Recently I saw the August 1925 cover of The Children’s Friend (the official publication of the LDS Church’s Primary organization). What made the cover interesting was the fact that it showed two children sitting with their dog in front of a gigantic mushroom. The mushroom had windows and doors in it. And in one of the windows sat a winged fairy.
1925 was almost 100 years ago, and a lot has changed in church culture since then. Would The Friend (the current iteration of The Children’s Friend) come anywhere close to printing such a cover these days? I mean, I don’t think you could find many Mormons who would recognize fairies and giant mushroom houses as being a part of the gospel or church history.
Intrigued, I looked back over the history of the Friend’s covers to see if anything similar has made the front page of our children’s gospel instruction in the recent past. And found something very odd.
For the past 10 years, the cover of The Friend has been made up almost exclusively of illustrations. Only two covers out of the 120 between 2022 and 2012 had photos on them. I looked further back and found that the moment when the illustrations-only decision seems to have been made was 2007. There must have been a revelation or something.
But did any of these illustrated covers over the past 10 years display giant mushroom houses and fairies?
One came close. It was the November 2015 cover, which shows a group of anthropomorphic woodland creatures making their way through a forest, all wearing some article of clothing and carrying food items such as pie, bread, and casserole. (Headed to the ward Christmas potluck, I suppose.)
But this image was a rarity. The last time something like that had been printed was thirteen years previous when the March 1992 issue featured a raccoon and a rabbit planting a garden. (Interestingly enough, some rather large mushrooms stand in the foreground.)
What I basically found is that the further back you go in the Friend’s archives, the more likely you are to find the equivalent of giant mushroom houses and fairies. For example, this bizarre cover featuring anthropomorphic tools from 1981.
Or this band of animal pirates also from 1981.
Or Santa Claus in a balloon from 1971.
Of course, it’s quite easy to find floating, white-robed men on the Friend’s covers. But those are part of Mormon history. Heck, they started Mormon history. So I guess they deserve to be there.