Religious Studies Center

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Religious Studies Center
Logo of the Religious Studies Center
Established 1975
Directors Brent L. Top (2013-present)
Terry B. Ball (2006–2013)
Andrew C. Skinner (2001–2005)
Robert L. Millet (1992–2000)
Donald Q. Cannon, acting (1991)
Robert J. Matthews (1982–1990)
Ellis T. Rasmussen (1976–1981)
Jeffrey R. Holland (1975–1976)
Faculty BYU Religious Education faculty
Location Brigham Young University
Address 185 Heber Grant Building
Provo, Utah 84602

The Religious Studies Center (RSC) is the research and publishing arm of Religious Education at Brigham Young University (BYU), sponsoring scholarship on Latter-day Saint (LDS) culture, history, scripture, and doctrine.[1] The dean of Religious Education serves as the RSC’s director, and an associate dean oversees the two branches of the RSC: research (housed in 370 Joseph Smith Building) and publications (housed in 185 Heber J. Grant Building).


The RSC (sometimes called the Center for Religious Studies in its early years)[2][3] was founded in 1975 by Jeffrey R. Holland, dean of Religious Education at BYU.[4] Upon the recommendation of the president of BYU, Dallin H. Oaks, the establishment of the RSC was approved by the BYU Board of Trustees in early 1976.[3] Holland became the RSC's first director, with Keith H. Meservy, assistant professor of ancient scripture, as administrator.[3] In 1976, Holland was appointed Commissioner of Church Education, and Ellis T. Rasmussen replaced him as dean of Religious Instruction and general director of the RSC.[5][6]

The RSC brought together several earlier BYU institutions. It became the home of the Richard L. Evans Chair of Christian Understanding,[3] which had been founded in 1973 with Truman G. Madsen as its first occupant.[7] Madsen became a professor emeritus in 1994, and the position was renamed the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding, reflecting the hope that holders would extend the hand of friendship to all people, not just Christians.[8] The RSC also assumed and expanded upon the activities of the Institute of Mormon Studies, which was founded to study Mormon history and doctrine under Daniel H. Ludlow in 1961, and Truman G. Madsen in 1966. Likewise, the RSC absorbed the Book of Mormon Institute, a center for research on the Book of Mormon, with Daniel H. Ludlow as its first director in 1965, followed by Paul R. Cheesman in 1968.[3]

In September 1985, at the request of Jeffrey R. Holland, then BYU president, the RSC began holding annual symposia on the Book of Mormon.[9] The first of these was organized by Paul R. Cheesman, who also edited the published compilation of papers from that event.[10] Each symposium successively covered following sections of the book,[11] until 1994 when papers on the entire book had been published in nine anthology volumes in the Book of Mormon Symposium Series.[12]

The faculty publications directors have consisted of S. Kent Brown (19851987), Charles D. Tate Jr. (19871994), Kent P. Jackson (19942001), Richard D. Draper (20012004), Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (20042010), Robert L. Millet (20102012), Dana M. Pike (20122013), and Thomas A. Wayment (2013present). All have significantly influenced the nature and quality of the academic books and journal articles published.

Because faculty publications directors serve on rotating basis, currently, three full-time staff members provide continuity and institutional memory. From 1985 to 2006, Charlotte A. Pollard served as administrative assistant and newsletter editorial assistant. In 2001, Devan Jensen was hired as executive editor to help take the editing to a higher level of professionalism and efficiency through his team of student editors. In 2006, Joany O. Pinegar joined the team as an administrative assistant, later becoming the publications coordinator and handling RSC manuscript submissions and finances.

In 2008, Brent R. Nordgren joined the RSC as production supervisor and became managing editor of the BYU Religious Education Review magazine, administrator of the RSC website, director of design of all publications, lead photographer, and director over marketing and disseminating all RSC products.

In 2009, Nordgren proposed and facilitated an arrangement with Deseret Book to copublish most of the books produced by the RSC. In this copublishing agreement the RSC would bear all costs of production and design and place Deseret Book's logo on the spine and title page. In exchange, Deseret Book would provide advertising, distribution, and warehousing of RSC books when they are accepted for copublication.


The RSC seeks to improve religion teaching at BYU, to encourage LDS religious studies, and to promote the study of other religions. Believing that church leaders, not scholars, are the ultimate doctrinal authority, the RSC seeks to only add historical, cultural, and linguistic context, and explore new views of the LDS religious tradition.[1] The RSC coordinates and publishes this research[13] in the hopes of growing the body of LDS literature and thought.[1]

In 1977, while speaking as Church Commissioner of Education, Holland told the center that he hoped it would bring dialogue with other cultures and religions, leading to greater understanding, brotherhood, and peace.[2] Later, as president of BYU in 1986, Holland recalled that the RSC was established to inform those within the university and the general LDS membership.[14] In 2008, the RSC began posting its complete library in English and selections in Spanish and Portuguese in order to increase its worldwide presence.[15]


Areas of study

The RSC has funded research in several areas, including ancient scripture,[16] ancient studies,[16] the Bible,[17] the Book of Mormon,[17] Church history,[16] the Doctrine and Covenants,[17] Judeo-Christian Religions,[16] the Pearl of Great Price,[17] and world religions.[16] The RSC has also sponsored LDS sociological studies[18][19][20] and research on other religions, such as early Egyptian Christianity, Islam, and sub-tropical African religions.[11] In 1985, the RSC began to publish works from some of these specialized areas of study, making up the RSC Specialized Monograph Series.[21]

Research and funding

The RSC awards financial grants to BYU faculty and Church Educational System (CES) personnel for research into LDS history, doctrine, scripture, and culture.[22] This research has been published by the RSC[23][24][25] and other publishers, including Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,[26] the University of Illinois Press,[27] the University of Missouri Press,[28] and Oxford University Press.[29] Of the several projects it accepts per year,[1] the RSC prefers those that benefit religious teachers and the progress of the LDS Church.[11] RSC publications are intended to be scholarly and useful to general LDS readers.[11]

The RSC is financed through BYU funds, individual donations,[1] and the Friends of Religious Education (FORE).[30] FORE is a national volunteer committee to find donors for BYU Religious Education activities,[31] such as RSC research, publishing and translation. FORE encourages donations, sponsors projects, and hosts firesides (special religious lectures) throughout the United States given by Religious Education faculty.[32]


The following titles show the breadth of books published by the RSC: Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith; Hugh W. Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless; Kenneth L. Alford, ed., Civil War Saints; Roger P. Minert, In Harm’s Way: East German Latter-day Saints in World War II; Mark L. Grover, A Land of Promise and Prophecy: Elder A. Theodore Tuttle in South America, 1960–1965; and Frank F. Judd Jr. and Gay Strathearn, eds., Sperry Symposium Classics: The New Testament. Several have won awards (see list below).


A primary function of the RSC is the organization of symposia and conferences on religious subjects, from which selected papers are later published.[13] Anthologies from symposia on broad topics make up several volumes in the RSC Monograph Series.[21][33][34] Some of these symposia recur annually, such as ones on scriptures and church history. The RSC is also involved with the annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium,[4] which have been held at BYU since 1973.[35] Often general authorities deliver the keynote addresses at these symposia.[4]

In 2003, the Religious Education Administrative Council approved a proposal by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment to host a conference on the Saturday before Easter which would focus on the Savior’s last twenty-four hours and Resurrection. The conference was held and rebroadcast on KBYU Television, helping Religious Education expand their audience. The response to this conference, now called the BYU Easter Conference, was so positive that the university decided that this should be an annual event held on the day before Easter (Saturday) each year, cosponsored by Religious Education and the RSC. Nearly one thousand attendees heard Elder D. Todd Christofferson give the keynote address at the second annual conference, “The Atonement and the Resurrection,” which was later published in the Religious Educator. In subsequent years, keynote addresses were delivered by President Cecil O. Samuelson in 2006, Elder F. Enzio Busche in 2007, and President Merrill J. Bateman in 2008. An estimated 2,500 people attended the 2013 Easter Conference that featured Elder John M. Madsen. The proceedings are published every other year by the RSC in cooperation with Deseret Book.

In 2006 the RSC began sponsoring the Church History Symposium, copublishing the proceedings with Deseret Book. Professor Alexander L. Baugh initiated the event by proposing a conference to acknowledge the two hundredth anniversary of Oliver Cowdery's birth. Since that time, this event has become a premier venue for rigorous and faithful scholarship on Church history. The topics have been Oliver Cowdery,[36] Wilford Woodruff,[37] John Taylor,[38] "Preserving the History of the Latter-day Saints,"[39] "A Firm Foundation: Church Organization and Administration,"[40] "Go Ye into All the World: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work,"[41] "Joseph F. Smith: Reflections on the Man and His Times,",[42] "Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith's Study of the Ancient World,"[43] and “The International Church: Mormonism as a Global Religion.”[44]


In addition to books and articles, the RSC publishes its own periodicals.[1] In 1986 the RSC began publishing the quarterly[11] (later triannual) Religious Studies Center Newsletter, which carried updates on RSC symposia, books, and research,[13] and was distributed to CES faculty and LDS military chaplains.[11] In 2008 the newsletter was replaced by BYU Religious Education Review, a semiannual magazine.[45] In 2000, Dean Robert L. Millet and others created the Religious Educator journal to focus on “teaching the gospel, publishing studies on scripture, doctrine, and LDS Church history, and sharing the messages of outstanding devotional essays.”[46] Millet replaced the temporary editorial board in 2001 with Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, who became the full-time editor in chief. Holzapfel asked Ted D. Stoddard, a professor in the Marriott School of Business, to explore design and content issues and prepare guidelines that would enhance the scholarly basis of this new publication. Holzapfel clarified the purpose of this new venture: “Our hope is to provide readers with carefully prepared, inspirational, and information-packed writings on a wide range of subjects explicitly associated with the Restoration. Teachers, authors, researchers, and students of Latter-day Saint studies at every level will appreciate discussions of relevant ideas and issues from a perspective of faith.”[47] The main audience consists of CES teachers, such as volunteers and paid professionals in LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, and religion professors at church colleges.[48] In 2007 the RSC agreed to oversee and help fund the student journal Studia Antiqua.


  • 2015—Harvey B. Black and Susan Easton Black Outstanding Publication Award (Church History and Doctrine, Gospel Scholarship) for Kip Sperry, Nauvoo and Hancock County, Illinois: A Guide to Family History and Historical Sources
  • 2014—Harvey B. Black and Susan Easton Black Outstanding Publication Award (Ancient Scripture) for Daniel L. Belnap, ed., By Our Rites of Worship: Latter-day Saint Views on Ritual in Scripture, History, and Practice
  • 2013—Harvey B. Black and Susan Easton Black Outstanding Publication Award (Church History and Doctrine) for Kenneth L. Alford, ed., Civil War Saints
  • 2013—Best International Article Award (Mormon History Association) for Ronald E. Bartholomew, “The Role of Local Missionaries in Nineteenth-Century England,” in Go Ye into All the World: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work, ed. Reid L. Neilson and Fred E. Woods.[49]
  • 2012—Harvey B. Black and Susan Easton Black Outstanding Publication Award (Ancient Scripture) for Robert L. Millet, ed., No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues
  • 2011—Geraldine McBride Woodward Award for Best Publication in International Mormon History (Mormon History Association) for Roger P. Minert, In Harm’s Way: East German Latter-day Saints in World War II.[50]
  • 2009—Geraldine McBride Woodward Award for Best Publication in International Mormon History (Mormon History Association) for Mark L. Grover, A Land of Promise and Prophecy: Elder A. Theodore Tuttle in South America, 1960–1965.[50]
  • 2006—Steven F. Christensen Best Documentary Award (Mormon History Association) for Donald G. Godfrey and Kenneth W. Godfrey, The Diaries of Charles Ora Card: The Utah Years, 1871–1886.[50]
  • 1993—T. Edgar Lyon Award of Excellence (Mormon History Association) for Ronald K. Esplin, "Discipleship: Brigham Young and Joseph Smith," in Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate (eds.) Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the Man.[50]
  • 1981—Distinction in Editing Mormon Documents (Mormon History Association) for Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith.[50]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Religious Studies Center". Religious Educator. 4 (1): 110–111. 2003. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Holland, Jeffrey R. (1977). "…Of Countries and of Kingdoms". BYU Studies. 18 (1): 4–5. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Wilkinson, Ernest L. (1976). Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny. Provo, Utah: BYU Press. p. 856. ISBN 0-8425-0905-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Preface". A Book of Mormon Treasury: Gospel Insights From General Authorities and Religious Educators. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center. 2003. p. ix–x. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Rasmussen served as dean from 1976-81. See: McCarlie, V. Wallace (Winter 2009). "Sidney B. Sperry: Father of Religious Education at BYU". Religious Education Review.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. The Religious Education dean is also the RSC general director. For Rasmussen, see: Anderson, Lavina Fielding (June 1978). "A Respectful Meeting of the Minds". Ensign: 70. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Chair of Christian Understanding Founded". Ensign: 138. January 1973. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Steven David Grover (2008). "Building Bridges: The Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding". Religious Educator. pp. 45–56. Retrieved 17 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Cheesman, Paul R. (1988). "Preface". The Book of Mormon: The Keystone Scripture: Papers from the First Annual Book of Mormon Symposium. Religious Studies Center. p. ix. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Biographical History". Register of the Paul R. Cheesman (1921-1991) Papers, 1945-1991. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 "A Conversation about the BYU Religious Studies Center". Ensign: 79–80. January 1987. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., ed. (1995). "Religious Studies Center Publications". The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi Through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction: Papers From the Ninth Annual Book of Mormon Symposium, 1994. Religious Studies Center. p. ii. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Waterman, Bryan (December 1994). "A Guide to the Mormon Universe: Mormon Organizations & Periodicals" (PDF). Sunstone (97): 52. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Holzapfel, Richard N. (October 21, 2008). "It's a classic!". RSC Blog. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15.[full citation needed]
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 "Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University". Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless: Classic Essays of Hugh Nibley. Religious Studies Center. 1978. p. v. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 C. Wilfred Griggs, ed. (1988). "Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University". Excavations at Seila, Egypt. Religious Studies Center. p. v. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Darwin L. Thomas, ed. (1988). The Religion and Family Connection: Social Science Perspectives. Religious Studies Center.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Duke, James T., ed. (1998). Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and Its Members. Religious Studies Center.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Dollahite, David C. (August 2001). "Beloved Children, Faithful Fathers: Caring for Children with Special Needs" (PDF). Marriage & Families (6): 21. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. 21.0 21.1 Porter, Larry C. (1985). "Foreword". Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons. Religious Studies Center. pp. xi–xii. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Research Grants". Religious Studies Center. Brigham Young University. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Skousen, Royal (1993). "The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project". In Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr. Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man. Religious Studies Center. p. 65. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Sperry, Kip (2005). "Acknowledgments". Kirtland, Ohio: A Guide to Family History and Historical Sources. Religious Studies Center. p. xiv. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Jackson, Richard W. (2003). "Introduction". Places of Worship: 150 years of Latter-day Saint Architecture. Religious Studies Center. p. ix. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Marie Cornwall's work on the article "How Common the Principle?: Women as Plural Wives in 1860" was partially funded by the RSC. See: "Notes on Contributors". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 26 (2): 223. Summer 1993. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Walker, Ronald W. (1998). Wayward Saints: The Godbeites and Brigham Young. [back cover]. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-06705-1. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  29. Hamilton, C. Mark (1995). "Acknowledgments". Nineteenth-Century Mormon Architecture and City Planning. Oxford University Press. p. ix. ISBN 978-0-19-507505-2. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  34. Woodward, Robert C. (Spring 1984). "Study in Mutual Respect". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 17 (1): 155. Retrieved 2009-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  47. Religious Educator 3, no. 2 (2002): vi
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External links