Toward Becoming a Gospel Scholar
Likewise, become a sophisticated connoisseur of book publishers. Try to discern the editorial policies and procedures of the presses that have produced your books. You can usually spot their institutional strings and orientations. For example, Oxford University Press tends to be traditional and conservative; Cambridge University Press more innovative. Some presses are Presbyterian; others are Baptist. The United Bible Society's publications strive to be neutral; Eerdmans and Zondervan are intentionally evangelical. In LDS circles, Deseret Book and Bookcraft are generally mainstream; Signature Books tends to be revisionist; etc. Widely based commercial publishers such as Macmillan, Doubleday, Harper-Collins, and others try to appeal to as broad a market as possible; Scholars Press and most university presses, including Brigham Young University publications, are much more specialized or professional. Select and read them all with understanding and discernment.
For a basic biblical library, I would recommend to almost anyone the Anchor Bible Dictionary. It is up-to-date and very helpful. Use it and other basic reference books, such as the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, together with the LDS Bible Dictionary. I also find helpful many volumes in the Anchor Bible series (commentaries on the books of the Bible, published by Doubleday). The authors of these materials were instructed by their editors to be as informative and as objective as possible.
To build your library with specific biblical and Book of Mormon materials, watch especially for titles conveniently distributed by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) [now called the Maxwell Institute], a nonprofit educational organization that strives to serve the general reader who wants to know more about gospel scholarship. FARMS materials are loaded with great LDS gospel scholarship dealing with ancient scripture.
For the Doctrine and Covenants and modern church history, I would think that everyone would want to have a copy of such reference works as the six-volume History of the Church, Dean Jessee's The Papers of Joseph Smith, and most of the books and reprints made available through BYU Studies. In addition, thousands of volumes about LDS history and doctrine are now readily accessible on CD-ROM, so building a library is now easier than it ever has been before. Mentioning individual titles or authors would go beyond our limits in this article, so ask around. Ask people you respect what general books they have found most helpful.
As you become more focused in your scholarly interests, you will want to acquire advanced books on more specialized topics. Although I wish that better publications and reviews were available across the boards, I find that the best guidance on scriptural and gospel scholarly studies can usually be obtained in the book reviews that appear in scholarly journals such as BYU Studies, the FARMS Review of Books, the Journal of Mormon History, and several important journals in the world of biblical and religious studies generally. I enjoy keeping up by reading several biblical journals, such as the Journal of Biblical Literature, Vetus Testamentum, the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, or New Testament Studies. For keeping abreast of the current literature dealing with the history of religion in the last two thousand years, one of the better sources is a journal entitled Church History, published at the University of Chicago; but many other fine publications are available in most good libraries and could be equally mentioned.