Journal 55:4 | BYU Studies

Journal 55:4

To start off this issue, Khumbulani Mdletshe shares his personal history of conversion in South Africa and his call in 1985 to serve as a missionary in London, where he first learned about the 1978 revelation on the priesthood and its difficult history. Now a member of the Third Quorum of the Seventy serving in Africa, he tells here his personal tale of growth through searching for answers and...Read more

From the Editor

With the publication of this issue of BYU Studies Quarterly, I find myself looking back to the end of 1991, when Macmillan's Ency­clopedia of Mormonism was released, exactly twenty-five years ago. That monumental publication, to which over 750 authors contributed articles on more than 1,200 subjects, is still maintained by BYU Studies and is available online at While some of its... Read more

A Reflection from an African Convert on Official Declaration 2

Growing up in South Africa, Khumbulani Mdletshe suffered under apartheid. He was interested in religion and was converted by LDS missionaries in 1980. He did not learn about the ban against blacks holding the priesthood until his mission to London in 1985. He explains his shock at finding out the history of the ban while knocking on doors one day and his dismay at the explanation his companion... Read more

The Online Journal of George Q. Cannon

A long-anticipated project is coming to completion. Much of the journal of George Q. Cannon, covering the last half of the nine­teenth century, is now freely available online at, and the remainder of the journal will soon be available. Next to Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon was arguably the best-known Latter-day Saint in the last half of the... Read more

Heron Song

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The Brigham Young University Football Program and the Analytics Revolution

What do the sports analytics revolution's new ideas about evaluating teams, positions, and recruiting say about the BYU football program's past, present, and future? I find that after adjusting for schedule difficulty, the coaching performance of the legendary LaVell Edwards resulted in 3.8 more points in margin of victory than that of Bronco Mendenhall, and 10.8 more points than that of Gary... Read more


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Stephen H. Webb (1961–2016): Universal Scholar and Personal Friend

For many Latter-day Saints, their first awareness of the Roman Catholic scholar Stephen H. Webb came through his 2012 First Things article, titled "Mormonism Obsessed with Christ." Within a week of that article's publication, my inbox was flooded with emails from friends and acquaintances asking me things like "Have you seen this ?!" or "What do you know about Steve Webb?" and "Wow! I love this... Read more

The Bass Coupler

Being called to play the organ for the first time, as a pianist, felt like being asked to ice skate for the U.S. Olympic team because you did such a good job walking into the arena. "You already know how to walk , after all," the coaches reason. "This is basically the same thing—a stride lengthened here, a leg elevated there. You'll pick it up in no time." It was terrifying. But, as I would... Read more

Empathy and the Atonement

Even as an incurable optimist, I can see the world is often drenched in suffering. It is difficult to imagine a more idyllic home than my sunny northern California, yet even here sorrow surrounds me. I see it in the sunken eyes of a young woman who is struggling furiously to free herself from addiction. I hear it in the anguished voice of a friend as he tells me how he used to envision hanging... Read more

Death Being Swallowed Up in Netzach in the Bible and the Book of Mormon

One way to read the Book of Mormon is to be attentive to ways in which it comes across as a translated text. Being mindful of this is wise, because all translations—even inspired translations—lose something of the primary language, particularly as meanings shift when words are rendered into the vocabulary or idioms of the target language. While the exact nature of the original language used by... Read more

The Time It Takes to Age

We moved to Africa for my husband's job, and those first months in Dakar, Senegal, were hard. We had a newborn and were sleep deprived. The antimalarials gave me bad dreams. We were living out of suitcases, we found dead birds in the back bedroom, and our three-year-old couldn't seem to stop crying. Increasingly, we heard her fighting with a row of new imaginary friends, who were more often than... Read more

Socrates' Mission

Many scholars have been dismissive of Socrates' religious tendencies, but Daniel W. Graham asserts that Socrates performed a kind of sacred mission by encouraging his fellow citizens to care for the integrity of the soul rather than emulating certain gods of vice. Socrates maintained that mortals honor the gods best when they are living upright, moral lives. In the process, Socrates fairly... Read more

Transmitting Religion: A Look at Vern L. Bengtson's Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down across Generations

Over the past hundred years, social scientists have tended to take one of three approaches with respect to the topic of religion. Approach 1 typically pathologizes and intellectually scorns religious beliefs, practices, and faith communities, although there are now hundreds of empirical studies that link religious involvement with increased mental health, relational health, physical health, and... Read more

Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan

Brian Stubbs, a well-respected linguist with numerous publications on the history of Uto-Aztecan (UA) languages under his belt, has finally released his magnum opus, a compendium of lexical, phonological, and grammatical data that provides evidence for infusions of ancient Near Eastern languages in Uto-Aztecan grammar and lexicon. The claim for these infusions is based on the linguistic notion of... Read more

A Faded Legacy: Amy Brown Lyman and Mormon Women's Activism, 1872–1959

Dave Hall has made a landmark contribution to Mormon history generally, and to Mormon women's history specifically, with A Faded Legacy: Amy Brown Lyman and Mormon Women's Activism, 1872–1959. Hall has worked on this project over the course of three decades, and his long and deep familiarity with his subject shows through impressively. I have long called Lyman "the most important Mormon woman you... Read more

Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings

The editors of Mormon Feminism seek to introduce readers to "the Mormon feminist movement through the words of the women who have lived and built it" (1). For the editors' purposes, "Mormon" is broadly defined to include "anyone who identifies with the Latter-day Saint movement" (2), including those from other faith traditions and those who reject various teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ... Read more

An 1860 English-Hopi Vocabulary Written in the Deseret Alphabet

Authors Kenneth R. Beesley and Dirk Elzinga did commendable work and a valuable service in producing the book An 1860 English-Hopi Vocabulary Written in the Deseret Alphabet. The volume is of value to persons interested in early Mormon missions, the Deseret Alphabet, the Hopi people, or to linguists interested in the Hopi language or Uto-Aztecan comparative linguistics. Any time that an older... Read more

Chicano While Mormon: Activism, War, and Keeping the Faith

Anyone familiar with the area of Mexican American/Latino history is acquainted with the extensive writings of BYU's Professor Ignacio M. Garcia. Among his many works are important tomes in this field of academic study such as United We Win: The Rise and Fall of La Raza Unida Party; Hector P. Garcia: In Relentless Pursuit of Justice; Viva Kennedy: Mexican Americans in Search of Camelot; and, most... Read more

The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight

There are few books published about Utah Territory during the American Civil War. John Gary Maxwell's The Civil War Years in Utah is the latest addition to that small but growing list. Maxwell is an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of North Carolina and at the University of Utah medical schools, who defines himself as "a revisionist, independent historian." Maxwell is the author of... Read more

Sublime Physick

It may be no longer accurate to say that the personal essay is having a "moment." If we can judge by the increase in publications and writing programs that feature it, the genre is here to stay, and its practitioners are beginning to get the popular and academic attention they deserve. Excitingly, several Latter-day Saint writers are making national names for themselves as important voices (... Read more

Psalms of Nauvoo: Early Mormon Poetry

In 1888, Orson F. Whitney declared that Mormons "will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own." This quotation has since become a watchword for serious Mormon writers and poets over the intervening century. Mormons everywhere have a special connection to the arts because of the faith's encouragement of worship through song. Today, many LDS general conference talks draw from analogies based... Read more

A Missionary's Story: The Letters and Journals of Adolf Haag, Mormon Missionary to Switzerland and Palestine, 1892

In the early years of the LDS Church's formation, it was common for worthy male members to be called to leave their families and serve a mission. Many of their stories of faith and sacrifice have been published to serve as reminders and examples for Latter-day Saints today. A Missionary's Story: The Letters and Journals of Adolf Haag is no exception. However, no two missionaries' stories are... Read more

First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple

Samuel M. Brown's splendid and sensitive meditation on the fourth article of faith, First Principles and Ordinances, reveals a mind that is simultaneously restless and faithful, rigorous and compassionate, sensible and sensitive. For Brown, the language of our faith, our talk of a loving Heavenly Father, suggests a social dimension to worship. This language locates devotion in an ongoing dialogue... Read more