On Saturday night I attended a Miller-Eccles presentation by Kristine Haglund, the managing editor at Dialogue. In the first half of her presentation, she talked about the present state of Mormon Studies and what younger Mormon scholars are doing. Kristine herself may have been the youngest in attendance, a hopeful sign for Dialogue, which needs to find a way to turn potential younger readers into paying subscribers. She apparently became interested in Mormon Studies through blogging and was an early T&S permablogger.
Kristine noted that young Mormon scholars are active in many academic fields — something of a departure from a couple of generations ago when there was a distinct emphasis on history and sociology. In particular, growing numbers of LDS grad students are enrolled in religious studies programs and theological seminaries. My take on this is that in future years good work in Mormon Studies will spread well beyond history and sociology. The rise of the Mormon Studies programs will also support this broadening of the field.
She added that younger scholars have no sense or feeling that their scholarship raises issues related to their membership in the LDS Church. Codewords like "1993" and "alternate voices" do not resonate with the new cohort of LDS scholars.
Younger scholars are blogging. Blogging provides a forum for discussion of Mormon Studies issues that, in previous years, was conducted largely though journals (like Dialogue) and conferences. So (my observation here) blogs and bloggers are both a threat and an opportunity to the independent journals, perhaps siphoning off some readership and discussion but also comprising the target market that needs to be recruited as the next generation of readers and subscribers.
I agree that blogs are great for discussion and community building, but not necessarily for promoting scholarship. During the comment period following the presentation, I stated that when it comes to just content, the worst published journal probably compares favorably to the best blog post. We simply cannot lose the independent journals. Some marketing whiz out there better figure out how to keep them going. My comment was not so much intended to disparage the content side of blogging as to note that a lot of blog content relies somewhat parasitically on books and journal articles. Without journals and the larger sphere of Mormon scholarship to draw from, bloggers would have a lot less to talk about. I'm sorry, flogging Glenn Beck and reviewing Mormon movies aren't enough to keep many people interested in reading LDS blogs.