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Fred Woods

Church History and Doctrine

365E JSB
Provo, UT 84602


Fred Woods and his wife, JoAnna, standing in front of a lake

Fred E. Woods completed a BS degree in psychology (1981) and a MS degree in international relations (1985) from Brigham Young University. In 1991, he earned a PhD in Middle East studies from the University of Utah with an emphasis in Hebrew Bible. He has been a professor of Religious Education at Brigham Young University since 1998 and feels blessed to teach the great students at BYU. From 2005 to 2010, he held a Richard L. Evans Professorship of Religious Understanding and was appointed in 2019 to a BYU endowed Moral Education Professorship. Dr. Woods has lectured at scores of universities in the United States and internationally. He is the author of numerous academic articles treating a variety of topics and has written many books. His most recent publication is The Saints of Tonga: A Century of Island Faith, a coauthored book which has a companion documentary film by the same name. The past decade he has also produced several documentaries with filmmaker Martin Andersen. Their films include Mormon Yankees: Giants on and off the Court (2011), Finding Refuge in El Paso (2012) and Divine Providence: The Wreck and Rescue of the Julia Ann (2014), Laie: Refuge from the Storm (2015), and Melting the Ice: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Alaska (2018), The Saints of Tonga: A Century of Island Faith (2019) and most recently "The Latter-Day Saint Image in the British Mind (2021), and "Bright Lights in the Desert: The Latter-day Saints of Las Vegas" (2022), both award winning films. 

Professor Woods is best known for his works on the globalization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which includes his specialized research on the maritime segment of the story of the Latter-day Saint gathering to an American Zion—the sailing before the trail portion of Mormon immigration to the United States. Dr. Woods has authored scores of articles on this topic and has many publications dealing with international studies on the this website: (of which he is the chief editor and compiler) which is a major source of information on this topic). In spring 2017 and spring 2018, he was a research fellow at the Harris Manchester College at Oxford University for the Trinity Trimesters, where he was immersed in a study of the Latter-day Saint image in the British mind, a forthcoming book. His current research has involved the history and impact of Latter-day Saints on Las Vegas and he is publishing his forthcoming work, Bright Lights in the Desert: The Latter-day Saints of Las Vegas with the University of Nevada Press. Professor Woods is also co-authoring a book on the history of Latter-day Saints in North and South Dakota. In addition, he is developing a website titled "Saints by State" which includes a collection of all published and unpublished documents on the Church in America, augmented by Latter-day Saint encyclopedic entries, maps, charts, chronologies, short stories, interviews, documentary films. He is married to JoAnna Merrill (pictured at left), and they have five children and thirteen grandchildren.

Recent Books

Malcolm Adcock, Fred E. Woods, The Latter-day Saint Image in the British Mind – (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2022). See also ). It has a companion documentary film now available now on BYU TV:

Riley Moffat, Fred E. Woods, Brent Anderson, Saints of Tonga: A Century of Island Faith (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2019)

Recent Articles Published

Fred E. Woods, “The Ascension of Abraham: A Mortal Model for the Climb to Exaltation,” Religious Educator, vol. 23, no. 2 (Spring 2022):47-63.

Fred E. Woods, Conversion story of Ivar Sandberg: (published online August 10, 2022).

Fred E. Woods, "African American Baptists and Latter-day Saints in Las Vegas,” Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, 64, no. 3 (Fall 2021), 259-267.

Fred E. Woods, “The Rise of the Sitka Saints,” Latter-day Saint Historical Studies, 22, no. 1 (Spring 2021), 37-56.

Fred E. Woods, “Beneath the Pages: McClintock’s Mormon Settlement in Arizona,” Latter-day Saint Historicical Studies, 22, no. 1 (Spring 2021), 115-155.

Fred E. Woods, “Introduction The Latter-day Saint Gathering,” invited chapter for LIVERPOOL TO GREAT SALT LAKE eds. George D. Watt by Ronald G. Watt and LaJean Carruth, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2022), xv-xxvi.

Fred E. Woods, “The Pluck and Luck of the Irish Saints,” LDS Living Magazine, March 2022 online issue.

Fred E. Woods, “Orson Pratt’s Publishing of The Seer: A Mission to Washington, DC, for a Season,” BYU Religious Education, Washington DC Regional Studies 2021

Riley M. Moffat and Fred E. Woods, chapter 16 of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Islands of the Pacific” The Palgrave Handbook of Global Mormonism, eds. R. Gordon Shepherd, A. Gary Shepherd, Ryan T. Cragun (London: Palgrave/MacMillan, 2020), 431-454.

Fred E, Woods and RIley M. Moffat, "The Genesis and Rise of the Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple," Mormon Historical Studies, vol. 21, no. 1 (Spring 2021): 91-114

Fred E. Woods, “Leavening the Sourdough: A History of Latter-day Saints in Kodiak,” Latter-day Saint Historical Studies, 21, no. 2 (Fall 2020): 55-78.

Fred E. Woods, “The Balance Between Church and State in Tonga: A study in mutual respect between the Latter-day Saints and the Royal Family,” Journal of Mormon History, vol. 46, no. 1 (Winter 2020): 53-84.

Fred E. Woods, “The Story of the Las Vegas Temple,” LDS Living Magazine for Nov./Dec. 2020 issue.

Fred E. Woods and Thomas L. Farmer, “St. Louis: An Unexpected Refuge,” LDS Living Magazine, March/April 2020 issue.

Fred E. Woods and Kári Bjarnason, “Conversions, Arrests, and Friendships: A Story of Two Icelandic Police Officers,” Religious Educator 20, no. 1 (Winter 2019).

Fred E. Woods, "Osmondmania in the United Kingdom," LDS Living, Nov./Dec 2019 issue. 

Fred E. Woods and Jannalee Sandau, “The Gathering and Influence of the Scottish Saints,” LDS Living, January/February 2019).

Fred E. Woods, “Sail before the Trail, or Have We Missed the Boat? LDS Maritime Immigration to America in the 19th Century, Ephemera Journal 21, no. 3 (May 2019): 1, 4–9.  

Fred E. Woods, ““From South Africa to Salt Lake City: Eli Wiggill, the Latter-day Saints, and the World of Religion, 1810–1883,” Historia 64, no. 2 (May 2019): 1–22.

Fred E. Woods, “Saints and the Transcontinental Railroad,” LDS Living, May/June 2019), 40–44, 47, 49.

Fred E. Woods and Anita Manning, “An Extraordinary Troop: The Boy Scouts Program at Kalaupapa,” Hawaiian Journal of History 53 (2019): 83–105. 

Fred E. Woods, “Cecil B. DeMille and David O. McKay: An Unexpected Friendship,” BYU Studies 57, no. 4 (Fall 2018): 78–104. (A shortened modified version of this article was also published in the LDS Living, July 2019.

Fred E. Woods, “On the Way Home from the Mission Field: The Worldwide Travels of Ted Johnson and Ted Steck,” Mormon Historical Studies, Spring 2018.

Forthcoming Books

Fred E. Woods, Jay H. Buckley, and Hunter T. Hallows, eds., The Life and Adventures of Mr. Eli Wiggill , forthcoming 2022, Greg Kofford Books.

Fred E. Woods, Bright Lights in the Desert: The Latter-day Saints of Las Vegas, The University of Nevada Press (2022).
Forthcoming Articles

Charles Vance, Mark Mendenhall, and Fred E. Woods, “Missionary Families: LDS Case Study,” chapter in Research Handbook of Global Families, ed. Yvonne McNulty et al. (2022)

Recently Released Films

"The Latter-day Saint Image in the British Mind" (2021).

Fred E. Woods, "Bright Lights in the Desert: The Latter-day Saints of Las Vegas" (2022).

Martin Andersen and Fred E. Woods, co-producers, Saints of Tonga: A Century of Island Faith (2019).

Fred E. Woods, Melting the Ice: A History of Latter-day Saints in Alaska (2018).

Forthcoming Documentary Films
"A Swede and a Seed: The Story of Ivar Sandberg."

Recent Awards/Appointments

BYU Faculty Award for Distinguished Contributions to Accessibility issued by the University Accessibility Center, March 9, 2022, titled the “Good Samaritan Award”

“Bright Lights in the Desert: The Latter-day Saints of Las Vegas” documentary film won third place in the short film/documentary film category at the Utah LDS film festival, March 2022

Historic Preservation Annual Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation by the City of Las Vegas for the preservation of Latter-day Saint History in Las Vegas (May 25, 2022)

John Topham and Susan Redd Butler BYU Faculty Research Award for research on “Saints by State” website (Spring 2022)

“The Latter-day Saint Image in the British Mind,” documentary film won third place in the short film/documentary film category at the Utah LDS film festival, March 2021

Moral Education endowed professorship, Brigham Young University (2019-2021)

Eadington Research Fellowship, University of Nevada- Las Vegas, 2021

Senior Associate, Pembroke College, Oxford 2021

Best book award for Kalaupapa: The Mormon Experience in an Exiled Community (Provo: UT, BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2017). (The 2018 Harvey B. and Susan Easton Black Outstanding Publication Award (Gospel Scholarship for LDS Audiences, Church History and Doctrine)

Summer Oxford research fellow to the Oxford Harris Manchester College for the Trinity trimesters for 2017 and 2018

Areas of Expertise

Latter-day Saint gathering to Zion; Latter-day Saint global/international church, regional church histories, interfaith dialogue

Research Interests

Mormon immigration/emigration/migration
The International Church
Church History in the 19th century
Old Testament Studies

Teaching Interests

International Church
Old Testament
LDS Church History
Doctrine and Covenants

Honors and Awards

  • Adjunct Professor University of Notre Dame Australia, School of Law Sydney at University of Notre Dame Australia (2016 - 2020)
  • Icelandic Heritage Award, Icelandic Association of Utah (2016 - 2016)

Courses Taught


Fred Emmett Woods Riley M. Moffat Jeffrey N. Walker Fred E. Woods Fred E. Woods Fred E. Woods Fred Emmett Woods Fred Emmett Woods Fred Emmett Woods Fred Emmett Woods Fred Emmett Woods


Fred E. Woods
Fred Woods