Journal 53:2 | BYU Studies

Journal 53:2

Volume 53:2 (2014)
In BYU Studies Quarterly 53.2, Robert L. Millet suggests that Evangelicals may place an excessive stress on grace, to the point that they emphasize forgiveness but neglect repentance. By contrast, he chides the Mormons for overstating their own role in salvation. Eric A. Eliason explores the phenomenon of prebirth experiences (encounters with spirit children not yet born) and how this folk...Read more

From the Editor

This year BYU Studies celebrates its fifty-fifth year of publication. As I look back at the table of contents of the first issue, published in 1959, I am struck that the same multidisciplinary variety still flourishes today in BYU Studies as it did then. Articles, essays, and book reviews in that issue covered topics of contemporary interest that are still of interest today. In that inaugural... Read more

The Perils of Grace

Robert L. Millet offers his perspectives as a Mormon and a scholar who has engaged in the study of grace. He suggests gentle correctives to his evangelical friends and his fellow Latter-day Saints regarding their respective views of grace. To the Evangelicals he suggests they may place an excessive stress on grace, to the point that they emphasize forgiveness but neglect repentance. By contrast,... Read more


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Spirit Babies and Divine Embodiment: PBEs, First Vision Accounts, Bible Scholarship, and the Experience-Centered Approach to Mormon Folklore

Eric A. Eliason, a BYU Professor of English who specializes in folklore, explores the phenomenon of prebirth experiences (encounters with spirit children not yet born) and how this folk tradition is deeply enmeshed with official LDS doctrines. Encounters with spiritual beings are reported more frequently in the general population than the more academically respectable mystic or transcendent... Read more

Laying Up Treasure: Mormons in the Marketplace

The national profile of Mormons has increased in recent years, and the spotlight on the Mormon way of doing business is no exception. Latter-day Saints are known to be generous with their money and time. Mormons are by no means alone among Christians in the view that an abundance of earthly possessions can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on the way wealth is viewed and used. Mormons... Read more

A Study in Seven: Hebrew Numerology in the Book of Mormon

The subject of Hebrew numerology in the Book of Mormon has been identified as a promising field of study still open to fruitful exploration. Meaning is found in many ways, and one way is in the symbolism of numbers. Previous studies have discussed significant uses of the numbers ten, twenty-four, and fifty in the Book of Mormon, beginning with explanations of the symbolic importance of such... Read more


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Mossy Pools, Unkempt Paths, and Living Memory

A man visits the house in which he grew up and finds weedy lawns and a mossy swimming pool. He remembers the pleasant childhood he spent there and laments the decay. Pondering on the role of such memories, he considers his past, present, and future. Did Adam ever look back on Eden, letting his thoughts run to the joy of innocence and a life free of care? Nostalgic memories can help us recognize... Read more

Be It unto Me

A woman shares her thoughts about having a child despite health challenges and comes to accept whatever happens as a blessing. She considers how Mary, the mother of Jesus, asks the angel one question about the mechanics of it all, and then responds without any evidence of hesitation, "Be it unto me, according to thy word." Read more

A Mormon and a Buddhist Debate Plural Marriage: The Letters of Elder Alma O. Taylor and the Reverend Nishijima Kakuryo, 1901

In 1901, the first Mormon missionaries went to Japan, including Alma O. Taylor, then eighteen years old. Before leaving Utah, he began a correspondence with Nishijima Kakuryo, a Buddhist missionary of the Jodo Shinshu faith in San Francisco. The content of their five letters was dominated by their discussion of the Mormon practice of polygamy. The letters document the defenses of polygamy... Read more

Sidney Rigdon's Plea to the Saints: Transcription of Thomas Bullock's Shorthand Notes from the August 8, 1844, Morning Meeting

At meetings held in Nauvoo, Illinois, on August 8, 1844, Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young each asserted their claims to succeed Joseph Smith as leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thomas Bullock, the clerk for the Church Historian's Office, recorded notes of the morning meeting, including speeches by Rigdon and Young, in Taylor shorthand. Until recently, Bullock's notes have... Read more

The Prophet: The Latter-day Saint Experience in the East, 1844–1845

The Prophet was an official newspaper of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints printed in New York City from May 1844 to May 1845. Its articles were an unrelenting defense of Mormonism and Joseph Smith, contending against slanderous claims stemming from anti-Mormons in Illinois and reprinted in eastern newspapers. Topics included Joseph Smith's candidacy for the US presidency, the... Read more

Jean Valjean, the Prodigal Son: Review Essay on Regional Productions of Misérables

Two theatre specialists review several Utah productions of Les Misérables, noting how the message of this musical resonates with Latter-day Saints. Jean Valjean can represent the prodigal son, who engages in theft and deception and finds himself living in poverty and rejection. But he repents and finds freedom, as did the prodigal who is accepted into his father's house. Some of the characters... Read more

Exploring Mormon Thought: Of God and Gods

Blake T. Ostler's monumental systematic work, Exploring Mormon Thought, continues to be a major event in the development of Mormon philosophical theology. Over the last fifteen years, work on Mormonism in the general field of religious studies has exploded. There are far too many works to give even a partial list here, but I will highlight a few of the notable authors. Terryl L. Givens publishes... Read more

Armenian Apocrypha Relating to Abraham

This article is being offered free as a courtesy to as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. Over a decade ago while attending an annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, I heard Professor Michael Stone mention he was working on a group of medieval Armenian texts containing traditions about the Patriarch Abraham. Having spent considerable time gathering... Read more

Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow

In this important study, Dennis B. Horne provides a biographical treatment of Lorenzo Snow's nine years as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his three years as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Horne is no stranger to writing about Church history. He has authored a book about the life and teachings of Bruce R. McConkie, an edition of Abraham H. Cannon'... Read more

Navajo Tradition, Mormon Life: The Autobiography and Teachings of Jim Dandy

Navajo Tradition, Mormon Life shows how Jim Dandy—a Mormon Navajo who participated in the Indian Student Placement Program, attended Brigham Young University, and taught school in San Juan County, Utah—combines his Navajo and Mormon lifestyles. He asked his Anglo neighbor Robert S. McPherson, a professor at Utah State University Eastern–San Juan Center, to help him record his history. McPherson... Read more

Ephraim's Rescue, written and directed by T. C. Christensen

A mark of good historical fiction is that it motivates people to study more about the original historical events. While academic history books are the most in-depth and accurate, some lay readers may find them difficult to digest without some impetus. Novels and films based on real-life experiences can pique the curiosity of audiences and motivate them to tackle more difficult material. In the... Read more

Exploring the First Vision

This book sets out to do exactly what the title says it does—explore the First Vision. For most readers, that exploration will take them places they have not yet seen. Writings by many well-known Church scholars are brought together to give a broader and deeper meaning to the genesis event of the Restoration. Contributors include scholars such as Steven C. Harper, John W. Welch, Milton V. Backman... Read more

Izapa Sacred Space: Sculpture Calendar Codes

This book is the culmination of fifty years of research by one of the foremost scholars in the field of Pre-Classic Mesoamerican studies, particularly focusing on the important site of Izapa, located on the southern Pacific coast of Mexico near the border of Guatemala. Archaeologist V. Garth Norman began his work at Izapa in 1962 and continued to work at the site for two decades on behalf of the... Read more

Villages on Wheels: A Social History of the Gathering to Zion

With all that has been said and written of the pioneer heroes of early Mormondom, Villages on Wheels beats down the partition of dates and facts to channel the voices of those who were "called to pass through it." Uniquely organized to attract both the scholar and lay reader, Villages on Wheels presents the unadulterated history of the pioneers through hundreds of diaries, journal entries, and... Read more

Scripture Bibliography: A Database for Scholarly Research of Topics in the LDS Scriptures

This new scripture bibliography database, compiled by Brigham Young University Religion and Ancient Studies librarian Ryan Combs, allows users to access bibliographic entries for over seven thousand books, book reviews, pamphlets, tracts, speeches, talks, journal articles, and other material. These publications span 1830–1996, and the database is not yet complete; materials leading up to the... Read more