Changes are afoot at Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. First, there is a new and improved website. Second, there is an open letter announcing that henceforth all journal content will be immediately available to all readers (not just subscribers) at the website. From the letter: “Dialogue’s Board of Directors has made the decision to make all of the journal’s content free the moment it is published. This includes content from the immediate past two years’ issues, which have previously been restricted for premium subscribers.” There will also be some additional content posted at the Dialogue website that is not included in the print addition.
Like every newspaper, journal, and magazine, Dialogue has had to grapple with the challenge of what to do with its website: how much content to make available and how to balance that with the financial requirements of publishing a print journal and paying the bills. I hope the new model is a success and will continue to make Dialogue’s content more available to interested readers (that means you).
The interface to access archived content is much improved. So you have better access to fifty years of quarterly journals — that’s 200 volumes worth of stuff. LDS bloggers and their commenters and readers ought to be the biggest supporters of Dialogue and other Mormon-themed publications. Reading Mormon blogs and social media discussions, it is easy to get the impression that it’s the same ten or twelve issues that get kicked around, with no discernable progress in terms of facts or insights. But read some of the past issues of Dialogue and you will get a different view. Or just read the current issue, Volume 51 No. 3, which features several essays celebrating the 45th anniversary of the publication in Dialogue of Lester E. Bush, Jr.’s pathbreaking article “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview,” which presented a detailed and devastating critique of the traditional LDS defense of the racial priesthood and temple ban.
You can read the original 58-page article from the Spring 1973 issue of Dialogue. With the new website and the new policy, you can also now read Bush’s retrospective article in the current issue, “Looking Back, Looking Forward.” It summarizes what has happened within the Church over the last 45 years. In the current article, Bush notes, “An important question, perhaps only for internal leadership deliberation, is what sustained the priesthood ban for so many decades after science had discredited the popular nineteenth-century notions that gave rise to the ban in the first place” (p. 18). That’s an important question because it speaks to lots of other LDS positions that also seem based on discredited notions. I disagree the discussion should be limited to internal leadership deliberation. If discussion of the racial priesthood ban had been limited to internal discussions, they’d still be deliberating.
The nice thing about the newly available material (the current issues) is that they can be linked and discussed online by you, me, and thousands of other Latter-day Saints. But you still want to subscribe, partly so you can get the print journal and partly so you can give financial support to the journal and the newly expanded website.