Why I would give a Dialogue subscription for Christmas?

Dialogue has impacted my religious experience a great deal.  I recall reading Marilyn White’s article ‘Making sense of suffering‘ and coming across these lines: we must become ‘comfortable with not making sense of suffering’ and we must realise ‘that we don’t have all the answers and that contradiction and unfairness is part of mortality’.  When I first read this, I had recently been called to a responsibility that would require me to serve a diverse group of people and respond with empathy and love to their pain and suffering.  This article gave me a vision of how to best serve those suffering Saints that I would encounter and it prepared me to learn other lessons about empathy.

Additionally, I have seen material from Dialogue influence the lives of other people.  Over the last nine months our ward has had a discussion group.  Most of the articles we have used so far have come from the Dialogue back-catalogue.  Following our discussion on ‘Women in the Church’, in which we considered articles from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Claudia Bushman, I have seen a noticeable difference in how often women are used as a source of doctrine in our meetings.  A few of the participants have specifically told me that they feel the need to find and use literature from women in our lessons and classes.  This may seem like a small change, and it is really, but it has had a positive impact upon how some of the women in our ward feel, and that is something worth celebrating.  More than this, one participant enrolled in a college course because she felt that she was not fulfilling her potential as a result of something Claudia had written.

There are others who can express more eloquently than I why Dialogue is important, but I am convinced that this journal has articles, poetry and personal essays that will enrich and sustain the spiritual lives of those members of the Church who are inclined toward such things.  There are still a few days left till Christmas and I am sure some of us have not completed all of our shopping just yet.  This might be the perfect time to buy that Dialogue subscription for someone you know.

Comments

  1. Steve Evans says:

    What I tell my friends is that Dialogue is not only an important journal for Mormons, it’s interesting and surprising. It’s just a fun experience to read very smart pieces by very talented members.

  2. Aaron–thanks for this.

    Your anecdotes are heartening to me, because they fit what I see as the most important possibilities for Dialogue: to simply tell the truth, but “tell it slant”; to let people think about a theological or sociological or scriptural puzzle differently; to make just a little breathing room in a place where the institutional church might pinch; to shift perception in the infinitesimal ways that end up making the earth wobble on its axis.

  3. Dialogue’s approach in its early days was seen as somewhat edgy, containing materials that were somewhat challenging to traditional viewpoints within Mormonism, but at the same time done for the most part within and atmosphere that was friendly to Mormonism as an object of study. Looking back, I can recall my father talking to a couple of LDS general authorities about Dialogue. Their opinion was not precisely suspicious, but certainly cautious about the effect of the idea in Church culture and devotion. The notion of a scholarly approach to Mormonism was not a comfortable one.

    When I discovered Dialogue, I found it stimulating, and yes perhaps a little edgy. But many articles, I can still remember exchanges involving Lou Midgley and Cleon Skousen, I saw as truly valuable to Mormons in general, not just the scholarly caste.

    Later, I think Dialogue jumped that wall separating Mormon studies from Mormon fringe advocacy and some rather ugly criticism. There was still great stuff in my opinion, but the editorial policy allowed the kind of material that I found less useful as scholarship. I think that also put the magazine out of reach for many Mormons who in previous years would have seen the journal as an important augmentation to their faith and likewise out of the hands of people who were looking for an “undogmatic” approach to the faith.

    That put Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought in a place nearly guaranteed to make its subscriber list shrink, and I think, made its reason for existing less tenable. Being seen as the voice of disaffected Mormonism is a persistent viewpoint. The present editor has worked to remove that sort of stigma but its definitely an uphill battle. Dialogue has to be both more and less than the home of the “dark side.”

    Can it be a home of great Mormon Scholarship? I think so. It already has been that on occasion. But now that would require moving out of the woodshed where it took itself. Will young Mormon studies scholars look at Dialogue as a legitimate place to display their work? I don’t think it’s ever been high on that list. But it certainly could be for some kinds of issues, I believe.

    I’d like to know where the leadership at Dialogue wants to see it go. Personally, I don’t want it to go away, but I’ve got limited time and it competes with a lot of other material for that time.

    That being said, I believe the journal has turned a corner, heading not just back to its roots, but perhaps to an even better place. Sure, you will find materials from the edge of Mormon orthodoxy written by people who are likewise in that place. But the editorial policy at Dialogue is in a good spot now I think. I’d like to see the glory days come back. But maybe I’m just nostalgic. Nevertheless I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. I’m going to subscribe in January, scouts honor.

  4. It’s worth noting, perhaps, that the author of the linked letter to the Board of Dialogue has himself published two papers in Dialogue since then. WVS, I think the best way to gauge the editorial tenor of Dialogue would be to submit a paper ;)

  5. I’m sure you are right.

  6. WVS, I like Dialogue and am glad to publish there, particularly when I have a piece that has a strongly Mormon intended audience. I consider myself orthodox and orthoprax (am I also affected? there I’m less certain). My view of the 1990s largely coincides with yours. And I think Kristine is a great editor.

  7. Kristine, what a beautiful description of the impact good writing can have on us. You have succintly captured the change that certain articles have brought to my life.

  8. smb, I agree that the Dialogue editor is a great editor. And according to the local Boston Branch of the Danites, she’s a pretty fine person too.

  9. I’d like to wish a Happy Festivus to the entire board and readership of Dialogue.

  10. This from Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul, discussing Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis and Other Writings: “Wilde’s notorious light wit turned dark in this long reflection affected by his experience of prison. For me, its importance lies in its Romantic reading of Christianity. Wilde may sound heretical, but it is always good to read heresies for the counterpoint they give orthodoxy, allowing us to hear the full music in any religion or philosophy.”

  11. Paul, it seems to me that’s especially true of Mormonism, where it’s nearly impossible to locate a unified and orthodox melodic line–I think it’s fair to say that Mormonism is essentially, rather than accidentally, polyphonic.

    (And I love De Profundis! I think I’d disagree with Moore maybe a little about the wit turning dark; there’s a certain Weltschmerziness even in a lot of Wilde’s things that are light on the surface)

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