An Open Letter to the Dialogue Board

August 11, 2005 | 178 comments
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August 11, 2005

To Whom It May Concern:

I hope that you will not find an unsolicited letter presumptuous, but I wanted to give you my thoughts on what I see as Dialogue’s problems and some things it could do to improve. First let me say I wish Dialogue well, and I want it to succeed. I am very heartened to see the appearance of important works on Mormonism in places like Oxford University Press or the Harvard Theological Review. However, while there may someday come a time when the publishing of Mormon Studies can occur entirely outside of the ghetto of wholly Mormon venues, that time has not yet come. Furthermore, for certain topics I don’t think that it will ever come. That being the case, I care a great deal about the health and public reputation of Mormon intellectual fora.

I think that Dialogue has some serious problems. My thoughts on this are based on many hours of conversation about Mormon intellectual life with LDS grad students and other young people who care about such things. I hope that you are under no illusions: There are any number of talented young intellectuals who will be the leading Mormon scholars of this generation who are unwilling to publish in Dialogue because of the perception that it is the in-house journal of the disaffected Mormon community, and they have no desire to be associated with it. I think that this is unfortunate. However, it is a reality, and I understand the concerns of young Mormon scholars who shy away from Dialogue. Frankly, I share some of them. The problem is that for younger scholars in particular, the professional rewards of publishing in Mormon Studies are virtually nil, and the belief that publishing in Dialogue will create a negative perception among the broader Mormon community leads them to think that it simply is not worth it. (Dialogue publications — as is true for all publications in explicitly Mormon fora — have very little professional value to tenure committees.) I realize that this perception of Dialogue is not entirely fair. You publish a lot of stuff that has little or no discernable ideological content, and pieces that are thought unduly critical of the Church or of Mormon belief no doubt get a disproportionate share of attention. Nevertheless, Dialogue has an image problem that is a substantial barrier to participation by many younger Mormon intellectuals. I doubt that any of this is news to you.

It is too easy, I think, for Dialogue to write off its image problems as evidence of Mormon anti-intellectualism, and wash its hands of the issue. First, the concerns that I have heard about Dialogue are coming from those who are intensely interested in Mormonism, consider themselves intellectuals and frankly have the scholarly credentials to back up the claim. However, they also consider themselves loyal and faithful Latter-day Saints. In other words, these are the concerns expressed by the people who should be your core author pool and audience. My impression is that you are losing them. Second, such a response is a recipe for increased marginalization and ultimately for institutional suicide. It transforms the perception into a self-fulfilling prophecy and would guarantee that ultimately Dialogue will in actual fact simply become the in-house journal for disaffected Mormondom. When this happens, Dialogue will have completely failed its original mission. Third, washing your hands of the issue is too easy. I believe that there are things that Dialogue can do to improve its situation. What is needed is not self-pity but a solution.

I think that the best way of mitigating these problems would be for Dialogue to solicit articles aggressively from well-known, established, conservative scholars arguing for overtly conservative positions. For example, you could ask Lynn D. Wardle to write an extended article on why same-sex marriage is a bad idea from both a policy perspective and from the perspective of LDS theology. Another possibility is to ask Daniel Peterson to write an article on why viewing the Book of Mormon as inspired fiction would be spiritual suicide for the Church. Perhaps you could get Lou Midgley to write a defense of excommunicating Mormon intellectuals who attack the Brethren. In other words, publish articles that are going to make aging liberal cultural Mormons who have been loyal Dialogue subscribers since the 1960s absolutely furious. You need to be thinking in each and every issue whether or not you have published something offensive to this group. Dialogue has shown a willingness to offend conservative or orthodox Mormons. I would work explicitly to make it a two-way street. Obviously, no one expects Dialogue’s board to agree with everything that the journal publishes, but consistently publishing one article in every issue for several years that took a recognizably conservative position on a theological or political issue would do much to signal that Dialogue was serious about…dialogue. However, doing this will require that you aggressively solicit pieces from those who have otherwise written Dialogue off as a lost cause. I assume that you are not publishing these articles because the manuscripts are not coming in. If they are coming in and you are refusing to publish them on ideological grounds, then Dialogue is a lost cause. I hope and believe that this is not the case.

Ultimately, I don’t know if the suggestions here can help Dialogue. I am a sometime subscriber and consistent reader of the journal. I think that I have at least thumbed through every single issue of Dialogue ever published. I wish you well, and I think that it is very important that Mormonism have a place for scholarly discussion. I hope that Dialogue can make the changes necessary for it to become a vibrant part of that discussion. Without changes, however, I think that its future is bleak.

Best wishes,

Nathan Oman
Washington, DC

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178 Responses to An Open Letter to the Dialogue Board

  1. Aaron Brown on August 11, 2005 at 7:32 pm

    I think Nate’s suggestion that Dialogue seek a broader, more diverse ideological spectrum is a good one. It’s probably a good suggestion for most LDS fora, whether online, in print, etc. I think it’s important for the health and vitality of the journal (Nate’s point), but I also think it’s important for the reader. The tendency to only read things with which we agree is probably a universal, human one. You see it in “conservative” Mormons. You see it in “liberal” Mormons. And, of course, there are those on both sides who try to fight the tendency.

    Maybe Nate should submit an article to Dialogue. Given how many crazed and adoring fans he has here in the Bloggernacle, I’m sure they’ll all promptly pull out the wallet for a Dialogue subscription, and the world of Mormon Studies will be saved!

    Aaron B

  2. Steve Evans on August 11, 2005 at 7:35 pm

    Very interesting, Nate, and a very challenging perspective. I think that Dialogue as it stands today is largely undeserving of any antimormon or fringe element stigma, but I agree that it needs to try harder to expand its horizons and challenge assumptions at all sides. In other words, it needs to become a voice for all perspectives, not just questioning ones.

    That said: I think your view is overly pessimistic. I don’t think Dialogue’s struggles are atypical for mormon studies (as I recall, someone I know posted about the greying of mormon studies?), and I think they are trying very hard to put out an interesting and ultimately very spiritually fulfilling journal. I also don’t believe that they are subject to the ideological fossilization you describe. I am a bit of a Dialogue fan, admittedly. Still, I think your picture is more grim than it needs to be — in fact, I think you need to be more open to how Dialogue can expand its readership using online methods and other tools at its disposal. Imagine for example that if, while researching for a post or a talk, you could email or chat online with a mormon studies author who has published on your topic. I think that Sunstone and Dialogue, if they can get their act together fast enough, could reall provide some tremendous resources.

  3. Eric Russell on August 11, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Steve suggests that “Dialogue can expand its readership using online methods”

    With links to select LDS blogs, perhaps?

  4. Costanza on August 11, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Perhaps a companion letter to BYU Studies is also in order.

  5. Clark on August 11, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    My personal opinion is that despite the very good attempts to “rescue” both Dialog and Sunstone, the endeavor is ultimately pointless. Far better to simply start up a new magazine without the baggage and attempt to make it more relevant and academically reputable.

  6. Dave on August 11, 2005 at 7:50 pm

    Nate, your recommendations sound good on paper, but if Dialogue actually broadened its offerings to include orthodox LDS academic approaches to controversial topics or FARMS perspectives on issues of current interest in Mormon Studies, would any of the payoffs you are holding out really materialize? Would young LDS scholars start submitting articles to Dialogue? Would tenure committees start giving weight to Dialogue articles? Would a Dialogue issue on the coffee table of the average LDS family suddenly become a welcome sight (“oh look, they like to be well informed”) to a visiting Bishop? If not, why should Dialogue make substantial efforts to broaden itself, which certainly risks alienating some of its present subscriber base?

    I’ve made the same argument in reverse: If the Church were to make two or three substantial “compromises” that might be thought to appease critics of the Church, would those critics suddenly start singing its praises or adopt a new perspective on its leadership? Probably not; the only effect would be to confuse or even alienate some currently faithful members. Have any of the changes in the past 30 years made any critics particularly happy about the Church, from the decision to extend priesthood and temple blessings to men of all races to changes in the temple liturgy itself to serious efforts to reach out to other Christian denominations? Not really. It seems like efforts to garner goodwill via compromise or toleration or broadening only work if the alternative audience (whoever it may be) is of a mind to respond in kind or in a similar fashion.

  7. Orson Welle on August 11, 2005 at 7:52 pm

    Nate,
    Your point(s) are generally well-taken, but I have to submit that my tenure and promotion committee took my article published in Dialogue just as seriously as my publications in other venues such as the Western Historical Quarterly (they were favorably impressed with each). True, Dialogue is not a top-flight journal, but the fact is that a policy of inclusion would not change that. Tenure committees care about the quality of the work under review as well as the venue in which it was published.

  8. Greg Call on August 11, 2005 at 8:01 pm

    Costanza:

    BYU Studies has an entirely different mission than Dialogue. Here’s Dialogue’s mission statement: “DIALOGUE JOURNAL is an independent quarterly established to express Mormon culture and to examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Latter-day Saints who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with the larger stream of world religious thought and with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints…”

    Here is BYU Studies mission statement: “The mission of this publication is to be faithful and scholarly throughout, harmonizing wherever possible the intellectual and the spiritual on subjects of interest to Latter-day Saints and to scholars studying the Latter-day Saint experience.”

    BYU is upfront that they are a forum for faithful scholarship and make no pretense of “encouraging a variety of viewpoints.” Nate is just asking Dialogue to live up to its ideals.

  9. lori on August 11, 2005 at 8:07 pm

    Nate:
    Armand Mauss has volunteered to chair a Dialogue committee which is in the process of doing an exhaustive and comprehensive survey which many subscribers, past and present, have participated in. The comments are still being tabulated as best they can and we will soon know what the consensus of our readers are now thinking about Dialogue. I find it fascinating what others speculate as problems and solutions. We are always looking to improve and we shall because of all of you that care. Thanks for your comments, suggestions, and especially your well wishes. Your support and contributions are critical however. If you can get interviews or quality manuscripts from those individuals you have suggested -that would be most valuable to our editors. If you could help to encourage young writer’s to dismiss their fears and send in submissions -they could help to change the future. To see progress and change, we all must do more than just talk. I think a letter to the editor is in order for you, Nate. Levi has been asking for those.

  10. Costanza on August 11, 2005 at 8:08 pm

    Actually that is only part of Nate’s complaint against Dialogue–what about the issue of appealing to the professional needs of young scholars? I can tell you from experience that publications in BYU Studies are no more appealing to tenure committees than Dialogue. It seems only fair to suggest that BYU Studies do its fair share to move Mormon Studies out of the “ghetto.” And I am not being sarcastic or snide–I like Nate’s idea and I think that to single out Dialogue is simply casting too narrow a net.

  11. Ivan Wolfe on August 11, 2005 at 8:19 pm

    It’s hardly comparable, but I remember when I was sure Student Review at BYU wasn’t going to last.

    It was in an article in Sunstone magazine (which has, at times, aggressively courted conservative articles) about Student Review. I can’t recall who it was, but one of the editors at Student Review was quoted as saying something like “We’d publish more conservative articles, but it’s too hard to find well-written conservative articles” (or maybe he said “conservatives who write well” – this is from memory).

    At that point, I knew what he really meant was “if it’s conservative, by definition it isn’t written well.”

    I found this to be true, as I read Student Review fairly regularly, and felt that 80% of it wasn’t all that well written. They were holding “liberal” (or unorthodox) articles to a very low standard and appartently conservative articles to an impossibly high standard.

    Hardly up to the level of Dialouge in terms of quality, but I think it relates to this point.

  12. Steve Evans on August 11, 2005 at 8:27 pm

    Greg, I think you’re right on.

  13. Clark on August 11, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    Ivan, to be fair though, there were quite a few conservatives on the Student Review. I wasn’t on the review but was on an other student journal with most of the folks from the Review. My favorite time was telling the main guy (forget his name now – I want to say Boggs but then maybe I’m confusing him with the governor) that I was going to spend my summers at Los Alamos working on nuclear weapons. This was during a discussion of people going to protest nuclear weapons. Loved it. (grin) Normally I’m not quite that into poking at things. But it was all in good humor and I seem to recall them taking it that way.

    I should add that the great benefit of the Student Review while I was there was that it was genuinely funny. I knew its days were numbered when they couldn’t find that line of playful humor.

  14. Greg Call on August 11, 2005 at 8:33 pm

    Costanza: I suspect that a content shift in Dialogue, or BYU Studies, for that matter, would make them no more or less appealing fora to tenure committees. I take it Nate wants to improve Dialogue for Mormons, not to win respect from the mainstream academy.

  15. Clark on August 11, 2005 at 8:35 pm

    I’m not sure but what we could do both. Not being in those fields, but isn’t the MHA journal more respected? Why not make a more academic rigorous journal of interest to Mormons. Or, if we truly aren’t trying to get articles that tenure committees care about (and with the number of amateur scholars in Mormon studies, that’s understandable) why not one that is more inclusive and simultaneously of a little more rigourous writing?

  16. Ivan Wolfe on August 11, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    Clark -

    When were you at BYU? IIRC, you were there a few years before I was, so I don’t doubt that Student Review may have had a “golden age” before I got to BYU. I was at BYU when it died off, had a brief revival and then vanished. (round about Y2K).

  17. Costanza on August 11, 2005 at 9:03 pm

    A few issues ago Dialogue published an article-length critique by William Hamblin of an earlier article. Hamblin’s piece openly (and persuasively) argued for the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. More of this would certainly be welcome.

  18. a random John on August 11, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    Yes! Affirmative action for conservatives!

  19. Nathan Oman on August 11, 2005 at 9:05 pm

    A couple of response:

    1. I have no illusions that changing Dialogue in the way that I am proposing would increase its tenure value. Its tenure value has nothing to do — I think — with its current ideological position within Mormonism (or perception — accurate or not — of the same). Rather, both Dialogue and BYU Studies won’t get you a lot of mileage because they are Mormon, and frankly Mormon studies is simply not on the radar screen of most disciplines. I suspect that this varies by subject.

    2. As Greg points out, BYU Studies and Dialogue position themselves differently. Nor do I think that they suffer from comporable problems. Very few people I know are reluctent to publish in BYU Studies, although I do know people who doubt whether or not BYU Studies would publish their piece. I think that the major problem that BYU Studies faces is that a lot of its articles aren’t particularlly interesting. Recently, however, they have been publishing more things related to Mormon legal history, so they are clearly improving.

    3. Perhaps, as Clark suggests, the best solution is simply to start over from scratch with a new journal. The problem is that journals are hard to start-up, hard to keep alive, and hard to establish. Given that Dialogue has survived for almost forty years, it seems like it is something worth keeping around. I certainly don’t think it should be discarded except in absolute extremis.

    4. I look forward to seeing what Mauss discovers. I always find his desire to get actual data refreshing.

    5. I think that rather than trying to make Dialogue more respectable to tenure committees, young scholars writing on Mormon subjects should get their research published in venues that are respected by their tenure committees. Respect for Dialogue and BYU Studies will come with respect for Mormon studies generally.

  20. Clark on August 11, 2005 at 9:06 pm

    I was at BYU in the early 90′s. My last year Student Review was already dying. (IMO) If you were there in the late 90′s then it definitely was pretty much dead.

  21. ed on August 11, 2005 at 9:08 pm

    Dave asks: “Have any of the changes in the past 30 years made any critics particularly happy about the Church, from the decision to extend priesthood and temple blessings to men of all races to changes in the temple liturgy itself to serious efforts to reach out to other Christian denominations?”

    I think it’s clear that some of these changes have made our critics happier. For example, Stanford is now willing to play BYU in football. I think if we hadn’t made the 1978 changes we would see a LOT more public criticism of the church than we do now, and a lot less goodwill. The effects of the other changes are more subtle but I expect they are not negligible.

  22. Billy Bud on August 11, 2005 at 9:15 pm

    Nate,
    I think we have dueling anecdotal evidence. Whereas you know “very few people…reluctent to publish in BYU Studies,” I know plenty who are. In my department (a religious studies program at a large public university) several Mormon grad students have been told that BYU Studies is a “shill” publication and that publication in that venue would be viewed as essentially Mormon propoganda. Grossly unfair? No doubt. But that perception does unfortunately exist.

  23. danithew on August 11, 2005 at 9:18 pm

    In other words, publish articles that are going to make aging liberal cultural Mormons who have been loyal Dialogue subscribers since the 1960s absolutely furious. You need to be thinking in each and every issue whether or not you have published something offensive to this group.

    Great lines Nate.

  24. Nathan Oman on August 11, 2005 at 9:26 pm

    Billy Budd: That is an interesting data point. I wonder to what extent BYU Studies’s status as shill publication is simply a result of the fact that it is associated with BYU, or is it a judgment about the journal itself.

    For what it is worth, I really don’t think that the issue is how to make Mormon fora acceptable to tenure committees. Their perception has much more to do, I think, with the perception of Mormon studies generally. Frankly, I think that (1) Mormon studies will alway require explicitily Mormon fora for certain subjects; and, (2) those are the subjects where the ideological position of the journal within the communtiy will matter for its effectiveness. As for tenure committees, just ignore Dialogue or BYU Studies, and publish something in the Journal of Religious Studies or whatever the “respectable” venues in your field are.

    For example, the best stuff on Mormon legal history has not been in Dialogue, BYU Studies, or the Journal of Mormon History. Rather, it has been in the Journal of Law & Religion, the Yale Law & Humanities Review, The Journal of Church & State, or the law reviews.

  25. ed on August 11, 2005 at 9:36 pm

    I agree that I’d like to see Dialogue publish more solid scholarly articles and fewer whiny personal ones. I’d love to read an article by Nate…maybe I’d even subscribe.

    But the question is whether it would be possible to change the perception by having some faithful scholars publish there. I think it might. I’d like to see something by Noel Reynolds, for example. The problem is I doubt he would do it. Maybe you could get Dan Peterson to write something, but if he used his super-adversarial style I don’t think it would do any good (and I certainly wouldn’t want to read it).

  26. Clark on August 11, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    Out of curiosity, what department is that? English? I know English departments around the country reportedly don’t think much of BYU in general. Of course I wonder how many would think positively of any positive writing about Mormonism…

  27. D-Train on August 12, 2005 at 8:09 am

    I agree with the sentiment that competing views should be addressed in Dialogue, but have a couple of points to make about that:

    1) Allowing for ideologically diverse views is not necessarily characteristic of an academic journal. In my field (political science), probably two thirds of journals publish almost exclusively one sort of view. For example, the Journal of Conflict Resolution (a pretty respected journal) is basically controlled by rational-choice theorists (who have the same sort of worldview, even if their conclusions differ just a bit). That’s not explicitly ideological in the sense of conservative or liberal, but it’s worth noting that the rat choice people all think basically the same way and come to the same conclusions.

    2) Isn’t the conservative view already out there? The whole reason that I’m reading this at all is because the views are somewhat different than what I can get in Church or elsewhere on the internet. There are some perfectly good blogs that I don’t read because I get enough of the party line in the Ensign. Not that the party line is bad, but it doesn’t really fit my interests a lot of the time.

    3) But, we want those views to be part of a scholarly discussion, so the sources referenced in 2) don’t apply as well to that problem. The bottom line is that I don’t think Mormon Studies is ready for a real academic niche. I think the best avenue for Mormon scholarship is to study Mormon problems and issues from other social science perspectives and to encourage more nonmembers and non-antis to get involved in the issue. When I discussed some interesting topics of inquiry that relate to the Church with some political science colleagues, they were more than a little interested. Right now, I think the field is dominated by members (who, while not untrustworthy, come with some bias issues) and antis that aren’t interested in anything but tearing the Church down. Obviously, there are exceptions, but I don’t think they’re quite big enough to disprove that generalization. As it is, Mormons aren’t a big enough or important enough group to overcome those obstacles (as African-American studies and other group-specific disciplines have been able to do).

    I’m not going to say that Dialogue shouldn’t move toward what Nate wants, simply that doing so wouldn’t make the debate any more academic than it already is. I think working through other fora is the best way to handle that.

  28. D-Train on August 12, 2005 at 8:10 am

    Oops. Missed Nate’s comment where he made about half of the points that I just did.

  29. lyle on August 12, 2005 at 8:40 am

    Dialogue also seems to lack sponsorship/housing from a university and a more rigorous peer-review process. These things probably matter to tenure committees also.

  30. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 12, 2005 at 9:25 am

    would do much to signal that Dialogue was serious about…dialogue

    Interesting point. I read a few issues of Dialogue when I was in law school (the law library had a subscription), but I got bored with the tone and approach. Perhaps I should have read more, but one too many letters to the editor praising Adam-God doctrines just turned me off.

  31. Wenzler on August 12, 2005 at 9:42 am

    I have noticed a lot of generalizations about Dialogue that I would like to see backed up with evidence: 1. it is full of “whiny” pieces at the expense of serious work 2. It is uniformly “apostate” in tone–I can’t remember reading all that many letters to the editor praising “Adam-God” doctrine 3. It lacks a thorough peer-review process (evidence???) 4. Faithful Mormons refuse to publish in Dialogue (like Leonard Arrington, Tom Alexander, Marvin Hill, Bill Hamblin perhaps?) I think that a close reading of several issues will reveal that at least some of these impressions are just plain wrong

  32. Aaron Brown on August 12, 2005 at 9:43 am

    Which issue of Dialogue did this happen in? I can imagine many letters to the editor praising Buerger’s Adam-God article, but that’s a different issue.

    Aaron B

  33. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 10:34 am

    Wenzler,

    You are phrasing as absolutes things that (some) people only find as tendencies. Not all articles are apostate. Not all faithful refuse to publish there. Not all the articles are whiny.

    The exception is your comment on the peer review process. I am under the impression that DIalogue has some form of peer review. But apparently it is far too weak to qualify for many academics’ peer review process. This is a problem with lots of journals– especially multidisciplinary ones where “peers” become harder to come by.

    Nate,

    Your reasoning on why Dialogue should be saved is that it is already established and so it would be easier to reform it than to start from scratch. Well yes, Dialogue has an established board, a subscriber base, and a history, but it is unclear that either of these are particularly working in its favor these days to help it meet the goals of actual dialogue. Presumably its board is heavily weighted towards liberal mormons. Certainly its subscriber base is. And its history is the clear negative that Dialogue itself recognizes needs to be overcome.

    So why again is it an advantage to reform Dialogue vs. starting fresh?

  34. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 10:41 am

    “So why again is it an advantage to reform Dialogue vs. starting fresh?”

    My basic answer is that the attrition rate among start-up journals is quite high. Furthermore, Dialogue has established itself enough that most major academic libraries subscribe to it. It would be difficult, I think, for another journal to quickly penetrate as far. If Dialogue can shed some of its ideological baggage, I don’t see the point of reinventing the wheel.

  35. Billy Budd on August 12, 2005 at 10:54 am

    Having published in Dialogue more than once I can assure you that there is in fact a peer-review process and that this process is comparable to those employed by journals with similar circulation. I can also tell you that there is a tendency to assume that if one publishes in Dialogue that said person must be disaffected from t
    e church. In many cases this is simply not the case. I guess all I am saying is that Dialogue is somewhat more diverse than many people think—but there IS a dominant point of view and this often shifts according to who is editing the journal at any given time. Dialogue was a much different journal under Ross Peterson than it was when Neal Chandler or Levi Peterson edited the thing. Dialogue is not monolithic at any given moment either. In Wenzler’s defense, there are plenty of posts above that strongly suggest that the issues Wenzler mentions are being asserted and not backed-up. On another note, if Dan Peterson or Lou Midgley want to publish in Dialogue (and I seriously doubt that) then perhaps they should submit articles like everybody else. If they are turned down because of ideological reasons it would be unfortunate but until that happens, let’s keep the onus for publication on the author rather than on the journal.

  36. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 10:57 am

    “My basic answer is that the attrition rate among start-up journals is quite high.”

    I would guess that the attrition rate of attempts to reform journals is just as high.

    “most major academic libraries subscribe to it”

    That’s a reasonable concern, but may not be a huge barrier. Major academic libraries tend to subscribe to a lot of stuff. And since a new journal could be made available online, ready access to print copies is not as important as it once was.

    “I don’t see the point of reinventing the wheel.”

    The question is open as to whether what we have constitutes a wheel. If all we have is something that says it is a wheel, or anyway sure plans on being a wheel someday, but is currently a sponge, it isn’t clear that we don’t have to invent something new anyway.

    Obviously, if DIalogue serves the job I’m fine with that. But I am somewhat skeptical of its ability to repent.

  37. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 11:04 am

    Billy Budd,

    “and that this process is comparable to those employed by journals with similar circulation.”

    Why is that the relevant comparison group? My email undergoes comparable peer review to other people’s email, but that doesn’t make it a publication that gives tenure. And tenure respected publications are the coin of the realm in academia. If you are an academic in a place that respects Dialogue as tenure-granting, bully for you. Most good places, from what I gather, don’t.

  38. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 11:04 am

    “On another note, if Dan Peterson or Lou Midgley want to publish in Dialogue (and I seriously doubt that) then perhaps they should submit articles like everybody else. If they are turned down because of ideological reasons it would be unfortunate but until that happens, let?s keep the onus for publication on the author rather than on the journal.”

    Billy, buddy, I am affraid that you are missing the point. What you are offering is an apology (and not an entirely compelling one) for the present situation rather than a solution. Peterson and Midgley don’t need Dialogue. I certainly don’t see that they are under any obligation or onus to submit things to it. However, it may well be that Dialogue needs Midgley and Peterson. The question is what can Dialogue do to improve its present situation. To simply sit on your hands and insist that it isn’t your fault is childish and ultimately unproductive.

  39. Matt Evans on August 12, 2005 at 11:04 am

    Billy: “let’s keep the onus for publication on the author rather than on the journal.”

    Are you trying to be funny?

  40. Rosalynde Welch on August 12, 2005 at 11:05 am

    Frank, you talk about Dialogue’s history as if it were an unalloyed liability should the journal attempt to change its image. But Dialogue’s history in the nineties is very different from its history in the sixties, during which, it’s my impression, it was the fruit of idealistic but very committed LDS, and enjoyed the patronage and support of a number of general authorities, including Elder Haight and, I believe, Elder Oaks. Things have changed, obviously, but I think Dialogue could draw on this early history successfully should it attempt to change its image and position.

  41. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 11:09 am

    Frank: I think that your frame the issue corectly in terms of the difficulty of changing damaged goods or starting from scratch. I don’t really know who is right. I suspect that you underestimate the difficulties of starting a journal; and perhaps I am overly optimistic about Dialogue’s ability to shed its past baggage (although, frankly, I don’t think that Dialogue is as ideologically “bad” as some people assume it is). I do think that the Internet is not sufficient as a medium for the distribution of a serious journal. Or rather, I should say I think that it probably is sufficient for distribution, but that you need more than simple distribution. You need permanence for any of your scholarship to matter in the long term, and I think that still requires that you have actual paper bound volumes sitting on library shelves, at least in the humanities and the human sciences. In the hard sciences where the life cycle of an article is shorter, the pure internet format may be less of an issue. I am not really sure.

  42. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 11:23 am

    RW,

    That is certainly true. But the recent history dominates most people’s understanding of the journal. And whatever the journal was then, it is not that now. The people have changed. The subscribers have changed. It was, as I recall, Dallin Oaks who was a front man in the charge to urge Saints to avoid the “alternate voices” of the 80s and 90s.

    Thus whatever Dialogue is now, it is not that journal of the 60s. It’s history has good things in it, but yes, for most members that history is probably a net negative.

    Nate,

    I am fine with having print versions. I just don’t think they matter like they used to. I, like you, don’t know how capable Dialogue is of bringing itself back. I think the threat of a new journal may be fairly important to getting Dialogue to shape up. Thus it may be that the only way to have a revitalized Dialogue is to also have a failed alternate journal come in and attempt to take its place. Competition does wonderful things to focus the mind and sharpen the edges.

  43. Orseon Welles on August 12, 2005 at 11:38 am

    If Dialogue needs Dan Peterson and Lou Midgley, it is is doomed.

  44. Orseon Welles on August 12, 2005 at 11:38 am

    I guess one “is” would have sufficed

  45. Costanza on August 12, 2005 at 11:44 am

    I guess it’s time for me to bail on this topic–when people who voice an alternative point of view are “childish” I think the ego factor just inched up beyond the tolerable zone.

  46. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 11:49 am

    Apologies, c. I withdraw “childish.” The rest of my criticisms of Billy Budd, however, stand.

  47. Costanza on August 12, 2005 at 12:06 pm

    Frank,
    In my experience as an academic, I think that the impact an article published in Dialogue (or anywhere else) has on tenure committees and the like is dependent upon several factors. The quality of the research and its importance to the field are probably at the top. In most fields there are really only a couple of top-notch journals that everybody is familiar with. In my area, early American religious history, you have top journals that deal with early America (like William and Mary Quarterly) American religious history (like the journal Church History) and journals that specialize in religion qua religion (such as the journal of the American Academy of Religion). Most people up for promotion will not have published extensively in these journals, so the committees look at less prestigious but reasonably well-known publication venues (such as Religion and American Culture) and give them more weight than one might think. At the level of specialty, it may be surprising to note that journals such as Communal Studies and Novo Religio have about the same weight as Dialogue–which is to say very little. What matters in those cases (and in my experience those are the places where most grad students and junior faculty up for tenure have published) is the quality of the article itself. In terms of tenure, most universities require that faculty have published at least one book. In the case of books–publishers matter a great deal. So I guess my point is that there are lots of journals like Dialogue and BYU Studies that are relatively specialized and that in itself is not necessarily deadly in the eyes of tenure committees. If, however, one publishes exclusively Dialogue (or a comparable journal) then that person is in big trouble with the committee.I hope that makes sense.

  48. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    Costanza,

    I would not say deadly. I would say somewhere between “useless” and “not very useful”. It may, in fact, be a bad thing because it indicates that you think it is worth your time to work on stuff that can only get in third tier journals. You don’t want to be pegged as a third tier journal writer. Otherwise what you say makes a lot of sense.

  49. Jonathan Green on August 12, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    Frank, I think you’re underestimating the value of Dialogue’s space on library shelves. You’ve probably noticed that falling library budgets and rising subscription costs at many academic libraries over the last 15 years or so have led many academic libraries to drop journals that they had been carrying for many years. If these libraries still subsribe to Dialogue–which I’m postulating here; I have no idea if it’s really the case–then Dialogue gives the field of Mormon Studies access to pricey real estate on library shelves that won’t be replaced by another journal any time soon. If Dialogue disappears, it will most likely not be replaced by vol. 1 of the Journal of Rigid Orthodoxy, but by, I don’t know, some econ journal or something.

    I think the tenure and academic respectability aspect is mostly irrelevant to Nate’s argument, but for what it’s worth, an article in Dialogue 43 is probably going to seem more impressive than something in the first release of the Online Journal of Rigid Orthodoxy–and I write that as one who has actually published an article in the first release of an online journal. Dialogue has significant intangible assets that a recalibration could take advantage of, while any new journal would need decades to gain the equivalent. However, you may be correct that Dialogue is beyond saving; as I’ve never so much as thumbed through an issue, I have no opinion on the matter.

  50. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    “If Dialogue disappears, it will most likely not be replaced by vol. 1 of the Journal of Rigid Orthodoxy, but by, I don’t know, some econ journal or something.”

    You’ve spotted my hidden agenda.

  51. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    “But I am somewhat skeptical of its ability to repent.”
    “I, like you, don’t know how capable Dialogue is of bringing itself back”

    What pretentiousness! Dialogue is a great publication, with some really interesting articles. I know that bluntness is your M.O., Frank, but repent?! That takes some stones, Frank, and you’re not in a position to throw any. Maybe you should read the past few issues and then tell us whereof they need to repent. Again, I believe that Dialogue is waging a war against largely undeserved perceptions, which are based upon pseudo-scandals of decades past. Anyone who reads contemporary issues knows that there is little to object to.

  52. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 12:46 pm

    Steve: I personally objected to the war-and-peace-a-thon that they were on a while back. And what was with the issue with two articles devoted to Quaker pacifism ;->.

    I do, however, think that Steve is right that if you look at their most recent issues most of what they publish is unobjectionable, although I confess that I almost never read the poetry, fiction, or personal essays so for all I know they may be advocating the distribution of pornography to grade schoolers in those pages.

  53. Costanza on August 12, 2005 at 12:52 pm

    Dialogue has actually escaped many of the budget cuts endured by academic libraries. Much of this has to do with the fact that Dialogue is relatively inexpensive. Compare it with, say, RELIGION AND AMERICAN CULTURE: A JOURNAL OF INTERPRETATION. That bad boy (or girl) costs a library $88 dollars a year and it is published twice!!! And that journal is not even close to being among the most expensive. So most Dialogue, BYU Studies and the JMH each benefit from their low subscription costs.

  54. lori on August 12, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    From the biz office here…There are many points and speculations attempting to fix something that may or may not need fixing. Improving, yes. Every journal, every magazine, everywhere is facing many of the same problems we are- in most cases. All are mentioned in your above posts and play into the mix. FYI-The Dialogue Board adds new members yearly. We have a policy for member terms for the reasons you may imagine. New members are enlisted, interviewed by a committee, and voted on by all the existing members. Old ones retire. We try to have at least 2 or 3 past editors at all times for a nice mix. They come from all walks of life and professions, and different parts of the country. Although right now I think we have at least 3 that are attorneys! Makes for interesting debates. Most of the board didn’t know each other personally before joining the board.The Chairman changes yearly, too. The board doesn’t mess with editorial policy though. The editors have their own board which stays during their term. The peer review process is stringent with 3 referees reading each manuscipt. The editor and editorial team changes every 5 years for practical purposes. So if you look at all that-it explains the constantly changing potential, flavor, tone, and perceptions of Dialogue over the 40 years. I think that’s a great thing. If I look at the database and compare it to the names on the board and staff page from issues in the 60′s and 70′s-I still see most of them as subscribers and contributors. Many have died. Every year we gain new readers and lose some. We hold our own. Same with Libraries but we are trying to expand that market. It’s not easy to get in at all. Last year we scanned the content of all past issues so that it is available for researchers world wide via the wonders of Google. The University of Utah Marriott Library hosts our free online collection up to Vol. 34. It will be googleable within a month or two they tell me. It will also be updated with new volumes yearly. Ebsco MetaPress posts Vol 36 to present for a pay per view, and it is also searchable. Almost all libraries subscribe to MetaPress so they will find that a nice option as they downsize their print collections in coming years and start going more electronic. Anyone interested in Mormon studies now has access to Dialogue and hopefully will soon find what they are looking for…if they are looking for something we have published. But what if our niche of appeal is very small? I don’t expect Dialogue may ever be a ‘hot item’ to the general Mormon public. Don’t think it ever was. We provide a product that everyone doesn’t need or want…the same thing goes for this blog site. The key is reaching those that do want it and making it available. We have done what we can to make it available and will continue expanding on that. It may be the internet that changes things for us but I don’t see the mission statement of Dialogue changing anytime soon.

  55. Clark on August 12, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    The journal world is itself experiencing a lot of change. The world is changing as many noticed. The ability of journals to get away with exorbitant fees is probably coming to an end for all but the most prestigious. Already many of the sciences have preprint services that most use. This is starting (slowly) to come to the humanities, with many journals fighting tooth and nail against it for obvious reasons. In effect I think it inevitable that all papers will be freely available online which is where most people will read them. A few journals like Science, or Nature (or their humanities equivalents) will remain more as a stamp of how important/good they are rather than as the main distributor of the thought.

    How will this affect Mormon studies? I can’t imagine. But at a minimum I suspect that the internet is already putting financial strains not just on Dialog but on Sunstone and perhaps the Sunstone Symposiums. If it hasn’t, it will soon.

    I kind of liked Nate’s attempt a year and a half ago to have a clearing house for LDS papers. Perhaps that simply needs restarted and revitalized?

  56. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 1:38 pm

    Clark; FWIW, law has moved in a big way into pre-publication electronic circulation of papers through the Social Science Research Network. Of course, because only a small fraction of law journals are peer reviewed, the journals are significantly less important as gate keepers in legal academia, which may be why law moved into SSRN so rapidly.

    I think that in order for a paper’s clearing house of the kind I tried to set up to work it has to be associated with something respectable. Frankly, setting up a kind of mini-SSRN for Mormon Studies strikes me as something that Claremont could do. Other alternatives are for Mormon Studies to move into networks for history or religious studies (do such things exist) or to simply start using SSRN itself.

  57. Armand Mauss on August 12, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    I really appreciated Nate’s extensive comments and suggestions about the current (and potential future) situation with Dialogue. Much of what he says (maybe most of it) is right on target. Having been quite intimately involved with Dialogue for decades (and more recently in both editorial and in administrative functions), I know that Dialogue has an image problem, and that no one on the Board of Directors is inclined to “dismiss” it.

    The problem is partly, but only partly, of Dialogue’s own making : During the 1990s, there were (in my opinion) a few – only a few – lapses in editorial judgment, so that a few articles carried content and/or tone that attracted the ire of many faithful readers and more conservative church leaders. This development coincided with (and was as much derivative as cause of) a manifest “crack-down” against writers, speakers, and scholars (“so-called” or otherwise) who had been publicly critical of church leaders and/or of fundamental LDS truth-claims. (During the same period, even the MHA and the Journal of Mormon History suffered – slightly and briefly – from the same “aura” in the minds of many, though by now MHA is getting General Authority participation in its conferences!). I think that a fair review and assessment of the articles published in Dialogue during the 1990s would conclude that such “edgy” articles constituted a very small minority of the general content, but they were certainly enough to raise the hackles of the faithful and to change the image of the journal (and chase off some subscribers). I think those days are behind us – forever, I hope and pray – but it will take some more time to recover a more positive image for Dialogue. Certainly some contributions from the more conservative and responsible scholars (at BYU or elsewhere) would help to maintain a more “balanced” image. To that end, we have NOT simply been waiting for such scholars to send in manuscripts. On the contrary, for several years we have been proactively contacting promising authors (“conservative” or otherwise) of papers presented at both Sunstone Symposia and MHA conferences to solicit their papers for Dialogue. Many of these have been BYU and other faculty people, but many others have been graduate students, too. We have also gone after student theses, dissertations, and seminar papers. Except in a few noteworthy cases, these efforts have met with very limited success. We have definitely encountered cases of students (or even BYU faculty) who are reluctant to publish in Dialogue – rarely because of any personal knowledge about the journal, but mainly because of what they’ve “heard” about it.

    It would be wrong, however, to conclude that this “image” problem is the MAIN reason for such reluctance. Far more important are (1) the preference of academics to publish their work in well-recognized academic journals if possible; and (2) the press of other, higher-priority demands on one’s academic career. Accordingly, as will be apparent from a perusal of back-issues, most Dialogue authors are NOT academics, though authors of the scholarly essays, the fiction, and the poetry do tend to be academically well credentialed (whatever their current occupations).

    This observations leads to another of Nate’s points – the one about what “counts” for tenure and promotion among academics. Dialogue is NOT an academic journal and never has been. It is intended to be a journal of responsible scholarship, literature, and art produced from VARIOUS disciplines and by authors of various types and levels of education. Such an “eclectic” journal is unlikely to get its academic authors many “points” toward tenure or promotion in normal (highly specialized) academic departments, no matter how high the quality of the journal in question. Authors must understand that reality “going in.” In my four decades of an academic career, I never expected any career benefits from my publications in Dialogue, any more than do the contributing authors who happen to be physicians, lawyers, or insurance brokers! There is a parallel here to church work, which we all consider contributions to a “cause,” rather than as something to benefit our careers (always allowing, of course, for the more self-interested motives that we sometimes suspect on the parts of both church workers AND authors!).

    Finally, the struggles of Dialogue and its sister publications must be considered in the context and perspective of the nature and extent of the potention “market” for such publications. The reality is that most Latter-day Saints, “faithful” or otherwise, live lives of – well, maybe not “quiet desperation” – but at least lives that are understandably preoccupied with making a living, building a career (both his and hers), and rearing a family in a family-hostile environment. This is especially true of those between ages 30 and 50, where the subscriber rates are the smallest for all these publications. Under such circumstances, reaching outside of the “sponsored” Church literature and activities is a luxury that few active LDS members can afford (in time and energy, to say nothing of money), especially in the middle of the life-cycle. Like other contributors to this discussion, I hope and trust that electronic media and products will permit Dialogue and its sister publications to reach more of these people than are likely to encounter the print versions of our products, especially those who live outside the U.S. Yet I doubt that we will ever see more than one in a thousand LDS members subscribing to any of these publications, either in print or in electronic forms. Consider, for example, that BYU Studies, despite being “approved” for subscriptions by CES people, and despite having Church support and access to the entire BYU alumni data-base to solicit subscribers, has only about 4500 subscribers! Dialogue has less than half that number, which isn’t bad considering that it lacks those advantages of BYU Studies. The Mormon History Association (and its Journal) has only 1200 members/subscribers. Sunstone might have 3000. None of these publications is likely ever to reach 10,000, and if they don’t build strong endowments to provide for future financial independence (which most of them are trying to do), they will always be living “hand-to-mouth,” struggling just to stay even with subscriber turnover. I think some additional subscribers (including more libraries) can be expected from outside the LDS network as electronic versions become more feasible and plentiful, and as Mormon Studies programs get going in a few key places. Both USU and the Claremont Graduate School (and School of Religion) are serious about implementing such programs and basing them upon endowed chairs. I taught a course in Mormon Studies at Claremont last semester in which my students used a lot of Dialogue and JMH articles in electronic form, and I expect Mormon Studies to catch on at a few other major universities. That will all help, and we can all do more to promote both Mormon Studies and these various publications. Yet we must not be discouraged if our efforts never bring us the churchwide (and/or national) acceptance and appreciation of these publications that we know they deserve.
    Thanks to all for “listening” to me throughout this long apologia.

    — Armand Mauss

  58. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    Steve (the Dialogue defender),

    “Again, I believe that Dialogue is waging a war against largely undeserved perceptions, which are based upon pseudo-scandals of decades past.”

    Whether or not the perceptions are true and the scandals are pseudo, Dialogue is damaged goods. Thus Armand Mauss is apparently heading a committee looking to institute change for the better. That’s more or less the definition of repenting. We all have to repent. It is not pretentious to imply that someone or something needs to repent unless that something is perfect. If you think Dialogue is just fine the way it is, take it up with Mauss.

  59. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 1:49 pm

    How’s that for timing. Armand Mauss was kind enough to post while I was writing my comment.

    Thanks for your appraisal, Armand.

  60. JWL on August 12, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Let me make a few points based on a longer familiarity with Dialogue than some of the others who have commented here:

    (1) Dialogue has shifted in tone with changes of editors much more often than just a comparison of the 60s and 90s would suggest. Although it has always published articles which were uncomfortable to some, it only became completely one-sided during the long editorial tenure of Allen Roberts and Marti Bradley during the 90s. I think that if one fairly reviews the issues since then under the editorships of the Chandlers (ignoring the first few Chandler-edited issues which were mostly material carried over from the previous Roberts/Bradley editorship) and Ross Peterson, that you will find them much more balanced than during the 90s. Just to cite one example, in the most recent issue there are two long articles by David Knowlton and Mark Grover discussing the discrepancy between the Church’s membership statistics and recent government censuses of religious self-identification in Chile and Mexico. Rather than take the obvious ploy of using these facts to criticize the Church for “baseball” baptisms, business sales oriented obsession with numbers, and various other usual liberal critiques of the institutional Church, both articles take the positive view that, although the facts show significant retention problems, the government figures also confirm that there are hundreds of thousands of people in these countries who do self-identify as LDS, and are willing to affirm that to a government official.

    (2) Although Dialogue certainly can take some steps to encourage more orthodox contributors, the onus is not solely on Dialogue. Nate’s post seems to speak not for Dan Peterson or Lou Midgley, but rather for upcoming younger orthodox (or at least orthoprax) scholars. However, surely Nate and these younger scholars are not so young as to be unaware that there are many in the Church who prefer pablum to any kind of serious scholarship, even if positively oriented. These are NOT friends to Nate and other aspiring professional academics who want to do rigorous work in Mormon related topics. It seems disingenuous for these young orthodox scholars to whine about Dialogue’s bias when they haven’t even submitted their material to Dialogue. Personally, I believe that it would be much better received by the CURRENT editors than they think.

    (3) Also, it is much easier to put something in the mail than to start an entire new journal to publish it. It would require unimaginable effort and resources to launch a new Mormon studies scholarly journal today. Let’s not abandon the one we have if there is any way to save it.

    (4) As for saving Dialogue, I think it will require something more from Dialogue than just soliciting contributions from more orthodox authors as Nate suggests. Dialogue needs to acknowledge that it became very one-sided during the 90s. Nothing would encourage more orthodox contributors more than an open letter from the editorial board acknowledging past bias, and reiterating that the journal wishes to promote contributions from and exchange among ALL in the Mormon community.

    (5) Based upon personal acquaintance rather than a rigorous survey, I don’t believe that the Dialogue support/subscriber base is as disaffected as some here seem to assume, or as one might have thought based on the articles published in the 90s. Based on this, I do not believe the possibilities of making Dialogue more centrist are as long shot as some commentators above.

    (6) Finally, I do believe Dialogue is worth the effort. Why should we be dependent on the interests and biases of editors of secular academic journals unfamiliar with Mormonism to read serious scholarly explorations of our faith? Jews, Catholics, neocons, GLBTs, etc, etc, etc have their own scholarly journals, why shouldn’t we? There are too many important aspects of the Mormon experience that would never be explored or examined if we don’t do it and publish it ourselves.

  61. Clark on August 12, 2005 at 2:00 pm

    Nate, your idea of Claremont taking the ball is a good one. If they don’t, I wonder if UVSC with their nascent Mormon Studies Program might.

  62. Orson Prax on August 12, 2005 at 2:05 pm

    “As for saving Dialogue, I think it will require something more from Dialogue than just soliciting contributions from more orthodox authors as Nate suggests. Dialogue needs to acknowledge that it became very one-sided during the 90s. Nothing would encourage more orthodox contributors more than an open letter from the editorial board acknowledging past bias, and reiterating that the journal wishes to promote contributions from and exchange among ALL in the Mormon community.”

    This is very true. My complaint is not so much about Dialogue itself as about how Dialogue is *perceived* by those whom I want to hire me. I have several faithful and orthodox things that would work well in Dialogue better than elsewhere, yet I do not submit them. I do not wish to be associated with Dialogue’s *perceived* antagonism to the Church. Unless and until that perception disappears, I will either submit these papers elsewhere or simply not publish them at all. I appreciate Armaun Mauss’ comments above, and, as a hopeful future Mormon scholar (both a scholar who is Mormon in more than a cultural way and a scholar with Mormon research interests), I advise them to take JWL’s suggestion seriously.

  63. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 2:08 pm

    Frank, you’re insane. Dialogue needs to repent because of an unjustified public perception??? Again, a poor word choice by you, on a point that I don’t think you fully understand (it’s clear that you are not a Dialogue reader, let alone subscriber).

  64. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 2:10 pm

    JWL: I don’t necessarily see that younger scholars have a duty to submitt to Dialogue or any other Mormon fora. Frankly, for those starting out in their careers it is hard to justify putting the time into publications that are not going to help you either get a job or get tenure. As I said above, I don’t think that the low professional value of Dialogue has ANYTHING to do with its ideological position (or lack there of). There are, of course, some younger scholars who are productive enough to dabble in Mormon studies and also get jobs and tenure. Not everyone, however, is blessed with such gifts.

    Also, I don’t see this letter or any of my other writings as being apologia for the pablum-only camp, so I don’t think that your rebuke is really justified.

  65. Rosalynde Welch on August 12, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks, Dr. Mauss and JWL for the long and thoughtful comments.

    From the perspective of a younger scholar interested in (but not specializing in) Mormon studies, I’ve been hesitant to submit pieces to Dialogue not because I think they’ll reject my stuff for being too conservative or orthodox, but because it’s my perception that publication in Dialogue would effectively block my chances to teach at BYU, and may perhaps limit the ways I’m able to serve in the Church in the future. I’m not sure I’ll ever be in the position to teach at BYU, nor do I aspire to high Church position (not that there are any for women, anyway!)—nor, in fact, am I absolutely certain that a publication in Dialogue would have those effects. But I’ve been told it could, and the relatively small professional and personal benefit to my publishing in Dialogue—as compelling as I find its cause, and as beneficial as a more balanced slate would be for Dialogue’s institutional health—doesn’t outweigh even a small risk to my future activities.

    Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that Dialogue’s change of institutional course may be a necessary but is certainly not a sufficient action to change its image. It’s very possible that BYU will continue to frown on participation in Dialogue, and that church leaders will continue to be suspicious of its content, regardless of Dialogue’s actual stance. I hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, then Dialogue’s changing still would probably not be enough to get me to publish in it (until I’ve got nothing to lose anymore!).

  66. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 2:18 pm

    JWL: One other point. I actually doubt that there is any significant ideological bias among Dialogue editors in terms of what they will publish. The point is about how one changes percpetions as well as reality. The younger scholars that I know are not complaining about bias on the part of Dialogue editors. They are complaining about the early-1990s baggage that you are talking about.

  67. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    JWL: Rosalynde, as usual, says it better than I do.

  68. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    Rosalynde’s correct that publishing in Dialogue would no doubt raise eyebrows at BYU and in the Church administration building. But I’d say few members of the Church work or will work at BYU professionally.

    Further, I fail to see why we should be worried about the impact a Dialogue article would have on our Church service. I find it interesting that Rosalynde mentions this at all, actually. If Church leaders are suspicious of your participation, well, let your participation speak for itself — write things to be proud of, and I think you should have nothing to fear.

  69. lori on August 12, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    Rosalynde- I have here in my files at least 7 requests from professors at BYU in different departments asking for copyright permission to use Dialogue articles in their course work this year alone. If they are not afraid -why are you? I also sell subscriptions to every BYU Library which means they are not afraid of having it available for you to read. They let me advertise for subscriptions in their newspaper. Where is this fear really coming from? Did someone in the professional or scholarly community that you respect tell you that your chances are diminished in life by reading or making submissions to Dialogue?

  70. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    Steve: I think that you dismiss BYU too rapidly. Suppose that you are interested in being a professional academic. The job market for most academic disciplines is insanely competitive. In some disciplines, the fact that you are a Mormon may raise a red flag for many, so you are starting out with at least some marks against you. (Personally, I think that this is less of a problem that many think; but it is not an entirely unreasonable fear.) On the other hand, simply by virtue of being a more-or-less active Mormon, you are likely to have a huge competitive advantage in getting a job at BYU; rather than competing against the entire world you are competing against similarlly qualified Mormons who are willing to work at BYU, which in many cases will be only a small hand full of people. You may think that the attitude of some at BYU toward the mere publication in Dialogue is misguided, but frankly you have spent enough time in academia that you are a bit jaded and cynical, so the fact that there are political dynamics at BYU doesn’t really bother you as much as the prospect of not being able to live out your dream of being a professional scholar. Against the harsh realities of the academic job market, making a noble statement of hope for the future of Dialogue’s place in Mormon Studies just doesn’t seem to be worth it.

    I can think of at least half a dozen grad students or proto academics who have given me exactly some version of this reasoning. I am not inclined to judge them harshly.

  71. Davis Bell on August 12, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    Can someone explain to a neophyte what relationship, exists, if any, between Sunstone and Dialogue, as well as what differentiates the two?

  72. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    Nate, fair enough – you are more familiar with that world. If that is indeed the case, it’s unfortunate indeed and speaks very ill of BYU.

    Davis, there are loose relationships between Sunstone, Dialogue and all the other mormon studies journals. It’s a small world and the scholars and experts travel between them all (except perhaps for FARMS). Sunstone seems to be much more active in terms of activities external to its printed form (symposia, for example).

  73. Aaron Brown on August 12, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    Sunstone has comics and pictures. Dialogue doesn’t. Sunstone appears to aim for a popular audience, with a mix of scholarly articles, personal essays, news blurbs, fiction, comics, etc. Dialogue is just longer, academic articles (but there’s the personal essays there sometimes too). Some say Sunstone is more controversial, since its name is associated with the Symposium that also bears its name. Some think Dialogue is more controversial, since Allan Roberts was more disaffected than Elbert Peck, etc. Just my quick and dirty two cents. Others can elaborate.

    Aaron B

  74. anon on August 12, 2005 at 2:54 pm

    Davis, here are their websites. Poke around a bit and you’ll get a sense for them. One is a magazine and one is a journal. There is no official institutional relationship between them.

    http://www.sunstoneonline.com/

    http://www.dialoguejournal.com/

  75. Aaron Brown on August 12, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    Davis — I’m now realizing I probably misinterpreted your question (as if you’d never picked up a copy). Sorry.

    Aaron B

  76. Ben S. on August 12, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    It’s the difference between BCC and Mormon Open Forum :)

    One is more scholarly and selective, the other much less so. (or at least, such has been the case in the past. Sunstone has been changing recently…)

  77. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks, as ever, Ben.

  78. Davis Bell on August 12, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks, all. Aaron, I have picked up a few copies, but not many (the Spirit left me immediately, so I put it right back down), and truth be told I get the mixed up. It’s good to hear what the distinction is.

    Ben,

    So which is which?

    Also, can someone point me to a brief history of the relationship between Sunstone and/or Dialogue and the institutional Church/GAs? Is the extent of it the one statement by an apostle (Oaks?) who discouraged attending “symposia?”

  79. Ben S. on August 12, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    That wasn’t a slam, Steve. I read (or at least skim) Dialogue, Sustone, and BCC, and I frequently make use of my New Mormon Studies cd-rom. It’s not so much the content anymore, as it is the perception.

  80. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Davis,

    Dialogue is the journal; Sunstone is the magazine. Neither is like the Mormon Open Forum, they’re both more like BCC, although I’d venture to say that on the whole, Sunstone is a little more left than Dialogue. That’s mostly perception of course (just like reputations for orthodoxy in the bloggernacle!).

  81. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Steve: For what it is worth, I really don’t know how much negative baggage a Dialogue publication carries with the people who make hiring decisions at BYU. I suspect that most of them would respond: “Why are they wasting their time in Mormon Studies rather than publishing in the Journal of Cutting Edge Research.” The BYU-Dialogue Issue is simply another one of thousands of rumors and half-truths about academic institutions that swirl about the world of anxiety-ridden-over-educated-people-desperately-seeking-to-avoid-productive-labor. It is like the rumors that Wisconsin Law School is dominated by crits or that Chicago only hires L&E people or Georgetown will never hire conservatives. Who knows how true any of these things are…

  82. Ben S. on August 12, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    “It’s not so much the content *of Dialogue* anymore…” is what I meant to say.

    Davis, I was equating Dialogue with BCC.

  83. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 3:07 pm

    BTW, as far as I know the rumor about Wisconsin is false and the rumor about Georgetown is true…

  84. Ben S. on August 12, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    Perhaps it was an unfair comparison…

  85. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    Ben, perhaps so!

    Nate, that’s good to know — of course I have no real future in Mormon Studies: my future lies in selling wonderful Amway(TM) products. But if I ever get the urge to return to the land of the navajo taco, I hope my treacly haikus won’t keep me out.

    And no, I have no treacly haikus, except:

    Dialogue Journal
    Mormon thought, ever doubtful
    Ever banned from BYU?

  86. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 3:14 pm

    And yes, I know I got the syllables wrong in the last line. Such is my genius.

  87. DavidH on August 12, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    Elder Oaks was on the founding board of Dialogue (or at least shortly thereafter). I read his conference talk in 1989 as urging caution with respect to “alternate voices” (i.e., noncorrelation approved), rather than advice to avoid alternate voices. The caution was not limited to Dialogue:

    “Of course, the Church does have a responsibility to point out what is the voice of the Church and what is not. This is especially necessary when some alternate voice, deliberately or inadvertently, communicates a message in a way that implies Church sponsorship or acquiescence.

    “For the same reason, the Church does approve or disapprove those publications that are to be published or used in the official activities of the Church, general or local. For example, we have procedures to ensure approved content for materials published in the name of the Church or used for instruction in its classes. These procedures can be somewhat slow and cumbersome, but they have an important benefit. They provide a spiritual quality control that allows members to rely on the truth of what is said. Members who listen to the voice of the Church need not be on guard against being misled. They have no such assurance for what they hear from alternate voices.”

    Sometimes Dialogue is not for the spiritually faint of heart (in the same way that many blogs are not either). Even the early issues in the 1960s were troubling for me in my teenage years, notwithstanding the fact that critical articles were “balanced” by more orthodox writing. My mother loved Dialogue; my father had real reservations. I wasn’t forbidden from reading it, but the issues were stored high in a closet.

    Nonetheless, I would characterize myself as a tepid Dialogue supporter, although not a subscriber. I noticed that there were many citations to Dialogue in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (a quasi-approved publication). I hope that the days when publication or participation in Dialogue or Sunstone might be a feared or perceived blemish on one’s Church resume are, or will soon be, behind us.

  88. Costanza on August 12, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    Nate writes “The BYU-Dialogue Issue is simply another one of thousands of rumors and half-truths about academic institutions that swirl about the world of anxiety-ridden-over-educated-people-desperately-seeking-to-avoid-productive-labor.” I couldn’t agree more. Before I published in Dialogue (I was a Ph.D. student at the time) I called one of my old profs in the history department at BYU, where I had worked on a Master’s degree. He told me that publishing in Dialogue had very little impact on hiring–what mattered was the tone and content of the piece in question. He also emphasized that each potential hire is scrutinized in hughly variable and idiosncratic ways–something I have since found to be true in my own academic experience outside of BYU. It is best for aspiring scholars to do solid work, publish in the best journals possible and try to ignore all of the scary folklore!

  89. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Here is a link to the Elder Oaks talk in question.

  90. Davis Bell on August 12, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Dave,

    Is that the same talk where the reference to symposia was made? Is that the extent of the commentary by the GAs on the matter?

  91. Costanza on August 12, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    Of course, being able to spell “highly” and “idiosyncratic” helps…ugh!

  92. M.J. Pritchett on August 12, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    On a lighter note, I remember in the early 90′s discussing with my brother (a faithful, academic scientist) why he subscribed to Dialoge.

    He said that he did it so that when the church sent out the order to round up the “intellectuals”, he wouldn’t be left off the list simply because he’d been too cheap to maintain his subscription.

  93. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    Steve,

    I told you already. If you don’t think Dialogue needs to change, take it up with Armand Mauss.

    As for BYU, tenure is really hard to get rid of, so all institutions use any and every signal available to determine how a person will turn out 20 years from now. For BYU, the stakes are even higher. Obviously if you have published in a venue with a strong ideological bent, that is relevant.

    BTW, referencing Dialogue is very different from publishing in Dialogue.

    Lastly, I am getting confused, am I both pretentious and insane, or have you decided that rather than pretension, my statements are due to my insanity? Please respond soon because I need to get my business cards in for printing.

    Davis,

    There was also a FP message in 1991(?) which I think was related to the symposia.

  94. Aaron Brown on August 12, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    Someone wanted to know the history of the relationship between Sunstone/Dialogue and the Church/G.A.s. Believe it or not, I think historical articles on these subjects have appeared in …. (drum role please)…. Sunstone and Dialogue. Can’t provide the cites. Sorry.

    Aaron B

  95. Prudence McPrude on August 12, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    All intellectual thought and discussion among Church members is evil, and should be banned.

  96. Steve Evans on August 12, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    Frank, I haven’t decided whether your insanity is such that it excuses your pretension. My suspicion is that it doesn’t.

  97. Davis Bell on August 12, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    I’d be interested in reading those accounts if anyone can point me to them. Just, you know, so I can better fight apostasy and stuff. Not because I’m interested per se.

  98. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    Davis: I actually think that Elder Oaks’s talk is really good and worth reading.

  99. Frank McIntyre on August 12, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    Steve,

    “His insanity does not excuse his pretension” doesn’t fit on a business card.

    Can you be a little pithier?

  100. Ryan Bell on August 12, 2005 at 4:00 pm

    D-train: “2) Isn’t the conservative view already out there? The whole reason that I’m reading this at all is because the views are somewhat different than what I can get in Church or elsewhere on the internet. There are some perfectly good blogs that I don’t read because I get enough of the party line in the Ensign. Not that the party line is bad, but it doesn’t really fit my interests a lot of the time.”

    Are you serious? No orthodox or conservative blog or publication is ever going to tell you anything you don’t already hear in Sunday School? One rarely hears such simplistic ideas coming from such an intelligent person.

    Nate, the rumor about Georgetown is true. It’s one of the strangest things I have ever seen, but there are, in fact, many intelligent people who think you can have a perfectly respectable law school with a faculty of a hundred or so without a single person on the faculty that bills herself as a conservative.

  101. Davis Bell on August 12, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    Nate, you are such a peter priesthood. I want the real story.

  102. Justin on August 12, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    Devery Anderson has written several articles on the history of Dialogue.

    Part One, The Early Years, 1965-1971

    Part Two, Struggle Toward Maturity, 1971-1982

    Part 3, “Coming of Age” in Utah, 1982-1987, is available at the Dialogue website. It appears in the Summer 2002 issue.

  103. Geoff J on August 12, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Dang yer good, Justin!

  104. Shawn Bailey on August 12, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks, Nate, for the link to Elder Oaks’ article. I agree that it is very good. The following paragraph stood out to me:

    “In our day we are experiencing an explosion of knowledge about the world and its people. But the people of the world are not experiencing a comparable expansion of knowledge about God and his plan for his children. On that subject, what the world needs is not more scholarship and technology but more righteousness and revelation.”

    For me this captures well the tone and (to some extent) the content of Elder Oaks’ attempt to walk a difficult line. Having heard passing comments all my life about the disfavored status of Sunstone and Dialogue, I was a little surprised by the nuance in Elder Oaks’ article. Yes, he issues a warning about attempts at scholarship that may either be inspiring, destructive, or a mix of both. However, it is clear that Elder Oaks does not see the church as anti-”alternative voice”; on the contrary, the church is simply adamant about fulfilling its mission as the only authorized voice on certain subjects. The truly important ones.

    Still, it strikes me as interesting how risk averse people must be to turn a thoughtful warning into “absolutely avoid it!,” “it is a sure sign of apostacy,” and (as speculated above at length) “it may jeopardize job opportunities at BYU!”

  105. Rosalynde Welch on August 12, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    Lori, re:#69: First of all, I realize that my attitude must be incredibly frustrating for you Dialogue folks, and I personally feel that the polarization and mutual recrimination on both sides of this issue is regrettable—and not by any means entirely Dialogue’s (or Sunstone’s) fault. Furthermore, the effect of a Dialogue publication on a BYU hire is, as I said, quite uncertain, and the taboo is mostly perpetuated by rumors, whispers and a shared diffuse wisdom—not by any hard policy or known empirical data. Some BYU professors do publish in Sunstone and Dialogue—perhaps even some as-yet-untenured professors, I don’t know—so clearly it is not entirely off-limits. There may also be a significant disciplinary difference in the effect: it may be that a Dialogue publication would have a much greater chilling effect on the chances of an aspiring English or history professor than of a social sciences or theater professor.

    Still, though, putting a Dialogue article on one’s syllabus *as* a BYU professor is very different from publishing in Dialogue *before* one is a BYU professor. And thank heaven that that’s the case—my BYU experience was enriched significantly by the material from Dialogue that I ran across in my course readers.

  106. Nate Oman on August 12, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    Shawn: I think that you are right about the nuance of Elder Oaks’s sermon, I have seen it cited for the proposition that (1) Dialogue and Sunstone are evil and have been condemned by the Brethren, and (2) the Brethren categorically wish to keep members from reading anything about Mormonism that has not passed through correlation. Elder Oaks’s counsel cannot be reduced to either of these carictures. For example, he says:

    “Some alternate voices are those of well-motivated men and women who are merely trying to serve their brothers and sisters and further the cause of Zion. Their efforts fit within the Lord’s teaching that his servants should not have to be commanded in all things, but “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.””

    As well as:

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not attempt to isolate its members from alternate voices. Its approach, as counseled by the Prophet Joseph Smith, is to teach correct principles and then leave its members to govern themselves by personal choices.”

    And:

    “Members of the Church are free to participate or to listen to any alternate voices they choose, but Church leaders should avoid official involvement, directly or indirectly.”

    Or:

    “There are disadvantages to official nonparticipation in events where Church doctrines, ordinances, or practices are discussed. In some instances, the overall presentation will be decidedly inaccurate or unfair because the position of the Church and the knowledge of its leaders are not presented. In other instances, a volunteer will step forward to present what he or she considers to be the Church’s position. Sometimes these volunteers are well-informed and capable, and they contribute to a balanced presentation. Sometimes they are not, and their contribution makes matters worse. When attacked by error, truth is better served by silence than by a bad argument.”

    And:

    “Individual members of the Church may also confront difficult questions when they are invited to participate. The question is more complicated when the invitation does not relate to a publication or a lecture on a single subject, but to a group of articles, a series of publications, or a conference or symposium with a large number of subjects. One article or one issue of a publication or one session of a conference may be edifying and uplifting, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would wish to support or enjoy. But another article or another session may be destructive, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would not wish to support or promote.

    Some of life’s most complicated decisions involve mixtures of good and evil. To what extent can one seek the benefit of something good one desires when this can only be done by simultaneously promoting something bad one opposes? That is a personal decision, but it needs to be made with a sophisticated view of the entire circumstance and with a prayer for heavenly guidance.”

    Good stuff….

  107. JWL on August 12, 2005 at 5:44 pm

    Re: comments 64 – 67 by Nate and RW:

    On rereading it, I think Nate’s original post is confusing a few separate issues:

    (1) The marginal value of publishing in ANY Mormon fora to the job prospects of aspiring professional academics who are Mormon,

    (2) The marginal value of pursuing any kind of Mormon studies to the job prospects of aspiring professional academics who are Mormon, and

    (3) The disinterest of aspiring professional academics who are Mormon in publishing in Dialogue because of the perception that it is a voice for the disaffected.

    Nate acknowledges that point 3 has nothing to do with points 1 and 2. So why does he bring these up when the point of his letter is criticizing Dialogue on point 3?

    I don’t see how points 1 and 2 are the fault of Dialogue’s editors. They do peer review, try to get into librairies, etc. — as much as any multidisciplinary journal can do I suspect. And Nate acknowledges that following his advice is irrelevant to improving the situation with regard to points 1 and 2.

    I contend again that if it is not very persuasive to me for Nate:

    (a) to criticize Dialogue on point 3,

    (b) assert that the solution is to attract a wider range of voices, and then

    (c) declare that he and his contemporaries will not contribute to solution (b) because of extraneous points 1 and 2.

    The only exception would be RW’s contention that publishing in Dialogue is said to jeopardize one’s chances at BYU employment. Here again I contend that those who make such a policy are not going to like or be impressed with your Mormon Studies work published in secular academic journals any more than if it was published in Dialogue. Declining to submit material to Dialogue in these circumstances could be considered aiding and abetting anti-intellectualism in the Church — if you’re not part of the solution, etc. etc. However, I’m not competing with hundreds of other PhDs for a handful of decent academic jobs, so I won’t criticize those who choose not to publish in Dialogue so they can have a shot at a BYU job. However, I do believe that they thereby forfeit their right to criticize Dialogue for not publishing the very kind of articles that they are declining to submit.

  108. Davis Bell on August 12, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    Justin,

    Do those articles detail the issue of being stigmatized by Church leaders? I confess I”m not terribly interested in the other stuff.

  109. Nathan Oman on August 12, 2005 at 7:39 pm

    JWL: I wrote a much longer comment in response, but it got lost in the ether, so let me try to provide a short version.

    1. I don’t think that the low professional value of Dialogue publications is the fault of Dialogue editors, or is something that they can do very much about. However, I think that it is precisely this fact that makes it so important for Dialogue to keep its nose clean, as it were. If a Dialogue publication were the road to tenure at Harvard, it wouldn’t need to worry about its ideological reputation as much in order to attract younger scholars. The fact that things are other wise means that it does.

    2. I think that you are misunderstanding me when I say that young scholars don’t have a duty to publish in Dialogue. I know some that do, and I think it is great. If I had an article on Mormonism that I didn’t think I could get in a professionally valuable journal, I would consider sending it to Dialogue. However, given the cut throat world in which the unhired and pre-tenured live and breath; and the rather ambigious attitude of BYU, I do not fault those who are not going to the barricades for Dialogue, nor do I think it is unreasonable to suggest that Dialogue might mitigate its reputational problem (and I am not talking here about its reputation with tenure committees) by reaching out to establish conservative scholars who don’t live with the same sort of professional anxieties. If this seems like ungrateful whining, I apologize.

    For what it is worth, I have been told by some at BYU that publishing on Mormon topics in mainstream journals is not a problem, while publishing on Mormon topics in Dialogue is. Hence, I don’t think it is fair to equate unease with Dialogue in particular with unease about Mormon scholarship generally. I don’t know how much credance anyone should give to these sorts of rumors, but I can understand why people act the way that they do.

    Ultimately my point is less about the make up of the articles that appear in Dialogue, than a need for it to find ways of sending strong public signals. I actually don’t have much in the way of complaints about most of what it publishes. Perhaps your mea culpa letter would be even better than my solicit Lou Midgley idea. Perhaps culpable past editors of Dialogue could be burned in efigy at the next Sunstone symposium.

  110. Armand Mauss on August 12, 2005 at 8:01 pm

    Me again. The extensive exchanges above on Elder Oaks and the issue of “alternate voices” have pushed me above my normal “modesty threshold” (don’t laugh!). I must refer you to my own comments on Elder Oaks’s talk, which took the form of a Sunstone article entitled “Alternate Voices: The Calling and Its Implications.” It appeared in Issue No. 76 (April 1990), all of which can now be downloaded and read from the Sunstoneonline website (“Prior Issues”). Perhaps more important was the personal LETTER I got from Elder Oaks after publication of that article. It was a very brief letter but explicitly approved of my response to his talk. Check it out (the article).

  111. Justin on August 12, 2005 at 8:03 pm

    Do those articles detail the issue of being stigmatized by Church leaders? I confess I”m not terribly interested in the other stuff.

    Yes, there are discussions interspersed throughout the first two articles on the issue. In the first part of the history, see pages 21-32; 41-49; 59-61. In the second part of the history, see pages 21-29; 32-33; 37-39; 66-69.

  112. Travis on August 12, 2005 at 10:26 pm

    Bro. Mauss – - Thank you so much for mentioning your Sunstone article. I just read it and loved it. I especially liked your “decalogue for dissenters”.

  113. Marc Bohn on August 12, 2005 at 11:07 pm

    Great post Nate. I think the subsequent discussion has been incredibly interesting. I personally think that publications like Dialogue and Sunstone can serve a valuable purpose in Mormon thought’s ongoing discussion, but I think Nate’s call for Dialogue to more actively seek alternative voices is key. Growing up my father often called Dialogue “Monologue” because of the difficulty he, Lou Midgley and others had publishing anything in it.

  114. Jeremy on August 12, 2005 at 11:14 pm

    I thought I’d weigh in, since I recently published in Dialogue while navigating the academic job market. Among the faculty at the institution where I was completing graduate studies, as well as the schools where I interviewed, the Mormon-ness of my Dialogue article didn’t seem to be a liability–more of a novelty, really. Most scholars were surprised to learn of the relatively nascent field of “Mormon studies,” and seemed rather intrigued by the idea.

    Of course “the Mormon candidate” isn’t a very compelling shtick in and of itself; I suspect my Dialogue article served to complement my other publications/papers in journals and venues directly related to my field (musicology), but wouldn’t have carried much weight on its own. I got the impression that, in an academic climate in which “interdisciplinarity” is a buzzword, listing the Dialogue article among my publications demostrated an ability to extricate my work from the shoptalk of my field and present it to an alternate audience.

    This may or may not speak broadly to the point Nate raised, about whether or not it was worth it for emerging scholars to go to the effort to publish in Dialogue. In my case, I adapted work I had published elsewhere, simplifying/laymanizing the more discipline-specific aspects on the one hand, and, on the other, making the Mormon stuff more extensive and nuanced. In other words, I didn’t have to do an entire article’s worth of additional research; rather, I had to reformulate, repackage, and rewrite my work in order to speak to an audience ostensibly interested in for entirely different reasons that fellow scholars in my field would be. So, in my case, it was definitely worth it to add another line to my publications list and, I suppose, add another interdisciplinary feather to my cap. However, if I hadn’t already established a publication record in musicology journals and venues, it probably wouldn’t have been wise to take time away from those areas.

    Of course, I can’t say the extent to which the Dialogue publication in and of itself influenced my eventual hire, but I did feel it added something unique to my resume and served to complement rather than detract from credentials more directly affiliated with my field.

    One other point: I echo Shipps, Bloom, and others in wishing that more scholars of the arts and literature would explore Mormon culture. This is not just a personal academic preference: since the particularities of artistic style are more broadly perceived as a matter of taste and less a matter of moral rightness or wrongness, discussions of Mormon cultural expression, I think, are less prone to divisive polarities like conservative/liberal, or orthodox/heterodox, and thus less prone perpetuating the problems Nate observes in the pages of Dialogue.

  115. Kevin Barney on August 12, 2005 at 11:42 pm

    I have subscribed to Dialogue since my first real post-college job when I could afford it (1985), and before that I would read the back issues in the Institute at the University of Illinois (back in the good old days when they were allowed to subscribe) or in the UoI’s graduate library, which had a full collection.

    Although by most Mormon standards I’m a flaming liberal, I suppose by Dialogue standards (and certainly by Sunstone standards) I’m either a moderate or maybe even somewhat conservative (since I am indeed a believer).

    I’ve published three articles in Dialogue. The most recent one (on the Documentary Hypothesis) was one that they actively sought me out to write; it was not my idea. They wanted to get a believer’s perspective on it, and they got one. I was pretty darned impressed that they went to the trouble and made the effort to get me to write it.

    I also publish a lot with FARMS, and am on the board of FAIR. So my participation in Dialogue may be a small sampling of what Nate is hoping for. Although admittedly I’m a lawyer, not an academic, so I don’t have the pressures of tenure committees that so many here seem to be worried about.

    (I remember being somewhat shocked at the professional sacrifices Bob Rees made in order to edit the journal, for which he got basically no academic credit or support. In my naivete I had assumed that Dialogue was recognized as a journal of academic value.)

    I love the tone of T&S, and I think that if some of the participants here would start writing for Dialogue, it would make a significant difference. I know for example T&S blogger Kristine Haglund Harris has recently published something there. It is certainly a trend I would like to see continue and accelerate.

    Yes, there have occasionally been critical articles, but they don’t bother me as they seem to others; I have the capacity to let such things roll off my back, which perhaps explains why I am able to immerse myself in LDS apologetics and yet maintain both faith and a sense of equanimity about such things

    (I think getting the back issues online at the University of Utah was a very important development. Most people have no idea what treasures lurk in those back issues.. I would highly recommend some browsing through the collection to get a sense for what’s there. Having been a regular reader of Dialogue over the years has been of tremendous value in my apologetics work when I am called upon to answer some difficult question for a Church member who is struggling with some challenging faith issue.)

    Anywho, I am a fan of Dialogue and wish it much success in the future.

  116. Nathan Oman on August 13, 2005 at 12:34 am

    Here is the link to Bro. Mauss’s article (scroll down the page). I thought this passage especially apt:

    “Intelligent evaluation, especially in spiritual matters, is not possible without a considerable personal investment in studying, both widely and deeply, in prayer and in meditation. The hearer (or reader) of “alternative voices” who is not willing to do all this is only a dabbler and is far better off sticking with the Standard Works and the correlated lesson manuals.

    “People who read SUNSTONE and other “alternate” sources mainly to make mischief (and I know a few) are intellectual adolescents. They are searching less for understanding than for cheap shots at traditional shibboleths, or for juicy and scandalous tidbits about Church leaders past and present. I have one more caveat (with apologies to Dante!) for those who would be conscientious listeners of “alternate voices”: Abandon certainty all ye who enter herein! Never again will you enjoy the immunity to doubt and ambiguity that went with your previous life. But then the ability to live with perpetual ambiguity is also a trait that distinguishes adults from adolescents.”

  117. Jack on August 13, 2005 at 1:49 am

    “But then the ability to live with perpetual ambiguity is also a trait that distinguishes adults from adolescents.”

    Well said. Except, when speaking of spiritual things, the Gospel ought to be about establishing a firm foundation of faith and pressing forward with our eye on the polestar. We are promised the assurance of the constancy of God’s influence in our lives if we strive to be faithful. Thereby we are kept from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. This implies that we are not merely “liv[ing] with perpetual ambiguity”, but rather, living with hope because of the assurances we have inspite of life’s ambiguities.

    Maybe I’m being a little nit-picky–and I certainly don’t want to knock Bro. Mauss (whose writings have been a great help to me personally), but I think one of the major problems with “alternate voices” (generally speaking) is this very idea that the real men and women are separated from the boys and girls by whether or not they have enough grit to tear off the robes of orthodoxy and take the leap of faith into the river of ambiguity–which (leap) has a tendency to place the welfare of the “spiritually adolescent” in the hands of scholars rather than the Lord’s servants.

    That said, I understand that Bro. Mauss is suggesting that those who are serious about living the gospel are likely to benefit the most from publications such as Dialogue. I think he’s right. However, until the “alternate voices” can include the support of church orthodoxy in their mission statements they will always be a breeding ground (some more than others) for dissenting opinions. Now, I don’t think there’s a problem in having the “discussion” if it’s well intended. But, the typical pattern is to become disenchanted with the brethren and then to begin second guessing their intentions–and by extention the Lord’s intentions in many cases.

  118. lori on August 13, 2005 at 10:28 am

    ”I think Nate’s call for Dialogue to more actively seek alternative voices is key”.

    Mark and Nate- I couldn’t agree more. This is exactly why we are participating in this blog conversation today.
    There are other avenues we are exploring as well. I mentioned a few in an earlier post. Our Young Writer’s student program has been very successful in bringing in submissions from a younger generation.

    Jeremy and Kevin- Thanks for sharing those personal experiences. Wow! Did I pay you??

    Dialogue is stable and sound. We will be celebrating our 40th anniversary next year. A party not to miss with an ecclectic group sure to be in attendance.

    Over the years, Dialogue editors have more or less taken on their terms as labors of love. Compensation being very little or not at all. It is a demanding job and many have had to continue other full time positions while trying to meet the publication schedule. You may not agree with the individual editorial styles, personal vision, or gifts that they brought to the table but you have to respect their passion and committment to something they believe in and keeping the mission of having a Dialogue alive.

  119. Levi Peterson on August 13, 2005 at 10:53 am

    Thanks to Times and Seasons, to Nate Oman, and to all the rest of you who have made comments here. I am a newcomer to blogs and am a little overwhelmed by the longevity of foregoing discussion. Like Armand Mauss and Lori Levinson, who have posted comments in this discussion, I am a member of the Dialogue team. I think as a group we are ready to “repent” if that will help keep Dialogue viable. I appreciate both the criticism and the praise I have read in this discussion.

    Dialogue is an interdisciplinary journal. We publish scholarly articles on almost any topic dealing with Mormon studies. We publish personal essays, interviews, fiction, poetry, letters to the editor, and book reviews. We publish art and intend to do more of that with a forthcoming sixteen page color insert of paintings by a single artist.

    Our material is refereed. I will leave to others to judge the rigor of our reviewing system, adding only that I served as editor of three academic journals before becoming editor of Dialogue and I work as assiduously in seeing Dialogue materials refereed as I did with those journals.

    As editor, I am dependent on the authors who are willing to submit manuscripts and on the reviewers who advise me on the depth and reliability of those manuscripts. Within those limits I try to live up to Dialogue’s reputation for discussing both sides of controversies in Mormon studies. Submissions from the liberal side have outnumbered submissions from the conservative side. But I see a recent encouraging trend on the part of conservative authors to submit material.

    In the fall 2005 issue of the journal, due in the mail in early September, there will be a personal essay by a young man who defines himself as gay in his emotions yet who defiantly defends his decision to marry and raise a family according to the recommendation of the Church. His essay will be followed by statements by a professor and a therapist who respectfully advise against such marriages. Their statements will be followed by a brief rejoinder of the young man.

    I would be interested in the judgment of the participants in this blog regarding this cluster of personal statements on homosexuality and marriage in a Mormon context. If the young man’s essay strikes you as merely whiney, I need to know that. Do two rebuttals to the young man’s conservative position unfairly weight the discussion on the liberal side? If so, I need to know that as well. Finally, is homosexuality a topic so offensive to most readers that Dialogue’s willingness to discuss it is a negative as far as subscriptions are concerned?

    In any event, such are the matters Dialogue has to consider if indeed it needs to “repent.”

  120. Matt Evans on August 13, 2005 at 11:53 am

    Levi,

    Welcome to Times & Seasons. Your fall issue sounds fascinating, I look forward to reading it. Having discussed homosexuality extensively here at Times & Seasons, we can assuage your concern about the topic of homosexuality having a negative effect on your subscriptions. This is overstating it a bit, but we largely built our initial reader base by discussing Mormon issues surrounding homosexuality; no topic attracted as many visitors or provoked as much discussion. (Poke around our website a little and you’re bound to find threads on the subject — especially from our first year.)

  121. Davis Bell on August 13, 2005 at 12:10 pm

    Justin,

    Thanks so very much for the links and page references. Very, very, very interesting stuff.

  122. Blake on August 13, 2005 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks all for your thoughtful comments about Dialogue. I had a conversation with Eugene England in the mid 90s about Dialogue’s direction when Marti and Allen Roberts were unwilling to move on as editors. They had allowed several articles that I perceived to be rather stridently anti-Mormon to be published and they were revenue dependent on George Smith, who had published his article virtually trashing LDS culture and spirituality in “Free Inquiry” (as it turns out not so free since they don’t brook responses from belivers). It was evident to me than that Dialogue was hostile to the kingdom I was under covenant to assist to build. Dialogue has had a very difficult time moving beyond these “editorital lapses” which effectively represented the position of the editors at the time.

    I have published a half dozen articles (really long ones) in Dialogue. Like Kevin Barney, I am not an academic so I don’t have the concern about tenure and publishing that many of you have. However, I believe that Dialogue is important to the LDS community as long it doesn’t allow articles that are both dismissive and destructive of the LDS community. I am still concerned about George Smith’s undue influence (though I’m constatly told by those involved on Dialogue’s board that I shouldn’t be) and I am still in question about its editorial direction. I believe that Dialogue’s board is well aware of the problems that they face. But I’m also concerned about the take-over of FARMS by BYU and the Church (FARMS was so fun only because it could be independent and really didn’t have to be correlated — and Dan Peterson is incorrigibly entertaining ).

    Of course, I’m not really worried about what those at the Church Office Building will think either (just look at what I’ve published that took on what many members (mostly McConkeyites) would view as challenging something fundamental to the faith like God’s foreknowledge — or cultural overbeliefs about the Church or Book of Mormon based upon non-prophetic statements by church leaders. It is important that Dialogue survives and continues — BUT NOT AS THE FAITHFUL OPPOSITION but as the faithful who seek to build the kingdom as we are moved from time to time. The community of faith to which I choose to belong is NOT the Church of the Few Great Men, but of a kingdom of prophets who are moved to move it forward both top and bottom. Dialogue is an important bottom up contribution in my view.

  123. Matt Evans on August 13, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    Two maxims from customer service are relevant to the conversation about Dialogue’s reputation.

    The first is the assumption, especially common in the restaurant industry, that unhappy customers are 100 times more likely to tell their friends than are happy customers. I don’t know of any industry that believes good word-of-mouth out-travels the bad.

    The second assumption is that people, when weighing a reputation, place disproportionate weight on the low-water mark; the instance when the company or person’s behavior was least admirable. It seems some people believe the low-water mark best reveals true character, as it exposes who they really are and not what they pretend to be. (There’s an underlying, and reasonable, assumption that companies generally hide their negative side.)

    Dialogue seems to suffer from both of these maladies. A smattering of material they’ve published that disrespected members’ beliefs has caused Mormons to tag Dialogue as unfriendly.

    I don’t believe Dialogue has the means to reverse this image. Sears spent billions of dollars selling The Softer Side of Sears to turn their image around, but Dialogue doesn’t have the means to re-educate the Mormon market. Nate has urged Dialogue to hang a large “Under New Management” sign above their business, but I don’t believe this is sufficient because Dialogue doesn’t have the means to broadcast that message. Most Mormons would never know that Dialogue is trying to repent. (This does raise the question of who’s minds Dialogue needs to change: are authors reluctant to participate for what they think of Dialogue, or because of what they think Mormons think of Dialogue?)

    If Dialogue is convinced that their reputation is a serious obstacle to its success (as I believe it is, as do many commenters here), I think stronger medicine is required: re-branding the company, or in Dialogue’s case, renaming it. There’s a point when a company realizes it’s not worth spending good money trying to redeem the brand, and most cost-effective to repackage the company’s assets with a fresh identity. Utah Hardees become Carls Jr., Kentucky Fried Chicken becomes KFC, Young Miss becomes YM. (Many acquistions that result in renaming are done to remove the acquired brand’s drag on its assets.) In Dialogue’s case, the objective would be to keep its assets, like it’s subscriber base and institutional capital, while strongly showing that it’s a new day.

  124. Dave on August 13, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    At the same time, a recognized brand name has name-recognition value that lasts a long time. A blog named “Times & Seasons” should certainly appreciate that! There’s also the consideration that it is hard to do better than “Dialogue” for the name of a journal with the goals and aims of the journal as stated. You don’t give up a great name without an excellent reason to do so.

  125. Rosalynde Welch on August 13, 2005 at 4:37 pm

    Bro. Petersen: The fall line-up you’ve described sounds riveting and heartrending. But if it is structured so as to suggest that the married gay man represents the orthoprax Church position, while the professor and therapist represent dissenters, I think the series will significantly misrepresent the Church’s actual current position. Some years ago perhaps the case could have been made that the Church recommended marriage as the best antidote to homosexuality, but the most recent pronouncements on the subject—this article in the Ensign (http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates$fn=default.htm), for example—make no such recommendation, and indeed caution against it.

    The man’s wife is the one I’d like to hear from, heartbreaking as her story must be.

  126. Rosalynde Welch on August 13, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    I disagree with Matt Evans above. Not only are public perceptions more malleable between generations than he suggests, but it would be a real shame for Dialogue to abandon a heritage with such noble and inspiring beginnings.

  127. Brian G on August 13, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    Dear Levi Peterson,

    It was exciting for me to see you post here.

    I happen to be reading your collection The Canyons of Grace right now and I’m really enjoying it. After I’m done I’m sure I’ll go on to the Backslider.

    Thank you for your contribution to Mormon fiction.

  128. Mathew on August 13, 2005 at 7:57 pm

    Matt,

    KFC has recently decided to revive the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand in an attempt to reconnect with its heritage. I’m agnostic about the value of relaunching Dialogue under a new name but thought I would pass that along.

  129. annegb on August 13, 2005 at 8:01 pm

    I don’t know enough to comment on all this, but if I were to write a letter to dialogue, it would be one of gratitude. I’ve only read one magazine, where do you find these, anyway?–and it was about 25 years ago, but it had a huge impact on me. I didn’t know other people thought like I did.

  130. Ivan Wolfe on August 13, 2005 at 8:05 pm

    Rosalynde -
    The man’s wife is the one I’d like to hear from, heartbreaking as her story must be.

    That’s an odd comment. I know a guy who claims to be SSA, but he’s married and has kids. His wife is an amazing woman, but definetely not in a heartbreaking situation. The clearly are in love, even if he doesn’t find her physically attractive. they still have several children, he’s active in the church and seems happy.

    [An interesting thing is he gets the most flack and hardship from the "liberal" Mormons, who insist he has betrayed something in his inner self. He usually responds that he thought God was the highest source of truth, not his inner self, which he sees as "the natural man" which is an enemy to God. But let's not turn this into a debate over SSA or SSM.]

    But why do you assume that this man’s wife has a broken or breaking heart?

  131. Ivan Wolfe on August 13, 2005 at 8:17 pm

    As far as the overall topic here –

    I think due to the market penetration of Dialogue (I can read copies in the UT-Austin library), it would be a mistake to abandon it altogether. There’s enough good stuff in Dialogue to make it worthwhile.

    I relate it to the academic journals I read in my field of English and Rhetoric – there’s a huge range as far as quality goes. For example, I find most of the articles in JAC (Journal of Advanced Composition) rather useless because the journal is highly PoMo in its orientation (and it’s especially influence by bizarre American versions of deconstructionism), but there’s always at least one article worth my time.

    CCC (College Composition and Communication) is probably the main journal in the field, but for awhile the editors didn’t allow for any scientific or sociological studies of composition because the editor felt the scientific method was patriarchial and reinforced current hegemonic power variables. That was its low point, but it bounced back, mostly because of its history and name recognition.

    I have at times found myself dismayed at the predictability and/or banality of articles in Dialouge, and each issue is at best a mixed bag, I have nearly always found something worthwhile. Dialogue has name recognition, market penetration, and a solid (if checkered) history.

  132. Rosalynde Welch on August 13, 2005 at 8:27 pm

    Ivan, I saw your question, but to answer it here would indeed be a threadjack. I probably shouldn’t have put up the comment in the first place. Let’s try to keep the discussion on track.

  133. Matt Evans on August 13, 2005 at 11:43 pm

    Dave and Rosalynde,

    I agree that the Dialogue name would be hard to jettison — it’s a great word and of course for some people it has sentimental value. The question the board should consider, however, is whether the name is a net-positive or negative for their journal. Given Dialogue’s subscriber reach, editorial board, and prominent history, my perception is that the Dialogue brand is underperforming. If there are only about 2000 subscribers at the fortieth anniversary, their growth rate has probably been flat or downward for a long time. Looking at the subscriber history would allow the board to gauge the impact of their being perceived as unfriendly, but since I don’t have access to the data I have to guess.

    Another important factor is that the people who would most want Dialogue to keep the name are Dialogue supporters. They haven’t left Dialogue because of perceived missteps (by definition) and because the name isn’t tarnished to them they’d be reluctant to see it go. But current supporters are the wrong audience to consider — the decisions that need to be made now concern how Dialogue can better appeal to potential subscribers. And because it’s simple to communicate with current subscribers but not potential subscribers, it would be more effective to explain the name change to a known and finite class (we’re trying to overcome our image problem) than to explain that Dialogue has reinvented itself to the amorphous class of potential subscribers.

    Mathew,

    Yea, I was at KFC the other day and saw a poster of a retro bucket, with earth tone colors and “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” probably from the 50s or 60s. I don’t know how coherent their branding plan is, but they’re hurting and are probably throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. I would be surprised if they reinstate the Kentucky Fried Chicken signage, however, more likely they’re trying to capitalize on their heritage because of the raging everything-old-is-new-and-cool-again fad, while still emphasizing their contemporary brand generally.

  134. Jeremy on August 14, 2005 at 1:39 am

    Matt,

    I don’t think anyone attracted by the change to KFC walked into a restaurant and exclaimed “What?!!! The ‘F’ stands for FRIED?!!!!” It seems like you think Dialogue would have to change its name in order to “trick” people into thinking it’s a different entity, like somebody getting a new alias on eBay to hide some bad feedback. This wouldn’t make any sense, though, because the Mormon intellectual community is of course far too small for anyone to not catch on.

    I suspect that’s not what you’re getting at–that, rather, you’re proposing a change drastic enough (and a name change would be drastic indeed) to draw enough attention to create a general buzz about change at Dialogue. “Branding” campaigns often don’t actually try to change minds directly, but try to create a buzz about a change of mind. The switch to KFC was, I think, primarily a high-profile ploy to create a venue in which a question would be asked and answered: “Why are you changing the name?” “Well, because we want to convey the idea that our product is universally rather than regionally appealing, and that it can be healthy.” they went in thinking “I hear Kentucky Fried Chicken is trying to change some things; wonder what’s up with that.” However, the thought process people go through in deciding whether or not to subscribe to Dialogue is rather more sophisticated, critical, and personally reflective than the near-Pavlovian instincts to which “branding” ultimately speaks.

    Another problem, of course, is that the changes Nate and others have suggested would ostensibly make the current title more, not less apt. So, abandoning the title ‘Dialogue’ might be interpreted by potential readers as 1) a clumsy attempt at purely cosmetic reinvention, or, 2) a corrective to make it less prone to dialogic exchange. This latter perception, especially if accompanied by the idea that Dialogue would be courting more input from conservatives, might convey the idea that the journal would no longer be tackling uncomfortable issues–that it would simply be “Ensign for intellectuals.” This, of course, would turn off a whole other portion of the potential readership.

    Whatever changes may be needed, they could be advertised to potential readers through more meaningful and less disruptive methods than a name change. (Heavens, I’m sure a single report of improvement posted to T&S would double subscriptions overnight!)

  135. Lorin on August 14, 2005 at 4:53 am

    I have been a subscriber and reader of Dialogue, Sunstone, and BYU Studies from their beginnings. (However, I had to buy a few back issues of the latter two to complete my sets.) And I have published in all three.In all of them, there have been articles to upset and/or bore me. However, enough true gems keep coming along that all three have enriched my life. My thanks to all who have worked so hard to bring them about.
    I am amazed at all the “nervous Nellies” who are worried about what others will think if they publish, how it will affect their careers or Church service. My experience has been that the local Church members judge you more by what you say and do every week than by what you publish, which they probably won’t read anyway. And as far as a career is concened, let me ask a question. If the question of publishing in such journals brings such worries, are you sure this is going to be a comfortable career to be in? If you do substantive things in other journals and make positive contributions in these three, why should it matter to anyone? If it does, and you choose to be “circumspect” to follow your dream, then it is a loss for all of us.

  136. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 14, 2005 at 8:53 am

    Which issue of Dialogue did this happen in? I can imagine many letters to the editor praising Buerger’s Adam-God article, but that’s a different issue.

    Aaron B

    ymm, that was more than twenty years ago. Since then I lost the job I had accepted at the time, gotten married, moved to Texas, buried three children and hadn’t really thought about it until I saw this post.

    That is about as precise as I can get as an old guy with memory problems. ;)

  137. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 14, 2005 at 8:56 am

    Steve: I personally objected to the war-and-peace-a-thon that they were on a while back. And what was with the issue with two articles devoted to Quaker pacifism ;->.

    For that I’d have gone back to reading it.

  138. Frank McIntyre on August 14, 2005 at 9:15 am

    I think there may be a little confusion about the title. My understanding, from looking at page one of an early issue is that the “dialogue” is bringing LDS views into dialogue with human understanding. It does not appear that it was being billed as a place for liberals and conservatives to “dialogue”.

    Here’s the description on page 1 of an early issue.

    “It is edited by Latter-day Saints who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole…”

  139. D-Train on August 14, 2005 at 11:48 am

    Ryan B (100):

    Of course that’s simplistic. But I only have so much time to spend on blogs and so I avoid many of the conservative personal blogs, simply because what I get at Church and from Church members locally is pretty much the same stuff.

    I don’t typically like science fiction writing. I loved Starship Troopers. Nevertheless, the one example of something I did like isn’t going to make me seek a lot more of that if I prefer to read biographies. This isn’t to say that people aren’t saying anything interesting on the conservative blogs (I do read M* regularly, insert debate over orthodoxy/conservatism here). But, if I only read blogs for twenty minutes per day, I can’t read everything. So, I stick to the big group blogs and a couple of other individuals that are saying different things than I get elsewhere.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence on the “intelligent person” question :)

  140. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 14, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    Nate

    Thanks. As a result of this thread I think I’m going to subscribe to Dialog, something I wouldn’t have considered without it.

    Steve

  141. D-Train on August 14, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Something else that I forgot to add. I know that there are great conservative blogs out there, but most of the people with whom I discuss gospel in real life are conservative and/or apologist. I come to the bloggernacle for variety. I do think that in the Mormon experience (IN GENERAL), the conservative point of view is usually present, while a less apologist view generally is not. This may just be a function of where I live and my situation, but that’s how I see it.

    There are lots of great conservative blogs, I’m sure. But I simply don’t have the time to read everything. So I stick to the ones I frequent now and branch out when something from a different blog is cited somewhere that I do visit often. For what it’s worth, I probably spend more time on M* than anywhere, despite it being the most conservative of the Big Three group blogs. That said, I come here for variety, I get conservatives at home, so I’m going to seek liberals here. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar motivation drives Mormon Studies liberals to write a little more critically than they might otherwise. I know that my position tends to become more conservative when I’m surrounded by liberals, and vice versa.

  142. lori on August 14, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    “But why do you assume that this man’s wife has a broken or breaking heart?”‘ ” That’s an odd comment. They clearly are in love, even if he doesn’t find her physically attractive.”

    OUCH.

    Rosalynde, when you decide to post the answer to that question on different train….please LET ME KNOW.

  143. Aaron Brown on August 14, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    “it would be a real shame for Dialogue to abandon a heritage with such noble and inspiring beginnings.”

    I completely agree with Rosalynde.

    Further, with all this talk of Dialogue’s bad reputation, I’m still not convinced that the majority of potential new readers out there have even heard of Dialogue, so I’m not convinced this is as big a problem as some are suggesting. How Dialogue is perceived among potential academic authors is, of course, a different question that I’m not qualified to opine on.

    Finally, there are some of us who will be eternally grateful for having discovered Dialogue at a time in our lives when we were looking for honest discussion and treatment of troubling issues that seemed impossible to find anywhere else. Thus, we feel pretty strongly that Dialogue should continue as “Dialogue,” even if this is perhaps only a visceral, “sentimental” reaction.

    Aaron B

  144. Ryan Bell on August 14, 2005 at 4:24 pm

    D-train, thanks for your clarification. I understand that a conservative blog may include many of the same types of people one easily finds at church, but it’s funny to me when I hear people opine that the discussions on conservative blogs are the same as those at church. I actually don’t think you see any posts at M* (besides the occasional political discussion that falls outside our mission anyway) that are any more conservative than most posts on any blog anywhere. The only thing that makes M* more conservative than any other blog is what it’s missing– you don’t see many posts that question or challenge church teachings or policies. But how much does that kind of post appear at T&S or even BCC? In short, 90% of what makes BCC different from what you get at church is in-depth, thoughtful discussion. 10% is that there’s some doubting and questioning there. M* doesn’t have that latter 10%, but it’s got the other 90%. And that’s why I think it’s simplistic for people (apparently not you!) to dismiss a ‘conservative blog’ as one that just repeats the High Councilman’s talk from Sacrament meeting every week.

    ****end threadjack *****

  145. Ashley on August 14, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    Just wanted to second Aaron B’s sentiment. I think I heard of Dialogue while in high school (William Mulder’s wife was my high school English teacher), but it wasn’t until my 20′s that I spent a year reading all the back issues of Dialogue in the Provo Library. That was a year flooded with spiritual nuance, great conversations with anyone who was inclined, and deeper intellectual delving.

  146. lori on August 14, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    Aaron
    Statistically I think you are correct in your assumptions. There are far more than “some” who feel the way you do about Dialogue. I get the letters,emails, and calls all the time. Also, the percentage of those that remain as customers outweighs those that do not.I tend to agree that there are many who have never even heard of Dialogue …which seems a more important issue to address…. than worrying about those who don’t appreciate the journal…This ship is not sinking. We will not be abandoning the name or trying to re-invent it. We will be exposing it to many new markets in hopes of widening the community of those that do find a “home” with us.

  147. Ivan Wolfe on August 14, 2005 at 9:03 pm

    lori -
    Ouch?

    Well, tor prevent any further threadjacks, I won’t be responding to any comments Rosalynde has on the topic. My friend says that (after I asked him to check on the comments here) that the Dialoige article on the topic seems like a healthy thing, he feels the “rebuttal” arguments, as well as the comments by Rosalynde and lori, indicate more of a desire to score political points for or against Mormon culture rather than to honestly deal with the actual, lived experience of people like him.

    He assures me that his wife is not heartbroken, that despite the fact he cannot find any woman physically attractive, he still feels they are in love. He then said he doesn’t really want to engage the discussion beyond that point because he has “a life to live instead of issue to discuss online” (his words). Then he said I was free to report that, but after that he really doesn’t want me to discuss his circumstances any further online. I will respect his request.

    Sorry to threadjack, but lori’s “ouch” comment seemed to require a comment.

    As for Dialouge – see my comment 131 above. I would actually like to publish in it one day, and comments from Mauss and lori in this thread seem to indicate just because my article would recieve a fair shake, and if rejected, it would be rejected out of a failure to meet standards rather than a failure to be unorthodox or liberal.

    Of course, I don’t plan to work for BYU someday.

  148. JKS on August 14, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    I think that if Dialogue publishes articles from the perspective of a gay man who wants to marry, a professor and a therapist, they are missing a big part of the equation. There would be a woman in the marriage.
    Read Carol Lynn Pearson’s book. I don’t know how much else there is out there to help a young woman understand what she was getting into.

  149. Matt Evans on August 14, 2005 at 10:21 pm

    “I?m still not convinced that the majority of potential new readers out there have even heard of Dialogue, so I?m not convinced this is as big a problem as some are suggesting.”

    Aaron, I don’t know how many Mormons have heard of Dialogue either, but from this thread it’s clear that Dialogue has an unfriendly reputation among a certain class of Mormons, including some in the administration and faculty committees of church universities. It will be very hard for Dialogue to communicate to this class that they now reject the articles they published that were unfriendly towards the church. And given the asymmetrical risks (the harms to the church of feeding an antagonistic journal are far greater than the risks of failing to feed a neutral, though interesting, journal), I’m not sure these people would give Dialogue a second chance anyway. Changing the name makes clear that they want a redo, and I think for the audience that matters, what matters is how seriously Dialogue views their need for a redo. Talk is cheap.

    Unlike the case of major retail brands, I think that Dialogue would be unlikely to offend loyal customers if they switch their name for strategic purposes. “New Coke” was a disaster because it aimed to please non-Coke drinkers but cost them the loyalty of their current drinkers. In Dialogue’s case, my guess would be that no subscribers would be cancel their subscriptions because the name was changed to The Journal of Mormon Thought. The only reason I can imagine someone canceling their subscription is because they think Dialogue’s repudiating their bad articles is selling-out. But that, of course, is the dilemma demanding leadership at Dialogue: do they maintain the status quo; do they risk alienating their subscribers who *like* unfriendly articles about the church, and who’ll be upset if Dialogue publicizes a strong mea culpa; or do they try to split the difference? If they don’t do something sufficiently dramatic to risk alienating their “disaffected Mormon” subscribers, I believe, they are unlikely to persuade their skeptics that feeding Dialogue is not counter-productive to the church’s mission.

  150. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 14, 2005 at 11:08 pm

    I think that if Dialogue publishes articles from the perspective of a gay man who wants to marry, a professor and a therapist, they are missing a big part of the equation. There would be a woman in the marriage.
    Read Carol Lynn Pearson’s book. I don’t know how much else there is out there to help a young woman understand what she was getting into.

    But I didn’t see Pearson’s husband as much different from an ex-brother-in-law who left my wife’s sister because he felt he deserved a blond with larger breasts (he was very blunt about it). I’ll note that he’d had a number of affairs, but he moved in with the (bleached) blond with surgery and has stayed with her for more than fifteen years. I was at one of the blogs that links to Celibate in the City and the author got dumped/refused a date by a guy because her picture made her look to be too flat for him, though he did offer to meet for just sex.

    What was interesting about Pearson’s husband is that he wanted her and a boyfriend. Not one instead of the other.

    I’m not sure I’ve got anything more to add. I’ll need to read the article, probably won’t have anything to add after that.

  151. Soyde River on August 15, 2005 at 1:07 am

    I wonder whether there is a John O’Sullivan Law in our parallel Mormon universe.

    O’Sullivan’s Law states that all organizations which are not actually conservative, will, over time, become left wing. This can be observed as one tracks the leftward drift of the Carnegie Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the ACLU, Amnesty International, the Episcopal Church, etc. Presumably this is because the kind of people who are attracted to those organizations are more usually those who are inimical to private enterprise and to favor taxation which will fund government “solutions” to problems.

    If that is the case, then I think it would be fair to say that all organizations (publications, etc.) which are not explicitly supportive of the Church and its leaders will tend to become antagonistic over time.

    In which case, to try to have Dialogue become more “centrist” is swimming against the tide.

  152. queuno on August 15, 2005 at 11:59 am

    Re #138 – That quote sounds a bit like what Salman Rushdie was recently saying about Islam (OK, just a little bit).

    Is it so wrong sometimes to wish that the editors would try to bring the human experience as a whole into a dialogue with their faith (a subtle distinction)?

  153. Frank McIntyre on August 15, 2005 at 12:35 pm

    I have no problem with the goal stated in Dialogue. I just get impression that many people think that the dialogue is about dialogue between liberal and conservative types within the church. Hence the “monologue” jokes. The original statement of intent was not about that at all.

  154. Jack on August 15, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    I think a lot of folks might feel the name “Dialogue” carries the implication that the orthodox church is too restrictive in its own dialogue–hence the need for an alternative setting where folks can *really* talk about the issues.

    No bueno–the implication, that is.

  155. Mike on August 16, 2005 at 8:32 am

    Is it possible that the reason Dialogue is in trouble is that the Church as a whole is going through a time of trouble?

    Personally I applaud them but the fiery rhetoric of the likes of Hannibal Dan Peterson and some of the rest of the good old boys at FARMS doesn’t appeal that much to a wider audience. Most of the members in my ward seem asleep theologically, or bored stiff with the correlated material and bringing people to church before they have a testimony does not usually impress them.

    Out of the mouth of babes:
    I heard this from the primary children last week and I thought it was rather profound and directly related to this discussion. The children were singing that song, “Latter-day prophets are, number one Joseph Smith then Brigham Young, John Taylor comes next you know …… David O. McKay ( and they always sing the “O” with such ferver that it sounds like a bunch of little coyotes howling at the moon) was SWALLOWED by Joseph Fielding Smith.” At that point the singing of the tune stops and they chant some vague string of syllables that only remotely resembles the names of the rest, while stifling a severe case of the giggles.

    I can’t put it into words that precisely describe it to this erudite audience of bloggers but on a metaphorical level I think maybe David O. McKay was swallowed by Joseph Fielding Smith and that is why the Dialogue magazine is in trouble, and the rest of the church.

  156. Timothy A. Griffy on August 16, 2005 at 10:10 am

    My concerns for Dialogue and Sunstone stem from the facts that these two publications were essential to my conversion and remaining somewhere in the Mormon orbit. I’ve only published letters to the editor, but I’d like to publish more extensively in both in the future. If changes are made in an effort to redeem their reputation, I think there are still some things they should not do.

    1. As Blake said, they should not become journals of the faithful opposition. Nevertheless, they should not turn down a good article simply because it has a hard edge or is too unorthodox or the author has a certain reputation. In the first place, these journals are supposed to be alternate forums. Generally speaking, the readership knows they are not reading the Ensign and they should not expect to need an insulin shot after reading it. Second, a hard-edged article in a friendly magazine supplies an immunization shot of its own. Finally, sometimes the Church both needs and deserves a hard slap.

    2. These forums are basically left of center, and they should stay basically left of center. Undue emphasis on seeking conservative voices is bound to lead only to tokenism. Let’s face it, there is something to be said about the difficulty of finding good writers willing to publish on the other side of the aisle. Publishing conservative voices simply to have them there more often than not results in poor writing and poor scholarship. Furthermore, tokenism will tend to hurt the journal in the long run as it starts getting accused of publishing a piece just so it can be ridiculed.

    3. I know of at least one person who let his Sunstone subscription expire, and others who have expressed bewilderment because of its “conservative drift.” Reputation is a two-edged sword. Some of the readership is no doubt attracted to Sunstone and Dialogue because of their reputation, whether it is because they are themselves liberal or because they are (trying to be) open minded enough to seek a variety of viewpoints. Become another Ensign or BYU Studies, then these readers have no reason to stick around. And conservatives are not going to subscribe in enough numbers to make up for losing the liberal component of the readership.

    I really don’t envy the position of either journal. If they don’t repair their reputations, they will become more marginalized and lose potential readers. If they become too conciliatory, they lose the readers they already have. Perhaps a new journal is not such a bad idea after all.

  157. Northerner on August 16, 2005 at 11:04 am

    I don’t want to threadjack here, but I sure wouldn’t worry about what people at BYU think about publishing in Dialogue. If they frown on it, I wouldn’t want to be associated with such an institution anyway. I haven’t been impressed with BYU and academic freedom before, but this is just too much….!

  158. Seeking Tenure on August 16, 2005 at 11:09 am

    Northerner: Spoken like someone who is not on the academic job market…

  159. Clark on August 16, 2005 at 12:20 pm

    With regards to academic freedom at BYU, I’m afraid I’ve simply read too many reports of job seekers who end up denied a job due to publishing in conservative journals. The fact is that to a certain extent academic freedom is a myth when it comes to hiring and tenure seeking. At that stage politics has far more to do with it. Academic freedom is much more about tenured professors getting to write what they want. Just last month there was actually a widely read article warning potential professors from writing in blogs. I know quite a few very intelligent bloggers who blog anonymously precisely because of that.

    So to suggest BYU is different is a bit much.

    Of course one might say that they ought be different. But I honestly can understand why they are concerned. Further I sometimes think that the English department wars still loom large. Say what you will about either side in that battle, but it was messy and should never have happened. Wanting to avoid such things in the future is understandable, even if perhaps some did overreact a bit.

    Part of the problem as well is that BYU is pretty much a pure undergraduate college. That means that how tenure is decided isn’t really focused on the publish or perish cycle. Instead it is by other means. (And I’ve had friends who were explicitly told that their publishing or research wasn’t a big part of the tenure decision) When that’s there then of course ones orthodoxy will be a part of the decision. And correctly so in my opinion. I look back to my time at a non-Mormon college versus BYU and the professors at BYU were heads and shoulders more approachable. Further almost everyone I know looked to professors to answer religious questions. And I know some people who had shocks after discussions with professors that didn’t exactly have testimonies.

  160. Miranda PJ on August 16, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    Nate, your letter too severe. I’ve known too many would-be scholars who would publish this or that, here or there, but for something or other. These are just excuses. Where are all of these young intellectuals that you know publishing since they don’t want to be read in Dialogue? If they’re writing anything at all, it’s not good enough for Dialogue. And if Dialogue made the changes that you suggest, then it would start to appear schizophrenic. They’ve got a brand to protect and build upon, and some people will inevitably dislike that brand. If they try to be too many things to too many people, they’ll dilute it.

    Stick to your guns, Dialogue! You’re not the FARMS Review, and that’s something to be proud of. The future is bright because the field of Mormon Studies that you helped pioneer is just beginning to blossom. Don’t become a sellout just before growth curve sets in.

  161. Daniel Peterson on August 16, 2005 at 11:10 pm

    “Maybe you could get Dan Peterson to write something, but if he used his super-adversarial style I don’t think it would do any good (and I certainly wouldn’t want to read it).”

    Not gonna happen. Nastiness and I are inseparable companions, as anybody who knows me personally can testify.

    “If Dialogue needs Dan Peterson and Lou Midgley, it is is doomed.”

    Indeed.

    Fun thread, for several reasons.

  162. Daniel Peterson on August 17, 2005 at 12:36 am

    While I’m at it, I might mention that, ten years or more ago, I was told by a very reputable source that one candidate for the editorship of Dialogue had actually been turned down by the search committee because of what they explicitly took to be an excess of loyalty to the Church. The candidate, I was told, was asked during an interview whether he would hypothetically be willing to publish something about the temple that would arose the ire of the Brethren. When his answer came back to the effect that he would try to avoid such a situation, as he had no particular desire to offend the Brethren and as he himself would object to violating the sacredness of the temple, it was obvious to him that he had just torpedoed any chance he had of editing Dialogue.

    I don’t know for certain that this account is true, but the source was, as I say, quite reputable, as well as closely linked to the spurned candidate and, in fact, himself inclined to the “liberal” persuasion. (Yes, incredibly, I have such friends. And the name of this one would be instantly recognizable to many here.) In any event, I find the story plausible, and consistent with my own observations.

    I’m personally inclined to credit the account, and I find it depressing — at least as regards the direction Dialogue was taking, or being obliged to take, at that period. It seems to indicate that, at least then, communicant Latter-day Saints who took their faith and covenants with ultimate seriousness were (how shall I put it?) less than fully welcome at Dialogue.

    Since I passionately wish Mormon intellectual and cultural life to flourish — but am far less interested in it if it fails to remain MORMON intellectual and cultural life — I regret the situation if it is or was true. I would like to see Dialogue prosper, not die, and I’m very sympathetic to Nate’s open letter.

  163. Ed Enochs on August 18, 2005 at 3:16 pm

    Dear Times and Seasons, Matt and Steve Evans,

    I just wanted to say hi. Have not checked in for a while. Hope you guys are all doing well.

    I checked out the new temple in Newport Beach, CA last night.

    I love you guys, sincerely in Jesus Christ,

    Your Evangelical Friend,

    Ed Enochs

  164. Steve Evans on August 18, 2005 at 3:52 pm

    Hi Ed! Wow, long time no hear. Hope things are good for you.

  165. Ben S. on August 18, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    “Where are all of these young intellectuals that you know publishing since they don’t want to be read in Dialogue?”

    Miranda- Well, Roslynde and myself for starters. They’re are others around. If you really think Nate is exaggerating and must absolutely have names, email me.

    And wow. Ed Enochs AND Daniel Peterson right next to each other.

  166. Ed Enochs on August 18, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    I am just hoping against hope that John Roberts does not turn out to be another Judge Souter. I think some conservatives like Ann Coutler believe he is going to be a closet liberal like Souter. I am not as skeptical though and think his Catholicism and the fact that his wife was a leader in a Pro-Life femminist group indicated his pro-life dispostion. In any event hello everyone!

  167. Kevin Barney on November 29, 2005 at 10:26 pm

    Congratulations to Nate (and to T&S) on the publication of his open letter that started this thread in the latest issue of Dialogue!

  168. Clark on December 12, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    So I’m curious Nate, if you feel Dialogue and others are reacting to change? I’ve noticed some changes in Sunstone – although there is still work to do.

  169. Jeremiah J. on December 12, 2005 at 6:20 pm

    Ben S.: Miranda asked ‘where?’ not ‘who?’. And I think the point is well taken–I’ve read some nice articles in BYU Studies as well as some glorified sacrament meeting talks. The journal doesn’t look like it’s flooded with sophisticated, interesting scholarship that Dialogue would be getting instead if Dialogue were only more orthodox. As Nate points out, some of the *very* best stuff is now making its way into good non-Mormon publications. But Dialogue shouldn’t hope to steal away pieces from Harvard Theological Review by featuring Midgely and Peterson (all due respect to both scholars). “Expand your audience” may seem to be good advice for everyone at first blush, but people don’t read a journal or submit to a journal simply because a journal is addressed to them. It also has to be good. The marketing principle that wherever you expand to, you are going to encounter competitors (frequently entrenched competitors), seems appropriate here.

    Nate’s description of Dialogue seems quite accurate to me. But his solution seems half-hearted since it doesn’t convince me that it will really help Dialogue.

  170. Nate Oman on December 12, 2005 at 6:26 pm

    Clark: It is hard to tell. My sense is that Dialogue realizes that they have a problem, but that their single biggest issue is the manuscripts that come through the door — it is a chicken and egg thing. On the other hand, there are some things that Dialogue has done that were clearly editorial decisions, such as the war-and-piece-a-thon a while back, or their strange facination of late with Quakers. (Note: I don’t think that my post has anything to do with the current attitude of Dialogue editors. They are a smart group of people and can more or less see the obvious.)

    It also hard to know, because you never can tell what is solicited and what is simply submitted. I am guessing that the solicititation process is likely to veer “left” (with the usual caveats about the impercision of that word) simply because those are the sorts of people that Levi Peterson et al are likely to know and who are likely to submit stuff as a favor when asked. Without more inside knowledge than I have, however, this is nothing more than idle speculation on my part.

  171. Nate Oman on December 12, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    “And I think the point is well taken–I’ve read some nice articles in BYU Studies as well as some glorified sacrament meeting talks. The journal doesn’t look like it’s flooded with sophisticated, interesting scholarship that Dialogue would be getting instead if Dialogue were only more orthodox.”

    Jeremiah: I think that this is right. At the end of the day, the biggest problem that ALL academic (or quasi-academic) journals face is that 80 to 90 percent of everything is just not that good. I certainly don’t think that anyone who can publish a good Mormon-studies article in a non-Mormon journal should consider publishing in BYU Studies or Dialogue. However, if the best stuff that can moves increasingly into non-Mormon fora’s, what will be left in the exclusively Mormon fora will increasingly be the inside-baseball stuff that tends to hit closer to theological fault lines. It seems to me that this means that Dialogue should be more rather than less concerned about its positioning with in the market. It seems to me that the demographic that will strongly identify with a journal largely modeled on the faithful opposition model is shrinking fast. My (admittedly ad hoc and anecdotal) sense is that younger Mormon intellectuals simply aren’t as interested in this approach and will tune out fora that they think are primarily defined in these terms. In other words, Dialogue’s benefit in repositioning itself is that it gets to tap into the next generation of readers. At some point in the not horribly distant future for better or for worse, a large chunk of those who strongly identify with the Dialogue brand of the late 1980s through mid-1990s or so will be dead.

  172. Nate Oman on December 12, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    BTW: Two members of my bishopric and the high-priest group leader in my ward all mentioned to me last Sunday that they had noticed or heard that I had something in Dialogue. None of them seem to regard it as anything other than an amusing detail for light conversation, which suggests that perhaps there is no issue here after all. At least no issue in the Wakefield Ward of the Annandale Stake.

  173. Frank McIntyre on December 12, 2005 at 7:12 pm

    Was this during your Church court?

  174. Aaron Brown on December 12, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Nate, your letter has recently been the subject of some interesting discussion on a certain email list that I subscribe to. Alas, the price of admission to the list was to take an oath in blood that I would not reveal its contents to the uninitiated, so all I can do is hint at what went down in ominous and hushed tones.

    Aaron B

  175. Nate Oman on December 12, 2005 at 7:46 pm

    Aaron: Tell Elder Packard that I said, “Hi.”

  176. Jeff on December 13, 2005 at 11:41 am

    I live in Provo, I teach (non-tenure track) at both BYU and UVSC. I have occasionally used Dialogue (and BYU Studies and FARMS Review) in both university and ward classes (in SS, BYU Studies was more relevant during the year we studied Heber J. Grant, Dialogue more so during this McKay year, I don’t yet know about the upcoming ’06 lessons with Wilford Woodruff. I’ll be searching the on-line archives of both publications).

    I think Dialogue has less of an image problem than is suggested by some of the above posts, although at the same time I agree Dialogue could benefit from a wider range of viewpoints (as could BYU Studies and FARMS).

    I’m a generally conservative person with generally conservative employers living in a generally politically conservative location and attending a generally conservative ward. I’ve never sensed any complaint about my use of Dialogue in a class, although given the increasing emphasis on using only the manual in church classes, I am more cautious in my use at church of any Mormon Studies publications.
    There have been a couple of suggestions above that publishing in Dialogue can be a negative for a BYU-bound professor. I haven’t published in Dialogue, but I’ve discussed the topic of “how to maximize job chances at BYU” over the last few years with several people at BYU. My sense is that in most departments (including history, sociology, languages, theatre) publishing in Dialogue is not a negative, and I think each of those departments you can find BYU professors (before and after tenure) publishing in Dialogue (and BYU Studies). However, apparently there are English department faculty who have heard that publishing in Dialogue can be a negative. At the same time, there are English professors who publish there. If you’ve followed BYU’s academic freedom issues over the last decade, it won’t be a surprise to learn that the English department may receive a greater level of scrutiny than other departments.

    Best wishes to Dialogue (and to BYU Studies and FARMS, both of which in some ways face challenges similar to those of Dialogue ).
    Jeff

  177. g.wesley on December 20, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    As for the stigma: I recently submitted an article to Dialogue at a friend’s suggestion. Until then I was largely unfamiliar with the journal and its reputation. Soon after submitting, one of my employers (a Classics professor at BYU), stated that he himself would never submit to Dialogue (unaware that I had done so), because it’s not an academic journal. Later, one of my coworkers (a Comparative Studies graduate student at BYU) refered to Dialogue as ‘Korihor Press.’ This caused me some regret, but the deciding factor came in the fall 2005 issue. With its lengthy treatment of polygamy and several articles on homosexuality the issue evidenced what seemed to me an innordinate preocupation. I wanted to retract. The conclusion of this story is that one of my reviewers (a member of the Joseph Smith Paper’s Project) took me to task, and I bowed out. From my limited experience, there is a definite Dialogue stigma among some of the faculty and graduate students at BYU, which seems to be stating the obvious. I leave it to Dialogue to decide whether it should care about this stigma and how to reverse it. To Levi Peterson, let me say that, for what it’s worth, from our communication during the review process, the few of your editorials that I have read, and your comment above, I get the impression that you are an honest, careful and rather objective editor. By way of feedback on the fall 2005 issue, in my opinion homosexuality recieves far more press than it deserves.

  178. richard sherlock on January 10, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    There is something different about Dialogue than other types of journals . I don’t think this should exist but it does. Take two scholarly journal M ( for mormon ) and N ( for non-mormon). Suppose it is a scholarly social science journal and I publish research rigorously peer reviewed showing that daycare is bad for children under 4. Suppose I publish in N and the very next article , subject to the same review shows that gay parenting is not psychologically or medically harmful to a child I am not ostracized or criticized for ” associating with ” wrong views or people. But if I publ;ish the same reasearch with some additional “church ” oriented material in Dialogue and the next article argues that the B of M is a 19th century text because of various wel;l stated reasons I am criticized for association with that view , which I personally reject. If Lynn Wardle published an article in a law review and the next article argued that gays have a constitutional right to marriage. Lynn is not found guilty of associating with such a journal or view. If Dialogue is scholarly journal why is it thought different? If it is a platform for one view or another say so.

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