2021 Issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies now Available

08.02.2021 | Joseph Spencer

I’m thrilled to announce the 2021 issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, which constitutes the thirtieth volume of the Journal! I’m especially pleased to introduce this particular issue because it is the first of three successive special issues of the Journal. This issue is largely given to a roundtable discussion of what happened in Book of Mormon studies from about 1875 to 2000. The next two future issues will, in turn, contain roundtable discussions of the present state of Book of Mormon studies (looking at what’s happened since the publication of Terryl Givens’s By the Hand of Mormon in 2002) and of the future directions Book of Mormon studies might take (looking out onto the next five decades). The field is at a fascinating point of development, and the first of these roundtables has already convinced me that there’s great value in pausing to consider where things stand at present. 

The roundtable discussion has been, in part, an opportunity for me to exchange ideas with other interested persons, reflecting together on what has shaped the field as we find it today. Three of the contributions concern the century or so before the unmistakably influential rise of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS). Three then address the years during which FARMS was at its peak of influence. Amy Easton-Flake, Matthew Bowman, and I consider the more distant past, while David Seely, Brant Gardner, and Kylie Turley turn their eyes to the more recent, FARMS-focused past. You’ll find Professor Easton-Flake reflecting on how some of today’s Book of Mormon scholars look something like Orson Pratt or George Reynolds, Professor Bowman revising our understanding of why B. H. Roberts struggled for several years with the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and myself puzzling over why Hugh Nibley explicitly claimed that he wasn’t a Book of Mormon scholar. And you’ll find Professor Seely outlining the whole history of the FARMS project, Brant Gardner reminiscing in a personal way about the question of historicity during the 1980s and 1990s, and Kylie Turley asking about the lasting importance of 1990s debates about history and literature. Throughout are important lessons about where things stand today and about where they might go next. 

This issue, like the 2022 and 2023 issues, opens with a featured research article. This one is the third of three crucial studies by Nicholas Frederick on how New Testament language functions in the Book of Mormon. This brings Professor Frederick’s labors to systematize the study of the relationship between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon to a kind of culmination and preliminary close. It’s a brand of research that, in my view, will be a standard in the field for years to come. 

As usual, the issue also includes a literature review, a handful of book reviews, and an annual bibliography. I’m particularly excited about this issue’s literature review. Scott Hales has summarized the long and fascinating history of novelized versions of the Book of Mormon. The phenomenon is older than one might expect, and there are exciting things to learn from the history Dr. Hales lays out. Be sure to look for reviews of Don Bradley’s The Lost 116 Pages (by Jenny Webb), Elizabeth Fenton and Jared Hickman’s Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon (by Christopher Blythe), the 2020 Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (by Adam Stokes), Peter Coviello’s Make Yourselves Gods (by Matthew Wickman), and Fatimah Salleh and Margaret Olsen Hemming’s The Book of Mormon for the Least of These (by Daniel Becerra). Book of Mormon studies continues developing in interesting ways. 2020 was a particularly rich year for publishing in the Book of Mormon. It feels like a good time to take stock, and this issue of the Journal does, I believe, meaningful work in sorting out what’s been happening, both recently and much farther back in time.