“The Big Blue Books,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 65
You’re preparing a lesson, and you’re looking for just the right story for a great conclusion. Then you think: Didn’t President Monson tell a story on this subject last year in general conference? Wait—was it in April, or was it two years ago in October? On second thought, you remember that little Elizabeth was on your lap as a baby when you heard it, so it must have been three years ago. Or was that baby Spencer?
Still hoping to find the story, you trudge out to the garage and start sorting through boxes and boxes of old magazines to find the Ensign conference issues. This takes much more time than you really have because you stop to read through a few articles you missed the first time, and then you take a peek in the old high school yearbook, too.
After years of bumbling around my garage, I finally found a better way. One day, while at the Church Distribution Center in Salt Lake City, I noticed some big blue books titled Index to Periodicals of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not exactly a crowd-grabbing title, but I was amazed at what I found inside! Every article printed in the Church magazines, Church News, and Conference Reports since 1960 was indexed by author as well as by subject, and each entry included the periodical, issue, and page number where the article could be found. Why had I never before heard of this useful tool? I wondered. Was it new? This should be available for general use.
A few Sundays later, as I was searching for some pictures in the ward library, my eyes wandered to an adjacent shelf. There they were—the big blue books! My ward library had not just one, but half a dozen volumes holding the secrets of finding more than twenty-five years’ worth of Church-related articles.
What’s more, the ward library had not only the indexes to the periodicals, it had back copies of the magazines and the Church News as well, neatly arranged year by year on the shelves. Using the index and ample periodical supply, a ward librarian could locate any article in about one minute. Of course, that doesn’t carry quite the same sense of adventure that I found in searching my old files and boxes—who knows what you’ll uncover in a box at my house—but those indexes have revolutionized the preparation of lessons, talks, and even family home evenings.
Since 1972, the big blue indexes have been available to meetinghouse libraries for use by Church members. The indexes are published annually, and then compiled into one larger volume every five years. Articles appearing from 1961 to 1970 are indexed together in a two-volume set. While these two volumes and one subsequent index (1971–75) are out of print and available only at ward or branch libraries, the most recent three volumes can be purchased at the Church Distribution Center for individual use: 1976–80 (PBLI0636, $9.00), 1981–85 (PBLI0738, $9.00), and 1986 (PBLI0782, $5.00). The 1987 index should be available by April 1.
In addition to the comprehensive indexes, each December issue of the Church magazines contains an index to the articles that have appeared in that particular publication during the year. The Ensign has printed its own annual index since 1973, the New Era since 1983, and the Friend since 1984.
Next time you’re looking for just one more idea for your Church lesson or project, you might think of heading to the meetinghouse library and the big blue books before you confront those storage boxes. Unless, of course, the garage needs cleaning anyway!—Diane Lofgren Mangum, Salt Lake City