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Association for Mormon Letters

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Association for Mormon Letters (AML) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976[1] to "foster scholarly and creative work in Mormon letters and to promote fellowship among scholars and writers of Mormon literature."[2] Other stated purposes have included promoting the "production and study of Mormon literature"[3] and the encouragement of quality writing "by, for, and about Mormons."[4] The broadness of this definition of LDS literature has led the AML to focus on a wide variety of work that has sometimes been neglected in the Mormon community.[3][5] It publishes criticism on such writing, hosts an annual conference, and offers awards to works of fiction, poetry, essay, and criticism.[6] It published the literary journal Irreantum from 1999 to 2013 and currently publishes an online-only version of the journal, which began in 2018. The AML's blog, Dawning of a Brighter Day, launched in 2009.[7] As of 2012, the association also promotes LDS literature through the use of social media.[1] The AML has been described as an "influential proponent of Mormon literary fiction."[1]


A meeting held in the Church’s Historical Department on April 20, 1976 led to the organization of the association.[2] Lavina Fielding Anderson described the founding of the organization in this way:

"[The] Association for Mormon letters [was] founded with the specific purpose of fostering literary criticism. Its genesis lay in a meeting which Maureen Ursenbach Beecher called among a group of friends in the fall of 1976 to discuss the quality and availability of Mormon personal narratives . . . Eugene England and I were among the eight or ten people who came. Gene tossed out the question, “How could we go about organizing a group focused on the criticism of Mormon literature?” . . . We dutifully shifted, on the spot, from academics to activity. Maureen chaired [the] steering committee, formally organized the Association for Mormon letters, and persuaded us that the name should be 'for Mormon letters,' not 'of Mormon letters.'"[8]

A "steering committee" consisting of Beecher, Fielding, Neal E. Lambert, Clifton Jolley, and Steven Sondrup finalized the plans for the organization on April 27. They also planned for the first symposium of the AML to be held that October, with printed invitations and a call for papers carrying the message through the mail. The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - then consisting of Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney - met with Leonard J. Arrington to discuss the creation of the AML. They approved of its creation, so long as it would be made clear that it was unaffiliated with the Church itself.[9] The Association for Mormon Letters was officially established on October 4, 1976, at the Hotel Utah. Its constitution instituted an annual meeting of the association and focused its efforts on "encouraging and recognizing good writing and informative scholarship as well as fostering a better appreciation for what has already been written by and about Mormons."[10] It also provided for an elected president to serve a one-year term, succeeded by a president-elect/vice president the next year. Submissions were requested for the second conference and a newsletter would be published.[11] Beecher served as the association's first president,[12] with Lambert as the first vice president.[10]

The early leadership of the organization participated in editing three anthologies, each published by Signature Books: Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems, edited by Eugene England and Dennis Clark (1989), the short story collection Bright Angels and Familiars: Contemporary Mormon Stories,[13] edited by Eugene England (1992), and the literary criticism collection Tending the Garden: Essays on Mormon Literature, edited by Eugene England and Lavina Fielding Anderson (1996).[14]


Since its third annual conference,[11] the AML has given awards to LDS literature in various categories,[15] often in "fiction, poetry, essay, and criticism."[6] Winners are selected by a jury.[15] Starting in 1998, the AML recognized "the best unpublished Mormon novel."[16] This has since developed into the Marilyn Brown Novel Award.[17] The award is now presented by Utah Valley University's English Department.[18] The association changes the categories as it sees fit.[15] For example, in 1989 Signature Books was awarded Special Recognition for "providing a much-needed venue for more literary sorts of LDS publishing."[19] And in 2005, the association presented the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library with a Mormon Literary Studies award for its reserves of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.[20] Since 2014, the AML has released a list of finalists prior to announcing the award winners[15] at its annual conference.[21]


The association holds an annual conference, usually at various universities in Utah[7] and during the months of February or March.[21] The first of such meetings was held at the Hotel Utah in 1976. Historian Leonard J. Arrington and academic Arthur Henry King were among the presenters.[7] The conference was well-attended.[9] The first AML Awards were given at the third annual meeting,[11] a tradition that continues to this day.[22] The symposiums also involve the announcement and sustaining of new leaders of the association.[23] Programs are available online for every conference held since 1976.[24]


In 1982 the AML co-sponsored an event entitled "Values and Variety: The Genius of Mormon Letters" alongside Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature.[25] The diaries of early members of the Church, along with LDS children's books, poetry, hymns, and folk music, were examined at the symposium.[26] Richard Cracroft, Neal Lambert, Lorna Nielsen Best, and John B. Harris were among the readers. A journalist recorded: "The excellent qualities of their narrations and voices combined for an hour of both touching and humorous excerpts from past and present Mormon writers."[27]

In 1987, the AML met at the University of Utah. The proceedings included lectures from authors and professors, a discussion open to conference attendees, the reading of poetry and short stories, an awards luncheon, and an "Editors' Roundtable" featuring representatives from the top publishers of LDS literature, such as Bookcraft, Signature Books, Deseret Book, and the University of Utah Press. The representatives offered insight into the publishing process and the future of the LDS market."[28] The 1989 conference took place at Weber State University.[29] Then-president Levi Peterson described the Association's proceedings as "the type of things you would study in an English class."[30] A January 1997 edition of the Provo Daily Herald recorded that the AML hosted two conferences that year, one at Westminster College and another during the annual meeting of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association.[31] Sessions discussing "Mormon Humor," "Mormon Folklore," "The Book of Mormon as Literature," and "LDS Science Fiction" were held.[32] Westminster College was the site for the conference in 1998 as well, with the authors reading their essays, poetry, and fiction at an "evening social."[33] The AML also began hosting a Writers' Conference in 1999.[34]

The 2004 AML conference was held at Utah Valley State College and the Salt Lake City Public Library. Topics such as LDS fiction, film, poetry, and folklore were the focus of the conference.[35] The 2008 proceedings were held at Brigham Young University's Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center; this was the first time since 1976 that the AML held a meeting on BYU campus.[36] In 2012, the theme of the conference was "Going Forth into All the World: Mormon Literature in an International Church," and works from various countries such as Cameroon, Mexico, and the Ukraine were read.[37] At its 2015 conference the AML introduced a new award for "religious nonfiction."[38] The meeting that year also included a live debate and poetry competition.[39] In 2019, the conference was held in Berkeley, California.[40] The 2020 AML conference was cancelled and replaced by a recorded virtual event held on May 2, in which the 2019 AML Award winners were announced.[22]


AML Newsletter

From 1977 to 1998,[41] the Association for Mormon Letters published a quarterly newsletter. Its cost was included in the organization's membership dues.[42] Book reviews and news from the AML were included.[43] Steven Sondrup and Levi Peterson were its editors. Irreantum took its place in March 1999.[41]


From 1995 to 2011 the AML sponsored AML-List, an e-mail list for the discussion of LDS literature.[3] Its founder and moderator was Benson Y. Parkinson.[44] Weber State University's English Department was also a sponsor.[45] List subscribers posted reviews of more than a thousand LDS books, films, and other artistic works, which are archived in the association's review database.[46] Subscribers also asked questions about various works and discussed issues pertaining to LDS literature.[19] According to Chris Bigelow, AML-List possessed "the right balance of academics with more popular, commercial, and down-to-earth concerns"[47] and received an average of 30 posts per day.[48] The forum also helped the membership numbers of the Association for Mormon Letters increase.[19]


Irreantum, the AML's literary journal, was founded in 1999[1] by Chris Bigelow and Benson Parkinson.[49] According to Irreantum's current website, "the name comes from a Book of Mormon term meaning 'many waters'" and was meant to inspire a feeling of inclusivity pertaining to the wide variety of works the journal would publish.[50] Bigelow has said that Irreantum was "inspired by AML-List."[48] It featured selections of LDS literature and reviews[49] and sought to publish "the best in contemporary Mormon poetry, essays, stories, and criticism."[51] A subscription cost $12 a year, and was free for AML members.[49] Both submissions and communications between the editors were conducted over e-mail. The staff consisted of volunteers only.[47] Irreantum was published quarterly. The association held an annual Irreantum Fiction Contest; three winners were chosen, and their works were published in the journal.[52] Submissions "were judged blind"[53] and were required to somehow convey the experience of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[54] A minimum of three new writers were featured in the publication each year. Though it published works "by, for, and about Mormons," Irreantum sought to be considered a literary, humanities-based journal, rather than a religious publication. It was advertised as "the only magazine devoted to Mormon literature."[55] It went on hiatus in 2013.[56] Five years later, in 2018, Irreantum was again published as an online magazine.[57] Previous issues are available via Irreantum's online archives.[58] Current issues are published only online, and multiple people rotate as editors.[50]

Dawning of a Brighter Day

In 2009 the AML launched its blog, entitled Dawning of a Brighter Day. The title was inspired by an article written by Eugene England in 1983: "The Dawning of a Brighter Day: Mormon Literature after 150 Years." The blog seeks to facilitate the online presence of the discussion of LDS literature and, according to Michael Austin, is "a high-traffic website with hundreds of participants."[7]

AML presidents

Information on this chart comes from the AML website.[59][60]

Name Term Notes
Maureen Ursenbach Beecher 1976–1977 Church History Department
Neal E. Lambert 1977–1978 Brigham Young University English, American Studies
Richard J. Cummings 1978–1979 University of Utah French/Theatre, d. 2017
Eugene England 1979–1980 BYU English. d. 2001
Levi Peterson 1980–1982 Weber State University English
Lavina Fielding Anderson 1982–1983 Editor, author
Candadai Seshachari 1983–1984 Weber State English, d. 2015
Edward A. Geary 1984–1985 BYU English
Edward L. Hart 1985–1986 BYU English, d. 2008
John S. Tanner 1986–1988 BYU English
William A. Wilson 1988–1989 BYU English (folklore), d. 2016
Levi Peterson 1989–1990 Weber State English
Bruce Jorgensen 1990–1991 BYU English
Richard Cracroft 1991–1992 BYU English, d. 2012
Ann Edwards Cannon 1992–1993 Author, columnist
Linda Brummett 1993–1994 BYU bookstore
Susan Elizabeth Howe 1994–1995 BYU English
Robert M. Hogge 1995–1996 Weber State English, d. 2017
MaryJan Munger 1996–1997 BYU Studies
Neal W. Kramer 1997–1999 BYU English, BYU Studies
John Bennion 1999–2000 BYU English
Marilyn Brown 2000–2001 Author
Cherry Silver 2001–2002 Author, historian
Neila Seschachari (president-elect; died before taking office[61]) 2002 Weber State English, first AML president not to be a Latter-day Saint,[61] d. 2002
Gideon Burton 2002–2004 BYU English
Melissa Proffitt 2004–2005 Author
Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury (acting president) 2005–2006 Author
Linda Hunter Adams 2006–2007 BYU Humanities, editor, d. 2016
Eric Samuelsen 2007–2009 BYU Theater, d. 2019
Boyd J. Peterson 2009–2010 Utah Valley University Mormon Studies
Margaret Blair Young 2010–2013 BYU English
Glenn Gordon and Kathy Gordon (co-presidents) 2013–2014 Musician, Covenant editor
Joe Plicka 2014–2016 BYU-Hawaii English
Sheldon Lawrence 2016–2018 BYU-Idaho Writing Center
Eric W. Jepson 2018–2020 Author, editor, publisher
James Goldberg 2020– Playwright, poet, novelist


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  3. ^ a b c Bushman, Richard (2013). "The Commencement of Mormon Studies". In Newell, Quincy D.; Mason, Eric (eds.). New perspectives in Mormon studies creating and crossing boundaries. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 208. ISBN 9780806189185.
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  5. ^ Anderson, Lavina Fielding (2001). "Tending the Garden with Eugene England" (PDF). Irreantum. 3 (3). Retrieved 9 January 2017.
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  20. ^ "AML Award in Mormon Literary Studies to the University of Utah Library". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 39 (4): 255–256. Winter 2006. JSTOR 45227232.
  21. ^ a b "AML Awards". Mormon Literature Database. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  22. ^ a b Rappleye, Christine (2020-04-30). "Association for Mormon Letters 2019 award finalists announced; virtual conference May 2". Deseret News. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  23. ^ Maryon, Dan (1988). "Meeting Breathes Life into Association of Mormon Letters" (PDF). Sunstone Magazine. p. 49. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
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  25. ^ "BYU this week". Springville Herald. 1982-02-04. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  26. ^ "Mormon Letters Symposium Starts". Provo Daily Herald. 1982-02-16. p. 28. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  27. ^ Cox, Apryl (1982-02-18). "LDS Have Rich Literature Heritage". Provo Daily Herald. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  28. ^ "Personal Essay Explored at AML Conference" (PDF). Sunstone Magazine. March 1987. pp. 44–45. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  29. ^ "WSC hosts LDS literature symposium". Signpost. 1989-01-23. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  30. ^ "WSC hosts LDS literature symposium". Signpost. 1989-01-23. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  31. ^ "Association for Mormon Letters Annual Conference in Saturday". Provo Daily Herald. 1997-01-26. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  32. ^ "ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS TO MEET". Deseret News. 1997-01-26. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  33. ^ "Association for Mormon Letters to meet". Deseret News. 1998-02-27. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  34. ^ "Association for Mormon Letters | Mormon Literature & Creative Arts Database | HBLL". Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  35. ^ "Association for Mormon Letters Conference at UVSC". Provo Daily Herald. 2004-03-05. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  36. ^ Morris, Katherine (2008-02-28). "BYU to host Association for Mormon Letters conference March 8". News. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  37. ^ Young, Margaret Blair (2012-05-06). "Elder Groberg Encourages Writers at AML Conference". LDS Magazine. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  38. ^ Rappleye, Christine (2015-02-22). "Association for Mormon Letters Award finalists for 2014 announced". Deseret News. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  39. ^ Katherine Morris (2015-04-05). "James Goldberg on the 2015 AML Conference". Mormon Artist (Podcast). Event occurs at 3:20. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  40. ^ "Association for Mormon Letters, Annual Conference 2019". Call for Papers. 2018-10-20. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  41. ^ a b "AML Newsletter". Dawning of a Brighter Day. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  42. ^ "Mormon Literature Website". Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  43. ^ "Mormon Criticism". Mormon Literature Database. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  44. ^ "Benson Y. Parkinson | Mormon Literature & Creative Arts Database | HBLL". Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  45. ^ "AML-List Homepage". 2000-04-07. Archived from the original on 2000-04-07. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  46. ^ "Review Archive",, Association for Mormon Letters, archived from the original on 28 February 2009 The current review archive is
  47. ^ a b Hall, Andrew (2017-11-13). "The Founding and Early Years of Irreantum". Dawning of a Brighter Day. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  48. ^ a b Anderson, Lavina Fielding (2000-01-01). "Little Mormon Magazines: Sinking, Swimming, And Treading Water" (Podcast). Sunstone Magazine. Event occurs at 15:52. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  49. ^ a b c "Founders hope Irreantum has long life among LDS magazines". Deseret News. 2000-04-22. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  50. ^ a b "Irreantum". Dawning of a Brighter Day. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  51. ^ Harrell, Jack (2014). "Toward a Mormon Literary Theory". BYU Studies. Brigham Young University. 53 (3): 10. JSTOR 43040005.
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  55. ^ Pope, Alice (2009). 2010 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. Penguin. ISBN 978-1599635675.
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External links

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