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I've been pondering my own venture into the subscription. Like you I have never had a subscription to a Mormon Studies journal. I have read plenty, but have been in a diferent zone I guess. There is also MHA journal that I have considered. I just have a hard enough time getting though my Atlantic Monthly and weekly The New Republic and Science News. Maybe I should just bite the bullet, read more and blog less...

I'm in the same boat. Here's why I don't subscribe: too expensive. A weak excuse, I grant you, but still ...

But Steve, you'll actually read the issues of Dialogue.

Dave: I would offer three reasons why Dialogue doesn't have more subscribers.

(1) There is a perception that it is ideologically biased toward dissident Mormons. I think that there is some truth to this, but not as much as most critics of Dialogue claim. My sense is that they are happy to publish more conservative articles but don't see many of them.

(2) The quality of Dialogue articles is extremely uneven. Some of them are just not that good and aren't worth the time to read them. Again, I don't really blame the Dialogue editors, etc. for this. They can only publish articles that they receive and much of intellectual discussion is a matter of sifting weat and chaff, which necessarily implies a good bit of chaff.

(3) People simply haven't heard of Dialogue because marketing is difficult and the folks that run Dialogue aren't that good at it.

I have been a Dialogue subscriber, but I just let my subscription lapse. Partly this is simply a matter of time. I just can't get through an entire issue. However, I also found that Dialogue was dropping way down on my to-read list. I have subscriptions to three other academic journals (The Greenbag, Philosophy & Public Affairs, and BYU Studies) and I found that Dialogue was consistently the last journal that I read. I still try to keep up on the contents of the most recent issue, and I will generally get a hold of articles that look interesting.

I have never been able to get into the fiction or the poetry. (Or most of the personal essays for that matter.) Just not my style, I am afraid. Don't feel guilty if you aren't interested.

I've had subscriptions to BYU Studies, Dialogue, and Sunstone on and off over the years (I bought my first Dialogue and Sunstone as a missionary). Right now, though, my subscriptions to each have lapsed. I guess the real reason is that when my renewal notices showed up, the most recent issues had not been compelling, so I didn't act. Of course, my Ensign subscription is also lapsed right now ...

I think the reason why there are not 50,000 subscribers is because they don't market the journal that well. The only advertisments I have seen for Dialogue is in other similar publications, which only reach people who already have subscriptions. But of course it takes money to advertise, and I would imagine that is the main reason behind its lack of good marketing.

Actually I still find that too many of the articles are not that interesting. I think there is a bit too *much* of a mix of genres. Typically there is one article every 2 - 3 issues that I really want and then perhaps one or two more that are somewhat interesting. But never enough to really justify a subscription.

I currently subscribe to Dialogue, Sunstone, and BYU Studies. I am often tempted to drop BYU Studies for the Journal of Mormon History.

I don't know that there are that many people who are interested in academic journals, let alone ones devoted to Mormonism and regardless of ideology, real or perceived. How many people subscribe to BYU Studies? Five thousand? Marketing is an issue. How do you market to undergraduate and graduate students who may be more inclined toward such publications? Very few Mormons I know have heard of these publications or have merely heard vague negative things that usually derive from events of the early and mid-1990s (FP statement on symposia, the September Six, etc.).

Sunstone and Meridian have broader appeal due to their popular format. Personally I wouldn't read Meridian if it became a pay site. I'd rather support the independent Mormon publications because I think it's important to maintain outlets for independent voices in the church.

I subscribe to the Ensign mostly out of a sense of obligation, but I would be content to read it online.

I think Dialogue is great. Actually, I think that on principle, even when Dialogue isn't actually that great. It's a model for the kind of intellectual community (respectful of distinctive perspectives, open to novel arguments, attentive to empirical evidence) that I like to imagine might exist within the Mormon world. That intellectual community doesn't really exist, which is, I think, why Dialogue sometimes has content trouble. But the content is consistently a lot more interesting than Sunstone, which has an even wider spread of material.

I started reading Dialogue as part of Eugene England's colloquium class at the Y back in 1981. A few years ago I bought all the back issues--apparently just in time for them all to be offered free online or on a $15 CDRom that one can purchase from Dialogue. For a long time, they were a real life saver for one trying to find a forum discussing basically anything beyond the weekly SS lesson. Blogs have helped immeasurably to fill that need as of late but I still find many interesting and provocative topics when a new issue arrives. There is definitely an "unapproved" perception out there as to its use in church settings. Any time I try to sneak something from Dialogue into a lesson, as I will try to do again this week in Priesthood on the subject of the temple, someone will call me on it. As has been mentioned, much of this is COB directives against study groups, symposia, etc. but I think a large part of it is due to an apparently deep rooted aversion to questioning amongst the rank and file. A colleague of mine's wife is an editor for BYU Studies and they are constantly scratching their heads trying to figure out how to increase their own circulation so it has got to go beyond the simple negative stereotypes Dialogue has had to deal with.

I don't subscribe because I read Dialogue, Sunstone, and BYU Studies in a university library.

Interesting remarks, Robert. The fact that BYU Studies has a problem shows there's something systemic going on. It's as if most Mormons think a basic knowledge of LDS doctrine and history should be the upper limit of one's knowledge, and that additional knowledge is somehow wrong or threatening. Once upon a time Sunday School had a broader view of things, but I think it has shrunk to a "99R" mentality, offering something like remedial doctrinal review for people who aren't important enough to have something else to do during Sunday School. Too bad.

Nice post, Dave. We've subscribed intermittently to BYU Studies and Dialogue for most of our married life, due exclusively to friends and family who keep us in gift subscriptions. Currently we only get BYU Studies, for financial reaons (and we don't pay for cable, cell phones or broadband internet, either, so I can say that with a straight face).

On the larger question, I wonder whether asking why Dialogue doesn't have a larger circulation is a little like asking why, say, English Literary History doesn't have a larger circulation: to my knowledge, most journal-format academic publications have very limited circulation, mostly to academic libraries. Because Mormon Studies is still largely a hobby for most of us---very few academics have Mormon Studies as their academic ground zero---maybe we think of it as something to do for fun, and of general interest, like lots of other hobbies. In truth, though, it's a very, very small subset of the population that chooses antying remotely intellectual for a hobby.

Thanks to Dave and to the bloggers who have given helpful insight into the appeal or lack thereof of Dialogue. Dialogue has always maintained the quality of an academic journal. That adds up to a certain stuffiness, I suppose, though it also implies that we try hard to add something new to the growing body of knowledge about Mormonism. I myself confess to having always read Dialogue selectively over the years. But like several of you I have felt the forum Dialogue offers to points of view on both sides of a Mormon controversy justifies my support. Many readers have told me they like the fiction in Dialogue. Not many have spoken in favor of poetry. However, it seems important to me to keep serious Mormon poetry alive; it seems to me that Mormonism is larger and better for having a serious poetry. Dialogue has a tradition of helping do that. I will also comment that those who create Dialogue have fatih that the influence of the journal goes far beyond the numbers of its subscribers. As several of you have suggested on this site, many of our subscribers are moved by that same faith. I am grateful for their support and encouragement.

Levi: For what is worth, I think that Dialogue gets in the most trouble when it tries to be less stuffy. For example, publishing Garth N. Jones's recent piece as an article stuck me as bizarre. It seems much more like a personal essay, and frankly more than anything else it read like an overly long and belated letter to the editor. Mind you, I fully agree with his basic sentiment (middle class American Mormons are far too complacent about global poverty), but serious academic article it was not.

In short, keep it stuffy and academic. No academic journal is ever going to get Vogue-like subscriptions and the attempt to broaden your readership by watering down quality controls leaves you with a low-quality low circulation journal rather than a high-quality low circulation journal.

Also, FWIW, if you are interested in increasing the profile and influence of Dialogue, I would aggressively solicit articles from conservative scholars. Anyone with solid intellectual credentials who really gets George D. Smith, Ron Priddis, or Gary Bergera's blood boiling would be good. Suggestions: Dan Peterson, William Hamblin, Lyne Wardle, or Richard Wilkins.

It seems to me that Dialogue will be most successful when it is viewed as a place for dialogue rather than being viewed (fairly or not) as the in-house journal of dissident Mormondom. As it stands, Dialogue is burdened with a reputation that frightens off many younger intellectuals and scholars who would otherwise be willing to publish in its pages. (Or so many younger, up-and-coming Mormon intellectuals and scholars have told me.)

Just to second Nate, I dislike the fiction and poetry and most importantly general essay. I'd say more of a focus on interesting history and theology done from a rigorous academic perspective would make me subscribe.

"Or so many younger, up-and-coming Mormon intellectuals and scholars have told me."

I can second this. I don't personally know any grad students who would happily have an article published in Dialogue- not because THEY think it's evil, but due to the risk of being perceived as dissident by assocation. Those who are established can afford to publish wherever they want.

Ben, that's why it's so important to have an *independent* journal like Dialogue: the sort of intimidation of scholars you describe happens via direct editorial policy for LDS-controlled publications. The fact that some scholars who might otherwise publish in Dialogue nevertheless succumb to the pressure they obviously feel and elect not to publish there doesn't reflect badly on Dialogue, it reflects badly on those trying to manipulate the scholars. At least that's how I see it.

Dave: I don't see that the issue has to do with the existence or absence of independent journals. People are not worried about getting blackballed by the editorial staff at BYU Studies, and none of the grad students that I have known well are interested in publishing in the Ensign. Rather, they are concerned about the social meaning of publishing in a particular forum. It is rather like a young, up-and-coming Democrat deciding that they would rather not publish in the Weekly Standard. Although in many ways, I think that Dialogue has done an admirable job fostering discussion, I think that they have not been as saavy as they could have been about positioning themselves within the Mormon community. Put in blunt terms, if you want to position yourself as a neutral forum, you need to be willing to stick your finger in the eyes of the Church's critics at least as often as you are willing to stick your figure in the Church's eye. Dialogue has not done this. The result is that there is a perception that it is an in-house journal of disaffected post-Mormons. I don't think that this perception is fair, but I don't think that it is simply the result of manipulation or paranoia.

Bah -- fie on all you poetry and fiction haters.

But I'm curious:

Is it because you don't really like poetry and fiction or is it because of the quality and/or type of creative writing that Dialogue publishes?

I appreciate the poetry in The Atlantic Monthly as much as any other aspect of it. I mourned when the editorial staff decided to cut the fiction out this year.

Having never been a regualr reader of Dialogue, however, it is hard for me to imagine that the quality is that high. But, maybe it is. Regardless, Poetry and fiction belong in the Atlantic, they don't belong in a peer reviewed scholorly journal. I imagine that it is too hard to be both.

Replying not just to J. but to several earlier comments, I don't quite understand flogging Dialogue because it doesn't meet the idealized standards of a "scholarly journal." It calls itself a journal of Mormon thought, which right there sets it apart from most academic journals: it is dedicated to thought rather than meeting the demand of academics who need to publish rather than perish, and it is not defined by an academic discipline (Mormonism is not a discipline). To set a high quality standard is one thing, but anyone who thinks Dialogue ought to emulate the average academic journal as its model hasn't read one lately. They're often dull; form often triumphs over content; and many articles say nothing worthwhile and receive no notice. (See this discussion, for example, on the last point.)

"Thought" implies a range of approaches which certainly includes fiction, poetry, and essays as well as the standard doctrinal or historical footnoted article. If you're going to appeal to a broad audience (which I believe Dialogue tries to do) you need to offer a wide range of pieces as well as a range of topics. I'm no fan of poetry and the quality of the Dialogue offerings is undoubtedly spotty, but one thing you don't get is phony poetry, whereas I think one sees a fair amount of phoniness in articles. Maybe that's why there's no poetry in some of the other journals that come to mind in such a discussion.

As a last item, it's worth noting that in the OT divine dialogue is generally presented in poetic form. The Jehovah of the Old Testament spoke in poetic verse. Just a thought.

Okay, I received ten responses and forwarded them all to my contact at Dialogue with my finest recommendation. The offer is open until the end of July, so you procrastinators still have a chance.

It's not really a flogging. If some people like the journal, more power to them. It's just not something I'd personally find valuable to subscribe to.

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