August 28, 2009 ·
By Richard Lyman Bushman
Inscribed in steel letters in the stairwell of the Harold B. Lee
Library at BYU is the scripture that begins: "And as all have not
faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea,
seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom [D&C 88:118]." The
passage may have been Joseph Smith's favorite. He quoted it twice in
the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer, and made the study of the best
books the chief work of the Kirtland School of the Prophets. Since his
time, all who appreciate the wide compass of Joseph Smith's search for
truth have cited it.
We launch The Mormon Review, an online journal of cultural criticism,
in the spirit of seeking wisdom out of the best books. We ask: How do
we seek wisdom out of books today? Where do we find the virtuous and
praiseworthy? What are we called to criticize? The Mormon Review
offers a public forum where Mormons can teach one another by
exercising their critical powers on significant works.
The task, as we conceive it, is to pursue the meaning for Mormons of
the millions of items that constitute our larger cultural world. What
are we to make of the books, movies, art, music, politics, and
exhibitions swirling about in our environment? Contributors are
invited to examine films, plays, art of any kind, TV shows, children's
books, philosophical treatises, novels, histories, documentaries,
scriptures from other traditions, political speeches, poetry, popular
songs, video games, entertainment sites like Disneyland—any cultural
artifact that awakens their Mormon sensibilities. The only restriction
is that these items must not be by Mormons or about Mormons. We
believe the spirit of the best books scripture is to search outside of
Mormonism for wisdom.
We do not envision a single approach to Mormon cultural criticism. We
expect each response to be individual and idiosyncratic. In our view,
Mormon criticism is the sum of many variegated parts. When accumulated
and deposited, however, The Mormon Review essays will constitute, we
believe, a historic archive of twenty-first-century Mormons grappling
with the world.
Essays of any length (optimally four or five pages) should be
submitted using the instructions at the Review's website:
The editorial board will judge essays on their relevance to Mormon
culture, clarity of expression, and general interest.
Richard Bushman is the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at
Claremont Graduate University and Editor-in-Chief of The Mormon