Tom Nysetvold has taken on the yeoman work of starting back up the Mormon Texts Project. He was kind enough to answer some questions about it.
Why did you decide to resurrect the Mormon Texts Project?
I somehow ran in to and read some books on Project Gutenberg (notably Joseph Smith as Scientist by Widtsoe) that had been done by the Mormon Texts Project (MTP). They led me to Ben Crowder’s MTP website, and I was very impressed with what he was doing. I got in touch with him and found out he’d recently suspended the project for lack of time to run it.
I thought it was a shame that many important Church books still weren’t (and aren’t) available, and I’ve long been interested in the ideals of open source projects, Creative Commons, etc., so I decided to do a couple of books to figure out the Project Gutenberg process and see if it was something I was interested in doing on a larger scale. I had a lot of fun doing The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt and Orson Pratt’s An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, so I decided to try and get other people involved in the same type of work, and I contacted Ben and got his permission to use the Mormon Texts Project name. A few friends and I started working, and we’re now up to ten books released on Project Gutenberg (PG) this year (seven that were previously unavailable and three that were available only on the old MTP website). At this point, 31 church books are available on PG (23 of which were produced by MTP) out of roughly 45,000 books total. I think those numbers show that as a global religion with a rich heritage, we have a long way to go before that heritage is appropriately accessible. more
Ask and ye shall receive.
A few weeks ago, Scott Hales wrote a post on the AML blog about what to know before writing Mormon missionary fiction. The comment thread turned into a discussion of recommended missionary fiction, and a couple of people expressed the need for a bibliography of Mormon missionary literature. I may not be a fiction writer, but I am a librarian, and compiling such a bibliography sounded like something that was right up my alley, so I asked Wm if he’d be willing to host it at AMV and now here we are.
I started the bibliography based on the works mentioned in that comment thread, but I’m planning on updating and maintaining it, so please leave any suggestions or corrections in the comments. more
I should probably keep in mind, as I prepare this summary of the works cited in each Conference, that the custom of including footnotes listing the source documents for statements made in a text is relatively recent, and depends a lot on the preferences of the speaker and the expectations of the audience. Fifty years ago these footnotes were extremely unusual and 100 years ago they were unheard of.
Not that the discourses of 50 or 100 years ago didn’t include references to other works. They did, the custom just wasn’t to put that information in footnotes. The items from General Conference in my Sunday Literary Criticism Sermon series makes that clear.
Even today conference talks sometimes mention works that aren’t included in the footnotes. more
What Mormon art projects are drawing attention? Does the Mormon community donate to worthy projects? What Mormon projects attract Mormons?
Off and on I’ve been looking at Kickstarter, the crowd-funding website for artists of all kinds who are looking for seed money to get their projects completed. I’ve even funded a project and I’m looking forward to the results of my small contribution. When Kickstarter launched a few years ago it drew a lot of press because it promised to make raising money for small projects easier. A number of similar sites that have launched, and it looks like some good projects are getting funded.
In preparing my weekly poetry for Gospel Doctrine Lessons (aka Literary BMGD) post on Times and Seasons for this week, I discovered an interesting statement in the current Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine lesson manual for lesson #42 (covering 3 Nephi 27-28 and 4 Nephi):
Note: Stories often circulate about the three Nephites who were translated. Members of the Church should be careful about accepting or retelling these stores. You should not discuss them in class.
I won’t be surprised to find that this statement has been in the various Book of Mormon manuals for some time. And I understand why. Telling Three Nephite stories could easily change the lesson from something spiritual to something like an episode of the Twilight Zone.
It probably follows that the most academically-oriented speakers cite the most sources for their discourses. And when such speakers discuss a subject that requires a lot of outside sources, the list reported here gets long. This General Conference three speakers, Elder Oaks, Elder Christofferson and Elder Cook, cited outside sources at a rate that exceeds anything I’ve seen in the 5 years that I’ve been compiling these lists. Overall, the number of works cited rose to 93 from 62 in the Spring and 51 last year. Just 6 works cited I consider literary works, and only one of those, Pratt’s Autobiography, is a Mormon literary work.
Ran into this book in the New! section of my local library a couple weeks ago and decided to bring it home for a looksee. It’s part of ABDO Publishing’s “Essential Critiques” series which include books on how to write about everyone from Stephen King to Paul McCartney to Sylvia Plath to George Lucas to C.S. Lewis to Toni Morrison to Quentin Tarantino to Virginia Woolf to Andy Warhol to Georgia O’Keeffe—it’s an eclectic group of subjects, to be sure. more
A friend asked yesterday if I knew any works of Mormon literature that dealt with disabilities, especially those that treat mental disabilities. I was only able to come up with one title off the top of my head, Margaret Blair Young’s stunning play Dear Stone, so I thought readers here might help put together a more extensive list.