Tips on Being an Independent Scholar: Ardis Parshall

1) Tell us about your background, education, and career goals when you were just starting out? Did they change over time?

I don’t have any formal education or training for what I do, which is Mormon history. No one knows better than I do what a handicap that is, or how much I regret my lack of opportunity, but being self-taught is not anything to be ashamed of, either. I have a knack for history, for analysis of documents and evaluation of historical claims, and for ferreting out where people of the past may have gone and what they did when they got there. I wish I could fill in the gaps in my education, but I do what I can do and that has to be enough.

I was late – about 40 – coming to scholarship. Before that I worked primarily as a legal secretary, hating every UCC form and every motion in limine I typed. But that paid 10c an hour more than other secretarial work, and it was all I knew to do, so I spent 20 years doing it.

For much of that time I also spent evenings and weekends researching and writing family history. That isn’t the same as “real” history, but it was good experience. To this day I credit my skills as a genealogist for allowing me to find records that traditionally trained scholars have not found – I think differently, and I’m capable of doing the massive work of hunting through mountains of records to find that single wanted fact, whether that is Grandma’s wedding date or the name of the courier Brigham Young trusted to carry a message across the Plains.

2) How did you decide to become an independent scholar?

My aunt, Evelyn Taylor, was working as a Church service missionary, the second missionary brought in to establish what became the Church’s jewel of pioneer history, the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database. She discovered someone who had traveled with our convert ancestor, someone we knew little about, and who recorded some terrific Taylor family history in his diary. Evelyn asked me to come to the Church Archives, a place I had not previously known existed, to type the diary for our family records. I went in, took one look around, and decided that was where I wanted to live. I never left.

At that date, in the 1990s, the Church did not allow much photocopying, and the only way to get material out of the Archives was to transcribe it. I don’t think they ever envisioned anyone walking out of their with as much material as I picked up through transcription – in fact, I’m pretty sure some of the rules they imposed on me (telling them who I was working for, what those people’s topics were, and exactly what documents I sold to them) were rules made up solely for me. But I cooperated (I also told my clients what I had to tell the Archives about their work), and left every day with more loot – er, historical material – than many of us dream even exists.

Finding clients was the trick, but when word spread that I could transcribe as fast as I did, my client base increased until I had just about all the work I could handle.

At first I was working solely for other people. I couldn’t help, though, wanting to do my own scholarly work with the gems I was finding. My best work, my most significant discoveries, even my best analysis had to be sold to others and has been published under others’ names. They paid me, and I needed their payments, but I am sometimes more than a little sad that my name will never be connected with much of the work I did.

3) What are some lessons learned along the way?

I’ve learned what I like best and what I do best, which is translating the dry, cryptic records of the past into stories about people and events that other people – readers of my blog, Keepapitchinin, and readers of the Salt Lake Tribune column I used to write – could care about. I feel an obligation to the people of the past to represent them in the 21st century, because they can no longer speak for themselves. I feel a joy in introducing people of the 21st century to our co-religionists of the past. I’ve found a role, something I’m good at, something that has meaning.

I’ve learned what it’s like to cooperate and collaborate with people, something I suppose most people learn much earlier than I did, but which has been a great benefit to me. I’ve learned how much I enjoy public speaking. I’ve learned that there is a hunger out there among Latter-day Saints for the kinds of stories I uncover and tell – I’ve never known anything like the thirst for seeing themselves in the history of the Church as I have discovered since announcing my book, She Shall Be an Ensign, a history of the Church using as much as possible an all-woman cast of characters.

I can’t say I ever learned to be a businesswoman, or to look after my own needs as well as I should. It’s too much fun sharing my finds with other scholars who can fit those finds into their own projects. I love the camaraderie, something I get too little of these days as I work from home writing. I am also finishing editing an important find, documents that Heber J. Grant and Reed Smoot and James Talmage hunted for in vain in their day … I have them, and I’ll publish them soon, and I’ve learned enough not to tell you today what those papers are. Take that, FPR!

4) How do you balance your work as an independent scholar with your other responsibilities in life?

I don’t really have any other responsibilities in life. My independent scholarship is my life. I work at it every day, usually all day and into the night. My entire social life is wrapped up in my work. That isn’t balance, and it isn’t entirely healthy, and sometimes I wish I were not so narrowly focused. But I have no idea how, or even real desire to, change that. I’ll die with my hands on the keyboard and a stack of documents on my typing stand.

5) What do you see as the biggest pros and cons to independent scholarship?

Because I’ve earned my living for the past 20 years through my independent work, without a day job to fall back on for most of that time, the biggest con is the constant need to scrounge for paying employment at any rate and of any kind related to history. My clerical skills – I can read most 19th century handwriting as easily as you read print, and I type 150+ words per minute – have been as responsible as my historical chops for earning a living in history. The living is marginal, and I absolutely couldn’t do it if I had dependents.

Absolutely the worst con is being cheated by so-called scholars you trusted once but no more, either because they didn’t pay their bills or because they published your work, shown to them confidentially, as their own. Both kinds of theft have happened to me more than once, until I was forced to protect myself by limiting my trust. Changing who you are at heart is a definite con.

The pros? Too many to list. First is doing something I love. Not only do I have a religious interest in the work I do, but I am fascinated by the detective work involved. There is always the possibility that the next page I turn will contain that one bit of writing that scholars have searched for over decades. There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of looking at something and realizing not only what it means, but that you are the first one to recognize its importance. My resolution of the 1857 Tobin-Peltro ambush ( “Pursue, Retake & Punish,” 2005 [link is a .pdf download]) fell together in literally 15 seconds or less. I saw three words – “those from prison” – in a totally innocuous letter, connected the phrase with another letter I held in memory, and as fast as I could verify the date of the ambush I realized I held its solution. It took me another year to flesh out the events and write the story, but the thrill of that 15 seconds was so intense that I lived on it until the project was finished.

Then, of course, there are the friendships formed with smart and funny and generous people. And there is communion with and the constant companionship of marvelous people of the past. You get into their minds and hearts, and they get into your soul, and there is no separating yourself from them again. These I count as some of the pros of scholarship. Maybe others – what’s the opposite? dependent scholars? – have the same highs, but they have to divide their time with faculty meetings and midterm grading and other distractions I don’t have to deal with.

6) What advice would you give to undergraduates or masters students considering independent scholarship?

Establish yourself in some sort of paying day job adequate to your needs, and that allows you to support a family. Then and only then start your independent work.

Find a niche that interests you and for which you have access to the necessary scholarly materials. You can’t really compete with academics who have easier access to those materials in some topics, so find a niche where you can become the authority, perhaps because you have access to local materials, or where a mission language can be an asset, or where you have the edge in some other way. For me that was my clerical skill, as well as my residence in Salt Lake City. For you it will have to be something specific to your skills or location or access.
7) What do you think the role of the independent scholar will be in the future of Mormon Studies?

From the history side of Mormon Studies, there must – and will – always be a significant place for the independent scholar, whether that scholar comes out of the academy or comes from grass roots Mormonism.

Independent scholars often have a passion for history that leads us to work long hours at tasks that academic historians can neither afford to do themselves nor turn over to student assistants. We read anything and everything. I’ve traveled to courthouses and rooted around under rotten hay in old barns and sweet-talked elderly caretakers of their families’ heirlooms to gain access to materials that are unknown to librarians and archivists. Academic historians of course can and do conduct some of the same researches – but it’s hard to beat a passionate, even fanatical independent whose hobby and religious identity and nose for discovery are all tied up in the practice of history.

The emphasis at the moment is on the “professionalization” of Mormon history, meaning those credentialed by and working full time within the academy insist that their interests, their preferences and fads and concerns, take priority over all other practices of history. We see that in the drive to make the Mormon History Association and its Journal of Mormon History the particular domain of academic historians, marginalizing laymen and non-academic but capable and experienced independent scholars.

That “professionalization” cannot go on indefinitely, not only because ordinary, non-academic Mormons have as great an interest and as large a stake in our history as any academic historian, but also because academic historians must somehow be reminded of the professional ethics of their own organization, the American Historical Association. Their Statement on Standards insists that everyone, even independent scholars, have a role in making good history, and that our worthy contributions are a strength and not a weakness to the historical community.

We all interpret and narrate the past, which is to say that we all participate in making history. It is among our most fundamental tools for understanding ourselves and the world around us.

Professional historians benefit enormously from this shared human fascination for the past. Few fields are more accessible or engaging to members of the public. Individuals from all backgrounds have a stake in how the past is interpreted, for it cuts to the very heart of their identities and world views. This is why history can evoke such passion and controversy in the public realm. All manner of people can and do produce good history. Professional historians are wise to remember that they will never have a monopoly on their own discipline, and that this is much more a strength than a weakness. American Historical Association, Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (updated 2011)

We independent scholars will always be a significant part of Mormon Studies. You couldn’t get rid of us if you tried.

Tips on Being an Independent Scholar: Blake Ostler

1) Tell us about your background, education, and career goals when you were just starting out? Did they change over time?

I grew up in Sandy, Utah at a time when it was growing from around 8,000 to 75,000 residents over 10 years. I am the second of 6 children. My parents were both pioneer descendants — 75% Swedish and 25% English. My mother was active in the LDS Church and for many years my father was somewhat active. I have told the story of my questions at age 14 and how they led me to gain a testimony elsewhere:

2) How did you decide to become an independent scholar?

After my testimony experiences in high school, I had numerous questions that arose because my beliefs were challenged. I learned about and researched as best I could while still at Jordan High School about issues presented by evolution, materialism and the relation of the mind to the brain, changes made to both the Doctrine & Covenants and Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s polygamy, the Book of Abraham, the challenges of higher criticism to the Bible (and hence also to the Book of Mormon), the Kinderhook plates, etc.. I think that if I had not had the spiritual experiences that reoriented my life I would not have maintained my faith. Although we often had gospel related discussions in my home, there was no one to talk to about these issues that required so much more investment in time and thought to really grasp. I was on my own. In a sense, going it on my own left me with a deep sense that I was accountable to learn all I could about these issues and deal with them as honestly and with as much integrity as I could. I was already an independent scholar all own my own (cue music from Les Miserables here).

I also read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance while in high school (still the best selling book touching on philosophy of all time). I was hooked. For a guy who raced motocross it was the perfect intro to philosophy. I began to read every philosopher I could find. I found that I had a particular affinity for Kant and William James and so read everything I could find about their thought.

I also read Les Miserables in French and then excerpts in English. I discovered that Hugo’s own prose was so much more powerful than just reading in English that even the best translations really failed to convey the power of the text. That experience convinced me that an entire world of literature in other languages waited to be explored.

Perhaps the most formative event for a career choice occurred while I was a senior sitting in Trigonometry and Calculus and thinking to myself: “What can I do for a career that makes lots of money but does not require trigonometry or calculus?” The thought occurred to me that I could be a lawyer, which would use my skills as a debater on the debate team and I would never have to do any trigonometry. My heart began to burn within me and I knew that I would be an attorney — and a litigator at that.

I served in the Milan, Italy mission from February 1977-79. While on my mission I had a deep desire to read the scriptures in their original languages to capture their power. I decided to learn Koine Greek and “biblical” Hebrew while in Italy by taking ten (10) new words and two (2) verbs in full conjugation each day. I wrote the words down and looked at them every time I had a break of a few minutes. I would go over the list the first thing in the morning and then go over it in my memory at night. When I woke I recalled the list without looking before getting out of bed so that the vocabulary and conjugations would pass from short-term to long-term memory. If I could not remember a word it went back on my list. After 5 months I bought a Greek New Testament and started with the Gospel of John — by far the easiest Greek vocabulary in the New Testament but the most profound in its meaning. I was aiming at reading Isaiah in Biblical Hebrew and started on that after 6 months with a Hebrew dictionary at my side. New worlds of meaning within the semantic field of words and phrases opened to my view. I have continued to study languages using this method. However, when I learn a modern language after about 3 months I find people with whom I can converse because speaking is light worlds away from reading a language.

When I returned from my mission I looked into becoming a philosophy major at BYU. I found out that at the time the major required two modern languages, two ancient languages, and another major in either business or one of the sciences. (Yup, they had pretty much assured that no one would ever waste time becoming a philosophy major because they did not want people to become dependent on welfare). However, I already wanted to study as much as I could about the relation between brain states, consciousness, behavior and moral accountability and so neural physiology (they called it psychobiology at the time) was a natural fit and the languages were doable for me.

I fell in with a tough crowd at BYU who published the 7th East Press. I did the interview with Sterling McMurrin that got it kicked off of campus. I was well on my way to being a Maverick.

I was lucky and quickly made friends with great mentors, including Truman Madsen, David Paulsen, Sterling McMurrin, James Faulconer and others. I believe that I received a world-class education in philosophy at BYU. My last three semesters I had mostly directed readings classes with a ratio of three-professors-to-one-student (3-to-1) in each class. My grade was dependent on having a publishable paper (where proof was in publication).

I then transitioned to the University of Utah for Law School where I also studied with a Jurisprudence or philosophy of law emphasis and I co-taught several classes in history of philosophy with Sterling McMurrin.

I have since taught adjunct courses at the BYU Salt Lake Center in philosophy and co-taught with David Paulsen in Provo. I also co-taught a class with Richard Sherlock at USU and have lectured at several universities on Mormonism and sometimes other areas of philosophy. I also have published in professional philosophical and law related journals.

I never made a choice to be an independent scholar. I discovered that I was going to be an attorney and I am just a guy who studies and writes.

3) What are some lessons learned along the way?

Having mentors who can teach, prod, challenge, open doors and be close friends is very important. The mentor-student relationship is not only incredibly important in becoming a scholar, it is important in becoming a person. Choose wisely who will be a mentor. As I already mentioned, I think I had the greatest mentors in the world such as Neal Maxwell, David Paulsen, Truman Madsen and Sterling McMurrin. If one were choosing the best and brightest in Mormon scholarship at the time I was in college, these were the creme de la creme.

I learned to pursue my passion and study what really interested me. I discovered that passion creates a secret vortex of time so that there are more hours in the day and more energy to pursue questions and issues that just fascinate me.

I never cared what others thought. I learned early that I could be an expert in anything with enough time, enough study and enough commitment. The key here is “enough” – so refer back to what I said about passion.

Although I never cared what others thought, I knew what it was like to be facing deeply meaningful existential questions all alone. So I chose to be a resource where I could. In addition, while I have taken stances that challenged some orthodoxies, no one has ever raised any questions about my faithfulness or whether I should be disciplined — even when I had GAs’ children in classes and I presented arguments as strong as I could that are faith challenging. I also gave the best responses that I knew about. I just gave it the best I could.

I also had really good friends. I met Kevin Barney at BYU because we were in the same ward and we quickly became friends and co-conspirators. John Sorenson was our Stake representative and we also became friends. I loved just talking and exploring the issues together.
4) How do you balance your work as an independent scholar with your other responsibilities in life?

I need only about 5-6 hours of sleep so I study and write in the early morning hours. Refer back to what I said about passion. I get excited about the issues I study and ponder (not ponderize) and analyze and rip to part and put back together again. I am also passionate about my clients who I serve as an attorney. I could work from home much more than I do but I find that it is easier for me to focus by compartmentalizing work from family time and both from study time.

We have a saying in the Law: “The Law is a jealous mistress.” I do trial work and so sometimes it is just 24-7 dedication to the case I am working on. However, I find it so natural to study the issues in philosophy, science, philosophical theology and so forth that I just do it without having to think about doing it. It is just who I am.

I also reserve Friday nights, 7-9 every night and Saturday morning for family. I also think it is important to exercise and work out which I do every day either in the morning or at night. I have designed work-outs that range from 15 to 90 minutes so I can get it done fast if I need to.

5) What do you see as the biggest pros and cons to independent scholarship?

One challenge is that everyone else is getting paid to travel and attend scholarly conferences and I am paying for air fare, hotel, meals and so forth. When I was younger that was a much greater challenge.

Another challenge is that no one is sponsoring the work to getting published. The articles have to be more solid to get over the credibility threshold than someone affiliated with a university because the credibility has to be established without credentials from an established university. I am not saying that articles by independent scholars are always better; I am saying that they have to be pretty solid to get consideration.

Another benefit is that I can say what I want and there is no pressure to publish. But the greatest benefit is that I can engage in a profession that makes sufficient for my needs without having to put up with departmental politics. I once considered teaching philosophy and spoke to folks at several universities. My take away was that departmental politics were vicious and for a conservative there was a hidden undertow, never acknowledged or spoken, that would be difficult to swim out of without drowning from the unseen and unacknowledged force of the current. So I decided against it.

6) What advice would you give to undergraduates or masters students considering independent scholarship?

Go for it. Follow your passion. You can have it all. Life is too short to not explore every issue and learn everything I can.

7) What would you like to see the role of the independent scholar become in the future of Mormon Studies?

I believe that with official “Mormon Studies” programs that the field of amateurs will diminish. I have been disappointed in the lack of depth of philosophical issues and historical philosophy and theology in Mormon studies — with some notable exceptions. There is this quixotic relationship between those who study what Mormons do on the one hand, and those who do it on the other as if Mormons were animals in a zoo to be gawked at and analyzed. There are numerous studies about what others have thought historically in Mormonism, but very few developing that thought. In other words, there is a study of those who do without doing it themselves.

Such a result is the logical outcome of the unquestioned assumption that one must approach issues from a non-committed point of view in Mormon Studies. Apologetics are anathema and even arguing from a faith position is seen as too risky. I do not deny that it is risky for those looking for a home in the academy. That is why there is room for independent scholars who are willing to use their real names and assume the risk of taking a stand on an unpopular issue that may get one black-listed in the academy. If one cannot take such stands or make such arguments and remain in the academy, then so much worse for the academy.

Mormon studies seem to often reduce to the study of history. As important as that is, there is much more than regurgitating the past. I said that caustically on purpose. I would like to see those who have courage to enter the fray, to produce great works of philosophy that spring from their experience with Mormonism or studying Mormonism. I would like to see the Mormon Augustine, Aquinas or Plantinga (or if you prefer continentals, then the next Foucault), the interested-in-Mormons scholar who learns from Mormonism that there are really fascinating options that have not been explored and new vistas to see.

Above all I would love to see scholars who are so passionate about what they do, whether independently or in the academy, that they inspire others to love what they love.

Tips on Being an Independent Scholar: Kevin Barney

1) Tell us about your background, education, and career goals when you were just starting out? Did they change over time? 

When I went to BYU as a freshman in 1976, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I just took general ed classes. At the end of that year I still didn’t have a clue (although I recall some thought about psychology, as is common among college freshmen). It was on my mission to Colorado from 1977 to 1979 that I began to gain some tentative interest in scholarship. This was, I think, based on a combination of factors. All of a sudden I realized that I didn’t actually know anything about the Church, because I couldn’t answer people’s questions about it. So I now had a genuine motivation to want to learn, and I began to read a lot. As part of that I was exposed for the first time to Hugh Nibley, who “blew my mind,” a common experience among young people upon first exposure to him. There was a culture in my mission of collecting, trading and listening to tapes (GA talks, lectures, etc.), but for some reason I didn’t go that route but began to collect and read actual books. (Maybe that was because my father was a professor of education and I grew up with books everywhere in the house.) By the end of my mission I had an entire trunk of books I would schlep on transfers. My book acquisitions became increasingly scholarly in nature, and I could see the importance of knowing the biblical languages in order to study the Bible closely, so I began some tentative steps in trying to teach myself about those languages, using such tools as I had at my disposal (a Strong’s Concordance, a Berlitz Hebrew reader, and a Jehovah’s Witness NT interlinear).

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Tips on Being an Independent Scholar: Julie Smith

We are pleased to welcome our first entry in this series from Julie Smith.

1) Tell us about your background, education, and career goals when you were just starting out? Did they change over time?

So I started out getting an English degree and teaching certification (from UT-Austin) because those seemed like practical things to do. One of my mentors began a lecture (I think this was a 17th century British Literature class, but it’s been a few decades so I may be off by a few centuries) by saying that you couldn’t understand anything going on without some background in Christian history—which she knew few of us had—so in a twenty-minute whirlwind tour, she mentioned in passing that there were female bishops in the first century. I tentatively approached her about this later and she launched my interest in women in early Christianity by handing over a stack of dittoed (remember those—with the purple ink?) articles about women in the Bible and early church. I was hooked. I did a senior thesis with her and then decided to go to grad school. I went to the GTU (where I affiliated with the San Francisco Theological Seminary) where I did an MA in Biblical Studies. My thesis was on Mark 14:3-9, the anointing of Jesus by a woman. I didn’t get a PhD because I had gotten married and in the late 90s, it didn’t feel like an option. I had three kids and decided to homeschool. Biblical studies became a hobby and I spent many years studying on my own, teaching Institute and Adult Religion classes, and that sort of thing. For about a decade, I had no contact whatsoever with others in the field. Then I started blogging at Times & Seasons, got to know some people in Mormon Studies, and starting presenting at conferences and writing for publication. I’ve written a book that is basically a study guide for the gospels and I’m currently working on a commentary on Mark for the BYUNTC. I didn’t really have any career goals. I still don’t. I’ll be finished homeschooling in about 5 years and I have no idea what I want to do then.

2) How did you decide to become an independent scholar? Continue reading “Tips on Being an Independent Scholar: Julie Smith”

The Aspirational Language of Mormonism

This post is a guest submission from Isaac Black.

Recent events in Mormondom, including the excommunication of Kate Kelly and the Church’s blog posts on controversial topics like the priesthood ban and polygamy, have prompted a higher scrutiny of seemingly basic terms of the religion. What defines apostasy? What precisely is priesthood? Even, what is doctrine? It is my observation that Mormon vocabulary, rather than being strict and legalistic as some of the more textually inclined among us would hope it to be, has a performative aspect. Usage of key Mormon terms, a few of which I’ll elaborate upon, is a speech act which binds one to the mainstream community by affirming a shared ideal.
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Some Thoughts on a Recent Excommunication

We recently received this communication from a friend, who wishes to remain anonymous.

It’s been a difficult week, but now I’m just sort of irritated all around.

I’m irritated with the Church for treating Kate Kelly as an existential threat rather than a nuisance. Kicking her out polarizes the situation, makes everyone wary and fearful of sharing honest opinions (except for those who are confident that the Church can do no wrong), alienates members, scares off investigators, and makes an essential conversation on gender issues much more difficult.

I’m irritated at Kelly for her intransigence. Perhaps she believes that her cause will be best served at this point by becoming a martyr, but I would like to think that a little humility and flexibility would have gone a long way in this situation. Instead, she’s scripted out a “Here I stand” narrative that practically guaranteed the outcome. Alternatively, one could say that Kelly has imported her ecclesiastical grievances into a civil rights model of political interaction. It may not be a great fit, but the Church, as a very conservative institution, has demonstrated a tone-deafness to civil rights discourse over the years that makes it vulnerable to such tactics. Sentences like “She was tried in absentia by an all-male panel of three judges” (Reuters) will not make anyone think more highly of the Church, despite the valiant efforts of Public Affairs, and I imagine that other people have had uncomfortable conversations with non-Mormon colleagues this morning about the issue, like I have. (It was definitely not a missionary moment.)

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The 2013 Adjustments to the Book of Mormon: Accuracy Delayed

This post is written by guest contributor, Grant Hardy.

It is a weighty responsibility to decide how God’s word should be presented to the world, and the Church takes this charge very, very seriously. The recent adjustments to the official standard works include many welcome corrections to the headings of the Doctrine and Covenants, but otherwise the revisions are quite minimal. As Elder Neil L. Andersen explained, “members should not feel that they need to purchase a new set of scriptures . . .  Changes to the scriptural text include spelling, minor typographical, and punctuation corrections” (my emphasis). This perhaps makes sense in the case of the King James Version, which continues to be what it has been for the last 400 years, and for the Doctrine and Covenants, where the textual scholarship of the Joseph Smith Papers is ongoing. Yet it represents a lost opportunity for the Book of Mormon in light of Royal Skousen’s completed analysis of textual variants (in six books) and the publication of his reconstruction of the earliest text.

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Masculinity and Mormon Apologetics

We are pleased to have this guest entry by Mrs. Silence Dogood, a friend of the blog.

Have y’all heard about the latest squabble amongst apologists and academics?

Anyways, the main lesson that has seemed to come out from the most recent spat is the vast and increasing divide between the two fields. Though someone can certainly use scholarly tools in making apologetic arguments, and someone can certainly become too apologetic in their scholarship, the works of the current generation of Mormon scholarship and Mormon apologetics are leading in drastically different directions; the former is focused on integration within broader fields, collaborations with competing ideas, and relevancy to areas outside of Mormonism proper, the latter is trenchant in resuscitating old debates, responding to dated critiques, and fighting tired battles. Perhaps the major source of division is the outlook toward outside critics and collaboration with those who don’t share the Mormon worldview. As Richard Bushman put it in a 2007 Journal of Mormon History article, “The apologists want to war with the critics; the historians ask them out to lunch.”

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Faith and Knowledge Conference Registration Open

The upcoming Faith and Knowledge conference for graduate students in Religious Studies is now accepting participant registration for those not giving papers. The 2011 conference schedule should soon be finalized and made available to those who register. In the past, qualified registrants have been eligible for a free hotel room for the duration of the conference in order to make it easier for graduate students to attend. The $25 registration fee helps pay for the conference expenses. Click here to register.