From David Morris.
Shortly after arriving in my mission assignment, I quickly acquired the usual paraphernalia of posters, pictures and quotes. I have long forgotten most of them; however, one particular image comes to mind. It is the cartoon of a man sitting in a large armchair (I suppose a La-Z-Boy ) with its foot rest extended, watching general conference, with a 64 oz. drink in one hand, and a hot dog in the other with its condiment dripping down the man’s BYU sweater. The message from the speaker is to “Build Israel, Build Zion.” The caption from the attentive watcher is “Hurrah for Israel!” followed by “Honey, do we have any more chips?”
You might think what an obscure picture to paint in order to write about some of the scholarly work going on in the international arena; some might believe that this pertains to work extra-United States. For the purposes of this discussion, “international,” is taken to mean all nations, i.e., those in Germany, Italy, Russia or wherever consider work outside their own locale as international.
This is an exciting time for international Mormon studies, which is seeing the rise of new scholars, academics, and lay commentators who have previously not been part of the mainstream discussion. However, one of the difficulties of this growth is that it lacks the formal organisational experience, willing hands and importantly funding that other areas of Mormon research has received. That is not to say that there hasn’t been interest, I know for myself, having spoken with some established scholars concerning this expansion of international Mormon studies; they are always full of encouragement, enthusiasm and characteristically, a familiar phrase will cross those scholarly lips, “Someone, should really do something about it.” Occasionally, but not always there is active support from the established commentators in terms of conference attendance, financing and academic coaching. Besides those, however, have you ever wondered who that someone is? I’m not sure either but it reminds me of “Hurrah for Israel! Honey, do we have any more chips?”
Recently a number of endeavours have come to fruition that are paying dividends, such as the European Mormon Studies Association, founded by three young aspiring academics — who I understand will become hugely influential in the future — who even now are in the process of organising the third annual conference in Torino (Turin), Italy (which follows in the path of Worcester, England and Turku, Finland) and has brought together both Mormon and non-Mormon scholars from around the world to discuss international aspects of Mormonism. Such scholars include Armand L. Mauss, Douglas Davies, Massimo Introvigne and Heikki Räisänen among other distinguished academics. At each of these conferences, papers have been presented, some groundbreaking, while others illuminated already known subjects. With these efforts it has resulted in the need to compile proceedings of this work. One option was to create a journal that could publish these efforts, subsequently this saw the birth of the International Journal of Mormon Studies (IJMS). (A version of Mauss’s paper in volume one was also published in Dialogue.) It is this subject that I would like to focus on, briefly some of the progress and difficulties that arise.
The journal’s description contains the following blurb: “The International Journal of Mormon Studies is a European based internationally focused, peer-reviewed online and printed scholarly journal, which is committed to the promotion of interdisciplinary scholarship by publishing articles and reviews of current work in the field of Mormon studies. With high quality international contributors, the journal explores Mormon studies and its related subjects.” While, it is early days for the journal, the determination by some to make it work is exciting and reassuring.
For such an embryonic journal, difficulties quickly arose over strategy for print runs and international postage in light of sparse funding. For this reason the electronic “Open Journal” philosophy was adopted so that these important papers and issues could be made available electronically, free to all, particularly for those who either lacked the funds for a subscription, or have limited access to printed matter. Some still prefer to have a printed copy: this wish has been met through the means of Lulu.com who publish manuscripts and books on behalf of authors on an individual basis, also known less courteously as the vanity press. One advantage of lulu.com, is that they send the publication to a more local printer who subsequently sends it direct to the customer minimising overheads.
With a very small editorial team — who accept, edit, proof, copyedit, and compile the issues themselves, and then upload to the website, resolving difficulties as they arise — the journal in many respects is still in its incubation period. The next issue is due ‘soon’ providing the formatting issues can be resolved!
As an editorial team we welcome the experience of those who would like to contribute in managing, editing or proofing this effort. This endeavour is not meant to replace or even compete commercially with the other journals that deal with Mormonism, but to provide an avenue for those whose interest is in the international experience of Mormonism whether that is historical, philosophical, sociological, legalistic, and intellectual or whatever it might be. It is in many respects all hands on deck, after all there is little to be precious and pompous about. That said it remains the goal to publish articles and papers to a professional, academic and intellectual standard. It can be envisaged publishing two issues per year, one for the conference papers and another for the traditional submissions for an academic journal but that is some time off, let’s just see how it goes!
One thing that I am personal sensitive too is the possible criticism that we have chosen English as the de facto language, and I would hope that it does not smack of arrogance. It would be great if somehow papers could be translated into native languages or translated for different audiences. It certainly would not be “cricket old boy” as we say in Britain (translation = fair) if the attempt of organising this outward effort could attract an allegation of being insular on account of editing in one language. We would hope that our efforts are inclusive rather than exclusive, and orientated towards the Mormon and non-Mormon scholar. No doubt other posts will address the general philosophy of the journal and EMSA as an association, but maybe your comments might help fashion and direct this work further.