Reviewing my posts here in the past few months, I realize that I’ve not been very positive about the status of the LDS market. But I recently found an area where I can be positive. I see a glimmer of hope in the recent development of new academic and literary groups and conferences.
Motley Vision hasn’t yet looked at some of the new literary and artistic groups that have arisen recently — I’ve blogged about the Mormon Artists Group, and we regularly cover Irreantum, but we ought to also take a look at Segullah, the American Night Writers Association and the LDS Storymakers Co-op. I’m sure that there are many more.
I’ve noticed new academic organizations over the past few years, starting with the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, which grew out of an academic conference at Yale University in March 2003. That organization is planning its fourth annual meeting for March 2007 at BYU. The SMPT joins organizations like the Mormon History Association, and the Association for Mormon Letters.
This past week I noticed a new organization in this vein, the European Mormon Studies Organization, which pretends to hold its first academic conference in England next summer. For me this is an exciting development, for a couple reasons.
First, I believe that the development of regional academic organizations will help balance and provide greater academic variety to the subjects being studied. [In my opinion, Mormon Studies is much to concentrated on the history of the Church before 1890 at the expense of other times and subjects.]
Second, regional organizations have the potential to involve other languages in their academic studies, and may help the Mormon market eventually serve these languages also.
Academic organizations are frequently a source of material for publishers of works for the general public as well as academia. And academic works are usually produced and priced with a much smaller audience in mind, which is useful when a market is developing in a new language or in a new area.
The European Mormon Studies Organization is also interesting because I’ve been working with some friends toward establishing a similar regional organization covering Latin America. Among its tenants is producing scholarship and scholarly resources in Spanish and Portuguese as well as English.
On another front, I received an email today from the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology announcing that the American Academy of Religion has approved the creation of a Mormon Studies Consultation to be launched at the AAR’s annual meeting in November 2007. This will provide scholars of Mormonism another venue to display thier work — this time as part of a conference attended by more than 9,000 scholars and give those scholars a chance to see value in Mormon Studies.
Will these organizations make a difference? While I can’t say which of the new organizations will be sucessful in the long run, or even how successful they will be, I believe they have good potential. And I suspect that one or two of these organizations will be a significant help to expanding Mormon Studies and through that, Mormon culture.