The Power of Prayer


The Study

BYU professors Loren Marks and Dave Dollahite are passionate about researching the connections between families and faith. As we mentioned in an article in our most recent Connections issue, that passion has grown into a decade-spanning, religion-spanning project. Amongst the Jews, Muslims, and Christians included in their research, prayer was universally acknowledged as a

  • catalyst for change,
  • a facilitator of humility and positivity, as well as of communication and understanding among couples
  • a unifier of couples and an aid in resolving conflict.”



The Meaning

 The families interviewed were, in fact, very open in discussing prayer, says Dr. Marks. “We did not ask any direct questions about prayer, yet prayer was directly mentioned by our participants in substantive ways nearly 300 times and by a majority of the participants.”

The Impact

Eleven studies conducted over the last ten years combine to show the following, as expressed here:

  • the ability to unite during challenges, more than avoiding challenges, defines strong marriage,
  • marriage [partners] benefit not merely from sharing the same faith, but from sharing similar levels of involvement and commitment, or have a ‘shared vision’ of faith and family life,
  • youth spiritual development is more successful when based on certain anchors of religious commitment,
  • it is not necessarily what families believe, but what they do that matters most.

They provide a variety of tips gleaned from their research here.

Dr. Loren says that he will be studying specific religious activities, such as the Jewish Shabbat, the Mormon Family Home Evening, and the Muslim Ramadan, next. He will also be analyzing the ways in which people emotionally struggle with religion and what religious parents believe are the paramount traits they need to possess and exemplify in regards to their adolescent offspring.

How has prayer influenced your life?


New Professor Shares Expertise on Marriage and Finances

      George Horace Lorimer once said, “It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” No one knows this better than Dr. Jeff Dew, who specializes in researching how finances affects couples, and working to show them the tools they can use to bolster their relationships. Of his research, Dr. Dew says he wants people to understand the correlation between relationships and money so that they can “think about the different results they might get.”


His desire to do so sprang out of his own desire to understand how changes in his financial circumstances when he was in school would affect his marriage. In an interview for the  Journal of Financial Therapy, he says:   “I left a job in the mental health field to attend graduate school. The job had a reasonable salary and incredible benefits. As I was walking home from my graduate office one evening, I wondered how the financial change would influence my marriage. I have been researching this issue ever since.”

dew_jeffHowever, his research interests did not always lie in finances; at first, he was interested in the parent-child dynamic. He credits his original research to time spent employed at a youth treatment center. At the center, they offered parent education classes. Dr. Dew observed that the adolescents whose parents attended the class were rarely re-admitted to the center. Conversely, those whose parents skipped the meetings often returned to the center.

His work has been featured in numerous publications: The Huffington Post, DadsDivorce, and The New York Times to name only a few. Previously, he was a professor at Utah State University. He now brings his expertise to BYU, in our School of Family Life. Dr. Dew says he loves to teach because he gets to be around “bright and accomplished” students who are “eager to learn,” and because he gets to discuss family studies in the context of the gospel.


Slavery and the Constitution: Upcoming Lecture Speaks to Origins of Ongoing Racial Tensions

Many of the Founding Fathers of the United States, despite owning slaves themselves, despised the practice of slavery.  In his initial draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson condemned the injustice of the slave trade and, by implication, slavery. Nonetheless, the South had become reliant on slavery, and political unity was a necessity for young America’s success. Thus, the shameful institution weaseled its way into the United States Constitution, and there remained unchallenged until the 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865. David Waldstreicher is one of academia’s foremost scholars on the slave issue in early America, and will speak on slavery and the Constitution on Thursday, September 15th, at 11:00 a.m. in the HBLL Auditorium.


In particular, he will speak on “James Madison’s Constitution and the Problem of Slavery.” Madison was also a Founding Father who seemed unable to come to terms with slavery, despite the fact that he owned nearly 100 of them at the time of his death. BYU associate professor of history Matthew Mason, who studies slavery and the early U.S. republic, is optimistic about the upcoming lecture. “My hope for this year’s event,” he says, “is that a broad community of students and others at BYU will be able to think in more informed ways about the complex relationship between slavery and the founding of the United States. This will fulfill a key purpose of Constitution Day, which…is to help people know more about—and consequently come to a fuller appreciation of—the founding of the United States and its ongoing impact. The ongoing importance of racial prejudice in our national life is just one way this lecture’s exploration of slavery and the founding should be of wide interest.”

david-waldstreicherDr. Waldstreicher is a Distinguished Professor of History at the City University of New York. He holds a PhD from Yale University, and has previously served as a professor at Bennington College, Yale, Temple University, and the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of several books, including Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification, which Mason opines is “the best book-length treatment of how slavery and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution interrelated.” He is on the editorial board of Reviews in American History and is co-editor of the Early American Studies book series at the University of Pennsylvania Press.

T-Shirt Design Contest: Win $50

You can do a lot with fifty dollars. You can buy several rolls of sushi and keep them all to yourself. You can go back to a restaurant where you were stingy, find your waitress, and give her a great tip. You can purchase a used sofa, drive it up to the valley overlook at Squaw Peak, and watch the sunset with a comfortable seat. Indeed, for a creative college student, fifty dollars is the opportunity of a lifetime—and if you enter the BYU Family History Program’s t-shirt design contest this month, that opportunity could be yours!

BYU’s Genealogy program is unique—in fact, it offers the only bachelor’s degree in Family History in all of North America. The program prepares students for a variety of professions and community service, and provides valuable skills in evidence analysis, technology, and paleography.

The program’s current t-shirts (you may have seen the “I Seek Dead People” design around campus) have been around for a while, and they think it’s time for a new design. That’s why they’re offering a contest to see who can come up with the most creative idea! Details are on the flyer below—and hurry! The contest ends on September 27th



Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie Ashcraft

Stephanie Ashcraft’s career as a successful cookbook author and TV personality began as a mere class assignment for her Family and Consumer Science major almost twenty years ago. She turned in a list of 101 things to do with a cake mix, and then started teaching a cooking class on the subject at the local Macey’s. Because her students wanted the recipes, she decided have them bound in a book. Eventually, demand for book grew so large that Stephanie made the decision to pass it onto Gibbs-Smith, Publisher. Within two months of its release, 101 Things to do with a Cake Mix hit #9 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Paperback Advice. From there, her success only grew.


101 Things to do with a Cookbook

Just one year out of college, she formed her own company, Stephanie Ashcraft Inc., and has gone on to publish twenty more successful cookbooks, like 101 Things to do with a Slow Cooker, 101 Things to do with a Tortilla, etc.) She has taught hundreds of classes and appeared on hundreds of television and news programs all over the country sharing ways that families can save time and money in the kitchen. While living in Arizona, Stephanie worked as a media contributor doing money saving stories for various local stations. She also assisted in creating, running, writing, and promoting the Arizona Mormon News. Aside from these and spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, she has been honored with an induction into the Self Publishing Hall of Fame.

101-things-to-do-with-a-cake-mix-coverThe food industry, however, is not the only area in which Stephanie has succeeded. She also volunteers for the Marana Middle School PTO, the Marana Police Citizen Advisory Commission, the Media for Southern Arizona, and the District Continuous Improvement Committee in Marana, Arizona, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Two years ago, Stephanie and her family moved back to Utah to live closer to family. Currently she serves on her local elementary school’s community council and on the PTAs for both the junior high and high school in her area. She’s the mother of five children, and lives with her husband Ivan, who has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from BYU, in Salem, Utah. She is an alumni who is truly exemplifies the mission of the school from which she graduated, the School of Family Life,which is to enhance the quality of life of individuals and families within the home and communities worldwide. You can read more about her and her books on her Amazon page.

If you are an alumni of BYU’s School of Family Life, or any of the nine other departments in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we’d like to hear your story! Please share with us your accomplishments, your stories of service and inspiration. Share them at


Have you read any of Stephanie’s books?


New Faculty Member Dr. Derin Cobia Studies Mental Illness and the Brain

Cobia_DerinWhen Derin Cobia first came to BYU as student, he didn’t think he would end up studying the human brain. Through the help of one professor, his life changed directions. Now, thirteen years later, he’s back, and in the same position as his mentor. As his life was enriched, so is Dr. Cobia enriching others: through research that has the potential to aid countless individuals.   




Mental Illness and the Brain

Cobia is focused on mental illness, primarily schizophrenia and dementia, and its causes. He studies what factors lead to symptom variance, and what tools the brain uses to combat these diseases.

brain snip
These pictures show the areas of the brain most affected by schizophrenia. The brighter areas are places where the strongest amount of variance in relation to healthy brains occur.

He has found that different people react to the same illnesses in differing ways; some might feel the symptoms very strongly, others might not. The focal point of Dr. Cobia’s research on dementia has been PPA, or Primary Progressive Aphasia. This differs from traditional dementia in that the patient loses their language capabilities, yet remains cognitively sound.

Dr. Cobia’s research and findings possess significant implications. While he himself, not being a medical doctor, cannot produce treatments for mental illness, his studies will assist others in doing so. Other researchers can potentially use his findings to facilitate clinical studies that may eventually result in treatments.

The Importance of a Mentor

Dr. Cobia credits Dr. Erin Bigler, one of our psychology professors, for galvanizing his interest in neuroscience. It was Dr. Bigler who taught him about brain functions and other principles of neurology. About the organ, Dr. Cobia says: “I can’t think of anything more interesting.”

Dr. Cobia was hired as assistant professor in the Department of Psychology recently. He graduated in 2003 with a BS in Psychology, and later obtained a masters and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of St. Louis. He went on to become a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern, and then a neuropsychologist with the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. While there, he was promoted the positions of Associate Director of Education and Clinical Training and Assistant Professor at the Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He held those jobs concurrently.

Of his return to his alma mater, he says that “BYU feels like home… [It] is my tribe.” More importantly, though, he looks forward mentoring a new generation of scientists and to pay back the university for the education he was given.



How to Dress Like an Anthropology Major

Ah! Fall 2016! Back to school means new classes, roommates, and of course a new wardrobe. Walk into all of your courses ready to learn and looking good! A few days ago, we shared tips for History majors on how to dress. Now, for our anthropology majors, who are preparing to do ethnographic research and field studies and write papers, here are a few tips:

Wear Comfortable Shoes

What better way to start off your new wardrobe than with a new pair of shoes? You’ll be doing a lot of walking around campus and at dig sites. Make sure your shoes are sturdy and comfortable.

Get Sun Protection


Don’t forget your sunscreen, flannel, baseball cap, and even long pants, to keep the sun out of your eyes, off your extremities, and leave you burn free.

Recorder and Camera

Instead of trying to write down every word and missing the experience, invest in recorders and a camera! Snap quick pictures during your ethnographic journeys. And record your conversations, thoughts, and other interactions so you can remember and write them up later!


trail mix.jpg

What more could you possibly need? Snacks are life savers during long team meetings and keep you full of energy on late nights writing papers! Keep a stash with you and your stomach and peers will thank you.


Backpack, backpack! Keep all of your notebooks, pens, recorders, camera, sunscreen,  and of course snacks in a backpack! It’ll keep your hands free and you’ll always be ready to go!


Good luck Anthropology Majors! And don’t forget your “I ❤ Anthropology” t-shirt!