The Sept. 2007 issue of the Journal of American History, now online, features a review of Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling (which John Fea has blogged about below), as well as an exchange between Bushman and the reviewer, the eminent scholar Jan Shipps. The journal also has a substantive review essay ("Putting Religion on the Map") by Laurie Maffly-Kipp on Mark Silk and Andrew Walsh's 8-vol. series on Religion by Region (which I've blogged about before, and contributed one essay to in the volume on the South). After finishing grading my current stack of approximately 138 million student papers, I look forward into digging into this issue!
Shipps concludes with the following, on the "new" Mormon history, as led by Bushman:
. . . as they move ahead, they will probably leave the provinciality that made so much old Mormon history inward looking. If the past half century has proved anything about this religious tradition, it has provided evidence that Mormonism no longer stands at the margins of the culture. As members of the fourth-largest church in the country, Mormons are now everywhere. Their history is no longer simply sectarian. It is a part of our nation's history, and while its adherents will surely continue arguing about its beginnings, the reality is that for all its being a believer's history—which it is—Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling transcends its status as a work of new Mormon history. It is also a work of new American history that forces readers to recognize that religion is as much a part of our past as anything else.
Maffly-Kipp's conclusion on the Silk/Walsh volumes:
To juggle the variables of shifting places and mutable religious identities is an ambitious task, one that is bound to lead to spectacular insights and, if not noble failures, at least to the admission that in some places and at some times, the search for a regional religious personality may result in an identity crisis. As in the very best projects, though, the diligent and insightful work of the authors outruns the capacity of the paradigm to account for its findings.
Here's a fuller description, with links provided if you're a subscriber or are at a university library with access to the History Cooperative.
"Richard Lyman Bushman, the Story of Joseph Smith and Mormonism, and the New Morman History," by Jan Shipps
Jan Shipps, the leading non-Mormon scholar of Mormonism, critiques a major achievement of the New Mormon history, Richard Lyman Bushman's Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. As Mormonism tentatively entered the religious mainstream in the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century, a cohort of young church members earned doctorates outside the Mormon culture region and launched an intellectual movement that aimed to contextualize Mormon religious history. Their work--especially Bushman's--suggest the potential defects and strengths of history written by sophisticated scholars committed to a cause. http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/94.2/shipps.html?pr=jah942
"What's New In Morman History: A Response to Jan Shipps," by Richard Lyman Bushman
In Richard Lyman Bushman's response to Jan Shipps, he situates his work within two intellectual currents: the new Mormon history and Mormon apologetics. http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/94.2/bushman.html?pr=jah942
"Putting Religion on the Map," by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp
A set of researchers, led by Mark Silk and Andrew Walsh, have adapted Wilbur Zelinsky's 1961 rubric of seven distinct U.S. "religious regions" for the Religion by Region Series. Reviewing the eight-volume series, Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp highlights both the procedural differences between Zelinsky's work and this newer project and the assumptions underlying the analytical creation of regions in a way valuable to scholars. The series will benefit all those with an eye to the geographical and religious diversity of the nation. http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jah/94.2/mafflykipp.html?pr=jah942
By the way, you need to be a member of the Organization of American Historians, so that (among other things) you can get the Journal of American History.