Religious Studies Center
|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. 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 room 370 of the Joseph Smith Building) and publications (housed in room 185 of the Heber J. Grant Building).
The RSC (sometimes called the Center for Religious Studies in its early years) was founded in 1975 by Jeffrey R. Holland, dean of Religious Education at BYU. 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. Holland became the RSC's first director, with Keith H. Meservy, assistant professor of ancient scripture, as administrator. 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.
The RSC brought together several earlier BYU institutions. It became the home of the Richard L. Evans Chair of Christian Understanding, which had been founded in 1973 with Truman G. Madsen as its first occupant. 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. 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.
In September 1985, at the request of Jeffrey R. Holland, then BYU president, the RSC began holding annual symposia on the Book of Mormon. The first of these was organized by Paul R. Cheesman, who also edited the published compilation of papers from that event. Each symposium successively covered following sections of the book until 1994, when papers on the entire book had been published in nine anthology volumes in the Book of Mormon Symposium Series.
The faculty publications directors have consisted of S. Kent Brown (1985–1987), Charles D. Tate Jr. (1987–1994), Kent P. Jackson (1994–2001), Richard D. Draper (2001–2004), Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (2004–2010), Robert L. Millet (2010–2012), Dana M. Pike (2012–2013), and Thomas A. Wayment (2013–present). All have significantly influenced the nature and quality of the academic books and journal articles published.
In 2001 Dean Andrew C. Skinner asked Richard D. Draper to reorganize the center with Richard Neitzel Holzapfel as editor of the new Religious Educator journal and Devan Jensen as executive editor. They relied on editorial direction of Ted D. Stoddard with design work by Stephen Hales Creative of Provo. To further professionalize the content, the RSC created a new advisory board. When Holzapfel became publications director, he initiated digitization of books; oversaw the translation of selected articles into Spanish, Portuguese, and German; and helped create a BYU Religious Education Review magazine.
Because faculty publications directors serve on rotating basis, full-time staff members provide continuity and institutional memory. Lillian Wilbur served as executive secretary for ten years. From 1985 to 2006, Charlotte A. Pollard served as administrative assistant and newsletter editorial assistant. Devan Jensen was hired as executive editor in 2001, and the team boosted the quantity and quality of publications (see awards below). In 2006 Pollard was replaced by publications coordinator Joany O. Pinegar, who handles RSC manuscript submissions and finances. Also in 2006 Stephanie H. Wilson joined the team as a part-time production supervisor, increasing to full-time in June 2007. In 2008 Wilson was replaced by Brent R. Nordgren, who later became managing editor of the BYU Religious Education Review magazine and the RSC website administrator, directing the design and dissemination of RSC products. In 2009 Nordgren proposed and facilitated an arrangement with Deseret Book to copublish most books produced by the RSC. In this arrangement, the RSC would bear the costs of production and design and in exchange Deseret Book would provide advertising, distribution, and warehousing of these select RSC books.
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. The RSC coordinates and publishes this research in the hopes of growing the body of LDS literature and thought.
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. 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. In 2008, the RSC began posting its complete library in English and selections in Spanish and Portuguese in order to increase its worldwide presence.
Areas of study
The RSC has funded research in several areas, including ancient scripture, ancient studies, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Church history, the Doctrine and Covenants, Judeo-Christian Religions, the Pearl of Great Price, and world religions. The RSC has also sponsored LDS sociological studies and research on other religions, such as early Egyptian Christianity, Islam, and sub-tropical African religions. In 1985, the RSC began to publish works from some of these specialized areas of study, making up the RSC Specialized Monograph Series.
Research and funding
The RSC awards financial grants to BYU faculty and other scholars for research into LDS history, doctrine, scripture, and culture. This research has been published by the RSC and other publishers, including Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the University of Illinois Press, the University of Missouri Press, and Oxford University Press. Of the several projects it accepts per year, the RSC prefers those that benefit religious teachers and the progress of the LDS Church. RSC publications are intended to be scholarly and useful to general LDS readers.
The RSC is financed through BYU funds, individual donations, and the Friends of Religious Education (FORE). FORE is a national volunteer committee to find donors for BYU Religious Education activities, 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.
The following titles show the breadth of books published by the RSC (complete list): 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; Laura Harris Hales, ed., A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History; and Michael Hubbard MacKay and Nicholas J. Frederick, Joseph Smith's Seer Stones. 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. Anthologies from symposia on broad topics make up several volumes in the RSC Monograph Series. 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, which have been held at BYU since 1973. Often, general authorities deliver the keynote addresses at these symposia.
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 Jesus's last twenty-four hours and Resurrection. The conference was held and rebroadcast on KBYU Television, helping Religious Education expand its audience. The response to this conference, now called the BYU Easter Conference, was so positive that the university decided it should be an annual event, cosponsored by Religious Education and the RSC. Early on, nearly one thousand attendees heard Elder D. Todd Christofferson give the keynote address at the second annual conference, “The Atonement and the Resurrection,” later published in the Religious Educator. In subsequent years, the event was shifted to Fridays, often targeted to coincide with Good Friday. Over the years keynote addresses were delivered by President Cecil O. Samuelson in 2006, Elder F. Enzio Busche in 2007, and Sister Bonnie D. Parkin in 2009. An estimated 2,500 people attended the 2013 Easter Conference that featured Elder John M. Madsen, Brad Wilcox, and Brent L. Top. Other well-known keynote addresses have been given by Elaine S. Dalton, Spencer J. Condie, Sheri L. Dew, and BYU president, Kevin J Worthen. The annual event has stayed quite popular among people living along the Wasatch Front. 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, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, "Preserving the History of the Latter-day Saints," "A Firm Foundation: Church Organization and Administration," "Go Ye into All the World: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work," "Joseph F. Smith: Reflections on the Man and His Times," "Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith's Study of the Ancient World," “The International Church: Mormonism as a Global Religion,” "Beyond Biography: Sources in Context for Mormon Women’s History,"  and "Business, Wealth, Enterprise, and Debt: The Economic Side of Mormon History, 1830–1930."
In addition to books and articles, the RSC publishes its own periodicals. In 1986 the RSC began publishing the quarterly (later triannual) Religious Studies Center Newsletter, which carried updates on RSC symposia, books, and research, and was distributed to Church Educational System faculty and LDS military chaplains. In 2008 the newsletter was replaced by BYU Religious Education Review, a semiannual magazine. 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.” 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.” The main audience consists of Church Educational System teachers, such as volunteers and paid professionals in LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and religion professors at church colleges. In 2007 the RSC agreed to oversee and help fund the student journal Studia Antiqua.
- 2016—Harvey B. Black and Susan Easton Black Outstanding Publication Award (Church History and Doctrine, Gospel Scholarship) for Michael Hubbard MacKay, Sacred Space: Exploring the Birthplace of Mormonism.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 1993—T. Edgar Lyon Award of Excellence (Mormon History Association) for Ronald K. Esplin, "Discipleship: Brigham Young and Joseph Smith," in Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the Man, ed. Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate.
- 1981—Distinction in Editing Mormon Documents (Mormon History Association) for Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith.
- "Religious Studies Center". Religious Educator. 4 (1): 110–111. 2003. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Holland, Jeffrey R. (1977). "…Of Countries and of Kingdoms". BYU Studies. 18 (1): 4–5. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Wilkinson, Ernest L. (1976). Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny. Provo, Utah: BYU Press. p. 856. ISBN 0-8425-0905-4.
- "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Chair of Christian Understanding Founded". Ensign: 138. January 1973. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Steven David Grover (2008). "Building Bridges: The Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding". Religious Educator. pp. 45–56. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- 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.
- "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.
- "A Conversation about the BYU Religious Studies Center". Ensign: 79–80. January 1987. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Monte S. Nyman; Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds. (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.
- Waterman, Bryan (December 1994). "A Guide to the Mormon Universe: Mormon Organizations & Periodicals" (PDF). Sunstone (97): 52. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Holzapfel, Richard N. (October 21, 2008). "It's a classic!". RSC Blog. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- http://rsc.byu.edu/[full citation needed]
- "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.
- C. Wilfred Griggs, ed. (1988). "Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University". Excavations at Seila, Egypt. Religious Studies Center. p. v. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Darwin L. Thomas, ed. (1988). The Religion and Family Connection: Social Science Perspectives. Religious Studies Center.
- Duke, James T., ed. (1998). Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and Its Members. Religious Studies Center.
- Dollahite, David C. (August 2001). "Beloved Children, Faithful Fathers: Caring for Children with Special Needs" (PDF). Marriage & Families (6): 21. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Porter, Larry C. (1985). "Foreword". Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons. Religious Studies Center. pp. xi–xii. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- "Research Grants". Religious Studies Center. Brigham Young University. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Skousen, Royal (1993). "The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project". In Susan Easton Black; Charles D. Tate, Jr. Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man. Religious Studies Center. p. 65. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Sperry, Kip (2005). "Acknowledgments". Kirtland, Ohio: A Guide to Family History and Historical Sources. Religious Studies Center. p. xiv. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Jackson, Richard W. (2003). "Introduction". Places of Worship: 150 years of Latter-day Saint Architecture. Religious Studies Center. p. ix. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- 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.
- 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.
- Launius, Roger D. (1997). "Preface". Alexander William Doniphan. University of Missouri Press. p. xiv. ISBN 978-0-8262-1132-3. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- 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.
- "Friends of Religious Education". Religious Education. Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Nordgren, Brent R. (Winter 2009). "A Conversation with Ken McCarty" (PDF). BYU Religious Education Review: 18. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- "Invitation from Friends of Religious Education" (PDF). BYU Religious Education Review. [back cover]. Winter 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Moorty, S. S. (Winter 1982). "Unity in Diversity". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 15 (4): 127. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Woodward, Robert C. (Spring 1984). "Study in Mutual Respect". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 17 (1): 155. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Rasmussen, Ellis T. (2000). "Sperry, Sidney B.". In Richard O. Cowan; Donald Q. Cannon; Arnold K. Garr. Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.
- "Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery". Rsc.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "Banner of the Gospel: Wilford Woodruff". Rsc.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "Champion of Liberty: John Taylor". Rsc.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "Preserving the History of the Latter-day Saints". Rsc.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "A Firm Foundation". Rsc.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "Go Ye into All the World". Rsc.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "2014 BYU Church History Symposium". Rsc.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "2013 BYU Church History Symposium". Religion.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "2014 BYU Church History Symposium: "The World Wide Church: The Global Reach of Mormonism,"". Religion.byu.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- https://religion.byu.edu/2016-church-history-symposium. Missing or empty
- https://churchhistory.ce.byu.edu/. Missing or empty
- "BYU religious education review". iLink BYU Online Catalog. Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Religious Educator 1 (2000): i.
- Religious Educator 3, no. 2 (2002): vi
- "The Religious Educator: Perspectives on the Restored Gospel". The Religious Educator. 1: i. Spring 2000. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- "Awards Recipients - Mormon History Association". Mormonhistoryassociation.org. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "MHA AWARDS" (PDF). Mormon History Association. 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-18.