Stirling Adams, a member of the Dialogue board of directors, is one of BCC’s regular guest Dialogue bloggers.
The latest issue of BYU Studies (45:1) just came out. After my initial glance at the cover art (by Brian Kershisnik) and the table of contents (which includes Givens’ “’Lightning Out of Heaven’: Joseph Smith and the Forging of Community,” and David Paulsen’s “Are Christians Mormon? Reassessing Joseph Smith’s Theology”) I’m excited to dive into the text.
Before moving to Utah, I had little sense of the academic focus or past content of BYU Studies. I’ve now been a subscriber for several years, and have used its archive for research on many subjects. I’m confident that whatever your area of interest in Mormon studies, odds are there are multiple, useful, BYU Studies articles exploring the topic. If you doubt, test that assertion. Go to the search option at byustudies.byu.edu, or to the BYU library on-line BYU Studies archive, and search on your topic. As examples, two ongoing interests I have are Latin American Mormon Studies, and the intersection of ichthyology and Mormon history. BYU Studies is a main source of quality works exploring those topics (though I’d certainly like to see more on the piscine practices of the peculiar people).
As could be expected (and is welcome), a majority of the articles are from BYU faculty and Church employees. But, significantly, BYU Studies publishes a good number of academic works that come from without BYU (and outside the church). For example, Charles L. Cohen, director of the Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions, is an exciting scholar who has recently given attention to Mormon Studies (see the latest Journal of Mormon History for his excellent MHA 2005 Tanner Lecture, “Jews, Gentiles, Israel, and the Construction of the Mormon People”). Cohen wrote God’s Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience, and last year (in 44:1), BYU Studies published his “No Man Knows My Psychology: Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith, and Psychoanalysis.” As the title suggests, Cohen criticizes Brodie’s use of (or failure to use) psychoanalysis.
For those worried that the publication might have an editorial viewpoint that would overly squelch negative historical information, consider that in Ron Walker’s biography of Heber J. Grant (which takes up all of issue 43:1, 2004), he tells the story of Rachel Ivins’ (Heber’s mother) response to a proposal to marry Joseph Smith. Reportedly, upon learning that Joseph wanted to marry her polygamously, Rachel said she would “sooner go to hell as a virtuous woman than to heaven as a whore” (p. 22). Rachel married Jedediah Grant 15 years later, after having left the church for 10 years. Prior to marrying Jedediah, apparently “Brigham Young insisted she first be ‘eternally sealed’ by proxy to [Joseph Smith], “apparently to satisfy any obligation owing Joseph” (p. 26).
BYU Studies, like the Journal of Mormon History and Dialogue, has a double-blind peer-review process, with reviewers that come from within and without the BYU and Mormon communities. The result is a quality academic publication, which I feel admirably achieves its objective stated in the publication and on its web site: “BYU Studies, Involving readers in the Latter-day Saint academic experience.” The cost of an annual subscription is only $25 (and just $10 for BYU faculty/staff). Like its Mormon Studies siblings, past issues are available online, with the exception of the last several years (so as to encourage you to pay for current content). For those interested in saving paper or shelf space, BYU Studies has had plans to offer an on-line subscription (an option currently only available with Dialogue and Sunstone), but I haven’t heard when that might actually happen.