I occasionally try to push people to examine the Dialogue archives for the many treasures to be found therein. But I realize that is too general a suggestion. So I think that from time to time I’ll point you to a specific article for your consideration.
As it so happens, I just had occasion this morning to reread Russell B. Swensen, “Mormons at the University of Chicago Divinity School: A Personal Reminiscence,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 7/2 (Summer 1972): 37-47. (I wanted to refresh my recollection for a review I’m writing.) You can read the article here (navigate to it using the left hand pane.)
After his mission to the Southern States from 1919-1921, Sidney Sperry taught seminary, but he became deeply frustrated with his lack of knowledge of the Bible. He resolved to pursue graduate study at the University of Chicago Divinity School, one of the finest such institutions in the world. He counseled with the general authorities of the time, who were almost completely negative on the idea, but he resolved to push ahead anyway, earning his master’s in 1926 and doctorate in 1931, both in Old Testament.
Sperry was so impressive upon his return that the director of church education started a program of sending promising young church educators to the University of Chicago, beginning with three young students, of which the author of this article, Russell Swensen, was one. This is basically his memoir of what that experience was like. Others followed in their footsteps throughout the 1930s, but the program died promptly after the end of the decade, for reasons Swensen talks about.
Not only did LDS grad students head to Chicago, but quite a number of Chicago professors spent summers at BYU teaching Mormons. The article recounts one episode where the famous scholar Edgar Goodspeed was introduced as having recently spent time in Utah “trying to convert the Mormons,” and Goodspeed arose indignant and promptly launched into a vigorous defense of Mormons and Mormonism.
Today we have dozens and dozens of young LDS grad students pursuing advanced degrees in religiious fields. Over 40 of them attended the recent Yale conference. This article recounts a similarly heady time, if on a smaller scale.
It was published in 1972, which is before most of you were even born, so it is likely that many of you have never encountered this reminiscence before. This is just one illustration of what awaits you should you choose to spend some time in the dusty stacks of the past issues of Dialogue.