Mauss on Dialogue

February 14, 2013 | 43 comments
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shifting bordersI am almost done with the recently published memoir by Armand Mauss, Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport: Intellectual Journeys of a Mormon Academic (U of U Press, 2012; publisher’s page). Like Leonard Arrington’s earlier memoir, Adventures of a Church Historian, the book is something of a insider’s guided tour of fifty years of Mormon Studies, including the two important books on Mormonism authored by Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive (1994) and All Abraham’s Children (2003). Anyone who reads T&S or the other blog will certainly enjoy the tour.

I’m not really sure how to review a memoir, which is kind of like an upgraded version of someone’s diary. It’s a little unseemly to engage in serious critique. If the writer is an interesting person who did interesting things and wrote interesting books, it will be a fun and enlightening read, as this one is. There’s not much more to say except to recommend you go buy it and read it. I think a more productive way to proceed is to take an issue or two discussed in the book and extend that conversation in a post and comments. My issue for this post is Chapter 7, My Journey with Dialogue, referring of course to Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

As he recounts in the chapter, Mauss was a charter subscriber when the journal was first published in 1966. He contributed several fine articles over the years and eventually served first on its editorial board, then, in 1998, on its Board of Directors and, in 2000, as the Chairman. So when he walks the reader through almost 50 years of the ups and downs of Dialogue history, he knows what he is talking about. Here are some interesting observations and questions that arise from his discussion.

1. Dialogue is the middle ground. Dialogue is not the enemy, it is the middle ground in a broad spectrum of discussion and scholarship on Mormonism. I suspect media discussion of Mormonism during the 2012 campaign gave some Mormons a new appreciation for how wide that spectrum of opinion on Mormonism really is. Occupying and defending the middle ground in Mormonism is no easy task, which I’m sure some readers recognize. As Mauss notes:

It must be remembered that until very recent times, virtually all literature on Mormons, whether scholarly or popular in nature, was primarily polemical and either apologetic or hostile. In such a bifurcated intellectual environment, it was relatively easy for Mormons and their leaders to recognize the difference between “good intellectuals,” many of whom were already in the church leadership, and “bad intellectuals,” who could be dismissed as enemies. … In 1965 … emerged Dialogue and the Mormon History Association (and later its journal) and thereafter the plethora of independent intellectual activity that has created a new predicament for the leaders. (p. 138)

And what is this predicament? I think it is that present-day leaders and members now sometimes have a hard time telling who their friends are (the people who from time to time candidly tell you want you need to hear) as opposed to who are merely critics (who often tell various half-truths) and opportunists (who tell you what you want to hear). Candid opinions and tough truths never play well within managerial hierarchies. I hope the emergence of university-affiliated Mormon Studies programs will strengthen this middle ground of discussion and scholarship pioneered and continued by Dialogue. In the end, the Church will be better for it.

2. Accurate, balanced, responsible. A related point is how to conduct that middle-ground discussion and scholarship in a productive, constructive manner given how controversial and emotional some of the historical, doctrinal, and social issues kicked around in Mormon Studies are. Mauss expresses a concern for

Dialogue as a scholarly journal that is independent of the church, scholarly rather than polemical, and neither critic nor apologist — or, in the words of the mission statement at the front of each issue, a journal that “encourages a variety of viewpoints” based on “accurate scholarship and responsible judgment.” (p. 141)

That challenge is compounded for bloggers, who can dash off a post or comment in minutes, then hit “publish.” There’s something to be said for a delay between drafting and publishing and for editorial review.

3. Bloggers and the younger generation (that’s you). Is blogging an alternative forum for this productive discussion or just a distraction from more serious work that still needs to be done? Does blogging promote the accuracy, balance, and responsibility necessary for middle-ground discussions to maintain credibility? Tough questions. Mauss thinks that Dialogue editors

must find a way to persuade their younger peers to spend less time in the blogosphere and more time in reading and writing in-depth, peer-reviewed literature on the Mormon scene. Blogging has its place, and it is a quick and easy way to get one’s opinions and observations broadcast to a certain constituency. One drawback, though, is the tendency I have noticed for many who frequent the blogosphere to ask questions, or express opinions, in seeming ignorance of the rich literature found in journals and books that would bear importantly upon the very topics they wish to discuss.

Scholars have a talent for gentle criticism. Turning up the volume a bit so we bloggers actually get the point, he’s saying: Quit yakking on Facebook and blogs all day, subscribe to Dialogue so you can do some reading in the archives (aka “research”), then write a real article! Like I said, friends are those who tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

Let’s end on a positive note. Mauss concludes that in some ways, “the possibilities for Dialogue have never been greater” (p. 142). I think that holds for other middle-ground forums that aspire to informed and productive discussion of LDS issues as well, but Dialogue has been something of an anchor for the whole endeavor. Its continued success will benefit all of us.

43 Responses to Mauss on Dialogue

  1. Dave on February 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I forgot to note that Armand Mauss was the very first guest on our popular 12 Questions series way back in 2004: Part One and Part Two. Thank you, Armand, for that early vote of confidence in T&S and blogging in general.

  2. Ben P on February 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    FWIW, I wrote about your final point in Mauss’s memoire over at BCC a couple months ago.

  3. Dave on February 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Thanks for the post and link, Ben — the BCC post gives a longer quotation for the material I used in item 3. I do recall reading the post, which probably predisposed me to notice the issue when reading the book.

    It seems like there are two separate issues that sometimes get conflated. One is Dialogue and other sites and blogs as forums for publishing or posting commentary on LDS issues, from scholarly to casual. A separate issue is the ability of publications and sites to act as something like information sites for LDS or non-LDS with questions about particular issues of concern that are often not addressed (or not adequately addressed) by official LDS sources. I think those issues describe two different and separate audiences, and it is hard to write posts or articles that adequately present to two different audiences at the same time.

  4. Raymond Takashi Swenson on February 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks for notifying us of this new book. Professor Mauss is an old friend of my parents (his father was my father’s mission president in Japan), and I greatly respect him and his work.

  5. Jonathan Green on February 15, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Dave, I think Nate’s open letter to Dialogue is still relevant. Since he wrote it, I’ve become slightly more familiar with Dialogue and tend to agree more with Nate than I did then.

  6. Morris Thurston on February 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Jonathan, I think that Nate’s open letter is less relevant now than when he wrote it. While Dialogue’s image, like all publications, can always use burnishing, it is hardly an “in-house journal for disaffected Mormondom.” The Dialogue board of directors and editorial board is made up almost entirely of active members of the Church who hold or have held callings from bishop to relief society president to high councilor to almost any other position you can name. Many of us are active in mainstream LDS academic pursuits and even participate in FAIR conferences. None of us wishes the Church ill; all of us are deeply concerned about fairness and accuracy. If you knew some of the behind-the-scenes discussions at Dialogue, I think you might perceive things differently. I hope even Nate would.

    Dialogue welcomes the submission of well written and reasoned papers from any source; the only bias is scholarly merit. It is interesting to look at the three specific recommendations Nate made — Lynn Wardle on same-sex marriage and Dan Peterson and Lou Midgley on apologetic subjects. Since that time the Church has struggled to overcome the negative overhang of its Prop 8 campaign and has put up a website seeking a kinder and gentler attitude toward our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We all know what happened to Dan and Lou at BYU-sponsored FARMS. Clearly the brand of aggressive apologetics they represented is not the direction in which the mainstream Church is moving.

    So while acknowledging that images can always use improving, and without questioning Nate’s good faith in writing the open letter, I respectfully suggest his points are less pertinent today than they were then.

  7. Tim Barker on February 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve met Armand and appreciate him and what he has done. I concur with Jonathan Green though, with respect to Nate Oman’s “An Open Letter to the Dialogue Board.” Of course Robert Rees addressed a number of issues raised in his response, “An Open Letter to Nathan Oman” (Dialogue 39/2:173-177). What I don’t believe has been addressed by Dialogue, however, is an appropriate balance between liberal and conservative views. One of Oman’s strong points is that much of the rising generation do not appreciate Dialogue and have little incentive to publish with them because it is popularly viewed as leaning liberally, and leaning heavily at times. Armand’s voice is welcomed because like Nibley, while he can be critical, it is generally constructive, and hard to interpret as being antagonistic; whereas, much of Dialogue’s publications can easily be viewed as antagonistic. For that reason, Mauss’ writings are generally appreciated.

  8. Ben P on February 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Strongly agreed with Morris. Unless examples can be given, I’d argue that whoever claims that Nate’s critiques of Dialogue in 2005 (which were relevant and justified then) are still relevant today haven’t read much of the journal since 2005, especially during the current editor’s reign.

  9. Dave on February 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Jonathan (#5), I think the key assertion in Nate’s 2005 post is this claim: 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 don’t know whether Nate still agrees with this, but the key question is whether all the talented young LDS intellectuals still think this way (whether or not they ever did). Reviewing the authors who have published there over the last five years suggests most young LDS intellectuals are happy to publish there. The facts suggest Nate’s concern is no longer a serious problem for Dialogue.

    Tim (#7), I certainly agree that Mauss’s writings are generally appreciated and that he goes out of his way to give constructive criticism when he offers criticism. I’m not sure that liberal versus conservative captures that approach, however. There can be constructive liberal criticism and decontructive conservative criticism. I think Mauss’s virtues in this regard are personal rather than ideological.

    I think it is worth distinguishing between two views of a journal (or two approaches to running a journal). First, consider a journal as a forum, one which entertains a wide variety of views and in which the editorial task is to ensure that, whatever views are expressed, the articles expressing them meet the scholarly standards and civility standards of the journal. Second, consider a journal as an advocacy tool to advance certain views, in which the editorial task is to find and publish articles that effectively advocate the desired agenda. I think Dialogue clearly falls within the first category. Describing Dialogue as “the in-house journal of the disaffected Mormon community” is to put it in the second category, and I think that view is simply wrong, at least in 2013.

  10. Rusty on February 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Dave,
    While I understand the push for the blogosphere (bloggernacle) to subscribe to Dialogue, do research and write a real article, the reality is that that can only apply to a portion of the bloggernacle. Blogs have captured an enormous group of people who would and will otherwise not ever engage with an academic journal. This, of course, is a net gain, there are now MORE people (publicly) engaged in discussing the Church on a more intellectual level than before. That lifts those who had academic intentions to engage with the journals and those who only had dinner table conversations to engage with the wider culture. It’s the rising tide that lifts all boats, but if the tide goes back down (“everyone should engage on an academic level”) then many boats go away entirely.

  11. Adam G. on February 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    *Dialogue welcomes the submission of well written and reasoned papers from any source; the only bias is scholarly merit. It is interesting to look at the three specific recommendations Nate made — Lynn Wardle on same-sex marriage and Dan Peterson and Lou Midgley on apologetic subjects. Since that time the Church has struggled to overcome the negative overhang of its Prop 8 campaign and has put up a website seeking a kinder and gentler attitude toward our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We all know what happened to Dan and Lou at BYU-sponsored FARMS. Clearly the brand of aggressive apologetics they represented is not the direction in which the mainstream Church is moving.*

    I had not imagined that Dialogue was significantly constrained to only publish stuff within the mainstream of the Church.

  12. SilverRain on February 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I view with high suspicion any formal publication that claims balance. Usually, it means their biggest bias is towards their own impartiality. Also, being a somewhat older member of the “younger” set, I see “scholarly” and hear “pretentious.” And that whole set of quotes smacks of pretension. “C’mon ya young whippersnappers, quit being ignorant and get educated by reading the stuff we have read. Then come bail us out from obscurity.”

    It’s a particular privilege of the young to frequently and verbally work out their opinions without being overly bogged down by what those before them thought….

  13. Tim Barker on February 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    My previous comment with respect to liberal vs. conservative voices, I believe, is as applicable today as it was when Oman wrote his letter. Scholarly arguments can be constructed from various paradigms and stil resonate as academic. Nibley once cited Hugh Trevor-Roper, as follows:

    “Nowadays, to carry conviction, a historian must document, or appear to document, his formal narrative, but his background, his generalizations, allusions, comparisons remain happily free from this inconvenience. This freedom is very useful: against an imaginary background even correctly stated facts can be wonderfully transformed.”

    I’m not necessarily accusing anybody of transforming facts, what I am suggesting is that the interpretation of facts and historical context is largely subjective based on an individual’s perspective (whether liberal or conservative, or anything in between), and the atmosphere they present will tend towards certain conclusions. While an article may be less than antagonistic, it can still slant to an argument that “disaffected Mormons” would likely accept, simply because of the inferred conclusions.

    Take Heikki Räisänen’s recent article on Joseph Smith as Creative Interpreter of the Bible (Dialogue 43/2). His position on the changes within the KJV through the JST leads to a conclusion that Joseph Smith’s changes are apologetic and nearly parallel to those of the early church father’s arguments. What stems from this position is the idea that Joseph simply changed what contradicted his theology. Contrast that with Robert J. Matthews interpretation, or even Phillip Barlow’s. While Barlow remained as objective as possible in his Mormons and the Bible, still he posited explanations that cover various possibilities, rather than one dimensional approach offered by Räisänen, who hardly leaves the possibility that Joseph’s theology actually coincides with a pre-tampered Biblical theology.

    My point in all of this, is that Dialogue tends to include articles like this, without a counter position to balance the subject. Go back forty years and at least you have Hugh Nibley’s article next to Edward Ashment’s. Why isn’t a better balance obtained? Is it because those on the other side (stereotypically – the conservatives) do not wish to submit pieces to Dialogue? Are their pieces rejected? If the latter, why? If the former, than this only further demonstrates the position that Dialogue leans more towards liberal ears than conservative ears. I don’t care for these appellations, but hopefully my point is understood.

    Don’t misunderstand my position here, I appreciate Dialogue for the most part, but I’m sure that many others like myself view the periodical as leaning away from conservative LDS ideology, and would appreciate a more balanced position.

  14. Kevin Barney on February 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Actually, I think Heikki Räisänen’s perspective vis-a-vis the JST is one that is very positive and favorable towards Joseph Smith.

  15. Morris Thurston on February 15, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    Tim – Robert Rees wrote a good reply to Nate Oman when the letter was first published. It is called “An Open Letter to Nate Oman,” and can be found here. http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V39N02_201.pdf I think it is pertinent to at least some of your comments.

  16. Mr. Tumnus on February 16, 2013 at 3:53 am

    “Does blogging promote the accuracy, balance, and responsibility necessary for middle-ground discussions to maintain credibility?”

    Why should they? What is so desirable about middle-ground discussions? Do accuracy, balance, and responsibility necessarily point to middle-ground and credibility? Credibility according to whom? Jesus was so accurate, balanced, and responsible that very few people believed him, and even those who did believe him often had a hard time accepting the truths that he shared.

    I recognize the irony of making a comment on a blog that would portray most blogs, and the publications from which they spring, as forums for falsehood, but at least gauge the truth in the following statement by Elder Maxwell: “Satan need not get everyone to be like Cain or Judas … He needs only to get able men … to see themselves as sophisticated neutrals.”

    So, three cheers for all the publications, blogs and comments that boldly defend the truths of the Gospel, that unabashedly celebrate the Restoration, and that unapologetically seek to build up the kingdom of God on the earth and establish Zion. Three more cheers for those who do so with civility and grace.

  17. Ben S on February 16, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Nate also says, “Dialogue has shown a willingness to offend conservative or orthodox Mormons. I would work explicitly to make it a two-way street.”

    Can we cite examples of those articles that represent a conservative/traditional position since 2005? I hardly think Morris’ citation of historical events since 2005 (contra Nate’s three hypothetical article topics) dispositive. The Church still opposes gay marriage, and the new FARMS claims to still be involved in apologetics.

  18. Grant Hardy on February 16, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Heather Hardy’s close reading of Alma 30-35 (44.3; Fall, 2011) takes the Book of Mormon at face value and simply assumes its provenance as a translation of an ancient text presenting historical narratives. The editors didn’t didn’t balk at all at her “conservative/traditional position.” Kristine Haglund has done a wonderful job of bringing more balance to Dialogue in recent years.

  19. Ben S on February 16, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Thanks Grant. I’m not rhetorically disputing their existence; I just couldn’t recall any.

  20. Nathan Whilk on February 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    @17

    . . . simply assumes its provenance as a translation of an ancient text presenting historical narratives.

    But the first footnote in Heather’s paper says: “This paper will not be considering the historical context of the Book of Mormon itself—that is, whether the text is best considered as an ancient document or a product of the nineteenth century or some combination of the two.” It sounds like Heather is saying that her analysis doesn’t rest on an assumption of historicity.

  21. Grant Hardy on February 16, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Heather wasn’t scouring the text for possible connections to the Ancient Near East or Mesoamerica or to nineteenth-century American Protestantism in an attempt to prove its historicity or modern origins. Rather, she assumed that Korihor, Alma, and Amulek were actual people and wrote about them as such, using the details of the narrative to try to reconstruct their thoughts and motivations. The first footnote allowed her to sidestep some of the issues that seem to consume many of those who comment on the Book of Mormon and instead write from a position of simple faith. Like many Latter-day Saints, she believes that the people in the Book of Mormon really existed, long ago, and her article was written from that perspective. That is what I had in mind when I suggested that she took a conservative/traditional point of view. And Dialogue was happy to publish it.

  22. Nathan Whilk on February 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    @20

    Is Heather’s article something that could have been written by someone who believes the Book of Mormon is a product of the nineteenth century? If not, then the footnote seems odd, but if so, then this isn’t much of an example of tolerance on Dialogue’s part. Tolerating traditionalists as authors is not the same as tolerating traditionalist ideas, is it?

  23. Grant Hardy on February 16, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Perhaps it would be better for you to read the article and draw your own conclusions. To me it seems unlikely that someone reading the book as nineteenth-century fiction would interpret those chapters the way that Heather does (though I suppose it might be possible as an elaborate literary exercise). But I would amend your dichotomy of “tolerating traditionalists” or “tolerating traditionalist ideas” to something more along the lines of “welcoming traditionalist perspectives.” That, I believe, is closer to how Heather felt about her interactions with the editor.

  24. BHodges on February 17, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Ben S.: “Can we cite examples of those articles that represent a conservative/traditional position since 2005?”

    How many articles have you submitted to Dialogue since 2005? ;)

  25. Dave on February 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    I think Mauss’s gentle chiding is directed at the dozens of blog writers who could upgrade their posting into potential articles rather than at the hundreds of blog commenters or thousands of blog visitors. That advice also comes from his sense that Dialogue is an ongoing project (hey, it has a foundation and a board of directors) whereas blogs are more ephemeral. I think there’s some merit to that view.

  26. Kristine on February 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    “Is it because those on the other side (stereotypically – the conservatives) do not wish to submit pieces to Dialogue? Are their pieces rejected? If the latter, why? If the former, than this only further demonstrates the position that Dialogue leans more towards liberal ears than conservative ears. I don’t care for these appellations, but hopefully my point is understood.”

    I can assure you that “conservative” articles are not rejected; if anything, the few submissions I receive from what might be called a conservative POV are treated as gently and favorably than others–I just don’t get very many, despite actively soliciting them.

    The Raisanen piece, btw, was published simply because I want to include as many non-Mormon and non-American voices as possible. I think it’s useful to see ourselves from “outside” sometimes. I’m not especially interested in a point/counter-point format, but I would willingly consider articles on Joseph Smith that come from a believing perspective (since that is, in fact, my own perspective).

  27. Kristine on February 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    ps–the #1 reason there are fewer “conservative” voices than I (and everyone else) would like in Dialogue is that the unwritten order of things at BYU prohibits professors in many departments from submitting their work to Dialogue. There’s really nothing I can do about that.

  28. Nathan Whilk on February 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    @22 To me it seems unlikely that someone reading the book as nineteenth-century fiction would interpret those chapters the way that Heather does (though I suppose it might be possible as an elaborate literary exercise).

    The backflap of your book says that you take “a literary approach, one appropriate to both history and fiction.” If such an approach is truly appropriate to fiction, I don’t see why it would be unlikely for an author who thinks that the Book of Mormon is fiction to take such an approach. Are traditionalists the only ones willing to bracket the question of historicity? Or is the bracketing never truly successful in concealing the author’s beliefs about the question?

  29. Kristine on February 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    SilverRain (12):”I view with high suspicion any formal publication that claims balance.”

    So do I; Dialogue makes neither explicit or implicit claim of “balance.”

  30. Kristine on February 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Ben S.–Rosalynde’s review essay, Winter 2012; Jacob Bender’s piece on the Book of Mormon, Fall 2012; Julie Smith’s “I Will Sing to the Lord,” Fall 2012; Rachael Givens on the Sealed Portion, Fall 2012; Joe Spencer on “Mormons, Films, Scripture”, Fall 2012; Ronan Head “Unity in the KJV”, Summer 2012; Shawn Tucker, “Home and Adventure,” Spring 2012; Wright, Bowman, Haglund on the sacrament, Fall 2011 (and many of the other sermons in the revived “From the Pulpit” section); David Gore “Joseph Smith’s Letter from Liberty Jail as an Epistolary Rhetoric”, Winter 2010…

    I could keep going, if you like. I hope, though, that it’s not really possible to divide most of Dialogue’s work into “liberal” and “conservative” categories–I think if you look through the tables of contents, you’ll find that such a binary is pretty useless in categorizing the work in Dialogue in the last several years. That has been my aim, and I think the most exciting part of the explosion of Mormon Studies in the last decade or so is that we have, to a great degree, transcended those labels.

  31. Brad Kramer on February 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Oh, come on, Kristine. That’s a nice list, but as long as Dialogue persists in rejecting the work that serious conservative LDS scholars are regularly submitting for publication (I mean when was the last time you even gave passing consideration to something that Nate Oman or, say, Ralph Hancock or Dan Peterson submitted?!?), we can all see through your attempts to cover up the journal’s real agenda.

  32. Tim Barker on February 17, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    #15 – Morris – thank you for the reference. Please note, I had attempted to preempt some of the potential responses to my comments by previously citing Rees’ response (see my comment in #7 above). On a side note – I sure miss attending Miller Eccles meetings in your welcoming home and your gracious hospitality.

    #14 – Kevin – I don’t disagree about Räisänen’s piece being positive, yet the conclusion that must be inferred, at least in my reading, is that Joseph’s selected changes are mostly apologetic. I think his article neglects to account for other possibile reasons for the changes. I am not opposed to his article, but believe it to be short-sighted, and leaning liberally for that reason. On a side note, your article on the Documentary Hypothesis might be my favorite Dialogue article ever – for what its worth.

    #24 – Dave – I agree, although potential publication of more polished blog posts doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to Dialogue. I’m not sure that you were inferring as much, but for what it’s worth…

    #25 – Kristine – thanks for the response. Your comment would seem to corroborate the idea, however, that there is still a pervasive left-leaning voice. Forgive my ignorance, but is there a similar prohibition against BYU faculty publishing in periodicals outside of BYU Studies Quarterly or the Ensign? Is it limited to just Dialogue? You mention that the journal doesn’t receive many so-called conservative pieces despite active solicitation. I would suspect that Oman’s original claims still have some merit, and that Dialogue still has a bit of a reputation to overcome in order to better balance the voice of scholars from either end of the spectrum.
    I have no hard objection to Räisänen’s piece, other than that there isn’t alternative approaches or interpretations offsetting his positions. The idea of a point/counterpoint, to me, fully engages a dialogue in the scholarly community, but that is just my opinion.

    In response to your comment (#29) – I agree that liberal vs. conservative (as I noted in #13) are not entirely appropriate labels. I think Barney’s article on the Documentary Hypothesis, as I referenced above, could be viewed as quite liberal, although I’d be surprised to find somebody like Vogel who would ever think that he and Barney were in the same camp (or vice versa). At any rate, I am glad to know that the Dialogue board is conscious of more conservative voices and has been actively soliciting them.

  33. Dave on February 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Tim (#31), thanks for the comment. I think it oversimplifies to apply left/right or liberal/conservative labels to authors, topics, or articles. That approach just smears overly general labels across several fields and dozens of topics/issues. And the labels are not objective — a particular scholar or article may be viewed by some as conservative or apologetic, yet be viewed by others as liberal or critical. For example, here is what Mauss himself said (p. 141) about the perceptions of Dialogue:

    There have always been readers (whether or not subscribers) who have accused Dialogue of having been “baptized” (or not critical enough of the church and its leaders), while others have objected to Dialogue authors and editors who have seemed bent on “counseling the brethren,” trying to reform the church, or revealing embarrassing history to no obvious scholarly purpose.

  34. Kristine on February 17, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    “I would suspect that Oman’s original claims still have some merit, and that Dialogue still has a bit of a reputation to overcome in order to better balance the voice of scholars from either end of the spectrum.”

    No doubt. But it’s hard to un-earn a reputation among people who don’t read and won’t contribute…

    “The idea of a point/counterpoint, to me, fully engages a dialogue in the scholarly community, but that is just my opinion.”

    I disagree–I think a point/counterpoint format artificially imposes a binary framework on questions that are multivalent. Again, what I think is wonderful about the past several years of Mormon scholarship is that perspectives are no longer easily plotted on a single line drawn from “liberal” to “conservative” (or “faithful” to “positivist” or FARMS to Signature), but there is actually an array of opinion and approach that requires a multidimensional publishing universe.

  35. Kristine on February 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying (or implying) here: “Your comment would seem to corroborate the idea, however, that there is still a pervasive left-leaning voice. Forgive my ignorance, but is there a similar prohibition against BYU faculty publishing in periodicals outside of BYU Studies Quarterly or the Ensign? Is it limited to just Dialogue?”

    Are you saying that the fact that BYU faculty are discouraged from publishing in Dialogue is some sort of evidence that Dialogue is in fact “liberal?” That seems like an argument with some significant post hoc ergo propter hoc problems…

  36. SC Taysom on February 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Apostate trash

  37. SC Taysom on February 17, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Just look at what they published as their lead article in the latest issue. I mean, really?

  38. BHodges on February 18, 2013 at 12:07 am

    Remember that super liberal piece they published a few years back on C.S. Lewis, “virtuous unbelievers” and Mormon belief in post-mortal salvation opportunities? I do. ;)

    Nathan Whilk (Lewis reference?): How many full issues of Dialogue have you read in the past 6 years? Ben S., same question, and same to Dave. Do you folks subscribe?

  39. Tim Barker on February 18, 2013 at 4:46 am

    #33 – Kristine – Perhaps my “point/counterpoint” is a bit rigid, and I agree that it creates an unnecessary binary framework in many cases, especially when a topic may not be an “us vs. them” or “conservative vs. liberal” type scenario. The documentary hypothesis is a great example (I’m sounding like a broken record now). You’ve got voices like David Bokovoy actually encouraging studies in higher criticism now (http://www.withoutend.org/defense-higher-criticism/). If one were to continue the stereotype, here we would have a conservative voice encouraging studies on a rather liberal topic. On the other hand, there are topics such as Book of Mormon historicity or Joseph Smith’s visions that do have much stronger defining lines.

    At any rate, my ultimate intent was to articulate the idea of having a greater dialogue in the scholarly community by publishing more articles with various approaches or interpretations on a given issue, especially those with an orthodox viewpoint, since it has been acknowledged that “conservative” pieces are less common than desired. This is what I was implying when I noted that your previous comments seem to corroborate the idea of Dialogue leaning to the left (i.e., the lack of conservative papers, despite active solicitation).

    Regarding #34 – I was simply asking a question without intending to imply that BYU’s faculty publishing prohibition was evidence of Dialogue being liberal. I wondered if the prohibition stemmed from the perception of Dialogue being a liberal venue, but was not asserting that it was evidence affirming such to be the case. My goal here was simply to address perceptions. I don’t know what the motive was at BYU for discouraging publishing through Dialogue. I wish I did know.

    In connection with our little discussion here, I’ve been thinking about Dave’s comment in #9. Dialogue does fall more into category 1 than it does into category 2. For that reason, I think there is a general perception that Dialogue is left-leaning because of certain LDS preconceptions. It is my perception that most active Church membership, or most “true believing Mormons,” innately feels that an LDS-centered periodical should, by default, belong in category 2, and that the agenda being pushed is aligned with temple covenants to build the kingdom of God and to “support the Brethren.” When an article does not meet this agenda, even though it was never intended to, and even though it may not be antagonistic, it is considered to be liberal. My understanding may not be entirely representative of the active LDS demographic, but I’d be surprised if it was that far off. Comments like Nate Oman’s, that the periodical could be considered a journal for disaffected Mormons, seems to be grounded in the same mentality. For this reason, I’m sure Dialogue will continue to be viewed as somewhat liberal, even with an increase in “conservative” pieces. In this regard, I don’t know if Dialogue will ever be able to overcome this stereotype, but it can continue to move into a more balanced position by continuing to seek out scholarly submissions from orthodox perspectives.

  40. Ralph Hancock on February 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks for a helpful discussion. Dialogue hasn’t been a high priority of mine, but that’s just because… well, I’ve had other priorities, and I work too slowly. In response to Brad’s sarcasm (#30), I should mention that Kristine Haglund has invited me very warmly to submit to Dialogue (on the homosexual marriage question, for example), and that I received the suggestion very warmly. I wish I had been able to fulfill her wish and mine. But so far, I just haven’t. Other things, rightly or wrongly, always seemed more urgent. But I did appreciate and take seriously the invitation, even though I am in the suspect category of BYU professors.

  41. Dave on February 18, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’m particularly pleased that Kristine, the current Dialogue editor, dropped by to add to the discussion.

    I’ve gotten some off-blog feedback from a friend who was somehow confused about my subscription status with Dialogue. So let me put things on the record. I have subscribed to Dialogue since 2005. It just seems like the right thing to do as a blogger. It strikes me that in a couple of years the Bloggernacle will probably die (about the time Facebook buys the Internet) but Dialogue will keep going. So for anyone interested in Mormon Studies, it makes long-run sense to support Dialogue and be part of that community.

  42. Kristine on February 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks, Dave! Your kickback check is in the mail ;)

  43. Tim Barker on February 24, 2013 at 4:02 am

    #34 – Kristine – Interpreter just posted a preliminary draft of Greg Smith’s response to his submitted review on Mormon Stories (submitted to NAMI, that is), and included a brief discussion on your stance:
    http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/SMITH2-Return-of-the-Unread-Review.pdf
    Do you really feel that MSR published “hatchet jobs,” and did you really say you wouldn’t publish his piece in a million years (prior to even having read it)?
    If so, this really calls into question your previous comment of actively soliciting conservative pieces and treating such submitted pieces favorably. Who exactly do you consider to be conservative, if not NAMI contributors?
    This also calls into question your objectivity as an editor if you are willing to adamantly reject potential submissions prior to even evaluating their merits. Going back to #9, this would put Dialogue more into the second bucket, but clearly with a liberal agenda.
    Here’s hoping to hear back from you…

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