Faculty and Staff


Daniel K Judd, Andrew C. Hedges, and J. B. Haws were appointed as dean and associate deans of BYU Religious Education. Anthony Sweat was appointed associate chair of the Department of Church History and Doctrine.

Daniel Becerra and Krystal Pierce were hired as assistant professors of ancient scripture. Pierce deferred for a year because this school year she is at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. Robert Smith began teaching as an instructor.

Amy Easton-Flake received continuing faculty status and advanced to the rank of associate professor of ancient scripture.

Michael Hubbard MacKay and Anthony Sweat received continuing faculty status and advanced in rank to associate professor of Church history and doctrine.

Adam Hellewell was hired as the graduate secretary and assistant to the associate deans of Religious Education.

Eric D. Huntsman was appointed to represent Religious Education as a member of the newly announced General Education Design Committee.

Brent L. Top was appointed a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding. The Evans Chair of Religious Understanding was established to promote understanding among people of differing religious faiths through teaching and other activities centered in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

Fred E. Woods was appointed the endowed Moral Education professorship.


At the university conference on 26 August, W. Justin Dyer received the Young Scholar Award, which “encourages and acknowledges outstanding promise and contributions by faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers.” Justin has achieved an exceptional record of high-quality scholarship. He has contributed much to research on fatherhood, particularly fathers in nonnormative and highly stressful contexts, such as incarcerated and otherwise nonresident fathers. His research has also contributed to critical social issues, including the interplay between faith and youth suicide. His publications have been cited more than 1,000 times.

Amy A. Easton-Flake received the Loretta C. Gledhill Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship at the university conference on 26 August. Amy is a dedicated teacher whose students find her courses to be both academically challenging and spiritually inspiring. Amy is doing groundbreaking work in adding to historical understanding of how women saw themselves in their roles pertaining to the salvation and spiritual well-being of their communities. She has also been successful in mentoring her research assistants to prepare for graduate work.

John Hilton just received a three-year grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in the amount of $565,750. This grant allows John to continue his leadership of the OER Research Fellows Program. In this program he mentors early-career researchers who study Open Educational Resources. The grant money primarily goes to fund their research and support their attendance at academic conferences.

The Association for Mormon Letters named Thou Art the Christ, the Son of the Living God, edited by Eric D. Huntsman, Lincoln H. Blumell, and Tyler J. Griffin, as a finalist for the best book in the category of religious nonfiction.

Roger P. Minert recently received the prestigious Shirley Riemer Lifetime Achievement Award from the International German Genealogy Partnership. He also received a certificate of appreciation from the Palatines to America German Genealogical Society in recognition of his “outstanding performance, dedication, and exemplary support” of the organization.

Lori Soza, executive secretary to the dean of Religious Education, received the Staff and Administrative Employee Recognition Award on 7 March. Every time a new dean is appointed, Lori gets a new boss. Each change in leadership brings change to Lori’s job. With the recent appointment of another new dean and with other changes in the deans’ office, Lori has been assigned jobs she has not traditionally done. She has done this expertly and in good humor. She never quibbles if a request is not in her job description; she simply does it. Her willingness and desire to serve however she can makes all of our jobs easier. Transitions in the deans’ office are smoother, and Religious Education functions better because Lori is part of the team.

The following awards were announced at the Religious Education Spring Social on 22 March.

Kent R. Brooks received the Robert J. Matthews Excellence in Teaching Award. Kent’s teaching career preceded his being hired by Religious Education. He was the director for the Church’s Institute at Pennsylvania State University for several years before teaching in two separate departments at BYU–Idaho. In 2001 he was hired at BYU in the Department of Church History and Doctrine. He has taught over one hundred eighty sections in five different courses. His specialty class is Latter-day Saint Marriage and Family, where students are quite complimentary of his willingness to respond to concerns and allowed to offer personal opinions while he also teaches and expounds the doctrine. According to his students, Kent shows special sensitivity to difficult questions for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he is always direct and clear about the Church’s position on the issues. His discussions are nonjudgmental, sensitive, and informative.

Eric D. Huntsman received the Richard Lloyd Anderson Excellence in Research Award. After finishing a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, Eric came directly to BYU’s Classics Department, where he taught and researched for five years. Since joining Religious Education in 2003, Eric has taught courses in ancient scripture with occasional assignments in classics, Greek, and the honors program and then has directed the program of Ancient Near Eastern Studies. In all, Professor Huntsman has taught over forty-three different preps at BYU, with nine of those in ancient scripture. Eric has taken very seriously the charge to bring souls unto Christ through his writing and research. In a short twenty years, Eric has written five books, coauthored three more, published twenty-one chapters in edited books, placed some eleven articles in print, and presented over twenty times.

Craig K. Manscill received the B. West Belnap Excellence in Citizenship Award. A religious educator for twenty-two years in the Church Educational System, Craig served eight years as manager of College Curriculum for the Church Educational System. Craig has been an outstanding citizen of Religious Education for the past twenty years, serving on numerous committees, accepting special assignments, teaching scores of classes (including the online Doctrine and Covenants class), and in so many ways furthering the best interests of the Department of Church History and Doctrine. Craig has coauthored such works as Mormon Thoroughfare: A History of the Church in Illinois, 1830–1838; Presidents of the Church: The Lives and Teachings of the Modern Prophets (with Robert C. Freeman); and other works. He and Ken Alford are presently working hard to publish The Papers of Hyrum Smith. Likewise, he is a devotee of President Kevin J Worthen’s invitation to inspiring learning with a particular aptitude for field-work teaching. For the past several summers, he has been actively involved with the Church History Study Abroad program for hundreds of inquiring students who have been remarkably well-tutored under his passionate approach to onsite learning. He now directs this fine program.

The Harvey B. and Susan Easton Black Outstanding Publication Awards are presented for (1) gospel scholarship for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and (2) scholarship for the academy.

Shon D. Hopkin received the award for Gospel Scholarship in Ancient Scripture. Opening Isaiah: A Harmony, coauthored by Ann N. Madsen and Shon D. Hopkin, was copublished last year by the Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book. While many worthwhile commentaries on Isaiah are available, this book gets back to basics by helping readers get into the text itself. A five-column harmony sets various versions of Isaiah side-by-side so that readers can compare, contrast, and think more deeply about the words of this great prophet. The King James Version appears first. In a separate column, variant readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls are represented in English translation. The New Revised Standard Version ably serves as an academic translation in modern English, including a poetic format that lets readers more easily see the parallelism so central to Isaiah’s beautiful poetry. Finally, latter-day revelation is brought to bear with one column containing all available Book of Mormon parallels and one column noting all the changes the Prophet Joseph Smith made to the King James Version of Isaiah as part of his new translation of the Bible. This parallel presentation of different witnesses allows even general readers, with no knowledge of ancient languages, to appreciate Isaiah from a variety of angles, to savor his meaning as different words and formats illuminate different aspects of the prophet’s message. The Savior commanded us to “search these things diligently” (3 Nephi 23:1). This book makes the search that much richer.

Lincoln H. Blumell received the award for Scholarship for the Academy in Ancient Scripture. “Horus, Isis, and the Dark-Eyed Beauty: A Series of Magical Ostraca in the Brigham Young University Collection” is coauthored by Lincoln Blumell and Korshi Dorsoo. “Ostraca” were pieces of broken pottery or stone in ancient Egypt used to make votive (express thanks or devotion) offerings to gods and the deceased. This is a Coptic love spell written continuously over three successive ostraca and consists largely of a narrative in which Horus asks for the help of his mother Isis to win the love of a woman whom he meets in the underworld. It is one of many known Coptic magical texts that mention Egyptian or Greek deities. Its narrative is paralleled almost exactly in three of these texts. Dating to the seventh or eighth century CE, it provides important evidence regarding the knowledge and survival of Egyptian deities at a time when Egypt was thoroughly Christian. Lincoln found this unpublished text in the BYU Harold B. Lee Library collection. He was able to translate it, but to truly translate well and understand and contextualize it, he found it necessary to branch out and do research on the crossover between Egyptian religion and Christianity. This is an important piece to add to the ever-developing picture of religious interaction and the process of the conversion of a culture.

David M. Whitchurch received the award for Gospel Scholarship in Church History and Doctrine. My Dear Sister: Letters between Joseph F. Smith and His Sister Martha Ann Smith Harris is an exhaustive collection of known correspondence over seven decades between these two stalwart children of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith from the time they were teenagers until the last few years before their deaths. David Whitchurch, an associate professor of ancient scripture, and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, a former professor of Church history and doctrine, collaborated on this multiyear project with several other dedicated individuals who devoted countless hours researching, transcribing, indexing, editing, and enhancing the documents so that they could be preserved and made available to the public. This book is a treasure for historians and those who have a personal connection to those people mentioned. The authors and the Religious Studies Center staff worked tirelessly a year ago so the book could be presented at a large family reunion of descendants of Joseph F. Smith in October 2018, commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of his death.

Scott C. Esplin received the award for Scholarship for the Academy in Church History and Doctrine. In his recent book Return to the City of Joseph, Scott does a masterful job of recounting the variegated social history of Nauvoo from the time of its founding to its regeneration as a Reorganized Church stronghold to now its shared heritage with the return of the presence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Scott carefully maps the three main shareholders in this Midwestern town—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Community of Christ, and local Nauvooans—and outlines how they currently share this big bend on the Mississippi River. Scott’s publisher, the University of Illinois at Urbana, validates the scholarly nature of this book, which will long define the history of this frontier city and its fascinating story.

Kenneth L. Alford, Anthony Sweat, and Daniel Belnap received the Dean’s Award for Innovative Teaching. In response to President Kevin J Worthen’s request to provide more opportunities for students to take online courses, Anthony R. Sweat and Kenneth L. Alford were tasked with creating an online program for the Foundations of the Restoration course (Religion C 225), one of Religious Education’s four cornerstone classes. The two completed the project at a record-setting pace. In less than eighteen months, they produced thirteen units, each of which contain instructional text, assessments, quizzes, exams, and instruction videos. Tony’s academic training and knowledge of pedagogy and curriculum development, combined with Ken’s computer background, resulted in the production of an innovative, state-of-the-art, online course never before produced at BYU.

As the associate chair of the Department of Ancient Scripture in 2015, Daniel L. Belnap was tasked with creating an online version of the Religion A 275 course. He envisioned a course that belonged to all the department and reflected a variety of approaches to studying the Book of Mormon. He also wanted a course that focused on the core teachings and doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon but also provided students with an opportunity to choose some of the modules that they studied. He presented his vision to the Ancient Scripture faculty at back-to-school meetings in 2016 and then worked with the 275 semester online committee to bring it to fruition. The 275 online course is now in the second semester of its pilot program, becoming fully functional in fall 2019. This award recognizes Dan’s vision, determination, and hard work for leading the effort to develop this course.


Roger P. Minert, professor of Church history and doctrine, retired on 31 August.