The long-awaited and much discussed paper from Dr. Gregory L. Smith, “Dubious ‘Mormon’ Stories,” is now online, accompanied by a second article, “The Return of the Unread Review,” which follows it at the same location.
A whirlwind of criticism has swirled around the first of the two articles for roughly a year now. It’s been somewhat bizarre criticism, since virtually none of the critics have seen the article before now. Yet that seemingly relevant fact hasn’t rendered their criticism any less harsh, or any less dogmatic.
The first article has been through the customary editorial process, but is otherwise substantially unchanged from the form in which it was submitted to the late Mormon Studies Review, a periodical that once appeared twice annually from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. (Dr. Gregory L. Smith, its author, was, until his dismissal in June 2012, an associate editor of the Review.) Some will claim that it has been “sanitized,” but it has not.
The second article is a sequel that chronicles some of the developments that ensued in the wake of the first article’s suppression.
We’re putting these articles online now, a bit sooner than we had intended, because it seems that selected quotations from the first article have already been posted without the author’s permission, and because it seems inevitable that unauthorized publication of the full essay will follow soon. Whether such unauthorized publication is illegal is perhaps unclear, and I don’t claim to be a lawyer. That it is unethical, because it effectively constitutes theft of someone else’s intellectual property, seems to me beyond reasonable dispute.
Publication of the official American paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings was delayed for a very long time, and eager readers grew impatient. Accordingly, exploiting a convenient loophole in US copyright law, a company called Ace Books brought out an unauthorized paperback version. Eventually, though, when the authorized edition appeared, it did so with J. R. R. Tolkien’s stern message attached: “Those who approve of courtesy (at least) to living authors will purchase it and no other.”
I well remember seeing that message in the first copies of The Lord of the Rings that I bought, and I strongly agree that respecting the rights of an author is, at the very least, proper “courtesy.”
But never mind.
This posting is done with the full permission and cooperation of the author of the essays. We want to make these materials public so that others will have an accurate understanding of their nature and, more importantly, of what they say. Since they’re being posted somewhat earlier than we had expected, before the final editing is complete, they’ll probably be changed a bit over the next few days.