Journal Overview: BYU Studies Quarterly 52:2 (Summer 2013)

By August 24, 2013

52.2coverNot long ago BYU Studies Quarterly rolled out its summer issue, and it?s time for a quick overview of the historical articles there. For those unfamiliar with the journal, BYUSQ has been running under the auspices of BYU since 1959, long enough to claim to be ?the original Mormon Studies journal.? (Until April 2012, the journal ran under the title of BYU Studies.) Currently under the editorship of Jack W. Welch, the journal is interdisciplinary and its purposes run parallel to those of BYU: the journal aims 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.?

The Summer 2013 issue offers several articles that will interest JI?s readers. In the leadoff article, Richard Bennett offers a sequel to his earlier piece ??Line Upon Line, Precept Upon Precept?: Reflections on the 1877 Commencement of the Performance of the Endowments and Sealings for the Dead,? BYU Studies 44, no. 3 (2005): 38-77. In that article, Bennett emphasized the completion of the St. George Temple as a ?watershed moment in the history of the development of modern Mormon temple work.? The article outlined the expansion of certain forms of temple work as the temple was completed, and characterized the period as highly formative for Mormon religious thought and practice.

In this latest article, Bennett continues the discussion about the early completion of temples in Utah and the ?transformation in Mormon temple consciousness? that accompanied them. Here, however, he orients this discussion to the discontinuation of polygamy in the late 19th century. In an argument which he says reinforces those made by Jan Shipps and Tom Alexander that ?the fundamental reasons for the Manifesto were not so much political as they were religious,? Bennett argues that the decision to abandon polygamy was the result of an enlarged consciousness of the significance of temple rites?a ?new paradigm in temple worship, a dramatically enlarged place for temple attendance and covenant making.? These developments, he contends, rested on ?the reclamation of temple-centered doctrines and revelations canonized in Mormon scripture.? In short then, when the Saints found themselves in political straits that forced them to choose between temple work and polygamy, plural marriage ?eventually gave way to a higher priority,? namely temples and temple worship.

Also in the issue, good friend of the JI Sam Brown has a contributed a thoughtful piece titled ?Believing Adoption.? This not a scholarly treatment, he notes, but a personal essay reflecting on his scholarly engagement in recent years with the early Mormon theology of adoption [1]. In a brief review of his other work, Brown reiterates his view that adoption was a centrally important theological element of early Mormonism, but an idea that is now ?unfamiliar? to many Latter-day Saints. With roots in Protestant ideas of collective salvation and the ?seals? of salvation, adoption was the concept, Brown argues, which informed Joseph Smith?s understandings of baptisms for the dead and ritual sealings, and it was the concept through which Smith rationalized his understandings of collective salvation. Adoption acquired a different standing under Brigham Young, as a distinct set of specific rites, and then ultimately was subsumed once again in ?lineal family sealings? under Wilford Woodruff.

Brown offers these reflections not normatively, but by ?by way of conversation about the rich texture and beauty of the Restoration and the applied meanings of its doctrines,? and he is especially interested in the implications of the adoption theology for three other theological questions: the matter of ?Spirit Birth,? Mormon soteriology, and what Brown calls ?the heaven family.?  If adoption theology is reclaimed and taken seriously, he contends, it offers important insights to these questions.

Besides these two articles, the issue also contains a brief essay by Val Brinkerhoff on the ?The Symbolism of the Beehive in Latter-day Saint Tradition,? which offers not only a bit of historical context about the way that the symbol of the beehive has deployed by Mormons (and others), but also some remarkable images which underscore just how ubiquitous the beehive has become in Mormon visual culture. Besides four other nonhistorical articles (Robert F. Schwartz, ?Game Theory, the Prisoner?s Dilemma, and the Book of Mormon,?; John R. Rosenberg, ?My Vocation as a Scholar: An Idea of the University,? Heather M. Seferovich, ?Integrating BYU?s Education in Zion Gallery into Campus Life,?; and Darin Crawford Gates, ?Self-Interest, Ethical Egosim, and the Restored Gospel?), the issue also includes a review of Marjorie Newton?s Tiki and Temple by A. Keth Thompson, and quick looks at Kurt Elieson?s self-published Historical Context of the Doctrine and Covenants by JI friend J.B. Haws, and Claudia Bushman?s edition of Pansy?s History: The Autobiography of Margaret E. P. Gordon, 1866-1966.

Happy reading!

[1] Brown?s work on adoption (much of it in collaboration with JI?s J. Stapley) includes his article ?Early Mormon Adoption Theology and the Mechanics of Salvation,? Journal of Mormon History (Summer 2011): 3-52, and parts of his seminal book In Heaven As It Is On Earth: The Early Mormon Conquest of Death (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Article filed under Book and Journal Reviews


  1. Thanks for the overview, Ryan!

    Comment by Nate R. — August 24, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

  2. Thanks, Ryan; I should take a look at these articles. I’m curious as how how Bennett presents polygamy and temple work as two priorities that could not be reconciled in 19th century Mormon thought.

    Comment by Ben P — August 24, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

  3. Thanks for the roundup, Ryan. I have an article that will run up alongside Bennett’s, and may also run into SMB’s.

    Comment by J Stuart — August 24, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

  4. I should say, working on an article.

    Comment by J Stuart — August 24, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

  5. Thanks, Ryan.

    Comment by David G. — August 24, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

  6. Thanks, Ryan.
    J Stuart, do tell.

    Comment by smb — August 24, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

  7. Thanks for the summary Ryan. I’ve been looking forward to Sam’s article.

    Comment by WVS — August 24, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

  8. Thanks for the rundown, Ryan.

    Comment by Christopher — August 25, 2013 @ 7:48 am

  9. SMB,

    Theological Context and Implications of the Manifesto. I would love to get your take on it, if you’re amenable. I’m looking at how the Law of Adoption and the Manifesto were connected.

    Comment by J Stuart — August 25, 2013 @ 11:12 am

  10. Thanks Ryan! Joey, I’d love to proof it as it’s a subject of which I am very interested.

    Comment by Tod Robbins — August 26, 2013 @ 9:27 am

  11. I really enjoyed this issue of BYU Studies. Bennett’s and Brown’s are articles were great.

    Comment by Bryan Kerr — August 26, 2013 @ 1:44 pm


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