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In 1971, the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to consolidate the numerous magazines printed by the Church. For a long time there had been magazines for each organization within the Church., as in Relief Society Magazine for women, the Improvement Era for youth, and so on.
The magazines for adults were consolidated into one magazine, the Ensign. Each Ensign magazine typically contains the following elements (the May and October issues consist of talks from the recent General Conference): message from the First Presidency, Visiting Teaching message, messages from Church leaders, classic Gospel talks, articles about the scriptures, inspirational stories sent in by members, and Church news.
The New Era became the magazine for the youth ages 12-18 (parents of youth, Church leaders, and teachers are also encouraged to subscribe to and read the magazine). The New Era contains inspirational stories from Church leaders as well as from youth around the world; counsel from Church leaders; a Question and Answer segment; music, poems, and photographs sent in by youth; and inspirational mini-posters (called New Era posters or Mormonads).
The Friend was designed for the children of the Church and its purpose is to reach the children directly, even those not involved with the Primary. The Friend presents the gospel in a way children can understand and reinforces family values. The Friend contains gospel messages, inspirational stories, songs, and activities.
The Church also prints an international magazine known as the Liahona. This magazine contains some of the most important information from all three magazines and is printed in 45 languages for Saints around the world.
When the Church began printing these new magazines the First Presidency stated that “the underlying purposes of the magazines will be:
- To strengthen the faith of Church members.
- To promulgate (proclaim) the truths of the restored gospel.
- To keep members [informed about] church policies, programs, and happenings.
- To entertain and enrich the lives of Church members.”
- (The First Presidency, 1971)
Church leaders encourage the use of Church magazines as lesson resources and as resources for teaching children during Family Home Evening. Don L. Searl, the managing editor of The Ensign, stated, “you’re probably looking at one of your best lesson resources right now. Month after month Church magazines offer a steady supply of gospel-based, Church-approved materials for teaching” ("Teaching with Church Magazines,” Ensign, Feb. 2006, 56).