Sixty Years of BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

The Narrative and the Numbers



Publishing for scholarly audiences has a long history. Some propose that the first learned society on record was founded in Toulouse, France, in 1323. The Royal Society of London was established in 1660 and published Europe’s first scholarly journal five years later. In 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science published the journal Science, and since that time, the number of academic journals has proliferated. According to Philip G. Altbach and Hans de Wit, over thirty thousand academic journals are in circulation today;1 Ben Mudrak mentions the appearance of many free open-access journals on the internet since 2006.2 Professional journals provide means for expanding the world’s knowledge base as scholars communicate ideas and research with one another. Latter-day Saints have made contributions to such journals since the University of Deseret was started in Utah by Brigham Young in 1850. However, professional journals have traditionally been reluctant to publish Latter-day Saint perspectives on topics of interest to a Church audience. Until BYU Studies began, there was no publication that invited Latter-day Saint authors to explore correlations between their secular studies and their religious convictions.

Clinton F. Larson, a professor of English at Brigham Young University, was the first to propose the possibility of a literary magazine at BYU that offered publication opportunities for writers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He hoped it would encourage people to write meaningful literature as well as scholarly and scientific selections for a Church audience. He wanted to name the magazine The Wasatch Review, but the university president at the time, Ernest L. Wilkinson, wanted the title to include the name of its sponsoring university and named it Brigham Young University Studies,3 abbreviated to BYU Studies until volume 51 was published in 2012, when it became BYU Studies Quarterly.4 Larson was also its first editor, serving from 1959 to 1967.

Early on, BYU faculty members liked the idea of having their own academic journal, but some feared that such a journal would not be possible at BYU since it would be a “noncorrelated” publication sponsored by a “highly correlated” church.5 Some worried about censorship. Looking back, Charles D. Tate, the journal’s second editor (serving from 1968 to 1983), assured that the journal was never censored. But editors felt a keen responsibility to be wise in selecting articles “to build the right thing in BYU Studies, [and] not just tear down the wrong thing.”6 Since BYU is a Church-sponsored university, editors recognized that the journal would be seen by some as an official endorsement of ideas that may or may not conflict with those held by other Latter-day Saints. Thus, the editors chose to include a disclaimer that contributors are expressing their own views and not those of the editors, the university, or the Church. Still, the disclaimer has not stopped complaints when the journal has touched on controversial issues, such as evolution and war.7 Even after independent academic journals were established and aimed at a Latter-day Saint audience, editors of BYU Studies Quarterly have been mindful of the responsibility of carrying the university’s name. They have tried to keep a good balance between substantive content and sensitive presentation. This effort has been appreciated by the majority of readers. Edward A. Geary, who served as the third editor (from 1984 to 1991), confirmed that university leaders always gave editors “a rather free hand” and trusted their judgment as they fulfilled their stewardships.8

On its current website, BYU Studies Quarterly is said to offer “scholarship informed by the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”9 Wikipedia describes BYU Studies Quarterly as “an academic journal covering a broad array of topics related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is published by the church-owned Brigham Young University. The journal is abstracted and indexed in the ATLA [American Theological Library Association] Religion Database.”10

Geary explained that although the journal carries the name of the university, it “is by no means a cross-sectional representation of the scholarship being done at Brigham Young University.”11 Similarly, John W. Welch (editor from 1991 to 2018) wrote, “Despite its name, BYU Studies is not a journal about BYU, nor is it written primarily to a BYU audience.”12

As the journal recently completed sixty years of publication, we determined it was a good time to see what has come of Clinton F. Larson’s idea to provide a publication outlet for Latter-day Saint writers. The primary purpose of the research compiled in this article was to document authorship trends, topic categories, subjects, and keyword descriptors in the articles published throughout the decades. Additionally, we wanted to see which articles appear to have been the most impactful, based on the total number of downloads. A secondary purpose was to create an electronic database of the contents of BYU Studies Quarterly that may be used by others for future research.

Researchers in a variety of disciplines have recognized the importance of examining trends and issues through content analyses of professional journals.13 Nevertheless, this type of analysis has not been done before with BYU Studies Quarterly. The importance of this work has been underscored by R. Scott Baldwin and others, who believed that systematic analysis of historical trends reveals influences in any given field that would otherwise remain unknown.14


To analyze topics, trends, and authorship, we included only peer-reviewed items, such as articles and essays. For pieces to be accepted for publication in BYU Studies Quarterly, a peer-review process has been conducted by the editors, who have solicited reviews by editorial review board members. In some cases, reviews have been conducted by judges, since some essays and short stories were contest winners. Some articles are printed speeches given at various campus events, such as graduation ceremonies and devotionals. We still included such pieces as “peer-reviewed” pieces because they were selected methodically from among many possible talks. We excluded book reviews and notices, poetry, indexes, bibliographies, columns/notices, commentaries, artwork, and photographs. We also excluded introductions to themed issues and other explanatory material written by editors or staff. In all, 1,852 entries were excluded, and 1,594 entries were included.

In order to measure import, we obtained a list of the articles most frequently downloaded. We then asked the current editor, Steven C. Harper (2019–present), to offer his opinion as to which of these listed articles have had the greatest impact and why. We also asked him which articles not appearing on the list have been influential. We realize that his choices are subjective and that others may have selected other articles. Still, his informed opinion did give us a way to limit the possibilities and highlight some of the journal’s outstanding contributions through the years.

To create the database, we examined sixty-one years of manuscripts of BYU Studies Quarterly, covering the period from 1959 through 2019, totaling 3,446 entries. Some may ask if the journal started in 1959, why the 2019 volume is numbered as 58 rather than 61. The answer is that the journal published its first issue in 195915 and continued annual publication through October 1962 with volume 5, issue 1. Later issues of that volume were not published until 1964, and no issues were published in 1963. Similarly, four issues were published in volume 37, ending in October 1997, and volume 38 began issue 1 in 1999. No issues were published in 1998. As we have investigated the reasons for some of the gaps, various editors have said they just fell behind on the production schedule. This is something that is understandable considering the small but dedicated staff that has kept the journal running for so many years.

For all items in the database, we entered the following information taken directly from the labels on the table of contents within each issue: title, journal section/genre (for example, article, poem, book review), volume and issue, page numbers, authors, and abstract. For each peer-reviewed item, we also entered the following information based on our examination: category/topic (such as church history, art and architecture, or literature), subject (such as theology, conflict, or persecution), and keywords (such as responsibility, knowledge, literary criticism, or success). We made these designations subjectively based on titles, abstracts, and headings. In some cases, when the content of an article was not clear, we referred to the body of the text itself. For each item, we recorded one broad category label, one subject label different from the category, and between two and six unique keyword descriptors to elaborate on the subject. We worked in pairs and examined each entry together to ensure agreement. Differences in opinion were resolved through discussion, so further inter-rater reliability was not required.

To manage the abundance of data, we began by examining the topics alphabetically by year, combining those that were semantically similar. For example, Nauvoo Period, Persecution, and Settlements were grouped under the category of Church History and Culture. Music, World History, and Poetry fit within the category of Humanities. All topics (n = 1,594) fit within eight categories: Church History and Culture, Humanities, People, Scripture, Religious Teachings, Education, Science, and Family.

We followed the same procedure with subjects. Church-Related Theatre, Media Portrayals of the Church, and Daily Life of Church Members were grouped under the subject Church Culture. Joseph Smith’s Personal World, Joseph Smith’s Trials and Legal Involvement, Joseph Smith’s Martyrdom, and Joseph Smith Compared to Milton fit under the subject Joseph Smith.

Keywords were also grouped into larger descriptors. For example, Book of Mormon Geography, Chiasmus, Copyrights, and the Allegory of the Olive Trees were all grouped under the descriptor Book of Mormon. Brigham Young’s Home Life, Revelations, and Multiple Wives were grouped together under the descriptor Brigham Young.

For each article, the category, subject, and keyword terms did not duplicate each other. For example, if Priesthood was the category and Joseph Smith was the subject, the keywords did not include either of those terms. Instead, keywords could be Oliver Cowdery, John the Baptist, and Restoration. For another article, Joseph Smith could be the category; New York Period, the subject; and Priesthood, one of the keywords. This explains why words like Church History and Culture, Brigham Young University, Faith, Family, etc. surfaced as categories, subjects, and keywords.


The following section presents the results for our review of authorship and journal content. We also discuss the most downloaded and impactful articles.

Table 1. Most Prolific Authors (n = 29) in BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Author Names Total Articles
Ronald W. Walker 36
James B. Allen 26
Richard N. Holzapfel 23
John W. Welch 21
Dean C. Jessee 16
Leonard J. Arrington 15
Hugh W. Nibley 13
Jessie L. Embry 13
David L. Paulsen 12
Davis Bitton 12
Doris R. Dant 12
Fred E. Woods 12
Richard G. Oman 12
Kahlile Mehr 11
Stanley B. Kimball 11
Eugene England 10
Gideon O. Burton 10
Richard L. Anderson 10
Susan Easton Black 10
William G. Hartley 10
Lyndon W. Cook 9
Noel B. Reynolds 9
Richard L. Bushman 9
Ronald K. Esplin 8
Truman G. Madsen 8
Kenneth W. Godfrey 8
Larry C. Porter 8
Maureen Ursenbach Beecher 8
Robert J. Matthews 8


A total of 988 authors contributed peer-reviewed publications to BYU Studies Quarterly within the parameter years of our study. Of this number, the twenty-nine most frequently published authors accounted for 23 percent of all articles. Table 1 shows the most prolific authors in BYU Studies Quarterly from 1959 to 2019. Ronald W. Walker was the most-published author, with 36 articles, in the years 1974–2004. James B. Allen was second, with 26 articles, most of which were published in the 1970s and 1990s. Richard N. Holzapfel was third and published the first of his 23 articles in 1991, with the majority coming after the year 2000. John W. Welch, fourth on the list, published a total of 21 articles across all five decades, beginning in 1969.

The first issue of BYU Studies included six articles, three poetry selections, and four book reviews. Only three of the six article authors continued to publish in this journal. Leonard J. Arrington, who wrote “An Economic Interpretation of the ‘Word of Wisdom,’” went on to publish fourteen additional articles. Truman G. Madsen wrote “The Contribution of Existentialism,” and later he contributed seven additional articles. Conan E. Mathews, who wrote “What Is Humanistic about Modern Art?”, went on to contribute one additional article.

In BYU Studies Quarterly, two interesting trends regarding authorship became apparent (see table 2). First, there was an increase in articles written by multiple authors. Over a sixty-year period, 288 (18.1 percent) of the 1,594 peer-reviewed articles had more than one author. Between the years 1959 and 1989, a total of 737 peer-reviewed articles were published. Only 47 (6.4 percent) had multiple authors. From 1990 to 2019, a total of 141 out of 857 peer-reviewed pieces (16.5 percent) were written by multiple authors.

Table 2. Frequencies and Percentages of Multiple Authors and Female Authors in BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Years Total Articles Multiple Authors Female Authors
f % f %
1959–1989 737 47 6.4 55 7.5
1990–2019 857 141 16.5 205 23.9
Total 1,594 288 18.1 260 16.3

This trend toward multiple authors in BYU Studies Quarterly is consistent with journals in other professional fields, but not as pronounced. For example, in the journal Literacy Research and Instruction, the frequency of multiple authorship in the 1960s was 13.8 percent, and by the year 2000, it had jumped to 67.3 percent.16

One possible reason for the pattern of increased coauthorship may be in response to administrators’ consistent pressure on university faculty members to publish—a pressure felt throughout academia, including at BYU. It may also be that researchers themselves have come to value collaborating with peers in cooperative efforts and learning communities.

Another trend was apparent with regard to female authorship. Over the timespan of this journal, there have been a total of 260 (16.3 percent) peer-reviewed articles by female authors. In the first thirty years, only 55 (7.5 percent) female authors published in BYU Studies, whereas in the second thirty years, that number jumped to 205 (23.9 percent).

This increase in female authorship is consistent with other professional journals as well, but it is difficult to make specific comparisons because the number of potential female authors varies in any given field. One thing is clear across all disciplines: since World War II, opportunities for women in professional careers have increased.

Journal Content

Alongside analyzing authorship trends, we examined the content of BYU Studies Quarterly. For each of the 1,594 peer-reviewed articles and essays, we assigned a category, a subject, and two or more keywords to describe the content of the piece.

Categories. All of the categories were arranged into eight distinct groups (see table 3). By far, Church History and Culture was the largest category in the journal, accounting for 504 (31.6 percent) of the total entries.

Table 3. Frequencies and Percentages of Eight Categories in BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Categories 1959–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 30-Yr. Totals 1990–1999 2000–2009 2010–2019 30-Yr. Totals 60-Yr. Totals
f % f % f % f % f % f % f % f % f %
Total 183 11.4 322 22.3 232 14.6 737 46.2 269 16.8 310 19.4 278 17.3 857 0.06 1594 10.0
Church History and Culture 21 1.3 127 8.0 79 5.0 227 14.2 86 5.4 113 7.1 78 4.9 277 17.4 504 31.6
Humanities 101 6.3 63 4.0 54 3.4 218 13.7 58 3.6 78 4.9 42 2.6 178 11.2 396 24.8
People 13 0.8 58 0.6 44 2.8 115 7.2 31 1.9 53 3.3 25 1.6 109 6.8 224 14.1
Scripture 16 1.0 24 0.6 21 1.3 61 3.8 43 2.7 24 1.5 53 3.3 120 7.5 181 11.4
Religious Teachings 11 0.7 27 0.7 21 1.3 59 3.7 25 1.6 30 1.9 47 2.9 102 6.4 161 10.1
Education 15 0.9 14 0.9 5 0.3 34 2.1 14 0.9 5 0.3 21 1.3 40 2.5 74 4.6
Science 6 0.4 8 0.5 8 0.5 22 1.4 5 0.3 0 0.0 5 0.3 10 0.6 32 2.0
Family 0 0.0 1 .06 0 0.0 1 0.06 7 0.4 7 0.4 7 0.4 21 1.3 22 1.4

Humanities (n = 396; 24.8 percent) was the second largest category. Together, these two categories account for 56.4 percent of all peer-reviewed articles. Tables 4 and 5 show the topics included in these two categories. As for other categories, People (n = 224; 14.1 percent), Scripture (n = 181; 11.4 percent), and Religious Teachings (n = 161; 10.1 percent) account for 35.6 percent of all articles (see tables 6, 7, and 8, respectively).

As shown in table 3, only two categories remained relatively stable across all the decades, People and Education. Four categories increased, and two decreased through the years. Church History and Culture showed a slight increase from the first thirty years (14.2 percent) to the second thirty years (17.4 percent). Increases in three additional cate­gories were more pronounced: Scripture (3.8 to 7.5 percent), Religious Teachings (3.7 to 6.4 percent), and Family (.06 to 1.3 percent). The categories that decreased were Humanities (13.7 to 11.2 percent) and Science (1.4 to .06 percent).

It is interesting to note that BYU Studies Quarterly, which was originally envisioned to be a type of literary magazine, has shifted focus from humanities to Church history and culture, scripture, and religious teachings—even the category of People includes many religious figures—while Science as a category has decreased. The increased focus on religion was probably inevitable considering the Church audience, BYU’s sponsorship, and the fact that the College of Religious Instruction, later named Religious Education, started in 1959, the same year the journal began. That said, it was surprising that the categories of Education (4.6 percent) and Family (1.4 percent) had so few articles overall. Education had four topics, including Brigham Young University and Educational Psychology. The category of Family comprised eleven topics, including Family History, Motherhood, Fatherhood, Marriage, and Family Problems.

Subjects. Along with a category, each article was assigned a subject (see table 9). The top 30 subjects (and their associated categories) accounted for 38 percent of the articles. The only category that did not surface on this list was Science. Religious Teachings had seven subjects, and Humanities had six. These were followed by Church History and Culture (n = 5), People (n = 5), Scripture (n = 4), Education (n = 2), and Family (n = 1).

The two top subjects were Church Culture (n = 78) and Joseph Smith (n = 64), followed by Nauvoo (n = 41), Pioneers (n = 35), Doctrine (n = 28), and Missionary Work (n = 27). It might be surprising to some that the subjects God (n = 13) and Christ (n = 11) were lower on the list, but not when they remember BYU Studies Quarterly is a scholarly journal, not a devotional magazine. Besides Joseph Smith, only three other Latter-day Saint Church prophets were in the top rankings: Brigham Young (n = 24), Heber J. Grant (n = 11), and Spencer W. Kimball (n = 11). The only person listed by name who was not a President of the Church was J. Reuben Clark (n = 11). The number of times these people were specifically named may be due to their inclusion in themed issues of the journal. This may also explain why the subjects Masada (n = 18), Communism (n = 11), and the Joseph Smith Translation (n = 10) were prominent.

Subjects not shown on this table were varied. In fact, just over half of all subjects were listed only once. For example, BYU football, Charles Darwin, existentialism, feminism, Hugh Nibley, imagination, London, North Korea, Provo Tabernacle, quilts, rural life, unity, the Wentworth Letter, whistling and whittling brigade, Zelph, and Zion were listed one time each.

Keywords. In addition to categories and subjects, each article received two or more keywords describing details about the subject. A total of 4,596 keywords were used to describe 1,594 articles. Of those keywords, 2,310 were unique. The top 22 keywords and their associated categories accounted for 83 percent of all articles (see table 10). The top three, Church Teachings and Culture (n = 260; 16.3 percent), Joseph Smith (n = 153; 9.6 percent), and Church History (n = 102; 6.4 percent), accounted for 32.3 percent of the total articles.

The two categories that did not surface in the list of the top 22 keywords were Science and Family. All other categories were represented. The category with the most prevalent keywords was Religious Teachings (n = 7). This was followed by Humanities (n = 4), People (n = 4), Church History and Culture (n = 3), and Scripture (n = 3). The category in this list with the fewest keywords was Education (n = 1).

Although the keyword God does not appear in the table, it did appear in the analysis 20 times. Jesus Christ is also frequently listed in the table (n = 40). The prominence of keywords such as Missionary Work (n = 68), Political Science (n = 58), Prophets (n = 50), and Faith (n = 47) were expected considering the purpose and audience of the journal.

Many keywords were not shown in table 10; 517 were used only twice, and 1,483 were used only once. Examples of keywords listed twice include altars, bank failure, broken romances, BYU dating trends, Columbus, dress and grooming, evolution, folk art, grace, holographs, Karl Marx, Korihor, New Deal, parables, pets, Shaker visions, United Nations, and wealth. Examples of those listed only once were Abish, Alzheimer’s, black holes, brain trauma, childhood, condition of slaves, Cub Scouts, Hawthorne, interfaith interactions, lithographs, math, Osmonds, plastic-resin grapes, Plato, relaxation, Spanish Flu, Twentieth Century Fox, Van Buren, Vikings, way stations, and Zarahemla.

Article Impact

BYU Studies Quarterly has an online presence that includes links to all volumes and issues that readers can access and read.17 Although this site has listed popular articles in the past in an effort to generate interest, it does not currently have a complete listing of the most downloaded material on the website. BYU Studies staff provided such a list. From that information we have compiled a list of the twenty most downloaded articles. Table 11 lists only articles and essays that were included in our analysis of the content.

One trend we noticed was that the majority of the most impactful articles were published in the past decade. This could be because those using the website are seeking the most recent scholarship. To ensure a broader perspective, we spoke to current editor, Steven C. Harper, about his judgment on the impact of articles on the list as well as of those not included.

According to Harper, the most impactful articles have been those that have provided new perspectives on doctrine and topics that are central to the Latter-day Saint faith. Harper identified three articles on the list that have been especially impactful: David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido’s article on Mother in Heaven,18 Edward L. Kimball’s article on the 1978 revelation on priesthood,19 and Welch’s analysis of the parable of the Good Samaritan.20 In addition, Harper added two articles that do not appear on the list: “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” by Welch, published in 1969,21 and “‘The Great World of the Spirits of the Dead’: Death, the Great War, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic as Context for Doctrine and Covenants 138” by George S. Tate, published in 2007.22 The following is a brief explanation of each of these articles.

Mother in Heaven. Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ have taught about our Mother in Heaven since the 1840s.23 Although obscure, the doctrine has resonated with members because it explains our premortal origins and divine potential. Influential Latter-day Saints have explored many aspects of Mother in Heaven. Even though some say the topic should be avoided out of reverence, the authors of this article demonstrate that Church leaders have not relegated this deity to a confined role.

Harper considers Paulsen and Pulido’s article to be one of the most significant articles ever published in BYU Studies Quarterly because it shed new light on previously undocumented teachings, including the possible roles of our heavenly parents as cocreators of worlds and coframers of the plan of salvation.

1978 Revelation on Priesthood. In this article, Edward L. Kimball, a son of President Spencer W. Kimball, discussed the former policy of restricting Church members of African descent from receiving priesthood ordination. He documented the traditional justifications for this policy as well as its origin and what led his father to seek revelation. Impactful events included Black people’s interest in joining the Church in Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere; the Civil Rights movement in the United States; and Church members’ changing perceptions of the priesthood policy. Most important, Kimball shared the spiritual experiences that led to President Kimball’s landmark revelation allowing all worthy male Church members to receive priesthood ordination. The author also shared how the revelation was spiritually confirmed to other leaders and how members reacted when the change was announced.

Harper identified this article as one of the most impactful articles because of its historical importance. He also highlighted the doctrinal significance of this revelation. Further, the close personal connection between the author and the prophet provided an insider view that other authors would not have had.

The Good Samaritan. One of Christ’s best-known parables is that of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–35). In fact, the term good Samaritan has become synonymous with people, both Christian and non-Christian, who help others. As important as the parable’s ethical content is, Welch revealed that Jesus’s story may contain more meaning if it is viewed as an allegory of the Fall and redemption of humankind. In Latter-day Saint terms, this parable may be seen as a type and shadow of the plan of salvation.

Harper included this article as one of the most significant because it was one of the first instances of an author identifying elements of the plan of salvation in the Bible. Previously, many mainstream Christians had claimed that the Latter-day Saint understanding of the plan of salvation could not be justified by Bible teachings, but this article challenged that assumption.

Chiasmus. Since 1830, critics of the Book of Mormon have insisted that it does not read like a Hebrew text. However, they provided no specific examples to support their claim. Welch believed that the book did have Hebrew roots; he began searching the text and discovered many examples of a distinctive ancient Hebraic literary form called chiasmus.

Harper pointed to this article as a turning point in Book of Mormon research. Previous scholars, like Hugh Nibley, had linked the Book of Mormon with the ancient world, but Welch found internal textual evidence of antiquity. Since this article was published in 1969, many scholars have followed Welch’s lead and presented additional evidences of Hebrew influence.

Doctrine and Covenants 138. Joseph F. Smith lived from 1838 to 1918 and served as the sixth President of the Church. From boyhood, he endured the sorrow of the deaths of many loved ones, including his parents. He also was aware of the devastation of World War I because he had sons who served in that conflict. In October 1918, President Smith received a vision that enlarged Latter-day Saints’ understanding of how Christ organized the preaching of the gospel in the spirit world. This vision affirms that repentance is still possible after death and that those who accept the gospel and vicarious ordinances can be become heirs of salvation.

Harper valued Tate’s article, published in 2007, because of the context it provided for the vision that is now canonized as Doctrine and Covenants 138. He noted that many Church members were aware of this doctrine but were unaware of the context of the revelation. By looking at President Smith’s background, including the loss of several of his own children, Tate not only showed the prophet’s humanity but also clarified that revelation often comes in response to much study and prayer. Readers learned that President Smith had been asking questions and making inquiries based on his own personal experience for years.


Even though the categories seem limited, the subjects and keywords within them show great variety. The same is true of the authors and impactful articles we have examined. Amid this variety, BYU Studies Quarterly has remained remarkably consistent in its publication of articles and essays about Church history and related documents and photo­graphs. That said, some articles linked directly to what was occurring in the world and the Church across the decades. Historical context can provide a meaningful lens through which to view the results of this study.

Historical Context

We will review briefly what was happening in the United States, in the Church, and at Brigham Young University as BYU Studies Quarterly was being published. We will then connect this context with the journal’s contents. This information is not comprehensive but is intended to be an overview.

1960s. In this decade, the Berlin Wall was erected. John F. Kennedy was elected president and then assassinated, as were Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Landmark civil rights legislation was passed. By the end of the decade, the United States was firmly entrenched in the Vietnam War. Israel’s Six-Day War and the first human walking on the moon gained worldwide attention.

In the Church, David O. McKay was Church president and addressed members in stake centers via telephone wire transmission, the latest technology at the time. He emphasized missionary work by declaring that every member was a missionary. He also oversaw the first uniform system for teaching nonmembers and lowered the age for missionary service for young men to nineteen. The last pioneers who had crossed the plains before the railroad was built passed away. This decade marked the first appearance of the Christus statue in the visitors’ center on Temple Square as well as the first translation of the Book of Mormon into Mandarin. George Romney, a prominent Latter-day Saint, brought recognition to the Church through his 1968 run for the nomination for U.S. president. At BYU, Ernest L. Wilkinson served as president during the entire decade, and the school experienced great growth as World War II veterans sought higher education under the G.I. Bill.

In BYU Studies, concerns about war and communism were apparent with articles about war-making powers and the postwar appeal of communism. After the Six-Day War in 1967, an article entitled “Israel in Conflict” appeared.24 As the decade went on, multiple articles were published about frustration regarding Vietnam, the struggle for peace, and whether government in America was master or servant.25 Although the environment on the BYU campus was relatively calm compared to other universities across the country, articles appeared in the journal about the campus and student protests that were happening nationally.

Despite passage of civil rights legislation beginning in 1964, nothing surfaced on this topic in the journal.

No mention of Romney’s run appeared until 1971. Similarly, nothing was published about space travel or the first Mandarin-language edition of the Book of Mormon until 1970, but several articles were published about East Asia, including conflicts between China and Japan and China and the Soviet Union. This attention on the Far East continued for many years. Similarly, although there was no mention of space travel in the 1960s, the topic did surface in the journal in the 1970s. In fact, few articles dealt with current events in the Church. Instead, many dealt with humanities, arts, and literature and how different books and plays related to Church doctrine. Articles about Church history focused on New York, Missouri, and the city of Nauvoo, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Few articles focused on scriptures, but some of those that did shaped the future of Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price studies. For example, Welch’s article on chiasmus26 and James Clark’s article about Joseph Smith and Egyptian papyri were influential.27

1970s. The Vietnam War finally ended during this decade, and Richard Nixon resigned the United States presidency. Eighteen-year-olds received the right to vote, and the Title IX legislation calling for greater gender equity passed in Congress. The first personal computers appeared, but few educators or families could afford them. Population growth became a concern, leading to a cry for legislation limiting family size. An energy crisis led to increased fuel prices.

In the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith (1970–72), Harold B. Lee (1972–73), and Spencer W. Kimball (1973–85) served as Church presidents. The Ensign replaced the Improvement Era, and Church leadership standardized the dates for general conference as the first Sunday and preceding Saturday in April and October. Foreign-language-speaking missionaries reported directly to facilities called Language Training Missions (LTMs) instead of to the Mission Home in Salt Lake City. Later in the 1970s, the new Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo was opened. The First Quorum of the Seventy was established in 1975, a new program for the youth was begun, and the Latter-day Saint King James Version of the Bible was published. The priesthood revelation in 1978 extended priesthood and temple opportunities. At BYU in 1971, Dallin H. Oaks replaced Ernest L. Wilkinson and served throughout the decade. President Oaks oversaw the celebration of Brigham Young University’s centennial and the first tours of its performing groups to Russia and China. The Religious Studies Center was established, and although not initially connected to BYU, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) began.

Authors of articles in BYU Studies focused less on Vietnam and gave greater attention to the Cold War, writing on Soviet Russia and other communist countries. One article addressed the impact of students on elections since the lowering of the voting age,28 and only one article mentioned computers—an analysis of Isaiah.29 Another article referenced the effects of family size, examining academic achievement.30 Connected to Title IX, an increase in articles that dealt with working women, feminism, and prominent women in Church history was the biggest trend in this decade.

The Church’s new youth program was created in response to the struggles of youth in the 1960s. In BYU Studies, only one article during the 1970s discussed teenagers, focusing more on their strengths than their weaknesses.31 Fewer articles were published about the humanities, and many more were about Church history, including events in Kirtland, which had previously been overlooked. The journal continued to publish articles about the Book of Mormon, focusing more on the first edition and original manuscript than the doctrine. Multiple articles appeared about priesthood organization, but only one was directly related to the 1978 revelation: “Brigham Young and Priesthood Denial to the Blacks: An Alternate View.”32 The next articles specifically about the revelation, including Edward Kimball’s work, would not be published until thirty years later.33

1980s. This decade began with Ronald Reagan assuming the presidency and ended with George H. W. Bush in that office. The 1980s brought the first electronic video games, the launch of the first space shuttle in 1981, and the explosion of the Challenger in 1986. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev cultivated friendlier relations with noncommunist countries and worked with President Reagan to decrease tension between their two countries. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, signifying the end of the Cold War.

In the Church, Ezra Taft Benson succeeded Spencer W. Kimball as President in 1985, and he emphasized the Book of Mormon and the dangers of pride. Computers simplified organizational procedures, such as the processing of tithing and donations. General Church funds rather than local building donations paid for chapels, and stake and ward budget assessments were eliminated. The Church grew exponentially during these years, from approximately four and half million members34 to nearly eight million.35 This growth made the Church the fifth largest denomination in the United States. The consolidated meeting schedule (three-hour block) began. The Latter-day Saint edition of the scriptures was published in 1981, and a new hymnal in 1985. The subtitle Another Testament of Jesus Christ was added to every copy of the Book of Mormon in 1982. Utah Senator Jake Garn and astronaut Don Lind were the first two Church members to travel to space. At BYU, Jeffery R. Holland became president in 1980 and served until the end of the decade in 1989. He oversaw the first Women’s Conference in 1984, attended the dedication of the BYU Jerusalem Center in 1989, and led the university as it reached other milestones, including a college football national championship.

In BYU Studies, articles about nuclear threats and war surfaced in the journal during this decade, including one about the proposed MX-­missile system in 1982.36 These were intermixed with articles about conflicting American and Russian perceptions about freedom. Articles about the U.S. Constitution and government may have reflected President Benson’s passion for the United States. This may also explain why the BYU Motion Picture Studio produced the award-winning film “A More Perfect Union” in 1989.

An increasing number of articles explored Latter-day Saint scriptures and the expanding reach of the Church internationally. Despite the dramatic changes in Church financing, only one article appeared on this topic: a historical piece dealing with financial matters in the 1850s.37 Articles about Church history continued, including “New Documents and Mormon Beginnings,”38 which focused on what would later be shown to be forgeries by Mark Hofmann. Articles about the Book of Mormon included information about wordprint studies that would figure more prominently in Book of Mormon studies in subsequent decades. Although the BYU Jerusalem Center was dedicated during the late 1980s, the first major article about it appeared in 1995: “Reflections on Howard W. Hunter in Jerusalem: An Interview with Teddy Kollek.”39

1990s. In this decade, the U.S. war in the Persian Gulf and the Rwandan genocide represented unrest abroad. Unrest in the United States was evidenced by the Oklahoma City bombing, an act of domestic terrorism in which a bomber blew up a federal building, and the Columbine High School shootings, in which two students massacred peers and teachers in Colorado. Additionally, President Bill Clinton was elected as U.S. president and faced an impeachment process.

In the Church, Ezra Taft Benson presided until 1994 and was succeeded by Howard W. Hunter, who served until 1995, and Gordon B. Hinckley, who finished the decade. The Church digitized membership records, began publishing Church news on the internet, and introduced a new software package called FamilySearch. Adult members began studying teachings of past Church presidents in Relief Society and priesthood meetings, and the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve announced “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Missions opened in Russia and across eastern Europe, and the equalization of missionary contributions made it possible for families to contribute equal amounts to missionary service regardless of the cost of living in various missions across the globe. For the first time since 1850, Saints outside the United States outnumbered those within. Small temples were announced, and the first was dedicated in Monticello, Utah, in 1998. Mike Wallace of CBS News’s 60 Minutes and CNN’s Larry King both interviewed President Hinckley. Time published a cover article featuring Church growth and material wealth. At the end of the decade, plans were announced to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple and build the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. At BYU, Rex E. Lee was president until 1995 and was succeeded by Merrill J. Bateman. Along with a lot of remodeling and construction on campus, BYU followed a national trend by increasing its offerings of independent study courses.

Family, which did not surface as a category in the 1980s, appeared with several related categories in the 1990s. However, the first article specifically about “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was published in 2005.40 Similarly, attention to women and women’s issues jumped dramatically. There were many more articles published about Russia and countries that had previously been behind the Iron Curtain, obvious responses to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Although no articles addressed the presence of President Hinckley and the Church in the popular press, there was an increase in the number of articles dealing with anti-Church literature and the debate about whether Latter-day Saints are Christians. Perhaps connected to the use of computers in family history, there was a themed issue on automatizing the records. Many Book of Mormon articles focused on the original manuscripts and archaeology, but some articles also started to appear that dealt with doctrine taught in the Book of Mormon. A large increase in articles on the theology and world of the New Testament, including Masada, were published. Another notable increase was in articles regarding Nauvoo, including Nauvoo restoration, which was gathering momentum during the 1980s and 1990s.

2000s. The turn of the century began with the Y2K scare, a concern about how computers would react to a year beyond the 1900s. There was also the contested election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Americans and others worldwide were shocked by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The attacks and subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also attracted the attention of the entire world. Change in Russian leadership was noteworthy, with Vladimir Putin assuming the presidency. This change restricted how freely missionaries could proselyte in that country.

In the Church, Thomas S. Monson succeeded Gordon B. Hinckley as president in 2008 and then was named the most influential octogenarian in America,41 and both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were listed as among the hundred most significant Americans in history.42 Church leaders issued “The Living Christ: A Testimony of the Apostles” declaration. General conference was held for the first time in the newly constructed Conference Center in 2000, and that year also marked the publication of the one-hundred-millionth copy of the Book of Mormon. Both positive and negative media attention paid to the Church increased in part because of the broadcast of a PBS documentary about the bicentennial of Joseph Smith’s birth and the 2002 Winter Olympics being held in Salt Lake City. The Church’s role in the passing of the 2008 California Proposition 8 against legalizing gay marriage also played a role. The Church also began publication of the Joseph Smith Papers, a monumental project intended to make available all documents related to the Prophet.

Church-sponsored humanitarian efforts helped alleviate suffering around the world, and the Perpetual Education Fund was initiated. For the first time ever, non-English-speaking members outnumbered English speakers. The first edition of the Bible to be published by the Church in a language other than English—Spanish—was published. The one-millionth missionary was called, and the language skills of many returned missionaries were helpful when the Winter Olympic Games came to Salt Lake City. Harry Reid from Nevada became Senate majority leader and the highest-ranking Latter-day Saint government official in U.S. history. At BYU, Merrill J. Bateman was succeeded in 2003 by Cecil O. Samuelson, who presided over many significant developments, such as the inclusion of BYUtv in the Dish Network satellite system, expanding viewership by millions.

In BYU Studies, an increasing number of articles were published about literature, film, and media, specifically cinema produced by and for Latter-day Saints, such as God’s Army and The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd, both premiering in 2000. A large increase in focus on the international Church and culture appeared with articles and essays about Mongolia, Russia, China, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, and Central America. However, an article about the Church’s first Spanish-­language translation of the Bible would not appear in the journal until 2015.43 Articles about Joseph Smith also increased, likely due to the bicentennial of his birth in 2005. Late in 2001, an entire themed issue was devoted to Islam, with additional articles appearing throughout the decade. Following the 2001 terrorist attacks, these articles notably emphasized the positive aspects of Islamic faith and culture and highlighted shared beliefs with Latter-day Saints. The journal published historic photos of the Salt Lake Tabernacle and an article about the new Conference Center.44

2010s. President Barack Obama succeeded George W. Bush in 2008 and was president until 2016, when Donald Trump was elected. Like Clinton, Trump also experienced impeachment proceedings. Many movements defined the decade, including Black Lives Matter, an organization that protested incidents in which Blacks were unjustly targeted, and Me Too, a response on social media to the prevalence of sexual abuse. Mass shootings multiplied throughout the decade, and the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In the Church, President Monson attended the groundbreaking of the Rome Italy Temple in 2010, and Russell M. Nelson, who became Church President in 2018, presided at its dedication in 2019. In 2010, the Provo Tabernacle burned, and in 2016, the rebuilt structure became the Church’s one-hundred-fiftieth operating temple. In 2011, the Church released ­videos based on the King James Version of the Bible, and in 2012, the ages for missionaries were lowered to eighteen years for young men and nineteen years for young women. The following year, the number of missionaries surged to 82,000, and the Church’s high school in Mexico City turned into a missionary training center.

In 2012, Latter-day Saint Mitt Romney became the Republican Party nominee for U.S. president, initiating what the national press called the “Mormon Moment.” Church leaders began using social media platforms and streamed “Face-to-Face” discussions to address troubling social and Church history issues with greater transparency. In 2015, Church leaders began emphasizing Sabbath day observance, and officers of general women’s organizations joined key leading councils of the Church. The year 2018 brought consolidated Melchizedek Priesthood quorums, ministering, new meeting schedules, and a renewed emphasis on using the full name of the Church. The following year, 2019, saw the end of the Church’s hundred-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America and the beginning of a new children and youth program. Women were invited to serve as official witnesses of ordinances. At BYU, Kevin J. Worthen replaced Cecil O. Samuelson as the university president in 2014. His focus on mentored-­student learning improved instruction across campus.

BYU Studies published many more articles related to the Book of Mormon than ever, from the timing of the translation process to the wording in the original text to a history of Nahom. Much of the increase had to do with discussions of doctrine within the Book of Mormon as well. There was also a large increase in articles written about Brigham Young University and some of the challenges facing a religious school in a secular world. With BYU Studies Quarterly available online, articles enjoyed a broader reach than in the past. An article appeared in the journal in 2013 about the history of the Church-sponsored school in ­Mexico.45 This decade also saw the first article about same-sex attraction, an essay by Ben Schilaty.46

Editors’ Perspectives

In 1999, editor John W. Welch described the journal as a “channel” to “provide readers around the world with more information and more well-articulated conclusions and insights, while addressing significant subjects and pressing issues relevant to the work of God on this earth.” He continued, “BYU Studies can and should offer the world the best scholarly perspectives on topics of academic interest to Latter-day Saints.”47 Based on the findings of this content analysis, his view of the purpose of the journal has been maintained.

According to former editor Charles Tate, the spring 1969 issue of BYU Studies on the origins of the Church in New York was a “landmark issue.”48 In 1967, the Evangelical Theological Society had published an essay entitled “New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra Revival” that was republished in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought in 1969.49 The author, Wesley P. Walters, had spent years researching what was happening in Palmyra at the time Joseph Smith purported to have had his First Vision. Walters could not disprove Joseph Smith’s vision, but he cast doubt on Joseph Smith’s narration of the experience by claiming there was no sizeable religious revival in Joseph Smith’s vicinity until 1824.50

In response to that article, Truman G. Madsen organized a group of Latter-day Saint historians and scholars and secured funding for them to travel to New York and other locations to research the issue in greater depth. The group’s findings were published in the spring 1969 issue of BYU Studies and “put Walters in his historical place.”51 They provided evidence that Joseph Smith could have indeed been influenced by Methodist minister George Lane around the time of Smith’s First Vision. They also established that there was much more religious excitement in upstate New York than Walters had acknowledged.

Tate said that another significant contribution made by BYU ­Studies was an article by Dean Jessee that included documentary editions of Joseph Smith’s 1832, 1835, and 1838/39 vision accounts52 and the publication of Robert J. Matthews’s work on Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible.53 Matthews’s research was key to including references from Joseph Smith’s work in the 1979 Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible.54

Of course, the journal had its share of critics along the way. Some ridiculed the fact that the BYU Studies was an unspecialized journal. They believed the broad scope of the journal made it impossible to be taken seriously. Former editor Edward Geary wrote that some of his colleagues claimed, “No genuine scholar would besmirch his or her reputation by appearing in the pages of BYU Studies.55 The journal also had its failures, such as the “fiasco” of a “thick issue devoted to Mark Hofmann’s ‘discoveries’ that appeared just as those discoveries were being unmasked as a fraud.”56

Nevertheless, support continued for the journal as a trustworthy source of information for Latter-day Saint readers who want to read deep and thorough treatments of issues that touch on their faith. Geary wrote, “I believe scholarly journals in general are very important. They are among the few remaining bastions against the trivialization of thought in the two-column article and the twenty-second sound bite that dominate the popular media.”57

In 1999, John W. Welch wrote, “One of the most valuable contributions of BYU Studies has been its publication and analysis of hundreds of historical documents and bibliographies,” including “valuable letters, diaries, sermons, memoranda, and journals. In many cases this is the only place where these primary historical documents have been printed.”58 With approximately 39 articles about photographs and 169 about documents, Welch’s observation is accurate, but at what cost? Welch worried that “several areas and disciplines are well represented, while others are conspicuously absent,” including the arts and the international Church.59 In the twenty years since making that comment, articles about the arts, though still present, have decreased, while the focus on the international Church has increased. There has also been increased attention on world religions.

Welch also recognized that a significant collection of articles about the Book of Mormon had been published.60 He worried, however, that the articles in the journal on the Book of Mormon focused more on literary and historical topics rather than on doctrine.61 However, in the years that followed, the number of articles about both the Book of Mormon and its doctrines increased dramatically. Welch also expressed concerns about the relatively few studies of the Bible.62 This changed a great deal as evidenced with the categories Bible, Old Testament, and New Testament rising dramatically in subsequent years.

Welch wrote, “BYU Studies began as a literary publication,” and the tradition of publishing poetry and essays along with articles has been perpetuated through the years.63 Indeed, this focus has continued, although poetry was not included in this analysis. Welch acknowledged “a fascinating collection” of articles “in the areas of Church doctrine, religion, and theology” but called for Latter-day Saint scholars to “research and analyze contemporary social concerns, popular trends, and academic orientations in relation to gospel perspectives.” He pointed to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, as a rich source of topics “of great interest to Latter-day Saints” that was still waiting to be “approached rigorously, thoroughly, and explicitly in a scholarly publication.”64

Has the call been heeded? Although connections to social concerns are present, they are not as strong as they could be, as demonstrated in the historical overview given above. Perhaps, in a time of great political polarization, there is hesitancy to publish timely articles on social issues that have political overtones. Publications on relevant social issues may also be slow in coming due to academics not seeing the journal as a high-tiered publication. The concerns Geary mentioned in 1999 about scholars not wanting to harm their reputations by appearing in BYU Studies are still valid twenty years later. When asked why they do not submit articles about relationships between their academic fields and the gospel, professionals we talked to said that it was not lack of interest but that the journal “doesn’t count” toward rank advancement—even at BYU where the journal is housed.65 This is unfortunate. The obvious exception is Religious Education, where professional outlets are so limited that BYU Studies Quarterly is valued.

Another challenge for BYU Studies Quarterly, besides not being seen as a viable publishing outlet by many BYU faculty, is being little known by them. BYU Studies Quarterly is commonly conflated with BYU Independent Study. Current editor Steven C. Harper explained, “We have a sizeable, loyal, informed readership, but it is aging, and we are struggling to find the best ways to share the content of BYU Studies with a larger audience of educated but nonspecialist readers.”66

Harper believes scholars should look to BYU Studies Quarterly as a place to publish scholarship that has been published in specialized venues but could be repurposed for the BYU Studies Quarterly audience, who are intensely interested in scholarship that intersects in some way or other with the restored gospel. For example, geneticist Ugo Perego and his colleagues recently published an article in Forensic Science International: Genetics67 and then published a summary report of it in BYU Studies Quarterly, showing that, rumors to the contrary, Joseph Smith was not the father of Josephine Lyon.68

Harper stressed, “People should know that amazing articles on Joseph Smith’s First Vision, Heavenly Mother, priesthood restoration, Book of Mormon translation, Book of Mormon content, book of Abraham, and more are in BYU Studies. Every one of these is available free online at our website——and Many controversial issues of Church history and doctrine have been addressed in BYU Studies. When I’m asked if the First Vision accounts were suppressed, I point to the Spring 1969 issue in which they were published before I was even born.”69

When asked about his hopes for the journal, Harper said, “We need more submissions by and about women.”70 The journal has definitely been moving in this direction. In 2020, volume 59 issue 3 was almost entirely by and about women. Overseen by associate editor Susan Elizabeth Howe, it featured articles, interviews, art, and poetry about issues involving women generally and about suffrage specifically. It featured the work of Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and is a collaboration with Better Days 2020, an organization celebrating Utah and national suffrage anniversaries in the year 2020.

In 1999, John W. Welch wrote, “More than ever before, . . . I believe that Brigham Young University has a vital mission to fulfill and that BYU Studies is an important vehicle to disseminate studious works to help accomplish that mission.”71 After our study and analysis of sixty years of this journal, we feel the same.

Prior to the publication of BYU Studies, there was no journal that was a home for Latter-day Saint scholars, despite the fact that academic journals had been in place for centuries. BYU changed all that when Clinton Larson envisioned a publication sponsored by the university. Could he have ever predicted what has happened since? In the same way, we may not be able to conceive of what the future holds, but this journal assures that there will be a place for Latter-day Saint scholarship to be published and disseminated.

Table 4. Frequencies and Percentages of Topics (n = 15) Included in the Church History and Culture Category of BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Totals 21 .013 127 .080 79 .050 86 .054 .071 78 .049 504 .316
Topics 1959–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999 2000–2009 2010–2019 Totals
f % f % f % f % % f % f %
Documents 4 .02 52 .16 23 .10 28 .11 .13 22 .08 171 .11
Church History 3 .02 29 .09 12 .05 17 .06 .12 17 .06 115 .07
Int’l Church History
and Culture
4 .02 14 .04 21 .09 15 .06 .09 16 .06 97 .06
Utah History 1 .005 7 .02 5 .02 15 .06 .01 14 .05 46 .03
Nauvoo Period 1 .005 8 .02 3 .01 3 .01 .01 5 .02 22 .01
Pioneer Period 4 .02 4 .01 10 .04 1 .004 .00 3 .01 22 .01
Kirtland Period 0 .00 11 .03 3 .01 0 .00 .00 0 .00 14 .009
New York Period 1 .005 2 .01 0 .00 0 .00 .00 1 .003 4 .003
Photographs 2 .01 0 .00 1 .004 2 .01 .00 0 .00 5 .003
Outsider Impressions 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 2 .01 .00 0 .00 2 .001
Persecution 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 2 .01 .00 0 .00 2 .001
Missouri Period 1 .005 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Nauvoo Restoration 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Perceptions of the World 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 .003 0 .00 1 .0006
Settlements 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 .00 0 .00 1 .0006

Table 5. Frequencies and Percentages of Topics (n = 28) Included in the Humanities Category of BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Totals 101 .063 63 .040 54 .034 58 .036 78 .049 42 .026 396 .248
Topics 1959–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999 2000–2009 2010–2019 Totals
f % f % f % f % f % f % f %
Art and Architecture 7 .04 3 .01 5 .02 28 .11 15 .05 7 .02 65 .04
Political Science and Law 25 .14 15 .05 13 .06 3 .01 3 .01 6 .02 65 .04
Literature 29 .16 8 .02 7 .03 4 .02 2 .01 3 .01 53 .03
Philosophy and Truth 11 .06 5 .02 4 .02 3 .01 10 .03 9 .03 42 .03
Sociology and Behavior 4 .02 10 .03 8 .03 10 .04 6 .02 7 .02 45 .03
Drama and Dancing 5 .03 7 .02 0 .00 2 .01 2 .01 0 .00 16 .01
Literature, Film, and Media 0 .00 2 .01 1 .004 0 .00 16 .05 0 .00 19 .01
Music 5 .03 0 .00 3 .01 2 .01 4 .01 3 .01 17 .01
World History 6 .03 1 .003 0 .00 2 .01 2 .01 2 .01 13 .008
Drama, Dancing, and Music 1 .005 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 11 .04 0 .00 12 .008
Articles about Poetry 4 .02 1 .003 4 .02 0 .00 0 .00 2 .01 11 .007
The U.S. and Asia 0 .00 7 .02 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 7 .004
Psychology 1 .005 1 .003 2 .01 0 .00 1 .003 1 .003 6 .004
Archaeology 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 3 .01 1 .003 1 .003 5 .001
War and Peace 2 .01 0 .00 3 .01 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 5 .001
Anthropology 1 .005 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 2 .001
Personal Reflections 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 2 .01 0 .00 2 .001
Business 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Continental Divide 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 1 .0006
Economics 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Freedom 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Immigration 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Irony 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 1 .0006
Perceptions of America 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Personal Memories 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Restoring a Home 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
U.S. History 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Writing Biographies 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006

Table 6. Frequencies and Percentages of Topics (n = 7) Included in the People Category of BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Totals 13 .008 58 .036 44 .028 31 .019 53 .033 25 .016 224 .141
Topics 1959–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999 2000–2009 2010–2019 Totals
f % f % f % f % f % f % f %
Biography 8 .04 45 .14 32 .14 19 .07 34 .11 12 .04 150 .09
Joseph Smith 3 .02 8 .02 8 .03 4 .02 19 .06 7 .02 49 .03
Women 0 .00 1 .003 2 .01 6 .02 0 .00 3 .01 12 .008
Brigham Young 2 .01 3 .01 2 .01 2 .01 0 .00 1 .003 10 .006
Historians 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Lives of the Prophets 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Memories 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006

Table 7. Frequencies and Percentages of Topics (n = 7) Included in the Scripture Category of BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Topics 1959–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999 2000–2009 2010–2019 Totals
f % f % f % f % f % f % f %
Totals 16 .010 24 .036 21 .013 43 .027 24 .015 53 .033 181 .114
Book of Mormon 3 .02 15 .05 15 .07 15 .06 4 .01 31 .11 83 .05
New Testament 1 .005 0 .00 2 .01 26 .10 8 .03 3 .01 40 .03
Bible 3 .02 4 .01 0 .00 0 .00 6 .02 8 .03 21 .01
Pearl of Great Price 9 .05 4 .01 1 .004 0 .00 1 .003 4 .02 19 .01
Old Testament 0 .00 1 .003 2 .01 2 .01 1 .003 4 .02 10 .006
Doctrine and Covenants 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 4 .01 2 .01 7 .004
Scriptures in General 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006

Table 8. Frequencies and Percentages of Topics (n = 15) Included in the Religious Teachings Category of BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019


Totals 11 .007 27 .017 21 .013 25 .016 30 .019 47 .030 161 .101
Topics 1959–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999 2000–2009 2010–2019 Totals
f % f % f % f % f % f % f %
Church Teachings and Doctrine 9 .05 14 .04 8 .03 5 .02 17 .06 16 .06 69 .04
Church Administration 1 .005 4 .001 5 .02 1 .004 1 .03 4 .02 16 .01
God and Jesus Christ 0 .00 1 .003 3 .01 3 .01 3 .01 5 .02 15 .009
Christian Theology 1 .005 1 .003 2 .01 6 .02 2 .01 0 .00 12 .007
Early Christianity 0 .00 5 .02 1 .004 2 .01 0 .00 0 .00 8 .005
Revelation 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 2 .01 2 .01 5 .003
Consecration 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 4 .02 4 .003
Temple 0 .00 1 .003 1 .004 1 .004 1 .003 1 .003 5 .003
Traits 0 .00 0 .0 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 3 .01 4 .003
Missionary Work 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 2 .001
Suffering 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 2 .01 2 .001
Character Traits 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Choice and Accountability 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Christmas 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 1 .0006
Endurance 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 1 .0006
Equality 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Faith 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Farewells 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Fear 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Friendship 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
God’s Plan 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Grace 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Improvement 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Interfaith Relations 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Meaning of Life 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
Peace 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Priesthood 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .004 0 .00 0 .00 1 .0006
Self-Discovery 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 0 .00 1 .0006
Traumatic Experience 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006
World Religions 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 0 .00 1 .003 1 .0006

Table 9. Frequencies and Percentages of Subjects (n = 30) and Their Associated Categories in BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Subjects Categories Frequency Percentage
Totals 609 .38
Church Culture Church History and Culture 78 .05
Joseph Smith People 64 .04
Nauvoo Church History and Culture 41 .03
Pioneers Church History and Culture 35 .02
Doctrine Religious Teachings 28 .02
Missionary Work Religious Teachings 27 .02
Brigham Young People 24 .02
Kirtland Church History and Culture 23 .01
BYU Education 22 .01
Art Humanities 19 .01
Masada Scripture 18 .01
Book of Mormon Scripture 17 .01
Photographs Church History and Culture 17 .01
LDS Cinema Humanities 15 .01
Personal Reflection Humanities 14 .01
Family History Family 13 .01
God Religious Teachings 13 .01
Polygamy Religious Teachings 12 .01
World Religions Religious Teachings 12 .01
Christ Religious Teachings 11 .01
Communism Humanities 11 .01
Heber J. Grant People 11 .01
J. Reuben Clark People 11 .01
Music Humanities 11 .01
Spencer W. Kimball People 11 .01
Temples Religious Teachings 11 .01
Bible Scripture 10 .01
Education Education 10 .01
Joseph Smith Translation Scripture 10 .01
Literature Humanities 10 .01

Table 10. Frequencies and Percentages of Keywords (n = 22) and Their Associated Categories in BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Totals 1,320 .83
Keywords Categories Frequency Percentage
Church Teachings and Culture Religious Teachings 260 .163
Joseph Smith People 153 .096
Church History Church History and Culture 102 .064
Missionary work Religious Teachings 68 .043
Pioneers People 65 .041
Political Science/Politics Humanities 58 .036
Prophets People 50 .031
Faith Religious Teachings 47 .029
Religion/Religiosity Religious Teachings 46 .029
Book of Mormon Scripture 45 .028
Temples Religious Teachings 42 .026
Nauvoo Church History and Culture 41 .026
Art Humanities 40 .025
Jesus Christ Religious Teachings 40 .025
New Testament Scripture 39 .023
Brigham Young People 37 .023
BYU Education 34 .021
History Humanities 32 .020
International Church Church History and Culture 31 .019
Bible Scripture 30 .019
Literature Humanities 30 .019
Revelation Religious Teachings 30 .019

Table 11. Most Downloaded Articles and Essays in BYU Studies Quarterly, 1959–2019

Rank Order Title Author(s) Year
1 “A Mother There”: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido 2011
2 In the Thirty and Fourth Year: A Geologist’s View of the Great Destruction in 3 Nephi Bart J. Kowallis 1997
3 Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood Edward L. Kimball 2008
4 “Hard” Evidence of Ancient American Horses Daniel Johnson 2015
5 The Mormons and the Donner Party Eugene E. Campbell 1971
6 Edwin Rushton as the Source of the White Horse Prophecy Don L. Penrod 2010
7 A Study in Seven: Hebrew Numerology in the Book of Mormon Corbin Volluz 2014
8 The Book of Jonah: Foreshadowings of Jesus as the Christ David Randall Scott 2014
9 Who Is Leaving the Church? Demographic Predictors of Ex–Latter-day Saint Status in the Pew Religious Landscape Survey Stephen Cranney 2019
10 The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text Stan Larson 1978
11 The Good Samaritan: A Type and Shadow of the Plan of Salvation John W. Welch 1999
12 Is Not This Real? Joseph M. Spencer 2019
13 The Necessity of Political Parties and the Importance of Compromise David B. Magleby 2015
14 Agency and Same-Sex Attraction Ben Schilaty 2019
15 Into Arabia: Lehi and Sariah’s Escape from Jerusalem, Perspectives Suggested by New Fieldwork Warren P. Aston 2019
16 Dating the Birth of Christ Jeffrey R. Chadwick 2010
17 Physical Light and the Light of Christ David A. Grandy 2014
18 Burning the Couch: Some Stories of Grace Robbie Taggart 2019
19 Minerva Teichert’s Manti Temple Murals Doris R. Dant 1999
20 The Symbolism of the Beehive in Latter-day Saint Tradition Val Brinkerhoff 2013

About the author(s)

Brad Wilcox is an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, where he teaches Book of Mormon and New Testament classes. He earned his BA and MEd degrees at BYU and his PhD at the University of Wyoming. He is currently serving as the Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency.

Timothy G. Morrison recently retired from Brigham Young University, where he was an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education. He taught undergraduate and graduate courses in reading, language arts, and children’s literature. He earned his BA and MEd degrees at BYU and his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He and his wife, Carol, are currently serving a mission at the Church Office Building as literacy specialists helping to improve the comprehensibility of Church curriculum and magazines as well as implement literacy programs for Church members in developing countries.

Kyle C. Lyons is a seminary and institute teacher in Boise, Idaho. He earned his BS at Brigham Young University and his MA at Boise State University. He is currently working on a PhD at BSU.

Jake M. Robins is an adjunct professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology at UVU. He earned his BS in microbiology at Brigham Young University and his MS in medical nutrition at Arizona State University. He has served in various Church callings, including stake assistant clerk and a member of an elders quorum presidency, and currently serves as a ward organist.


1. Phillip G. Altbach and Hans de Wit, “Too Much Academic Research Is Being Published,” University World News, September 7, 2018,

2. See Ben Mudrak, “Scholarly Publishing: A Brief History,” AJE Scholar, accessed November 6, 2020,

3. See Clinton F. Larson, “The Founding Vision of BYU Studies, 1959–1967,” BYU Studies 38, no. 1 (1999): 9.

4. BYU Studies is often confused with other entities on the BYU campus. Quarterly was added not just because there are four issues a year but also to be quickly recognized as a journal.

5. Edward A. Geary, “Confessions of a Chameleon, 1983–1991,” BYU Studies 38, no. 1 (1999): 16.

6. Charles D. Tate Jr., “BYU Studies from 1967 to 1983,” BYU Studies, 38, no. 1 (1999): 11.

7. See Geary, “Confessions of a Chameleon,” 14–17.

8. Geary, “Confessions of a Chameleon,” 16.

9. “BYU’s Premier Academic Journal,” BYU Studies, accessed June 8, 2020,

10. “BYU Studies Quarterly,” Wikipedia, updated January 2, 2021, accessed June 8, 2020,

11. Geary, “Confessions of a Chameleon,” 15.

12. John W. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” BYU Studies 31, no. 4 (1991): 22.

13. See Pamela J. Duntson and others, “National Reading Conference Reflections: An Analysis of 20 Years of Research,” in 47th Yearbook of the National Reading Conference, ed. Timothy Shanahan and others (Chicago: National Reading Conference, 1999), 441–50; Barbara Guzzetti, Patricia L. Anders, and Susan Neuman, “Thirty Years of JRB/JLR: A Retrospective of Reading/Literacy Research,” Journal of Literacy Research 31, no. 1 (1999): 67–92; Yu-Chen Hsu and others, “Research Trends in Technology-Based Learning from 2000 to 2009: A Content Analysis of Publications in Selected Journals,” Journal of Educational Technology and Society 15, no. 2 (April 2012): 354–70; Ruth E. Knudson and others, “A Decade of Literacy Research in Three Education Journals,” Reading Instruction 39, no. 3 (2002): 119–23; Timothy G. Morrison and others, “50 Years of Literacy Research and Instruction: 1961–2011,” Literacy Research and Instruction 50, no. 4 (2011): 313–26; Chin-Chung Tsai and Meichun Lydia Wen, “Research and Trends in Science Education from 1998–2002: A Content Analysis of Publication in Selected Journals,” International Journal of Science Education 27, no. 1 (2011): 3–14.

14. See R. Scott Baldwin and others, “Forty Years of NRC Publications: 1952–1991,” Journal of Reading Behavior 24, no. 4 (1992): 505–32.

15. The inaugural year of BYU Studies only had one issue instead of the usual four. An explanation for this comes from the late Church Historian, Leonard J. Arrington. According to him, an article he wrote for the first issue drew criticism from a Church leader, which caused the editor of the journal to not publish another issue for more than a year. And after this, again according to Arrington, the journal took a more cautious approach and shied away from interpretive, cutting-edge historical articles, which eventually led to the establishment of the Journal of Mormon History and Dialogue. See Gregory A. Prince, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016), 136–37.

16. See Morrison and others, “50 Years of Literacy Research and Instruction,” 316.

18. David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido, “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven,” BYU Studies 50, no. 1 (2011): 70–98.

19. Edward L. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” BYU Studies 47, no. 2 (2008): 5–78.

20. John W. Welch, “The Good Samaritan: A Type and Shadow of the Plan of Salvation,” BYU Studies 38, no. 2 (1999): 50–115.

21. John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10, no. 1 (1969): 69–84.

22. George S. Tate, “‘The Great World of the Spirits of the Dead’: Death, the Great War, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic as Context for Doctrine and Covenants 138,” BYU Studies 46, no. 1 (2007): 4–40.

23. David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido, “‘Mother There.’”

24. Daniel H. Ludlow, “Israel in Conflict,” BYU Studies 9, no. 2 (1969): 119–43.

25. Ray C. Hillam, “The Postwar Appeal of Communism in Malay, Vietnam and the Philippines,” BYU Studies 6, nos. 3–4 (1965): 153–62; Charles H. Mâlik, “The Struggle for Peace,” BYU Studies 8, no. 4 (1968): 396–406; John T. Bernhard, “Government in America—Master or Servant?” BYU Studies 8, no. 3 (1968): 294–302.

26. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon.”

27. James R. Clark, “Joseph Smith and the Lebolo Egyptian Papyri,” BYU Studies 8, no. 2 (1968): 195–203.

28. Wayne Ault and J. Keith Melville, “Student Impact on the 1970 Utah Nominating Conventions,” BYU Studies 12, no. 2 (1972): 163–70.

29. L. Lamar Adams and Alvin C. Rencher, “A Computer Analysis of the Isaiah Authorship Problem,” BYU Studies 15, no. 1 (1974): 95–102.

30. Phillip R. Kunz, Evan T. Peterson, and Gail W. Peterson, “Does Family Size Affect Academic Achievement?” BYU Studies 18, no. 4 (1978): 529–35.

31. Blain R. Porter, “American Teen-Agers of the 1960s: Our Despair or Hope?” BYU Studies 16, no. 1 (1975): 48–64.

32. Ronald K. Esplin, “Brigham Young and Priesthood Denial to the Blacks: An Alternate View,” BYU Studies 19, no. 3 (1979): 394–402.

33. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood”; Marcus H. Martins, “Thirty Years after the ‘Long-Promised Day’: Reflections and Expectations,” BYU Studies 47, no. 2 (2008): 79–85.

34. Francis M. Gibbons, “Statistical Report 1980,” Ensign 10, no. 5 (May 1981): 19.

35. F. Michael Watson, “Statistical Report 1990,” Ensign 20, no. 5 (May 1991): 7.

36. Steven A. Hildreth, “The First Presidency Statement on MX in Perspective,” BYU Studies 22, no. 2 (1982): 215–25.

37. D. Gene Pace, “Changing Patterns of Mormon Financial Administration: Traveling Bishops, Regional Bishops, and Bishop’s Agents, 1851–88,” BYU Studies 23, no. 2 (1983): 183–92.

38. Dean C. Jessee, “New Documents and Mormon Beginnings,” BYU Studies 24, no. 4 (1984): 397–428.

39. Mark Scott, “Reflections on Howard W. Hunter in Jerusalem: An Interview with Teddy Kollek,” BYU Studies 34, no. 4 (1994–1995): 7–15.

40. Richard G. Wilkins, “The Principles of the Proclamation: Ten Years of Hope,” BYU Studies 44, no. 3 (2005): 4–37.

41. Scott Taylor, “President Monson Named Top Octogenarian,” Deseret News, October 22, 2009, accessed June 22, 2020,

42. T. A. Frail, “Meet the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time,” Smithsonian Magazine, November 17, 2014, accessed June 22, 2020,

43. Joshua M. Sears, “Santa Biblia: The Latter-day Saint Bible in Spanish,” BYU Studies Quarterly 54, no. 1 (2015): 42–75.

44. Paul H. Peterson, “Accommodating the Saints at General Conference,” BYU Studies 41, no. 2 (2002): 4–39.

45. Barbara E. Morgan, “Benemérito de las Américas: The Beginning of a Unique Church School in Mexico,” BYU Studies Quarterly 52, no. 4 (2013): 89–116.

46. Ben Schilaty, “Agency and Same-Sex Attraction,” BYU Studies Quarterly 58, no. 2 (2019): 81–85.

47. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 21.

48. Tate, “BYU Studies from 1967 to 1983,” 12.

49. Wesley P. Walters, “New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra Revival,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4, no. 1 (Spring 1969): 59–81.

50. Walters, “New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra Revival,” 61.

51. Steven C. Harper, First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 220–21.

52. See Harper, First Vision, 221.

53. Robert J. Matthews, “The ‘New Translation’ of the Bible, 1830–1833: Doctrinal Development during the Kirtland Era,” BYU Studies 11, no. 4 (1971): 400–422; Robert J. Matthews, “The Bernhisel Manuscript Copy of Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible,” BYU Studies 11, no. 4 (1971): 253–74.

54. See Tate, “BYU Studies from 1967 to 1983,” 12.

55. Geary, “Confessions of a Chameleon,” 15.

56. Geary, “Confessions of a Chameleon,” 15.

57. Geary, “Confessions of a Chameleon,” 15.

58. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 23.

59. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 21–22.

60. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 22.

61. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 22.

62. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 22.

63. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 23. For several years, BYU Studies published short stories, though the last time one was included in the journal was in volume 35, number 1 (1995).

64. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 23–24.

65. Personal communications, June 23, 2020; current BYU Studies editor in chief Steven C. Harper is exploring ways of having this changed.

66. Personal communications, June 24, 2020.

67. Ugo A. Perego and others, “Resolving a 150-Year-Old Paternity Case in Mormon History using DTC Autosomal DNA Testing of Distant Relatives,” Forensic Science International: Genetics 42 (2019): 1–7.

68. Ugo A. Perego, “Using Science to Answer Questions from Latter-day Saint History: The Case of Josephine Lyon’s Paternity,” BYU Studies Quarterly 58, no. 4 (2019): 143–50.

69. Personal communications, June 24, 2020.

70. Personal communications, June 24, 2020.

71. Welch, “BYU Studies: Into the 1990s,” 27.


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