Well into the 1990s, academic and university presses published very few books related to the study of Mormonism. With the notable exception of the University of Illinois Press, which dominated the field in the 1980s and 1990s, only a handful of scholarly books about Mormonism were released each year.
That’s hardly the case anymore as the field of Mormon studies continues to blossom. Leading the way is Oxford University Press, which so far in 2013 has released updated editions of two of its classic titles: Philip Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion and Terryl Givens’s The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy. Senior editor Theo Calderara says both are “perennial sellers and foundational books in the field.” He notes that while Oxford publishes in all areas of religious studies, its Mormon studies list is “certainly one of the top three in terms of average sales. Not only have we had quite a few breakout hits—Massacre at Mountain Meadows  is one of the 10 bestselling religion books we’ve published in the last 20 years—I would be hard pressed to think of a book in this area that has sold disappointingly, and that kind of a track record is very rare indeed.”
Calderara points to two new titles on Oxford’s fall 2013 list: Stephen Webb’s Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints (Oct.) and J.B. Haws’s The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception (Nov.). There are several other Mormon acquisitions in the pipeline, including Paula Kelly Harline’s The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women (June 2014).
Sales have been strong for other presses with Mormon titles, including historian John Turner’s 2012 biography, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Harvard/Belknap Press), which has sold over 10,000 copies so far in cloth. Joyce Seltzer, senior executive editor of history and contemporary affairs at Harvard University Press, has signed Turner to write a book on the Mormon understanding of Jesus and says she has her eyes open for future acquisitions in the field.
Editors report that Mormonism is becoming better integrated into broader narratives of American history and religion. Elaine Maisner, senior executive editor at the University of North Carolina Press, says that Mormon studies is “still a relatively small subfield within religious studies,” but Mormon studies points to larger questions about religion and religious freedom. UNC’s backlist title The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle (2004) has become a classroom favorite, and its author, Kathleen Flake, was named in September as the inaugural occupant of an endowed chair in Mormon studies at the University of Virginia. Maisner has acquired Flake’s next book, Mormon Matriarchy: A Study of Gendered Power in Antebellum America, for publication in late 2014 or early 2015.
Other books have demonstrated particular interest in the Mormon historical experience with Native Americans: for example, the University of Utah Press has just released Todd Compton’s A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary (Sept.). It is the most recent publication in Utah’s growing list in Mormon studies, headed by editor-in-chief John R. Alley. And Mormons play a part in Anne Hyde’s Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800–1860 (Univ. of Nebraska, 2011), which won the Bancroft Prize in American history and was nominated for a Pulitzer.
While much of Mormon studies has had an historical bent, other disciplines come into play as well. More attention is now being paid to women’s studies, as evidenced by Kofford Books’ March 2013 publication Mormon Women Have Their Say, co-edited by Claudia Bushman and Caroline Kline. “Mormon studies has been and is still dominated by men and male-centered discourse,” says Loyd Ericson, managing editor at Kofford. “With this book, our hope is to draw in more feminist approaches to Mormon history and thought for publication.”
Another growing area of scholarship is explorations of Mormonism’s sacred texts. In the spring of 2012, Princeton University Press released Paul Gutjahr’s The Book of Mormon: A Biography as part of its Lives of Great Religious Books series. Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship is ramping up its publications, including Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book by John L. Sorenson (Sept.). While the institute has been known for apologetic works, acquisitions editor Morgan Davis says, “Going forward, our intent is to publish a growing number of titles beyond apologia.”
Insiders see such movement “beyond apologia” as a sign of the young field’s development. “Mormon studies seems to be emerging from its awkward teenage years,” says John Hatch, acquisitions editor at Signature Books, “now maturing as a field of study more rooted in responsible academic inquiry, both from Mormons and non-Mormons alike.”