Dialogue 40/3 (2007)

The fall issue of Dialogue is printed. The following is a brief review of this issue’s scholarly articles:

September_2007_400331. Randolph G. Muhlestein, ” The Case against Same-Sex Marriage”

40. H. Wayne Schow, “A Case for Same-Sex Marriage: Reply to Randolph Muhlestein”
With these two articles we have something that is very good for Dialogue and its readers. The authors approach the highly politicized topic from polar positions and with polar approaches. Muhlestein assembled and cataloged the conservative arguments while Schow responds viscerally. A T&S discussion on the articles only garnished 18 comments, perhaps as a sign that the those who have at other times endlessly debated the issue are content to let it rest.

68. John Matzko, “The Encounter of the Young Joseph Smith with Presbyterianism”
In a time when most Americans can’t discern between Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal or Baptist, it is hard to understand what it was that sparked Joseph’s intense feelings on the religions of his day. Matko does a nice job in reviewing Joseph’s intersection with the Presbyterian movement and what that actually means. I picked up a new connection relating to the dedication of the Kirtland Temple and he wrapped up the article with what I believe is one of the most important themes of the early restoration: the iconoclasm against Calvinism.

85. Clayton M. White and Mark D. Thomas, “On Balancing Faith in Mormonism with Traditional Biblical Stories: The Noachian Flood Story” (available for free at the Dialogue website)
This was a fascinating paper; though I am more intrigued by the history of the paper than the content. Apparently this paper, written by BYU professors, was submitted to BYU Studies and after years of review was accepted only to be later rejected. When considering the content of the paper (an introduction to the flood narrative, an outline of the scientific impossibility of a world-wide flood, and a brief look at the ramifications of such a position on the Church) one can imagine why it might have been controversial.

Really, scientifically, it is a fairly light work. The science considered in the study is mostly biological in nature, which is compelling, but represents only part of the evidence. Actually, I wish this paper were published in BYU Studies, but I am happy that it was published at all. I understand that this article might be the focus of some discussion at a future Mormon Studies gathering.

112. David J. Howlett, “The Death and Resurrection of the RLDS Zion: A Case Study in Failed Prophecy, 1930 to 1970”
Dave blogged with us for a little bit this summer (here, here and here) and is found wielding some of his Religious Studies skillz in an analysis of some restorationist history with which most of us are completely unfamiliar. The RLDS church in the late-early 1900’s engaged in a syncretic program of establishing communal living projects under the banner of Zion. Not dissimilar from most communal projects, they failed quite readily and Howlett looks at how the community of faithful reacts.

134. Henri Gooren, “Latter-day Saints under Siege: The Unique Experience of Nicaraguan Mormons” (available for free at the Dialogue website)
Great demographic data. A brief yet solid history of the Church in Nicaragua. Enough said. T&S hosted a discussion tangential to the article.

Book Reviews
Marshall Hamilton reviews Richard Bushman’s On the Road with Joseph Smith.

Jeffrey Needle reviews Rodney Stark and Reid Neilson’s The Rise of Mormonism


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the great little review, J. My copy arrived just before I flew out to Boston, so it’s in my bag and I expect to at least start it on the flight home.

  2. A T&S discussion on the articles only garnished 18 comments

    Sadly I think this is more a sign that a limited number of bloggers subscribe to Dialogue…

  3. I let my subscription lapse, but I am going to have to get a hold of a copy to read David Howlett’s article and the one about the flood.

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    I’m looking forward to the same-sex marriage discussion!

  5. Aaron Brown says:

    I had hoped that White’s and Thomas’ piece would be THE article I’ve always wished someone in the Church would write. But it would have been much more compelling if it had been much more exhaustive and dealt with a number of other issues.

    I can’t figure out if I’m suprised or not surprised that BYU Studies wouldn’t publish it. Is this stuff really THAT controversial in 2007? I guess so. If there’s a larger story about BYU Studies’ problem with it, which there must be, I would love to hear it.

    Aaron B

  6. I agree, Howlett’s article was a skillful treatment of a fascinating topic, Matzko’s piece was a thoughtful piece of denominational history at the intersections, I was delighted to have articles in Dialogue actually in dialog. I found the most important and interesting part of the Noah article to be the brief explanation of the publication history of the piece. It seemed to me that it was a composite of what could have been two interesting articles (reception history of modern geology and scientific approaches to the flood and an LDS environmental ethics grounded in the Noachian covenant) and one fairly unoriginal article (reviewing the scientific reasons to reject a world-wide flood and a nod to current Biblical scholarship on the subject) that had trouble coming into clear focus. Mostly I was surprised that a metaphorical or limited flood would meet with resistance in contemporary LDS circles, but that would have been better treated in a formal and analytical reception history.

    That said, this was a wonderful issue of Dialogue, and the entire board deserves congratulations and more subscriptions. Keep up the good work.

  7. Christopher Smith says:

    >> Mostly I was surprised that a metaphorical or limited flood would meet with resistance in contemporary LDS circles

    Doesn’t the placement of the Garden in Missouri pretty much require a global flood?

  8. Levi will lead a panel discussing the Noachian Flood and the publication of the article in Dialogue at the Northwest Sunstone Symposium October 13. Check the Sunstone site for details within the next few days.

    Those interested in gay issues should check out the panel led by Ron Schow as well.

    Hope many of you can be there! Please note Friday night will be at the usual spot, my home, but Sat will be at a new and bigger site hopefully to accommodate a crowd. It’s a test; please don’t let us fail.

  9. I’m surprised that the flood article made no mention of Donald Parry’s January 1998 Ensign article on the flood (and the Tower of Babel).

  10. Doesn’t the placement of the Garden in Missouri pretty much require a global flood?

    Adam-ondi-Ahman. That would be a nice poll topic, complementing Ronan’s current poll on the flood. I’m guessing the poll and results would turn out something like this:

    A. I think it is likely that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri. (18%)
    B. I think it is likely the Garden of Eden was located in the Middle East. (45%)
    C. I think Joseph’s placement of the Garden of Eden in Missouri is a fascinating example of how the early Mormons were Old Testament primitivists, re-creating for themselves and re-living significant Old Testament places, events, and practices. (55%)
    D. I view the story of the Garden of Eden as a powerful myth and not a historical depiction of actual events; I’m just fine giving this set of useful metaphors a setting in Missouri. (22%)

  11. That just like us BCC readers, always giving 140% ;>

  12. I was a little disappointed the White and Thomas article had no geology, but I guess that is someone else’s job. I shouldn’t complain if biologists focus exclusively on biology, but geology ought to come up somewhere in an article about an ancient flood. The first geology-free clue was to find the word Noachian in the title for a science article dealing with Earth and not Mars.

  13. The weakness of a biologically-centered article against Noah’s flood is that there is little specifically flood-related to it. It is mostly just a bunch of arguments against young Earth creation served as leftovers. “Existing species couldn’t have propagated from an initiation of life 7,000 years ago, and, oh yeah, paring down to a shipload of mating pairs sometime since then wouldn’t work either.”