Religious Studies Center Books

This book tells the inspiring stories of nineteen pioneering Latter-day Saints in Mexico, exploring how and why they converted to the Church and what happened to them, their families, and their descendants afterward. Despite personal, economic, political, social, and religious struggles that tested their newfound faith, these members, like countless other Mexican Saints whose stories are yet untold, turned their lives to the Savior's gospel of life and salvation and carried on as exemplars to their people.

Where does one go to learn more about Book of Mormon studies? For those who do not regularly engage with scholarship, it’s hard to know how to begin. Currently there’s no general guide to Book of Mormon scholarship available to the public. Even with all that’s happened in the last few decades, and especially all that’s happening right now in Book of Mormon studies, this situation needs to be remedied. There has been no general guide to Book of Mormon scholarship available to the public—until now. This introduction breaks down Book of Mormon studies, from its history to the obstacles that will need to be overcome as it moves forward. Additionally, this introduction provides readers with resources that they can turn to for further information on Book of Mormon studies.

This book examines what the New Translation is (today most Latter-day Saints refer to it as the Joseph Smith Translation), what it contains, what it teaches, and how Joseph Smith arrived at its text. The author has written it with the intent to make the information accessible to scholars and general audiences alike and its chapters not only informative but also readable. Jackson is a believer in the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith and considers the New Translation and its story to be evidence of his divine calling. More importantly, however, is the message that is clear throughout the New Translation’s pages—that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world.

For the most part we have good enough evidence to reconstruct the mechanical process by which Joseph Smith created his Bible revision, that is, the way he dictated the text and the way his scribes wrote it to create what is written on the existing manuscript pages. But behind the physical artifact, what were the means by which he came to the words that would become the New Translation? Did they come from his own experience, from assumptions he made while reading the Bible, or from other sources? Or did some or all the text come through revelation, as he and his followers believed? What were the instincts that guided his work, and how did he translate those instincts into words? This book cannot answer the theological questions, but it can assess the evidence in the primary documents in an effort to understand how the New Translation came to be.

Because mortality is a test, we will all experience some dark days that may include grief, illness, disappointment, disillusionment, temptation, confusion, unanswered questions, and pain. The good news is that Jesus Christ promises deliverance from all our mortal suffering and his promises are sure. While we wait for deliverance to come in his time and in his way, Christ’s intimate understanding of our lives, our trials, our hopes, and our heartaches allows him to perfectly succor, strengthen, and refine us. Speaking from the annual Brigham Young University Easter Conferences in 2021 and 2022, authors Marie C. Hafen, Virginia Hinckley Pearce Cowley, Tyler J. Griffin, John Hilton III, Jan J. Martin, and Jennifer Reeder teach and testify of the power of Christ’s deliverance.

The complete text of the Bible revision made by Joseph Smith, the Latter-day Saint prophet and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presented with modern punctuation and spelling and with the original chapter and verse divisions created by Joseph Smith and his scribes. The Prophet labored on the Bible project from June 1830 until July 1833. In his lifetime, he and his contemporaries referred to this work as the New Translation. Since the late 1970s it has most often been called the Joseph Smith Translation.

The New Translation makes significant contributions to Latter-day Saint beliefs, particularly in the early chapters of Genesis. Key topics in which the Old and New Testament revisions are the source of significant Latter-day Saint beliefs include the nature of God, the universal impact of God’s work, the plan of salvation, the character and motives of Satan, the fall of Adam and Eve, the antiquity of Christianity, the creation of an ideal community called Zion, the purpose of the law of Moses, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This volume is published in parallel columns with the corresponding verses of the King James Bible.

The Book of Moses is canonized scripture spanning the epochs of Creation, Adam and Eve, Enoch, and Noah. Its content was revealed anciently by God to Moses and re-revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in modern times. This book explores the origins and development of the Book of Moses, its ancient nuances, the linguistic features of its revelations, and how its sweeping visions and rich doctrines inspired and guided Joseph Smith and the early members of what would become The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their pursuit of Zion.

This volume aims to assist in the personal and family study of the history and teachings of the Old Testament. The book gathers some of the clearest writings on the Old Testament that have been published by the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University. The Old Testament is not only foundational to our understanding of the birth, life, atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Savior, as found in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and other scripture, but it also teaches us about God, our faith history, and the spiritual heritage of the house of Israel.

For some, the Old Testament is a difficult volume to read, much less understand. The language, symbolism, and history depicted within it can be challenging and at times frustrating. Modern biblical research and the methodologies used in that research have opened up this book of scripture to greater understanding. So too have the restoration of the priesthood and continuing revelation, which have revealed that the Old Testament patriarchs are not simply literary examples of righteous behavior in the past but living beings who have engaged with the Saints in this dispensation. This volume incorporates both academic insights and restoration revelation, thus demonstrating the way in which both can be used to gain greater insight into these pivotal narratives.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were among US soldiers in World War II who endured the atrocities of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and the brutality of Japanese POW camps. This is the story, largely told through their personal accounts, of a group of twenty-nine Latter-day Saint POWs in the Philippines, the events that brought them together to form an informal branch of the Church in an infamous POW camp, a remarkable event in the history of the Church, and the events that would later pull them apart—twelve to their liberation and seventeen to their death.

In general conference, President Russell M. Nelson spoke about poverty and other humanitarian concerns, declaring, “As members of the Church, we feel a kinship to those who suffer in any way. . . . We heed an Old Testament admonition: ‘Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy’ (Deuteronomy 15:11).” President Nelson’s linking of Old Testament law with modern social concerns highlights the continued relevancy of the Old Testament for confronting modern challenges, including poverty, ethnocentrism, and the world’s growing refugee crisis.

This third volume by the Book of Mormon Academy at Brigham Young University is a study of the sermon of Samuel the Lamanite by means of four analytical lenses. The first, a prophetic lens, discusses the roles of prophets, the prophetic promise of “prolonged days,” and Samuel’s prophecies. The second lens is pedagogical, providing readers with a greater understanding of how to teach the sermon. Readers who take advantage of the third lens, which is cultural-theological, will discover a useful framework for comprehending the ethics of wealth in the sermon, witness how Samuel stands up to Nephite discrimination, and benefit from a detailed reading of the sermon that will enable them to grasp how spiritual death divides both Christ and human beings. Lastly, the fourth set of lenses, literary in nature, assists the reader in recognizing a newly identified type-scene, traces possible sources Samuel may have relied on, explores sources Mormon may have turned to as he abridged the work, and studies parallels between the ancient sermon and a form of early American speech known as the “jeremiad.”

Joseph F. Merrill became the first native Utahn to earn a PhD. Working at the University of Utah, he labored to reconcile the secular world with the spiritual world of his youth. In 1912 he helped establish the first Latter-day Saint seminary at Granite High School. As Church commissioner of education, he helped establish the institutes of religion, with a mission to allow college students to reconcile the secular truths learned in university settings with the truths of the gospel. He created the Religion Department at Brigham Young University and encouraged young scholars to produce professional studies of the Latter-day Saint religion. In 1933 Merrill was called as an Apostle, where he continued his work to modernize the Church. In the final years of his life, Merrill continued to work to show that science and religion could be reconciled.

This volume celebrates the bicentennial of Joseph Smith’s 1820 First Vision of the Father and the Son, a founding event in the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. Contributors examine the various accounts of the vision, the religious excitement prevalent in the region, the question that prompted Joseph to enter the grove, the powers of darkness that assailed him, and the natural environment and ultimate preservation of the Sacred Grove. This volume brings together some of the finest presentations from a 2020 BYU Church History Symposium honoring the bicentennial of the First Vision.

This volume explores the possibility that mortality is framed and informed by God’s love in more ways than we normally suppose. We live within the cosmic embrace of God’s love, even when we encounter difficulties. Hence, as the medieval Catholic thinker Catherine of Siena suggested, “All the way to heaven is heaven” because gospel obedience brings joy and, in a perfectly natural way, fits us for the celestial kingdom. In the process we are stretched out along the long arc of God’s love. Our hearts turn to others, and not just to those about us but also to our ancestors and generations yet unborn. As we discover the depths of Christ’s Atonement, our everyday thinking and conduct begin to hum the miracles of God’s love, chief of which is that there is no bottom to that love.

Light is everywhere! It gives us vision, keeps us warm, and facilitates life. Light is even responsible for developments in communications technology, the internet, and space travel. However, light is not just a physical concept. It is a central theme used throughout scripture to literally and metaphorically describe spiritual concepts. Throughout history, scientists have studied light physically and theologians have studied light spiritually. But what if these two realms of study were combined? What if the physical light we see is actually related to the spiritual light discussed in scripture? Can we apply what we know about light scientifically to what we know about light doctrinally? In this book, engineer, chemist, and professor Aaron D. Franklin explores these questions and more by connecting principles of physical light to gospel truths about spiritual light. In so doing, Franklin provides an accessible way for us all, no matter our scientific or doctrinal prowess, to learn how we see, feel, and know truth—which is, of course, light.

Thirteen-year-old Mary Goble and her family were part of the pioneer overland journey to Utah Territory in the John A. Hunt wagon company in 1856. They traveled close to the Edward Martin handcart company and suffered with them through the cold of Wyoming. The core of the book is a transcription of Mary’s handwritten memoir with annotations that corroborate, correct, and provide context. This annotated transcription is bookended by an introduction and epilogue that place Mary’s story of her journey in the context of her life before and after her emigration.

This volume takes a fresh look at the history, people, and places in Washington, DC, that have affected the Church. Beginning with Joseph Smith’s earliest interactions with the federal government in the 1830s, the Church’s progress has been shaped by leaders and members interacting in Washington. This volume is filled with essays on many topics about the Church’s history, people, and places in the nation’s capital. It also chronicles many of the Saints and statesmen who have worked to bring the Church out of obscurity and onto a national and international stage.

This volume explores events and teachings of the early years of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Featuring scholars from Brigham Young University, the Church History Department, and the Joseph Smith Papers, the collection of prominent materials previously produced by the BYU Religious Studies Center is designed as a companion to personal and family study of the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history. Chapters explore Joseph Smith’s accounts of his First Vision, the translation of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of priesthood power. Doctrinal teachings about consecration, Zion, the kingdoms of glory, and work for the dead are also investigated, as are harrowing experiences in Liberty and Carthage Jails and the exodus to the West.

While existing artwork that portrays the Restoration is rich and beautiful, until now many key events in Latter-day Saint history have surprisingly never been depicted to accurately represent important events of the historical record. The purpose of this volume is to produce paintings of some of the underrepresented events in order to expand our understanding of the Restoration. Each image includes a richly researched historical background, some artistic insights into the painting’s composition, an application section providing one way this history may inform our present faith, and an analysis section offering potent questions that can be considered for further discussion. Through these new paintings, artist, author, and Professor Anthony Sweat takes readers through a timeline history of pivotal events and revelations of the early Restoration. This book is not just a wonderful art book, it is also a pedagogical book using art as a launching pad to learn, evaluate, apply, and discuss important aspects of Latter-day Saint history and doctrine as readers repicture the Restoration.

The 49th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium

Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants deals with concepts that scholars term Christology and praxis. Christology has to do with the study of Christ’s nature, while praxis involves religious practice. That this revelation should insist on both the “how” and the "what" of worship indicates that knowledge and practice are inseparable. As this volume demonstrates, Joseph Smith's revelations and teachings constitute a unique textual setting to analyze this relationship. This volume focuses on both the person of Christ and the practice of worshipping him as outlined in the revelations of Joseph Smith. More specifically, this volume seeks to understand Christ as revealed in the revelations and clarify the practices required of those who worship a being who grew “from grace to grace.”

This is a new volume from the Book of Mormon Academy at Brigham Young University. This volume explores the relationship between the Nephite and the Jaredite records culturally, politically, literarily, and theologically. The first approach is a cultural-historical lens, in which elements of Jaredite culture are discussed, including the impact of a Jaredite subculture on Nephite politics during the reign of the judges, and a Mesopotamia perspective as seership and divination, and the brother of Jared’s experience as a spiritual transition. The second grouping looks at the book of Ether through a narratological lens, all three papers exploring different aspects of Moroni’s construction of the book of Ether. The third grouping explores the book of Ether’s depiction of women, as it contains one of the most descriptive, yet ambivalent females in the Book of Mormon, both historically and in our contemporary era. Finally, the book of Ether is reviewed via a teaching lens. In Alma 37, Alma the Younger explained the teaching value of the Jaredite records. These last two studies examine ways in which the book of Ether in particular can be taught to a modern audience.

Interfaith dialogues of understanding are valuable both for challenging individuals to articulate their beliefs and practices in a careful way and for deepening connections between people of different faiths. The Jewish and Latter-day Saint communities have at times been at odds, yet they share a number of significant historical and communal bonds. Understanding Covenants and Communities comes out of the Jewish–Latter-day Saint Academic Dialogue Project, a groundbreaking interfaith encounter between these two religious communities. The fruit of five conferences held semiannually since 2016, the volume addresses such themes as theological foundations, sacred scriptures, lived experience and worship, and culture and politics. Readers will emerge with a deeper understanding of the Jewish and Latter-day Saint traditions and how the two faith communities can engage in a meaningful dialogue.