Journal 53:4 | BYU Studies

Journal 53:4

Volume 53:4 (2014)
David Grandy leads off BYU Studies Quarterly 53, no. 4, finding spiritual meaning in the physical properties of light. Next, he teams with Barry Bickmore on an article about what "science" really means and how seeing science as telling "stories" is useful in explaining what we observe in the natural world. Joseph Spencer analyzes Ralph Hancock's book The Responsibility of Reason, regarding the...Read more

From the Editor

I am excited about possibilities. Hamlet's line "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (Hamlet 1.5.167-68) invites us to look for answers: What more is there? How do we find it? Probing the possibilities keeps our minds open to helpful prospects. If you thrive on such enrichments, I'm confident that you will enjoy the ideas presented in this... Read more

Physical Light and the Light of Christ

Light is puzzling. For the last century, surprises have repeatedly upended older understandings of light. What is more, these surprises have, among scientists and nonscientists alike, triggered a great deal of philosophical and theological commentary. Physical light resonates metaphysical overtones, some of which may be considered theological or spiritual. Light travels at its characteristic... Read more

Science as Storytelling

Much of our modern world revolves around something called "science." But what is science? Interestingly, this turns out to be a very difficult question to answer because every definition seems to include something we don't consider science or seems to exclude something we do consider science. In this essay, the authors present their own definition: Science is the modern art of creating stories... Read more

Goodness and Truth: An Essay on Ralph Hancock's The Responsibility of Reason

Joseph Spencer explains the shift in thinking that occurred about five hundred years ago: very generally speaking, premoderns took the ideal to be metaphysically fundamental, and moderns take the physical to be metaphysically fundamental. Latter-day Saint thinkers may fall into one camp or the other. Ralph Hancock's The Responsibility of Reason is a defense of a premodern conception of the world... Read more

Jade Cabbage

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Life Revised

The author of this personal essay describes how, at age nineteen, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Four years later, the unthinkable happened. After losing her ability to walk, she was informed by her doctor that she was one of only 350 out of 110,000 people currently taking Tysabri worldwide who had developed a condition called Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), a brain... Read more

Violence and Disruptive Behavior on the Difficult Trail to Utah, 1847–1868

One aspect of the Mormon pioneer experience has not been studied: violence. Did the pioneers have problems with fighting and other aggressive behavior? How did company leaders prevent problems and handle disputes when they inevitably arose? This article reports pioneer records mentioning arguments, punishments, and other violent actions. The stories range from a threatened whipping for children... Read more

Mortality on the Mormon Trail, 1847–1868

Over two decades, staff and volunteers at the Church History Department compiled a database of thousands of pioneer records, now available at , containing diaries and company reports of known Mormon pioneers from 1847 to 1868 (56,042 of them). Data were then compiled in tabular format in an Excel file, available at ... Read more

Psalm of the Expectant Mother

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"The Redemption of Zion Must Needs Come by Power": Insights into the Camp of Israel Expedition, 1834

The story of the Camp of Israel, better known as Zion's Camp, has been told many times. The tale of Joseph Smith leading a group of over two hundred individuals to Missouri to reclaim Mormon lands lost after Jackson County mobs forced the Saints from the county has assumed almost mythical status. Yet details about some aspects of the camp are still somewhat murky, especially in terms of its... Read more

The Children of Lehi and the Jews of Sepharad

The Book of Mormon strongly asserts a gathering, not only of Lehi's scattered seed but also of the "Jews." Both Lehi (quoting Joseph of Egypt) and the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel prophesied of a running together of the children of Joseph and the children of Judah. This paper proposes one way in which this prophesied unification of Joseph and Judah into "one nation" may have been in part... Read more

The Tiptoe

"My theology stresses the reality of continued, continuing revelation," writes the author of this essay. "God speaks, not spake. . . . But it is sometimes a real wrestle to know when he is speaking and what he wants. It takes attentiveness, and patience. Sometimes weeks pass without a whisper." He illustrates this idea with a story about stalking squirrels with his four-year-old son. After almost... Read more

The Mormons: An Illustrated History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Many predicted that the printed book would be doomed by developments in digital media. Far from it. This sumptuously illustrated "coffee table" hardcover publication by Merrell, an independent British publisher, testifies to the value of the printed book. The materiality of the medium emphasizes the synthesis of the complex visual and textual content of this publication—stressing the fact that... Read more

The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict

Whether or not religion is essentially prone to violence is not a new debate within academia. While many scholars argue religion creates more violence in the world than any other institution, others argue that secular movements are by far the greater culprit, and the remainder struggle to find a middle ground. Despite disagreements, the scholarly discussion has largely hinged on the formation of... Read more

"A Peculiar People": Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America

Latter-day Saints were often surprised or astonished at the amount of anti-Mormon rhetoric and sentiment that seemed to come out of the woodwork during the Romney candidacies. While to a varying degree there has always been an obvious anti-Mormon backdrop, it is an awakening to realize the strong, latent undercurrent that surfaces at times. J. Spencer Fluhman's book on anti-Mormonism in the... Read more

Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card might well be the most versatile, and one of the most Mormon, fiction authors writing today—a true "storyteller in Zion," as suggested by the title of one collection of his essays. Though primarily known as an author of science fiction and fantasy, Card has also written historical, slice-of-life, literary, and horror fiction for print, stage, and screen, as well as a wealth of... Read more


Independent of political ideology, the 2012 election signified the apex of the "Mormon Moment," a period during which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints occupied a greater space in the public consciousness than perhaps ever before. This moment was defined largely by Republican candidate Mitt Romney, arguably the most wellknown Mormon to those outside the Church. His ascendance to the... Read more