If you haven’t yet subscribed to the Mormon Studies Review, what are you waiting for? Perhaps a few sample pieces from volume 1 will pique your interest. The editors chose three pieces that are representative of the kind of work you’ll find in this and forthcoming issues of the Review. Each is available for free on the Maxwell Institute’s Publications page.
First, Thomas A. Tweed’s disciplinary essay, “Beyond ‘Surreptitious Staring': Migration, Missions, and the Generativity of Mormonism for the Comparative and Translocative Study of Religion.” If the title is intimidating, the essay itself does an excellent job of explaining how Mormon experiences of migration and missions shed light on our understanding of religion more generally. Borrowing a phrase from Mark Twain’s account of the Mormons, Tweed urges researchers to move beyond the sort of “surreptitious staring” which sees Mormons (and other religious persons) as other, exotic, or alien. Studies in comparative religion tend to lean in that exoticizing direction, but Tweed employs Mormonism as a case study to demonstrate that interpreting one religion in light of another (say, the rise of Mormonism and the rise of Islam) can still be a useful exercise.
You can read Tweed’s essay here.
In addition to methodological essays like Tweed’s, the Review features review essays which cover a number of books at a time. Matthew Bowman looks at Terryl and Fiona Givens’s The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life. Bowman situates the book within Terryl Givens’s prodigious output, connecting it with themes found in books like People of Paradox, When Souls Had Wings, and By the Hand of Mormon. While not completely uncritical of The God Who Weeps, he suggests it deserves to stand alongside other seminal works of Mormon theology by figures like Sterling McMurrin and B. H. Roberts, and adds that it also may be the first Mormon contribution to “the pantheon of statements of Christian devotion” in general, such as those by C. S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton.
You can read Bowman’s review essay, “Terryl Givens, Fiona Givens, and the Rehabilitation of Mormon Theology,” here.
Finally, Kathryn Lofton’s review of The “Book of Mormon”: A Biography by Paul C. Gutjahr exemplifies the basic book reviews featured in the Review. Lofton praises Gutjahr’s attention to the production and formatting of the Book of Mormon, its history of translation into many languages, and its representations in visual culture, but wishes the author paid more attention to the Book of Mormon’s contents and scriptural heft.
You can read Lofton’s review here.
The full contents of volume 1 will be made available online after one year. In addition to reviews of about ten other books, volume 1 is jam-packed with outstanding work including a Roundtable on “The State of Mormon Studies,” an essay on Mormonism and “magic” by Samuel M. Brown, and a conversation between Spencer Fluhman and Ann Taves on Mormonism in the academy. You can see the full table of contents and download pdf versions of these three articles here.
*UPDATE (January 13): Spencer Fluhman’s editor’s introduction is also available for free.
*UPDATE (October 3): Tom Mould and Eric Eliason’s splendid essay on “The State of Mormon Folklore Studies” is also available.
If you like these samples, you’ll love the rest. Subscribe to the Review here and help support the work of the Maxwell Institute.