“Happy 25th Birthday! 1971–1996,” Friend, Jan. 1996, 40
Each month I go into the homes of thousands of boys and girls around the world and bless their lives. I’m always the same size, but my jacket and insides change. I can teach the gospel, tell a good story, make you smile, help you cook—and be your best friend. This year I’m twenty-five years old. What am I? The Friend!
In January 1971 the first issue of the Friend was mailed to many of the children in the Church. This new magazine replaced The Children’s Friend, which was published from 1902 through 1970.
From the early days of the Church, the leaders knew the importance of the printed word. As early as 1894, the first President of the Primary, Louie B. Felt, and her secretary, Mae Anderson, had asked the First Presidency for permission to publish a magazine for the teachers and leaders of the children. At first, due to the difficulties some other publications were having, the Brethren were hesitant to give their permission, but it was finally given. No funds were provided, so Sister Felt promised her home to the printers if the magazine failed. Sister Anderson was asked to be the editor for six months, but she served for thirty-eight years!
While preparing things to put in the magazine, the sisters also collected leftover string and scraps of used wrapping paper that they smoothed out with an iron. After bundling up the magazines in the carefully saved paper and string, the women carried them—it took several trips—four blocks away to the post office.
Sister Anderson and Sister Felt soon felt the need to include a few stories and activities for children in the magazine. But the change from being a teacher’s manual to a real children’s magazine took many years.
In 1969 a study was done of all the Church magazines. As a result of that study, the First Presidency asked the auxiliaries, including the Primary, to stop publishing their magazines after 1970. The Ensign, the New Era, and the Friend magazines were to be published, instead. The First Presidency would be responsible for publishing them so that they could be an official voice for the Church.
Lucile C. Reading was appointed the first managing editor of the Friend, and she served until her death in 1982. Vivian Paulsen was then called to be the managing editor, and she is still serving in this position.
While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, President Hinckley said of the magazine for you: “The name of the magazine will … simply be the Friend, dropping the word children’s, because when some youngsters get to be ten and eleven years of age, they think they are no longer children. But they still need a Friend.” He went on to say that the new magazine “will be a new friend, a better friend, for the children of the Church, and we hope for many others. With wonderful stories and fascinating art, it will … bring … understanding of eternal and marvelous gospel principles. It will be a blessing in every home into which it goes.”
When the Friend and the other new Church magazines began in 1971, the First Presidency said, “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.”
Over the last twenty-five years, the Friend has strived to do these things.
The children who received the magazine twenty-five years ago are all grown up now. Many of them are sharing the magazine with their children. And maybe in the next twenty-five years, your children will have a best Friend too! Turn the page and see what some Friend readers have said about their best Friend.
What does it matter if wild winds blow,
And snow piles up outside my door?
I have a friend to warm the hours,
I have a book never opened before.
What does it matter this one little hour
While Mom’s in the kitchen I’m here alone?
I have a story just waiting for reading,
I have something new—my very own.
It will be my friend in storm or in sunshine,
Enjoyed with my family or here all alone.
There are so many friends inside each cover;
Come, share with me a good story or poem.
(This poem by Rock Redford appeared in the January 1971 Friend.)
Friends in the News and Our Creative Friends were in the very first issue.
Kitchen Krafts began in February 1979.
The months of August and September were combined into one issue from 1979 to 1985.
Sharing Time began in the August/September 1981 issue.
Since 1984, the index has been printed in the December issue.
Making Friends began in March 1985.
For Little Friends started in March 1986.
The first take-out poster was in August 1987.
Retold Book of Mormon stories started in May 1989.
The Braille edition began in April 1989.
Subscriptions in 1971 were 168,000; subscriptions in 1995 were 250,000.