proposal to marry Joseph Smith. Reportedly, upon learning that Joseph wanted to marry her polygamously, Rachel said she would “sooner go to hell as a virtuous woman than to heaven as a whore” (p. 22). Rachel married Jedediah Grant 15 years later, after having left the church for 10 years. Prior to marrying Jedediah, apparently “Brigham Young insisted she first be ‘eternally sealed’ by proxy to [Joseph Smith], “apparently to satisfy any obligation owing Joseph” (p. 26).

BYU Studies, like the Journal of Mormon History and Dialogue, has a double-blind peer-review process, with reviewers that come from within and without the BYU and Mormon communities. The result is a quality academic publication, which I feel admirably achieves its objective stated in the publication and on its web site: “BYU Studies, Involving readers in the Latter-day Saint academic experience.” The cost of an annual subscription is only $25 (and just $10 for BYU faculty/staff). Like its Mormon Studies siblings, past issues are available online, with the exception of the last several years (so as to encourage you to pay for current content). For those interested in saving paper or shelf space, BYU Studies has had plans to offer an on-line subscription (an option currently only available with Dialogue and Sunstone), but I haven’t heard when that might actually happen.

Happy reading.


  1. I agree. The BYU Studies archives are amazing. The early eighties and late seventies were especially exciting. I have to admit to not having a current subscription…I should fix that.

  2. I would say that Givens’ article is worth the cover price alone. I haven’t actually read it but if the read is half as good as the talk he gave at BYU last year I would highly recommend it. The best devotional/forum I’ve been too while I’ve been here. Having said that about the cover price, I think the text may well be available at the BYU speeches page for free.

  3. Ok, I’m convinced. But, how do I explain to the spouse yet another Mormon mag?

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve subscribed for years, and I agree with you. I think if you’re serious about Mormon studies, subscribing to all of these journals is a must.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Kevin, what if you’re just a dilettante? Not that I’m a dilettante, I just know lots of them.

  6. Kevin,

    subscribing to all of these journals is a must.

    Exactly which one are “all these journals”? Could you (and anyone else feeling so inclined) provide a list of periodicals that you feel are a must have?

  7. I meant to say “which ones are ‘all these journals'”

  8. Could you (and anyone else feeling so inclined) provide a list of periodicals that you feel are a must have?

    Recumbent Bicycle Quarterly, for starters. Also, the Cactus and Succulent Journal of Great Britain. No home library is complete without them.

  9. Brad Kramer says:

    BYU Studies

    Optional but cool:
    The Economist
    Times Literary Supplement
    The New Republic

  10. I would say, for Mormon Studies: JMH, Dialogue and BYU Studies. Utah Historical Quarterly is available online, though you can get the print if you join the society.

  11. Adam Greenwood says:


    Its true what they say, that one half never knows how the other three-quarters is living. Harpers.

  12. Nice post, I agree completely, and with the comments including the other “Mormon Studies siblings” (nice phrase) as required reading.

    Here’s another reason to subscribe, to BYU Studies, to Dialogue, to JMH, to Student Review when it was at BYU, and to the fading(?) Exponent II now:

    As a show of support. It takes a tremendous amount of work and money to put out these products. Lots of bodies volunteer the time, resources, and money to do that. If we aren’t stuffing envelopes or writing and editing articles, the least we can do is subscribe.

  13. A benefit I’ve found to reading and subscribing widely to the various Mormon Studies publications (including BYU Studies, Dialogue, the Farms pubs, and Sunstone), is that when I attend Mormon Studies events (MHA, Sunstone, Library of Congress, etc., at every corner I seem to bump into authors that I’ve read and consider a academic friend. Keeping current on the academic publications increases the sense of community I have when participating as a consumer.

  14. This is a little off-topic, but..
    I have an idea as to what “Latin American Mormon Studies” might be, but can you spell that out for me?
    And, what is the “intersection of ichthyology and Mormon history” (is it more than the “piscine practices of the peculiar people?”).

  15. I don’t begrudge paying the price for a subscription, but I don’t have shelf space for all the books, so I very much appreciate it when electronic subscriptions are available (Dialogue, Nature), and even better when that online subscription is free (thanks, Farms Review, and Journal of Book of Mormon Studies).

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    As “essential” I meant to allude to BYU Studies, Dialogue and the Journal of Mormon Hisotry. (I also subscribe to Sunstone, the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and the FARMS Review. Oh, yeah, and the Ensign. (grin))

  17. Steve Evans says:

    Sophie, Exponent II is doing one more print edition, and then is switching to an online format. They have no intention of ceasing production, to my knowledge.

    May I humbly suggest that the mormon periodicals most in need of readership and of contribution are those related to the arts? Irreantum, for example, is a fine journal with some amazing literature, but it has a small audience and needs suppoort. It seems strange to me in a way that there are plenty of people interested in digging up our past, but relatively few that are interested in the current literary and artistic efforts of the Saints.

  18. Mary (#14) asks, “What is Latin American Mormon Studies?”
    In writing that I had in mind a project I’m involved in with a group of Mormon scholars/publishers/consumers who share an interest in Spanish and Portuguese Mormon Studies–meaning studies about Mormonism among Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries and individuals (including in the U.S.), and more generally, Mormon studies written in Spanish and Portuguese.

    We are loosely thinking of ourselves as “La asociación de estudios Mormones en español y portugues” or “A Associação para Estudos Mórmones em Espanhol e Portugues.” A rough statement of our objectives might be:
    1. Increase the level of contributions by Spanish and Portuguese speakers to Mormon Studies–in part by improving the international distribution of such works.
    2. Encourage traditional sources of Mormon Studies to pay more attention to Mormonism among Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries and individuals.
    3. Obtain translations into Spanish and Portuguese of some of the most relevant Mormon Studies content that is currently available only in English.
    We are looking for additional people who would be interested in participating as contributors, organizers, or consumers, if you’re interested, send me a line.

  19. Hey all,

    How much is it to subscribe to FARMS review of Books and the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies? It seems that you have to call to get any info.


  20. FARMS has 3 periodical pubs.
    All are available for free at http://farms.byu.edu/ (though I think the plan is that the current issue would only be available to subscribers).
    You get the Insight newsletter and The Journal of BoM Studies (almost semiannual, I think) with a $25 FARMS organizational subscription.
    It costs an additional $20 to subscribe to the semiannual FARMS Review.

  21. Matt Thurston says:

    Question to all: On average, what percent of each issue of the Mormon-related periodicals that you subscribe to do you usually read? Me:

    Sunstone: 100%
    Journal of Mormon History: 50%
    Dialogue: 50%
    Ensign: 10%

    Wish I had time to read more, and to subscribe to BYU Studies, but I only have so much time to read both LDS and non-LDS related periodicals, books, blogs, and still be a barely respectable father, husband, and employee.

  22. I read about half of all these publications. Sometime a lot more, sometimes a little less. If Sacrament meeting were longer, I could get through more.

  23. Student Review? (#12) That’s a welcome blast from the past (for me, 1986-88). I bemoan its demise (around 2001?). I’m glad to hear Exponent is still alive.

  24. Does BYU Studies really publish articles about fish? I don’t get the connection with mormonism..

  25. Keith, I share your concern that there hasn’t been enough attention paid to the role played in the Mormon experience by fish (as food and symbol), or by the activity of fishing. Oh, wait. That’s not what you said.

    In answer to your question, yes. Because fishing is part of the human and Mormon experience (markedly less so in current times), you’ll find such articles in BYU Studies. Here are cites to two fishing articles (copied from the “Fishing” page at wikimormon.org):

    Phil Murdock and Fred E. Woods, “’I Dreamed of Ketching Fish’: The Outdoor Life of Wilford Woodruff,” BYU Studies, 37:4 (1997–98)6-47 (related to this, see Tim Slover, “Wilford Woodruff: God’s Fisherman [a play],” Sunstone, Vol. 87, Feb. 1992.)
    Dennis Rowley, Fishing on the Kennet: The Victorian Boyhood of James E. Talmage, 1862–1876 , BYU Studies 33:3 (1993),480-520

    However, the number of people interested in writing or reading about fishing and Mormon studies is quite small (with Gene’s passing, we may be down to 9). So it may be some time before we get around to completing our unfinished articles, much less the book (“Fishing the Mormon Historic Trail”). After all, we’d rather fish than write about fishing.

  26. Mark IV says:

    Stirling, thank you for those references. I knew I had read somewhere that WW was an enthusiastic fisherman, but couldn’t remember where. How cool is it that we have had a president of the church published in Field and Stream?!? My testimony just went up 100%.

    I think it is a major failing and oversight of the correlation committee that the WW book intended for priesthood and RS meetings this year doesn’t even mention this aspect of his character. We have stories about dreams where he is inspired to move his carriage away from a tree, and some insignificant details about some manifesto or other, but he repeatedly records in his journal how he “dreams of ketching fish”.

  27. Agreed, Mark. Inexcusable oversight!
    Speaking of dreams, in addition to W. Woodruff, other early Mormons also repeated dreams about fishing that they applied to their tasks at hand (often, missionary or other church work). Some of these early fishers included Lorenzo Snow, Heber C. Kimball, and Joseph Eckersley (and probably Parley Pratt, but at the moment I can’t remember a specific instance of that).
    I, too, dream of “ketching fish” (I think that’s a common phenomenon among fishers), and I’ve found it interesting to compare my fishing dreams, and how they get interpreted, to those of Mormons who lived and fished in the same places (New England, Pennsylvania, Utah, Pacific Islands, Europe), but 100-180 years earlier.

  28. Keith, your skepticism about the relevancy of fishing to anything is absolutely appropriate. Let me share two anecdotes to show how stirling may be unnaturally interested in the topic:
    Last fall at a software conference in Barcelona, I saw him work into a presentation photos and taxonomic details of baccalao, skipjack, and squid. That evening, I went for a stroll along the beach next to the conference center. Among other surprising sites, I saw someone exit the ocean, complete with snorkel gear, hand spear, and a still-wiggling snapper (or was it baccalao?). Turned out to be him.
    Three weeks ago I was at the Mormon History conference in the Wyoming desert. At 6 am I went jogging along the path adjacent to Platte River. In addition the muskrat, heron, and jackrabbits I ran across, I saw a fisher standing waist-deep on the other side of the river. I couldn’t tell who it was. Just prior to the 8 am plenary session, I saw Stirling walk in, wet, but not dripping, so I assume he had time to change shoes. I’m tempted to encourage himn to repent, change his ways, and join the ranks of productive citiziens.

  29. Mark IV says:


    Fools mock, but they shall mourn.

  30. I enjoy BYU from time to time. Among my all-time favorite finds are:
    1) A trip to several French cathedrals helped John Welch uncover a lost interpretation of the good samaritan parable. It’s an allegory of the plan of salvation! (1999)
    2) Authors Walker and Peterson explore how Brigham Young (sometimes tried to) elevate the saints’ observance of the Word of Wisdom. I found out that the saints carried tea and coffee rations across the plains and that Brigham seemed more concerned about saints buying tobacco and alcohol from gentiles than about them consuming it at all. (2003)

    Good stuff.

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