Introducing Journal of the Mormon Social Science Association

Rick Phillips, University of North Florida

We are pleased to present the inaugural issue of Journal of the Mormon Social Science Association. This journal is the culmination of a dogged and lengthy effort to address the unmet needs of social scientists studying the Latter Day Saint movement in all of its manifestations, both historical and contemporary.

In 2014, the board of directors of the Mormon Social Science Association met at our annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. At the meeting we discussed the need for a scholarly journal analyzing the Latter Day Saint movement using the theories and methods of social science.

Social scientists specializing in Mormonism publish in a variety of general and religion-themed journals, but these venues sometimes impose limitations on our work. For example, major journals in the sociology of religion are aimed at scholars working across the field, and thus articles on Mormonism must produce findings that are relevant for a wider audience. This is well and good, but what about papers with important but esoteric findings that are useful to scholars studying Mormonism, but not necessarily for those studying other faiths?

Moreover, when writing for a general audience, the uniqueness of Mormon theology and polity often necessitates digressions that are superfluous for specialists. Pausing to clarify terms like “priest,” and “paradise” can be unwieldy. Explaining doctrines that are well understood within Mormon Studies—e.g., “exaltation” and “endowment”—can obstruct the flow of one’s argument.

For these and other reasons, members of the Mormon Social Science Association—a scholarly society in its fifth decade—agreed to launch a new refereed journal tailored to our work. But the project was more easily conceived than realized. We wanted to produce an open-source journal that is freely available to the public, but we did not want to charge article processing fees. We also wanted control over the peer-review and editorial process. These priorities made it impossible to partner with an established academic publisher. There would be nothing in it for them.

Production of the journal was stymied until a generous benefactor stepped forward to fund the project. The University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida also provided considerable support. Benjamin Knoll was the co-editor of the journal when the project got underway, and he shepherded the articles in this issue through the peer-review process. We are pleased to offer unrestricted, free access to this scholarly journal for all interested readers, and we look forward to offering more quality scholarship in subsequent issues. If you would like to help fund this project, you can join the Mormon Social Science Association, or donate to the MSSA here.