Mission, Purpose, and History of BYU Studies
Key Aims and Objectives
The mission of this publication is to be faithful and scholarly throughout, harmonizing wherever possible the intellectual and the spiritual on subjects of interest to Latter-day Saints and to scholars studying the Latter-day Saint experience. To achieve this goal, BYU Studies strives to be:
BYU Studies is dedicated to publishing scholarly religious literature in the form of books, journals, and dissertations that is qualified, significant, and inspiring. With these publications, we hope to promote faith, continued learning, and further interest in our LDS history among those in the world who have a positive interest in this work. BYU Studies Quarterly, a multidisciplinary Mormon studies journal, is our most prominent publication. Print and digital subscriptions allow each issue of the journal to be either mailed to your door or delivered to your electronic device. The journal is complemented by a strong collection of relevant books and dissertations and study resources addressing subjects that require more discussion and content than our journal has room to provide.
In order to accomplish our mission, we have a few key objectives. Publications are selected from highly qualified authors who share the same goals and objectives as we do. Our editors and staff are experienced, educated, and trained in their respective positions.
As an outlet for BYU Studies literature, we accept mail, phone, and web orders for a variety of products. The BYU Studies journal is our most prominent publication. We provide subscriptions which allow each publication to be mailed to your door. The journal is complimented by a strong collection of relevant books and dissertations about subjects requiring more discussion and content than our journal has room to provide. Most of our books are also endorsed by the BYU Press. Recently, a collection of selected archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been produced on a set of DVDs. These DVDs provide an important resource for researchers and collectors. In addition to these great resources, we also provide comprehensive databases of article references by author, subject, title, and category to help you in any manner they can. Each reference will provide a link if its corresponding article is available in download, reprint, or journal form.
BYU Studies Quarterly is dedicated to the correlation of revealed and discovered truth and to the conviction that the spiritual and the intellectual can be complementary and fundamentally harmonious avenues of knowledge. It is committed to seeking truth "by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118) and recognizes that all knowledge without charity is nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). It proceeds on the premise that faith and reason, revelation and scholarly learning, obedience and creativity are compatible; they are "many members, yet but one body" (1 Cor. 12:20). All who venture to write for BYU Studies Quarterly should morally confront certain responsibilities that may be said to comprise a sort of academic code of professional conduct. Some important components of such a code would embrace at least the following precepts.
Unity. The Lord has clearly stated: "If ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). In a shifting world that necessarily and fortunately features diversity, individuality, heterodoxy, and change, the goal of unity with God and our fellow beings must be continually cultivated and nourished. The goal of unity does not imply that all scholarly methods or personal views must be the same.
Harmony. BYU Studies Quarterly is committed to seeking truth "by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118). It proceeds on the premise that faith and reason, revelation and scholarly learning, obedience and creativity are compatible and harmonious. Traditional dichotomies such as mind and body, God and man, spirit and matter, time and eternity, are not viewed in the gospel of Jesus Christ as competing opposites. The objective is to embrace both: ancient and modern, word and deed, intellectual and spiritual, research and teaching, reason and revelation, the "ought" and the "is," community and individuality, male and female, nature and custom, induction and deduction, analysis and synthesis, rights and duties, subjectivity and objectivity, theory and practice, even mortality and godhood. We can grow beyond issues over which is greater, the spirit or the intellect. As Elder Boyd K. Packer has stated, "Each of us must accommodate the mixture of reason and revelation in our lives. The gospel not only permits but requires it."
Honesty. As a primary trait of character, "we believe in being honest" (A of F 13). Accuracy and reliability are of the essence of scholarship. All scholars worth their salt have wrestled long with the questions of what can and cannot, what should and should not, what must or must not be said. They acknowledge and evaluate data both for and against their ideas and theories. They eschew all forms of plagiarism and generously recognize their indebtedness to other scholars. They guard on all sides against the covert influences of unstated assumptions, bias, and esoteric terminology. They avoid material omissions, for often what is not said can be as misleading as what is said.
Thoroughness. "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things" (A of F 13). BYU Studies Quarterly welcomes contributions from all disciplines, addressing "all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad, . . . that ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you" (D&C 88:78–80).
Humility. Pride has been identified as the pervading sin of our day. As scholars, we have more than our share of exposure to this problem. Arrogance, disdain, overconfidence, dogmatism, and many other manifestations of intellectual and spiritual pride may well be the main occupational hazards of academia. But the perspectives of scholarship and the gospel can also provide the antidote. First is the acknowledgement that all people are at different stages in the eternal journey toward the glory of God which is intelligence. Second is the humble awareness that scholarship is not an end in itself. Research cannot create faith; it can only set the stage for greater light and knowledge.
Charity. In order for communication to occur, there must be charity, for no statement exists (including this one) that cannot be misconstrued. If fellowship and goodwill do not exist, especially in an academic setting, we will not communicate with one another. Paul's confession comes to mind: "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge . . . and have not charity, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2, emphasis added). Charity is also necessary to avoid offending even the weakest of the saints. Jesus said: "It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones" (Luke 17:2).
Since its inception in 1959, the BYU Studies organization has been led by a group of scholars devoted to seeking truth by study and also by faith. Past editors-in-chief have been Clinton Larson (1959–67), Charles Tate (1968–83), Edward Geary (1984–91), and John W. Welch (1991–2018). Each has had his influence in making BYU Studies a high-caliber academic journal.
Clinton Larson remembers envisioning BYU Studies:
Three of us stood in a field to the north of Temple Hill. Darrel Taylor said, “I want to establish a language training center for missionaries of the Church.”. . . And I thought of the possibility of a magazine for the university, as it might be, drawing its breath from the influence of ages past, from literature and the books wherein [Truth] lies.
A short time later, the magazine soon named BYU Studies, was born, with Clinton Larson as the first editor-in-chief and only staff member. Now the journal consists of full professional staff, an advisory board, and an intern program.
Charles Tate’s vision for BYU Studies was that articles found therein would “not just tear down the wrong thing,” but build the right thing. This led to the publication of many stellar issues of BYU Studies including several on the origins of the Church: “The articles in that issue showed that when scholars do their homework they find that Joseph Smith was telling the truth about what was happening around him historically.” Because of this perspective, BYU Studies has become a premier journal that looks at Mormon history, religious studies, and many other topics with an eye of faith.
During Edward Geary’s tenure, several issues came up that delved into serious topics: “[Members] want BYU to be a genuine university, and if the university is to sponsor a scholarly journal, they want it to be an instrument of serious and substantive inquiry.” He firmly believes that scholarly journals “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.” As a result of this philosophy, BYU Studies has published over 1,585 well-researched items, including more than 50 bibliographies, 330 book reviews, and 265 poems.
John C. Welch continued to enthusiastically lead BYU Studies into the 21st century: “We live in dynamic times. The gospel gives needed orientation as the world faces a steady stream of new challenges. . . . BYU Studies hopes to fill a helpful and supporting role in these eternal purposes.”
Steven C. Harper took over as editor in chief in September 2018 and is determined to continue “showcasing the complementary nature of revealed and discovered truth, welcoming contributions from all fields of learning written for educated nonspecialists.” It is the hope of those at BYU Studies, past, present, or future, that whatever your vision of BYU Studies is, you will find thoughtful publications that seek to build the kingdom of God “by study and also by faith.”
The BYU Studies Editorial Board consists of scholars from various disciplines who meet on a regular basis to review submissions, assign peer reviewers, and plan contents of upcoming issues.
The BYU Studies Advisory Board provides long-range vision. Made up of influential members appointed by the university, this group meets quarterly to review and approve major directions of the journal.The Academy
The BYU Studies Academy is composed of about one hundred scholars and specialists from BYU and the larger LDS community who voluntarily work to promote LDS scholarship at BYU Studies. The Academy meets annually to discuss ideas that will improve and expand BYU Studies’ contribution to the LDS academic world.Authors
For the past 50 years, authors have been the lifeblood of BYU Studies. These authors, both LDS and non-LDS, come from many disciplines and from many universities and represent the highest standards of academic excellence.Interns
Demonstrating a commitment to applied education, BYU Studies also maintains a strong student intern program. Interns assist in source checking, copy editing, and proofreading. Senior editors train interns to develop and refine essential editing skills. Most interns work initially for academic credit and may later apply for paid positions. Skills learned at BYU Studies assist students in their own writing and are of great value in many professions.Staff
Every article or book published by BYU Studies is rigorously edited. First the article is sent for a blind evaluation from peer reviewers. If the article is accepted for publication, every fact is source checked for accuracy, and the article is copy edited for readability. Steven Harper is editor in chief. Alison Palmer, administrative editor, is on the book and media review board. Roger Terry, senior associate editor and financial officer, assists the arts and sciences board. Marny Parkin, production editor, handles electronic typesetting, formats the journal, and works closely with printers. Jennifer Hurlbut, managing editor, oversees source checking, copy editing, and copyrights. Annette Samuelsen, office manager, processes subscriptions, handles daily finances, oversees human resource matters, and deals with inventory and order fulfillment. Derek Gurr, web manager and editor, maintains the BYU Studies website and supervises student programmers.
How You Can Help
As a nonprofit organization, BYU Studies needs to produce just enough revenue to continue operations and keep providing valuable publications. You can help our cause by doing any or all of the following things:
- Purchase a subscription and those books and other publications that interest you.
- Tell your family and friends about the services we provide and encourage them to visit our website.