BCC Papers 5/2: Smith, ‘Suspensive’ Historiography

Is “Suspensive” Historiography the Only Legitimate Kind?

Christopher C. Smith*

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I am a PhD student at Claremont Graduate University, doing History of Religions in North America, with a particular focus on Mormon Studies.  I also happen not to be a Mormon.  I have never been a Mormon.  My interest in Mormonism is academic, and I’m especially interested in Joseph Smith.  Joseph Smith is a fascinating puzzle to me, and I have struggled to make sense of who he was and what motivated him to do the things he did.

That of course puts me in a difficult position, because here at Claremont I am surrounded by believing Mormons, and so I’m constantly aware of the risk that the way I make sense of Joseph Smith and the Mormon movement may be offensive to some of my friends and colleagues here.

As a result, I’ve thought a lot about this question of whether it’s legitimate for me as a scholar and a historian to talk about LDS truth claims.  Is it legitimate for me to express views about Joseph Smith that fly in the face of what Mormons believe?  Will this be perceived as an attack?  Will I be considered biased and anti-Mormon by my colleagues?

My Mormon colleagues here at CGU face a similar problem, but from the opposite direction.  If they speak as faithful Mormons from a position of belief in the Church, they run the risk of alienating non-Mormons, of being labeled biased apologists, and of being seen as non-academic and perhaps even unemployable by secular universities.

We often try to alleviate these anxieties by doing what’s called “suspensive historiography”.  Suspensive historiography is when we “suspend” or “bracket” faith questions and truth claims in our scholarship, and try to focus on neutral issues that everyone can agree on.  In fact, many have argued that this is the one, true way to do religious history.

In this paper, I’d like to argue that suspensive historiography is not the only legitimate kind.  Granted, I’m not saying that we always have to talk about truth claims, or even that they should be a major focus of our scholarship.  Clearly there are other important issues we can talk about that don’t involve truth claims.  But, should we sometimes be willing to talk about truth claims?  I absolutely think we should.

So, I’d like to begin by discussing the wrong reasons to do suspensive historiography, then move on to some better reasons to do suspensive historigraphy, and then finally close with some reasons why I think sometimes it’s better not to take a suspensive approach at all.

First, I’ll start with four bad arguments for why we should bracket truth claims in our historical scholarship.

  1. The first is the Empirical Argument, which says that religious belief is theological, not empirical.  Since historians can only talk about empirical claims, truth claims fall outside our job description.  There are two big problems with this argument.
  • The first problem is that many truth claims do have an empirical component, and this is especially true of Mormonism.  On Mormon Scholars Testify, Richard Bushman says the following: “I admire the empiricism of Mormon belief. By that I mean that it is open to empirical testing, using concrete evidence. . . . Hundreds of books and articles have been written arguing one way or the other. Scores of scholars labor away on the question. The issue is hotly debated. Tons of evidence are brought to bear.  I like the willingness of Mormon scholars to pursue the question. . . . They are actively putting their faith on the line. They take the risk of failing. I admire their courage, and furthermore their arguments must be taken seriously.”[1] I agree with Richard that the empiricism of Mormon belief is admirable.  I also agree and that the arguments of Mormon apologists must be taken seriously, and in fact I’ve spent quite a bit of my own time interacting with them online. I actually think my activities in this regard are flattering to the Church.  If I felt the arguments for the truth of the Church weren’t even worth my time, that would be offensive.  But when those arguments are persuasive enough to force someone like me to defend my decision not to be a believer, that’s something to be proud of, not to get offended about.
  • The second problem with the empirical argument is that it’s not actually possible for a historian to limit him/herself only to “empirical” claims.  The moment one moves from the evidence to a claim about the evidence—which is in the historian’s job description—one leaves the empirical realm behind and moves into a realm of subjective speech that will necessarily be colored by one’s perspectives, ideologies, and beliefs.  It’s simply not possible to do valueless interpretation.  This leads me to the second bad argument for suspensive historiography, which is that

2. Historians should just report the facts, and leave interpretation up to the reader.

  • Like the first argument, this one is very problematic.  If we actually did this, it would make for a pretty boring history book: a list of names and dates, with no narrative and no attempt to make sense of it all.  And that’s assuming it can even be done.  We don’t always actually know what the facts are, or which facts are important.  We’re engaged in subjective interpretation the moment we start making decisions about such things.
  • But leave the philosophical problems aside for a moment, and think about this: are people forced to agree with you about something just because you wrote it in your book?  No, obviously not.  In fact, if what you really want is for readers to draw their own conclusions, then the best strategy is probably to make as many controversial claims as you possibly can.  If you tell someone a fact, you’re not even going to get their attention long enough for them to draw conclusions about it.  But if you give a controversial interpretation of a fact, then now you’ve attached significance to that fact and given people a motivation to draw contrary conclusions.

3. The third bad argument for suspensive historiography is that historians should tell stories the way that the historical actors themselves understood them.  There are a couple problems with this.

  • First of all, our access to the minds of historical actors isn’t any more direct than our access to the empirical historical facts.  We get into their heads only by engaging in a process of study, inference, and interpretation, and those decisions may be strongly influenced by our perspectives on LDS truth claims.  A believing historian will probably conclude that Joseph Smith understood himself to really be a prophet doing God’s will.  A non-believing historian might conclude that Joseph was deliberately manipulating people in order to have sex with them and get their money.  Both these historians are telling Joseph’s story the way they believe he himself understood it, but they’re not suspending anything.  Their beliefs about Mormon truth claims are still totally coloring their narratives.
  • And anyway, the claim that this is the best way to do history is pretty questionable from the get-go. Presumably, the whole reason we’re studying people like Joseph Smith in the first place is because they have some meaning or significance for us. We want to know what their relevance is for us in the twenty-first century, not just how they understood themselves in the times in which they lived.

4. The fourth bad argument is the Pragmatic Argument, which says that what’s important about religion is not whether it’s true, but how it functions.

  • I will say that of the four bad arguments, this is the one I most sympathize with.  Pragmatic, phenomenological questions about the functioning of religion are definitely important and worthy of attention.
  • But obviously a lot of people would disagree that these are the only important questions.  In fact, the effective functioning of a religion usually lies precisely in its claim to truth.  The question of function also still leaves us to ask questions like, “Can people really get healed by priesthood blessings? Does prayer really get results?” These are very pragmatic questions, even though they have serious implications for the truth claims of the Church. So, a full investigation of a religion’s function really has to also grapple with its truth.

So, those are the four bad arguments. In my opinion, these arguments are really just excuses.  They serve as a cover for the real reasons we don’t want to talk about truth claims.  So if you should suddenly feel the urge to be honest with your readers next time you’re writing the methodology section for your magnum opus in Mormon history, here are some reasons you might give for doing suspensive historiography:

  1. Sheer market forces dictate we should appeal to the widest possible audience, which means it’s not really good business practice to alienate large portions of your customer base.
  2. Political correctness dictates that we shouldn’t offend people. When we do offend people, we run the risk of compromising our academic respectability in the eyes of potential employers.
  3. Even though most of us in this room know better than to believe in objectivity, there’s no guarantee that publishers or employers will be equally enlightened.  So we have an economic incentive to try to appear as objective as possible.

All of these are perfectly legitimate reasons to do suspensive historiography.  Granted, putting them in the methodology section of your next book may expose you as a self-interested careerist with mouths to feed at home.  But I can’t blame anyone who finds these reasons compelling.  There are three more reasons that are pretty good as well:

  1. First, those of us who are of a compassionate nature also tend not to want to inflict doubt and uncertainty on other people, because we know from personal experience how unsettling these feelings can be.
  2. Second, there’s a fear that these truth questions are just too divisive, and we may end up with a discipline that’s basically bifurcated between believers and non-believers.  I don’t think it has to be this way, but some people are very sensitive to criticism, and other people are very tactless when dealing with sensitive issues.  So yes, it is very possible that opening the floodgates on these issues could lead to some ruptures in the discipline.  It has happened before, and it could happen again.
  3. Third, there’s the argument from personal interest.  Some people just don’t find religious truth-claims interesting or compelling enough to argue about.

Again, these reasons are perfectly legitimate and understandable, and I don’t blame those who find them compelling.  But notice that these aren’t normative, philosophical reasons so much as personal, practical ones.  Unlike the four bad arguments I critiqued at the beginning of my paper, these don’t suggest that suspensive historiography is the only legitimate kind, and they don’t create the false appearance of neutrality or objectivity.  If we do choose to do suspensive historiography, in my opinion we’d do well to stop masking our motives behind pseudo-philosophical justifications, and start just being honest about the anxieties, preferences, and market forces that are really motivating us.

And now, finally, I’d like to suggest a few reasons to give up on suspensive historiography altogether.

  1. Audiences are actually interested in truth claims.  Even hostile audiences will often read a book that does a good job of arguing some controversial point.  Frankly, suspensive historiography is a little bit elitist.  It’s history for historians, not for the average person.  The average person is interested in religious history precisely because of truth claims, and isn’t going to read a book or article that doesn’t have some kind of implication for matters of ultimate concern.
  2. Being honest and discussing our religious views in a straightforward way may actually help build bridges between people with different views.  When we’re very clear about our views and our reasons for them, differences become more understandable, more acceptable, and less threatening.
  3. If we bracket truth claims, we’re actually doing a disservice to the religion we’re studying.  It’s tremendously patronizing; we’re basically saying, “your religion is just too fragile to hold up under serious examination, so we’re going to treat you as delicately as possible.”  I really liked something Richard Bushman said in class one day.  He said, “We shouldn’t underestimate the strength of these traditions.”  I absolutely agree with Richard about that.  A little healthy criticism actually helps religious traditions renew and innovate in some very fruitful ways.
  4. The truth or falsity or religion is not a trivial matter, no matter which side of the fence you’re standing on.  Besides eternal salvation, there are important social, political, and moral issues at stake.  If we minimize the importance of religious truth claims, we’re also minimizing the importance of the religious community and again doing a disservice to that community.

So, with all of these reasons in mind, I personally am not a believer in suspensive historiography.  Obviously I think we need to be respectful, fair, and responsible in the way we deal with sensitive issues, but I don’t think we should avoid them altogether.  Let’s not “bracket” this important part of the historical conversation.


* The author has a BA from Fresno Pacific University in Biblical Studies, an MA from Wheaton College in History of Christianity, and is pursuing a PhD from Claremont Graduate University in Religions in North America.

[1] Richard Lyman Bushman, “Reasons,” available from http://mormonscholarstestify.org/396/richard-lyman-bushman [accessed April 23, 2010].

Comments

  1. aloysiusmiller says:

    Do you think that somehow you will be unique if you don’t believe and say so?

  2. “Will I be considered biased and anti-Mormon by my colleagues?”

    If they see your MADB posts, probably.

  3. #1 Do you think that somehow you will be unique if you don’t believe and say so?

    Oh, he knows he’s not unique for that.

    Chris, I really liked this:

    I actually think my activities in this regard are flattering to the Church. If I felt the arguments for the truth of the Church weren’t even worth my time, that would be offensive. But when those arguments are persuasive enough to force someone like me to defend my decision not to be a believer, that’s something to be proud of, not to get offended about.

    So, I know you’ve never attended BYU, but how “Mormon” is the environment at Claremont? Does it sound anything like my experiences being an inside-outsider at BYU? I assumed there was a better blend of NOMish, liberal, or ex-Mormons at Claremont, but your description is making me think otherwise.

    This could be a dumb question as I’m still very green to the different historical methodologies out there, but something they encourage a lot here at TEDS as a tool for bypassing the question of truth claims is reception history, i. e. “I’m not claiming that God caused the Great Awakening, I’m just talking about how the Christians at the time perceived God as the force behind the Great Awakening.” How does that compare to suspensive historiography?

  4. I’d have to see to what extent your focus would on truth claims. I honestly think that most “truth” questions would be tangential to a historian’s goals. For instance, I am not so much interested in debating the divine nature of Joseph Smith’s revelations as I am about what they tell us about the broader antebellum culture. I also think that you are creating a little bit of a straw-man with some “suspensive” rationales. Most importantly, I think I disagree with what you seem to be implying is the “most important part of the historical conversation.”

    That said, I do think that these are important questions, and though you don’t cite him, Stephen Prothero makes a persuasive case for a more moderate version of what you are arguing for here.

    Also: I’m especially open to how you do this, because I haven’t read anything of yours that would deserve an anti-mormon label–even at the MADB.

  5. Grant Hardy says:

    I wonder if these sorts of concerns about truth claims aren’t at least in part a function of studying religious traditions that are still rather close to our own beliefs (even atheists in America have a stake in the truth claims of their Christian neighbors). In my academic work, I am very interested in the subjective religious viewpoints and experiences of Hindus, Daoists, and Buddhists, along with the historical development of those traditions, but arguments about the truth or falsity of their beliefs seem less pressing to me.

  6. Hi Ben,

    I’ve tried to avoid MADB lately because personality conflicts there tend to bring out the worst in all parties, including me. However, I have found the board useful in challenging me to see things from a believing perspective, and refine my views and arguments to take that perspective into account.

    Note that I said truth questions are an important part, not the most important part, of the historical conversation. I don’t plan to spend my life debating whether or not Joseph Smith is a prophet. But I do think that question holds some interest, particularly for popular audiences. And while historians shouldn’t always just be crowd-pleasers, we also can’t be completely oblivious to supply and demand.

    I also happen to be most interested in telling those historical stories about Joseph Smith that have to do with his motivations, the way his mind worked, the way he constructed his religious views, and some of the fun/weird things he said and did. In telling these stories from a non-believing perspective, I do feel some obligation to at least minimally justify my non-believing perspective, and to pay close attention to good arguments against that perspective. Contrary to the implication of some published works on philosophy of history, such perspectives are not a priori. Usually there is a rationale behind them. I think the best chance of “bridging the gap” between believing and non-believing historians may be to encourage understanding of each other’s rationales, and even engagement on these questions that may move us all closer to the “middle of the road” (as has happened for me as I have engaged in such discussions over the years).

    On the flip side, I think there should be venues where it is kosher for believing historians to draw out theological implications from their work, or to help their readers reconcile historical difficulties with their faith. You have to know your audience, of course, but meaning-making is the point of the historical discipline, and theological and religious meaning-making certainly have a place in that enterprise.

    Peace,

    -Chris

  7. Jack,

    There’s a very strong liberal/NOM contingent at CGU, but there are also some TBMs. I don’t want anyone to get me wrong, though. I feel quite at home there, and when we do our Mormon Studies student lunches I have never felt marginalized.

    As for focusing on the perceptions of historical persons about the meaning of events rather than on the actual meaning of events, that is one of the strategies people use to do suspensive historiography. But as I noted in my paper, this doesn’t get us around every problem, because of course believers and non-believers may disagree as robustly about the perceptions of historical persons as about the actual meaning of events. See Bushman’s Joseph Smith biography for a good example of a work that takes this “perceptions” tack but still ends up alienating some non-believing readers because they disagree on the question of how Joseph Smith perceived himself. (Not that I personally feel particularly alienated by that work. I think it’s great.)

    Peace,

    -Chris

  8. As for Prothero, what he’s argued is a little different, because he’s talking about making moral judgments rather than truth-oriented theological/religious ones. But I do find his argument fairly persuasive, and I think there are some great examples of the kind of work he’s called for– most notably Harry Stout’s Upon the Altar of a Nation.

  9. Disclosure can atone for a variety of historiographical sins. A historian who prefaces her narrative with (1) a clear statement of her own personal perspective on the events or issues covered, and (2) a general description of the approach taken in the narrative, whether suspensive or not, gives the reader very helpful information. It’s more than historians used to disclose to readers. It doesn’t achieve full objectivity (what does?), but it at least informs the reader, who can then better make their own judgments while going through the book.

    How about a practical example? How would you evaluate Remini’s performance with his short Joseph Smith biography a few years ago? He clearly took a suspensive approach, but the book seemed to succeed quite nicely as a short and relatively neutral but informative biography that appealed to a broad range of readers, both LDS and non-LDS. I understand that you might take a different approach if you wrote your own short bio of Joseph Smith, but it’s hard to see how you can fault Remini.

  10. I found Remini’s portrait of Joseph Smith uninspiring, myself. Say what you will about Fawn Brodie, but her biography was at least bold and fascinating, in a way that left you hungry to engage and learn more. Remini doesn’t achieve that. Which isn’t to say that his biography is without value. I think there’s room and demand in the discipline for both approaches.

    I agree with you about the importance of disclosure.

  11. Maybe a non-believer could study truth claims, but I think for a believer, it would be harder to be taken seriously if that was his/her academic approach.

  12. Personally, my big concern when I read history isn’t the bias of the historian or whether she’s taking a “suspensive” approach. I don’t even mind an “agenda”, necessarily. I just want to feel like I have some ability to judge the strength of the narrative constructed. I don’t want the historian to suspend judgment. I want the strong arguments and supporting evidence — and then I want the strongest counter-arguments, especially the parts the historian can’t adequately explain away. If you’re going to play connect-the-dots for me, then tell me why you pick that particular order and what the most likely alternatives might suggest. I’m tired of that suspicious feeling I have that the strong argument is being made not just on supportive evidence, but by the omission of contradictory evidence.

    And yes, I think that can be done in a way that doesn’t result in a boring all-inclusive tome.

  13. mmiles,

    There may be some truth to that. There are lots of Mormon scholars who do apologetics and are still respected, but of course their apologetics are usually a side-interest, and only get published with presses or journals that specialize in that sort of thing. I suppose it’s a matter of audience. In order to be employable, scholars have to be able to appeal to an audience with many different perspectives. Writing “faithful” scholarship narrows one’s audience quite a bit.

    Martin,

    I can get on board with that.

  14. CS,
    There in lies the problem. Believers encountering truth claim approaches may become suspicious that those who don’t share their beliefs are simply skeptics trying to discredit them. Academics who don’t believe most likely will view some truth claim studies by believers as apologetic.
    Do you see a way around this besides attitude change by all sides? Is that even possible?

  15. mmiles,

    Part of what my paper was designed to accomplish was to help catalyze just such an attitude change. I have no illusions that I will be able to achieve such a thing on my own, but perhaps if many people catch the vision, it could happen.

    I think a good place to start is for the people who write about truth claims to do very good, respectful, balanced, and responsible scholarship. That would go a long way toward increasing the respect that such works are accorded.

    Above I said, “In order to be employable, scholars have to be able to appeal to an audience with many different perspectives.” That’s only really true of being employed at a secular university, actually. Almost the exact opposite is true of religious universities. I am not likely to be employed at Wheaton or BYU anytime soon, whereas many active apologists are employed by those institutions. So I guess it’s not so much a matter or being employable vs. being unemployable as by whom you hope to be employed.

    Perhaps even if this division of employment remains, higher levels of respect and engagement across party lines can be achieved.

    Peace,

    -Chris

  16. Interesting thoughts. I sensed some of Bushman’s description of his handling of Joseph Smith in your paper. He endeavors to understand Joseph Smith as he understood himself. At the same time I think Bushman presents outsider perspectives, so to speak, which is something about RSR that some members of the LDS Church find troubling. Further, I think Bushman endeavors to tell his story by using Joseph’s perspective as much as it can be teased from the historical record. In that regard I find Bushman’s work to be very compelling based on the source material.

    Chris, I appreciated your point in the comment #6, “On the flip side, I think there should be venues where it is kosher for believing historians to draw out theological implications from their work, or to help their readers reconcile historical difficulties with their faith. You have to know your audience, of course, but meaning-making is the point of the historical discipline, and theological and religious meaning-making certainly have a place in that enterprise.”

    I completely agree. Some folks might pejoratively cast such things as being “apologetic,” as though there is a dichotomy between academics and apologetics rather than a continuum.

  17. *add to:

    “..as though there is a dichotomy between academics and apologetics rather than a continuum….And the most important difference seems to me to be the kind of questions that are being asked in such cases.

  18. Chris,

    As one who is pretty sold on the bracketing idea let me offer a response. I find that the bracket frees scholars from the rehash of very old and tired debates. Fighting over truth claims, I’ve found, generally makes for a very narrow view of things. Fawn Brodie said almost nothing new. With the bracket, I have quite a few new things to say in my research.

  19. MikeInWeHo says:

    What’s MADB?

  20. Blair,

    I agree. Insofar as apologetics is grounded in rational argumentation, it certainly qualifies as academic scholarship.

    Steve,

    I have to disagree that Brodie said almost nothing new. She followed in the same interpretive vein as Riley, certainly, but she added a great deal to Riley’s portrait. I’m surprised to even hear you say that, quite honestly.

    Anyway, how does bracketing free scholars from old and tired debates? Historians squabble over questions that have nothing to do with religion just as vigorously as they do the religious questions. And scholars who are interested in truth claims are constantly finding new angles and questions to be asked. I think it’s a caricature to see the suspensive approach as leading to the fresh and original, and the non-suspensive approach as leading to the old and tired. I suspect the ingenuity of the arguments has much more to do with the ingenuity of the researcher than with whether s/he is interested in truth claims or not.

    Also, you can produce all the original research in the world, but people are only likely to read it if you make them care. The truth-claim debate has gotten a lot of attention because people care about it, just as the debates over the Founding and the merits of the New Deal have. People are much hungrier for original material on these topics than they are for, say, a groundbreaking study of 20th century Mormon migration patterns. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Or at least, that’s this libertarian’s less-than-humble opinion. ;-)

    Peace,

    -Chris

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Mike, MADB stands for Mormon Apologetics Discussion Board, and may be found at mormonapologetics.org.

  22. I don’t know Chris, it does seem that things get rehashed a lot. What good examples would you point too? No doubt people are passionate about it, that why I see bracketing as liberating.

    Not really my interest.

  23. Hi Steve,

    Some good examples of recent “original” work bearing on truth claims are Vogel’s psychobiography, the Edwards and Edwards chiasmus study, Dan Peterson’s “Nephi’s Asherah,” and much of the ongoing work on Freemasonry and magic in early Mormonism.

    If such things don’t interest you, though, I can’t really argue with that. I’m just trying to clear some space for such work to be considered a legitimate enterprise.

    Peace,

    -Chris

  24. Actually, most of the topics interest me (I have some reservations about Vogel). Me dissertation is going to be on Joseph Smith and all this stuff. I’m just not interested in fighting over truth claims.

  25. There’s a subtext of “fighting over truth claims” in all the works I mentioned.

  26. I don’t even mind an “agenda”, necessarily. I just want to feel like I have some ability to judge the strength of the narrative constructed. I don’t want the historian to suspend judgment. I want the strong arguments and supporting evidence — and then I want the strongest counter-arguments, especially the parts the historian can’t adequately explain away. If you’re going to play connect-the-dots for me, then tell me why you pick that particular order and what the most likely alternatives might suggest

    I feel the same way.

    I also think that any good historical mass needs a variety of approaches and perspectives. One of the problems with studying Joseph Smith is that there is not a good historical mass (my term for lots and lots of analysis of varying kinds, approaches and conclusions). The actual mass is very small, and many of the large players have little connection with their sources (reading collections of the sources for Brodie’s footnotes, for example, leads one to dispair of her writing and conclusions — if she gets so far off on the journey from source to citation, what is really left?).

    Wish you luck.

  27. Chris,

    How would you apply your approach to the question whether Jesus existed? Or whether he was really resurrected? Or was really the Son of God? Or even that Jesus even taught that He was God’s son?

    Or, how about similar questions as to Moses? Or as to Mohammed? Or Joan of Arc?

    I suppose one difference is that there are more primary documents available about Joseph (and maybe Joan of Arc) than there are about Jesus or Moses. (Not sure about Mohammed.) So the historicity of Joseph’s and Joan’s existence is established, with alternate contemporary viewpoints and evidence about their prophetic (or alleged or fraudulent) prophetic missions.

  28. Hi David,

    Yes, I agree that there is more evidence with regard to Joseph Smith, which makes it easier to make arguments about truth claims without seeming to go beyond your evidence. However, there has been some work done on those questions that is considered good and mainstream. For example, James K. Hoffmeier’s apologetic work on Moses and the Exodus is very well respected in the Biblical Studies field. So is a lot of the work on the historical Jesus, which is often similarly motivated by an interest in Christian truth claims.

    I’d suggest that there are some important questions that cannot be adequately argued or answered, due to a dearth of evidence. A subset of those questions will involve some religious truth claims. However, this is a long way from the common claim that historians can say nothing at all about any religious truth claims on account of their inherently non-empirical nature. We shouldn’t confuse a lack of evidence in a few cases with a universal philosophical truism.

    Hope that helps,

    -Chris

  29. Ron Bartholomew says:

    Chris,

    I hope you are still reading these postings. Thank you for your treatment of the subject above. I was recently at Claremont (MSH Conference) and heard from either Richard or Claudia that your dissertation topic is something to do with Mormons and Native Americans. Is this true? Have you any published papers and or etc.?

    Thank you,
    Ron

  30. Hi Ron,

    Yes, I probably will be writing on Mormons and Indians. (Though I’m debating whether I should get away from Mormon topics altogether for the sake of my future employability!) And yes, I have been published. I’ve got an essay on the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar in the 2009 JWHA Journal, a piece on religious pluralism in the JRRT, and a few papers forthcoming in Dialogue and Sunstone in the coming months. You can also hear me on a couple episodes of the Mormon Expression podcast.

    Richard and Claudia are awesome, by the way. :-)

    Peace,

    -Chris

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