New Mormon Studies Journal starts in April

claremont-journal-mormon-studiesThe Claremont Graduate School’s Mormon Studies program has produced another contribution to the study of Mormonism: a student-run on-line journal. Which makes me wonder, how many Mormon Studies journals can be supported?

This new journal, the Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies, has already issued a call for papers and will begin accepting submissions February 19th. Its first issue is scheduled for April. I assume it will include at least 4 or 5 articles in each issue, and perhaps that many book reviews.

Perhaps where this journal is different is that it is oriented towards graduate student work: its call for articles and reviews says: “The journal particularly encourages students to submit Mormon studies-related papers completed during the course of class work in graduate school.” As such, this journal clearly has a unique place among academic journals of Mormon studies (although graduate work is clearly accepted elsewhere in Mormon Studies, which also has a long tradition of being open and accepting of work outside of the traditional academy).

The announcement inspired me to take a look at the academic journals of Mormon Studies. Here’s what I see:

Title Start Year Frequency # of Articles # of Reviews Notes
BYU Studies 1959 quarterly 6 3
Dialogue 1966 quarterly 4 3 none
Journal of Mormon History 1974 quarterly 10 4 none
AMCAP Journal (now Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy) 1975 annual 8 0 none
Sunstone 1975 quarterly/semi-annually 8 0 none
AML Annual 1978 annual 13 0 none
Restoration Studies 1980 annually 15 0 none
John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 1981 annual 9 17 none
FARMS Review 1989 semi-annual 3 4 none
Mormon Historical Studies 1989 semi-annual 5 4 none
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1992 semi-annual 3 4 none
Irreantum 1999 quarterly 2 4 none
Element 2005 semi-annual 5 0 none
International Journal of Mormon Studies 2008 annual 9 6 none
Mormon Review 2009 3 times per year 0 1 none
Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies 2011 semi-annual ? ? none

[There could be others I haven’t listed. Let me know if you know of one.]

By my count the above journals account for perhaps 200 articles a year now (not including reviews or other non-scholarly articles — fiction, poetry, etc.), a substantial output. It doesn’t include those papers given at conferences which are never published, or books or materials published in other ways or in journals that are not specifically covering Mormonism.

In general, I think this is very pleasing. It is wonderful to see the field of Mormon Studies grow so much. I suspect that we will see additional publications, probably soon. I still see additional areas that aren’t well covered by the publications above — journals in other languages, if nothing else.

Still, there is probably some end to how many journals that the field of Mormon Studies can support. I’d be interested to know what others think.

32 comments for “New Mormon Studies Journal starts in April

  1. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute started “Studies in the Bible and Antiquity,” but after the inaugural 2009 issue, nothing came out.

  2. Craig, the second issue, which I have in my briefcase, has come out and is entirely devoted to the DSS.

    J., yes, the Journal of BoM Studies is now the Journal of BoM and Other Restoration Scripture. And the FARMS Review, starting I believe with the next issue, will become the Mormon Studies Review, I believe. The acronym “FARMS” is going away.

  3. And the FARMS Review, starting I believe with the next issue, will become the Mormon Studies Review, I believe.

    Kevin, do you have any more information about this (i.e. why they selected that name; what this means for the future content of the journal-formerly-known-as-the-FARMS Review)?

  4. I’m with Chris in wanting more info. If this means they are changing some of their approach, that would be very welcome. If they plan on continuing the same approach as current, though, I think the new title will be seriously misleading. Whether one agrees with apologetics or not–I agree that they definitely have an important place, when done right–the FARMS Review is predominantly apologetic (hence the “A” in the acronym), and their name should reflect that. If someone unfamiliar with Mormon scholarship sees a periodical titled Mormon Studies Review, they will be expecting something different.

    As for the OP, it is simply amazing that Mormon scholarship can support so many journals–and not only that, but there is some quality stuff in almost every issue. I think this new journal, as you note, will fill a new role heretofore vacant, so it likely won’t change the question of how many more journals are possible. Personally, though, I don’t see another major academic journal being launched anytime soon; Mormon studies seems to be set for quite a while.

    Also, it should be noted the increasing number of Mormon studies articles being published in non-Mormon journals.

  5. This notice appeared in the editor’s introduction to the last issue:

    This will be the last number of the FARMS Review. But not, I hasten to add, because we’re going out of business. (Lay not that flattering unction to your souls, unfortunate critics and complainers!) No, this is simply one more stage of growth…Each new title reflected the periodical’s expanded vision and scope. This process will continue when, with volume 23, number 1, our favorite semiannual becomes the Mormon Studies Review.

    I believe the name change reflects doing away with the name FARMS. Now that all of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley have been published, the FARMS imprint is no longer needed and is going away.

  6. Ben, the A in FARMS stands for “Ancient,” although you are right that the journal has a strongly apologetic focus.

  7. Personally I kind of miss the older FARMS. Yes it had flaws (being too combative and perhaps too focused on the Tanners and Signature being among them) But it had a lot of strengths that I think have muddled somewhat. Which isn’t to deny some of the great papers that have come out the last decade. But part of me feels like an opportunity was somewhat squandered at the same time.

    That said I’m very curious as to what the Claremont journal ends up being.

    Overall though a lot of other organizations and journals have taken up some of the slack I’d hoped FARMS would grow into. (FAIR in particular has done some good stuff, albeit some stuff with the flaws of the early FARMS)

  8. Craig M. (1) and J. Stapley (2), the list is of journals that are specifically focused on Mormonism. Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies. certainly doesn’t apply. And Studies in the Bible and Antiquity seems to be about ancient studies more than Mormonism, so I left it out. If I’m wrong, let me know.

  9. Kent, You wrote: “In general, I think this is very pleasing. It is wonderful to see the field of Mormon Studies grow so much.”

    I agree that is pleasing to see, but I think that there is a drawback you do not mention. We do not want all papers on Mormonism to be published in Mormon-focused journals because that fosters insularity from the larger debates in academia. As far as I can tell, Mormon-focused journals are read mostly by Mormons and relatively few non-Mormons. And this can lead to a bit of navel-gazing (albeit of an academic sort). I’d like to see Mormon Studies scholars think more about how their work illuminates the human experience and not just Mormons’ experience. And Mormon Studies students serious about becoming academic professionals would do better to think of how to sell their work to non-Mormons first rather than to Mormons. The Mormons will buy it anyway, but there is a premium for having broader reach.

    That being said, I am happy to see these many journals. Any field should have its own journals, and Mormon Studies is no different. Much work of great value will be only appropriate to the specialists in the field. I just hope that Mormon Studies scholars don’t become too insular.

  10. “Ben, the A in FARMS stands for “Ancient,” although you are right that the journal has a strongly apologetic focus.”

    D’oh! Well that is embarrassing, and is definitely what I deserve for thinking off the cuff. If you would have asked me any other times, I could have actually given the full name of the journal…

  11. Mike: I share the fear for Mormon studies becoming too insular. However, there has been an impressive amount of scholarship on Mormonism published outside of Mormon journals within the past few years. Just off the top of my head, I can think of six major academic journals publishing mormon-focused articles since 2005. I, like you, hope to see that continue and grow.

    A fascinating dynamic that leads to the preponderance of Mormon studies journals is the remarkable amount of work done by non-specialists, i.e. those outside the ivory tower of academia and are thus not interested in speaking to the larger public. What is truly remarkable is not only the sheer mount of work coming from amateur historians, but also the general high quality of that work.

  12. Mike M. (11), while your concern probably has some merit, I should point out that the list above does NOT include non-Mormon Studies journals, which do publish articles on Mormon Studies. So looking at the above data might not give a full picture of how insular Mormon Studies is.

    Doesn’t really change your suggestion, but it might clear up any misunderstanding, given the context.

  13. Ben (13) and Kent (14). I agree with everything you both said.

    The list of Mormon Studies journals is a sign more of the large volume of work being done on Mormonism (a good thing) than it is a sign of insularity ( bad thing). My specific fear about the new CJMS is that too many grad students will see CJMS as the goal to shoot for rather than as a back up to consider after aiming and missing at a non-Mormon journal of broader reach. If CJMS becomes their goal, then the grad students are too narrowly focused. But there’s definitely still a niche for CJMS, and I’m rooting for the journal to succeed.

  14. Ah. I thought by your inclusion of AMCAP Journal you were looking a little broader. USU’s journal, due to the Mormon Studies Chair and grad-students working on Mormonism will likely have regular Mormon Studies articles (3 out of 5 of the first issue, and 1 out of 5 in the second).

  15. I must admit that I included AMCAP only because the name of the association that runs the journal is the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists

  16. I wonder if the expansion of Mormon journals (which is really striking, both in new journals and expanded content from existing journals, like the Journal of Mormon History recently going from two issues per year to four) is really a good thing. The best articles on Mormonism are increasingly going to other journals (a really positive trend). Is there really that much good content to go around? I’m doubtful, or at least more cautious on this question.

  17. More than the number of journals, the important question is how stable their institutional homes are. If CJMS has a home at Claremont and its own budget line as part of the endowed chair, that’s a much bigger deal than just a new journal starting up.

    On the other hand, it’s a bit worrying that CJMS is particularly interested in the work of grad students, because publications in grad student journals often are discounted or even counted as a negative by academic job search committees. If an undergrad wanted to prove that he or she was a hot candidate on grad school applications, a publication in a grad journal would be great. For a grad student or anyone else not interested in pursuing an academic career, it would also be a great outlet to publish in. But grad students serious about pursuing an academic career should steer clear of grad student journals. If the article is good enough to publish, it’s good enough for a journal that takes all comers.

  18. Jonathan: while I agree that a grad student should not rest their hopes on publishing in a grad student journal like this, I don’t think that that makes it a bad thing. From my reading of their CFP, this seems more geared to the “if you have a paper on Mormon studies that you wrote for a class but don’t plan on expanding it into a publishable article, this is the place to send it as it is better than just sitting in darkness forever.” I see it more as a good way to just get some ideas out there and enter the scholarly dialogue.

    But I’ll emphasize my agreement with your main point: grad students should not approach publishing in this type of journal (or, to a lesser extent, any Mormon-focused journal) as a way to make yourself marketable for an academic job.

  19. Ben has done a really good job of outlining the purpose of the Claremont Journal and locating it in the pantheon of Mormon-themed journals. I described what we’re trying to do here in Claremont on an email list I participate in like this:

    Our initial reason for stating “qualified graduate student” was largely rhetorical, to avoid appearing to be an online journal that’s barely a step above a blog. But also to suggest that although we are largely targeting graduate students we still want quality submissions, not just submissions that are unrevised, untouched class papers that received B minuses from unimpressed professors. The journal has a review process through its two editors, though not as stringent as double blind peer reviews as in many professional journals. For example, when I submitted my paper to Dialogue it went through an intense double peer review, I had to make major revisions and expansions, and it took nearly a year to see publication. We want to essentially (initially) be a large net that captures excellent graduate research on Mormonism that might not otherwise see publication and distribution. Most students will never see what is often very good work produced through a graduate course be published–the time commitment is just too much. I liken our process instead to getting an article published through Element. Brian Birch came to CGU in 2008 to teach a course on Mormon theology. I wrote a paper for the class which I submitted to Element. I worked with a copy editor to make some fairly simple but significant revisions and stylistic and grammatical changes and it was finished and published fairly quickly. A more extensive review process could have improved it even more of course, but I might not have submitted it at all if that had been a requirement (being in the course of the semester when I had to make my revisions).

    We do want our scope to also be broad, but we also want to see what the initial response will be. Plus, as a graduate student association it makes sense to largely market to fellow graduate students. Further, there is the reality of competing with other Mormon-themed journals like Dialogue, JMH, Sunstone, Farms Review (which incidentally is changing its name to the Mormon Studies Review) etc and we need to initially at least be a distinctive niche. Why should a student (or anyone else) publish with us when they could publish in a more established venue? Hopefully for the above reasons. But we would love to have established scholars submit work as the journal (hopefully) gains traction. We tried to word the CFP in such a way that makes it graduate student friendly but anything but hostile to other interested scholars. We’ll see how it plays out.

    I’ll second Ben’s comment that grad students trying to market themselves through publications of course wouldn’t publish with us or really any other Mormon-themed journal, including the most prestigious ones. Until there is a field for PhD’s in Mormon Studies it only makes sense to publish in non-Mormon venues. But, I disagree that if it’s good enough to publish, say, in Dialogue, it’s good enough to publish anywhere. There are some high quality well-researched articles that only a Dialogue or Sunstone would accept, for a number of reasons.

  20. As far as if there is enough scholarship to support so many journals, I would give an emphatic yes. I liken the proliferation of work in Mormon studies to Joseph Smith’s comment that his visions were like an overflowing surge rolling before his mind. Having mainly been investigated with regard to historical studies, cultural studies, and sociology, we’ve barely begun to tap the possibilities of Mormonism as it interacts with theology, philosophy, hermeneutics, social theory, and a host of other fields. I would say that the surge has barely begun and there won’t be academic nets large enough to contain it.

  21. Kent (9), I see your distinction. Though, while “Studies” isn’t focused on Mormonism per se, it dedicated to “LDS research” on its topic – I suppose we’ll have to wait more to see exactly what that means.

    Kevin (3) – I stand corrected! I suppose I should not expect everything to be put online instantly!

  22. Looking at Kent’s list of journals above, one thing that stands out is that there really aren’t that many journals that are both broadly focused (thus excluding Irreantum, AML, AMCAP, etc.) and also above all suspicion in the minds of the needlessly suspicious because of their institutional home or history (thus excluding Sunstone, Dialogue, FARMS, BYU Studies, etc., despite all the good articles that get published there). So the niche being filled by CJMS–academic journals of Mormon studies with clean slates housed at respected and neutral academic institutions–is actually not all that narrow.

    So I guess I wish that CJMS was being founded as just a journal, rather than a grad student journal.

  23. “But, I disagree that if it’s good enough to publish, say, in Dialogue, it’s good enough to publish anywhere. There are some high quality well-researched articles that only a Dialogue or Sunstone would accept, for a number of reasons.”

    Jacob, I agree with this assessment, and I actually think it’s a good thing. Part of what Dialogue can uniquely do is to make space for the good amateur scholarship that has been an important part of Mormon Studies since before we called it Mormon Studies.

    I think an important question related to Kent’s question about whether there’s enough good content to go around is whether there’s enough of an audience–academic journals (and BYU Studies) are institutionally subsidized, while the independent Mormon journals have not been. As Mormon Studies expands in the academy, it will be interesting to see whether there are enough readers who don’t have free library access to sustain the older journals, which have relied on a subscription/donation financial model.

  24. Kristine’s point is well taken. Although BYU Studies is institutionally subsidized (and does indeed claim to be an academic journal), it could not survive without its subscriber base. And this is a constant battle. Many of our subscribers are—how can I say this tactfully?—older than I am. We are trying to reach out to a younger demographic, but that effort has its own challenges. Younger readers, for instance, seem to expect everything to be free online. They are also not as financially established as older readers, and a subscription to a print journal may stretch the budget too far. But the biggest challenge I see—and this is merely a personal observation regarding my own family, friends, and fellow ward members—is that most Mormons are extremely busy or simply not interested in Mormon Studies, or both. The question is, how can we change this?

  25. As a younger Mormon studies hobbyist, I think Roger nailed it. I would love a subscription to JMH, but I have a busy life and limited budget. Who doesn’t? When I decide what to read next, I already have a long list of essentials to get through, and much of it is free online. Many Mormon periodicals are hosted by BYU, UofU, and on their own sites. Combined with Signature Books Online, Google Books, and others, there’s just too much free competition for me to be serious about a subscription. If the internet didn’t exist, I would probably have a couple subscriptions and visit the library a more often.

  26. Roger–eek! I didn’t mean my parentheses to imply that BYU Studies isn’t academic, only that it is alone among Mormon journals in being institutionally subsidized. Mea culpa!

  27. I’m going to add what some else probably said, but I missed it. Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, volume 2 (2010) has arrived. This provides yet another outlet for scholars who wish to focus on areas not traditionally focused on by journals associated with the Maxwell Center.

    John W. Welch remains the driving force behind the steady improvement of BYU Studies as a scholarly religious studies journal whose articles have significant impact beyond the Mormon Community. Welch’s recent book on the Sermon on the Mount and the Temple is the best of its kind so far. It has gotten international play among both Christian and Jewish scholars who continue to study the temple.

    We must, however, have men and women like Jack stand up and take charge of keeping the religious studies community alive and faithful. Mormon Studies has always been an acquired taste. People who like it will always be small in number. But there is no doubt that Mormon Studies makes an impressive contribution of knowledge to the building of the kingdom. If you like Mormon Studies, write those essays you’ve always wanted to. Spend an evening a month reading Irreantum, BYU Studies, or The Mormon Studies Review. Attend a conference like AML, Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, Mormon Philosophers. You can have a great time!

  28. A new publication (annually, I think) will start this year. It will contain papers from those presenting at the EXPOUND symposium each May. The annual publication will be called Expound: Studies in LDS History, Scripture, and Belief.

  29. Thanks, Trevan. I appreciate knowing about efforts like this.

    I must admit, however, that from the website I’m not sure what the purpose of this conference is. How is it different from some of the BYU conferences? or from those of FAIR?

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