A guest post from Ben Spackman:
Hi. I’m Ben Spackman, the new Mormonism Gateway Manager at Patheos. It’s something I’m excited for, and not just because it means employment for someone with arcane degrees. If my name sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve been around the Bloggernaccle since the early days of T&S, and have blogged here and there since then.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about the Gateway (Gw) in the last week, so let me address them here. All Gws at Patheos are written primarily for and by adherents of that gw’s tradition, but in such a way that it’s accessible to outsiders. The intended result will be a mixture of Mormonism for Dummies, Gospel Doctrine class (as taught by Jim F or Julie-in-Austin), and By Common Consent. I think such a mix is possible, and I’m a good person to make it happen. I have pretty orthodox bona fides (lifetime Mormon, BYU grad, European mission, temple-recommend holder, taught Religion and Hebrew at BYU for a few summers, Nibley Fellow, some involvement with FAIR, long-time volunteer Institute teacher, etc.)
But I also have another foot in more academic, less correlated places which enables me to understand various perspectives and draw on people from different LDS backgrounds. I did a MA and PhD work at the University of Chicago in Semitics, reading Islamic and Judaic texts in Arabic and Hebrew. For what it’s worth, I’ve spent my whole life (barring undergrad) in places where LDS are a definite minority, including Chicago and Brooklyn. For my senior Spring Break in high school, I went to Cancun with a small group of close friends- two LDS, one Jew, two Catholics, and two Evangelicals. I count Kristine Haglund, the new Dialogue editor, Jon Stapley, Ronan Head, Mike Reed, and Kevin Barney among my friends. I frequently consult my New Mormon Studies cd-rom. I know Mormonism’s history is messy, that doctrine is not always black-and-white, and that many questions remain unanswered, but I also believe that none of those things represent an insuperable barrier to being an active and faithful Latter-day Saint. So, while the Mormonism Gw isn’t correlated (one extreme), neither will it be a wilderness of fringey, cynical, or purely academic content (the other extreme). We hope to accurately represent the Mormon experience, which really means, Mormon experiences.
On a related note, one person has asked me already why Sunstone has an ad on the site. Well, Patheos requires funding, and that means advertising. I expect to see Dialogue there soon as well. This is not because Patheos seeks to echo the Sunstone/Dialogue perspective (as if it were monolithic) but because they are more active in advertising. I’d love to see ads as well from other groups within the broad umbrella of Mormon institutions.
The Mormonism Gateway will be written by Mormons, and we solicit contributions. If you have a piece you’d like to see get out in broader circulation, or something that is particularly representative of Mormon thought, by all means, send it along with a note. In the meantime, we’ll continue working on the back end to make Patheos one of the best sites out there for study of Mormonism or by Mormons. We have a lot of good resources in the pipeline, including a good verse-by-verse index to the LDS scriptures, an interactive historical timeline, interviews with LDS from around the world, teaching aids, scripture round-tables with LDS grad students, and more. Of course, we’re open to ideas as well. Feel free to post comments here or email me with feedback and things you’d like to see. bspackman at patheos dot com