“Church Magazines Pass 1 Million Circulation,” Ensign, June 1987, 78
With the publication of the May 1987 issues, the combined circulation of Church magazines for the first time passed the one million mark. The circulation of the Ensign alone exceeded 500,000 in January, and more than 520,000 copies of the May issue will go to subscribers.
While the Ensign circulation increased by 43,000 from May 1986 to May 1987, the number of New Era issues published each month rose from 155,000 to 170,000. During that same time period, the number of Friend copies printed monthly increased from 183,000 to 203,000. The international magazines have also shown gratifying growth.
The Church has been involved in publishing periodicals for its members since June 1832, when the first issue of the Evening and Morning Star came off the press at Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. This newspaper was followed by the LDS Messenger and Advocate published in Kirtland, Ohio from 1834 to 1837. Other Church newspapers were also begun, and in 1850 the Deseret News was founded in Salt Lake City.
In the 1840s, Latter-day Saint periodicals were begun in England, Wales, New York City, and California. A decade later, Church publications were established in Denmark, Germany, France, Australia, Switzerland, and India.
Later publications included the Juvenile Instructor, begun in 1866 and changed to the Instructor in 1930; the Women’s Exponent, founded in 1872, which became the Relief Society Magazine in 1915; the Contributor, which was first published in 1879 and replaced by the Improvement Era in 1897; and the Children’s Friend, begun in 1902.
In 1970, Church leaders ceased publishing the above-named magazines, as well as the Millennial Star, and replaced them with a series of new Church periodicals.
The new magazines began publication with the January 1971 issues. The Ensign is designed for the reading audience of adult members, the New Era focuses on the Church’s youth, while the Friend is intended to entertain and instruct children aged three to eleven. The non-English publications print condensed versions of many of the articles appearing in the English magazines, as well as stories relating to the countries they are sent to.
In a letter dated 21 July 1970 and sent to Church leaders in the stakes and missions, the First Presidency outlined the following goals for the new magazines: “(1) to provide wholesome literature for the various age levels; (2) to furnish reading material that will help Church members increase their faith and develop strong testimonies; (3) to give insights into the workings of the Church, its policies, and its progress; (4) to explain the principles of the restored gospel; (5) to help members apply gospel principles to everyday living; (6) to teach everlasting truths, such as virtue, honesty, integrity, and loyalty; (7) to represent the Church to nonmember friends and investigators in an impressive way; (8) to answer questions and give guidance concerning current topics of concern to all.”
The goal of the Church is to have Church magazines in the home of every member, so they can be used to strengthen faith and build testimonies. In working toward that goal, the Ensign, New Era, and Friend, as well as the international magazines, have continually been upgraded with improved graphics and helpful editorial content. Response from readers has been overwhelmingly positive, and readership continues to climb.