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In 1975, the University of Illinois Press published Robert Bruce Flanders’s book Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi. That publication marked the beginning of what would become a longstanding commitment on the part of UIP to make available solid academic work on the Latter-day Saint tradition. They’ve produced some of the most influential titles in the field of Mormon studies during the decades since, including Leonard Arrington’s Brigham Young, Jan Shipps’s Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition, Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (a predecessor to Rough Stone Rolling), Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery’s Mormon Enigma, Armand Mauss’s The Angel and the Beehive, Grant Underwood’s The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, and Grant Hardy’s The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition.
In many ways, the University of Illinois Press served as a bridge between the first great wave of Mormon studies in the 1960s and 1970s and the second great wave that began to break early in the new millennium. Especially important to someone like me, immersed as I am in Book of Mormon studies, is the press’s decision to publish Hardy’s Reader’s Edition in 2003. In many ways, that publication—alongside Terryl Givens’s By the Hand of Mormon a year earlier from Oxford University Press—helped create the field of contemporary Book of Mormon studies.
With this important history very much in mind, I’m thrilled to announce that, beginning with its next issue, the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies will be published as a joint effort of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and the University of Illinois Press. The Maxwell Institute will retain editorial control, continue to appoint editors and associate editors, and oversee review processes for publication. Production (copyediting, typesetting, and subscription fulfillment) will move from its previous location on campus at Brigham Young University, to the remarkable team of publishers at the University of Illinois. Subscription management will move to UIP as well, freeing those associated with the developing the content of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies to give their time and attention to making the Journal the best publication it can be.
I express deep appreciation to the BYU team who has done so much to make the Journal happen since its inception, especially Shirley Ricks, a tireless, meticulous, and gracious production editor to the Journal for so many years.
What excites me the most about this new partnership, both as the editor of the Journal and as an individual scholar, is what it means for the future of Book of Mormon studies—and for how that future will build on what’s happened in the recent past. The last fifteen years have witnessed a veritable surge in Book of Mormon studies. Beginning with Hardy’s Reader’s Edition, numerous different editions of the Book of Mormon have appeared, making this sacred volume more readily available to scholars and lay readers alike. Decades of effort on the part of Professor Royal Skousen have come to a first culmination with the publication of a critical text and an associated apparatus (now in a second edition). Major works on the Book of Mormon have appeared from a variety of academic presses (notably those of Oxford, Princeton, and Yale), and important works on the Book of Mormon have appeared in a variety of non-Mormon-themed academic journals. Two-week seminars hosted by the Mormon Theology Seminar have been dedicated for numerous years to close theological reading of the Book of Mormon, with their results now available in print. The first serious multi-volume commentary on the Book of Mormon in decades—the work of Brant Gardner—became available just a few years back. The Joseph Smith Papers has begun to make available in print and online (in full photographic reproduction) the manuscript sources and earliest print editions of the Book of Mormon. The first graduate seminar fully dedicated to the Book of Mormon and offered outside the state of Utah occurred recently, part of a general swell in literary interest in the book. Last year, a conference dedicated to Book of Mormon studies and aimed at spurring the organization of an association aimed at hosting regular events on the subject, took place at Utah State University. And, beginning four years ago, the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies reverted to its original name and format, emphasizing its focus on academic work specifically on the Book of Mormon.
With the Journal moving its production and distribution to UIP, it promises to push these kinds of developments further. The Journal aims to draw wider scholarly attention with this change, while retaining and engaging its loyal readers among interested Latter-day Saints. Disciple-scholars will have a better opportunity to talk to and learn from other scholars interested in the Book of Mormon. Further, UIP will make the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies available in JSTOR, a massive digital library of academic journals. This will make Book of Mormon scholarship immediately available to tens of thousands of scholars who otherwise might be unaware of the research available on the Maxwell Institute’s website.
The future of Book of Mormon studies looks bright, as does the future of the only journal that’s solely dedicated to its promotion and pursuit. I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome the remarkable resources the University of Illinois Press has to offer. The Book of Mormon is, to use its own language, still in the process of “coming forth out of obscurity.” I pray that this joint effort will help it do so. We’ll keep you updated with subscription information as it comes available.
Joseph M. Spencer is a visiting assistant professor of ancient scripture in Religious Education at Brigham Young University, and editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. He is the author of three books: An Other Testament: On Typology (2nd edition 2016, Maxwell Institute), For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope (2014, Greg Kofford Books), and The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record (2016, Greg Kofford Books). He is also the editor, with James Faulconer, of Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Scriptural Theology (2015, Greg Kofford Books) and, with Jenny Webb, of Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah: 2 Nephi 26-27 (second edition 2016, Maxwell Institute).
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