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BYU Studies
Covers for the most recent issues of BYU Studies, which marked its 50th anniversary with a two-day symposium.

PROVO — Turning 50 isn't normally a birthday to savor — unless you're a journal.

And then, thriving for five decades is something to be celebrated, which is what BYU Studies did this weekend with a two-day anniversary symposium.

"This is a special event," said the journal's editor John Welch, a BYU law professor and a scholar of history and classical languages, "to celebrate, bring people together and do what we like doing best, which is exploring academic insights into Mormon topics."

Those insights abound in BYU Studies, the university's multidisciplinary journal published four times a year.

It's a place where scholars write about things that appeal to the LDS community and share insights from their disciplines through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Welch said.

But it's not stuffy or difficult to read, he added.

"This is not just of the BYU, for the BYU," he said. "This is for everybody who has an interest in really thoughtful, rigorous Mormon scholarship."

The journal began in 1959 in the English department as the Wasatch Review, but then-BYU President Ernest Wilkinson saw the need for a university-wide outlet for scholarly work and broadened its scope, Welch said.

"We have published articles on topics as diverse as church history, mathematics, music, metallurgy and even engineering," said senior associate editor Roger Terry. "Because most scholarly journals are not open to articles that overlap into religious territory, we provide a unique outlet for many such scholarly efforts."

Over the last 50 years, the journal has shared the thoughts of scholars like Hugh Nibley, Bruce R. McConkie, Susan Easton Black and Neal A. Maxwell as well as poetry; essays; and reviews of significant LDS books, art and movies.

Yet despite being a faith-based journal, membership in the LDS Church is not a prerequisite to participation, Welch said, adding that many non-LDS scholars read and publish in the journal.

The journal is so well-respected, in fact, that it's on the shelves of libraries across the nation, and accessed by individuals throughout the world, he said.

Anyone can access past issues online for free, but a subscription is required to access the most recent editions.

Because everything goes through a stringent peer-review process and multiple fact-checks, people can trust what they read, said administrative editor James Summerhays.

"In today's world of blogging and comment boards that have no such standards, that's a breath of fresh accuracy," he said.

BYU associate professor of church history Steven Harper credits his position as a volume editor for the Joseph Smith Papers project to his experiences as a student intern with BYU Studies in the early '90s.

"More than any class I ever took, that experience at BYU studies really shaped my life," he said. "I rely on the things I learned, the skills and attitudes and things like that every day."

He praised the journal as a sort of "home" for Mormon intellectuals, who often feel alone in their scholarship.

"BYU Studies provides a nice place where you can speak the langue of faith and scholarship all in the same sentence," he said.

For details about subscriptions or past editions, visit byustudies.byu.edu.