I have long thought that there ought to be an online clearing house for research papers related to Mormonism. My proposed model is SSRN, the Social Science Research Network, where scholars in law, economics, and other disciplines upload copies of working papers and published articles. Each article is accompanied by an abstract, and all of them become text searchable and available for downloading. (Scholars who either cannot or will not upload copies of their articles can still upload abstracts.) At present there are about 132,000 scholarly papers up on SSRN. Mormon studies, I have long thought, ought to have something like that. It now exists and it is called . . . . SSRN.
In particular, SSRN has recently launched the beta version of a “Humanities Research Network,” which now includes a “Religious Studies” section. In other words, SSRN is now available to host scholarly published and working papers on religion, including one assumes Mormonism. There is no fee associated with using SSRN and while there is some minimal editorial checking of submissions for format issues essentially anyone can post their scholarship. (You do need to create an account.)
There are a number of reasons why a norm of SSRN-posting among scholars in Mormon studies would be a positive development. First, it would increase the availability of scholarly work by centralizing manuscripts in a single (ideologically neutral) location. Second, because the abstracts would be text searchable for all scholars using SSRN, it would help to bring work on Mormonism to the attention of larger intellectual discussions. Third, provided that an institution ponies up the money and support to start it (are you listening BYU or Richard Bushman and CGU?) we could create a “Mormon Studies” topical journal (essentially a dedicated index) at SSRN, which would allow readers to subscribe to get every new Mormon studies paper that is uploaded. Finally — and perhaps most importantly — it would allow writers on Mormonism to engage in silly contests about download rankings with one another.
Mormon intellectuals of the world! I call on all of you to begin uploading copies of your published and unpublished scholarly papers! Get out of the electronic and intellectual ghetto and onto SSRN!