Today's New York Times features a fine article on the explosion of the field of Mormon Studies. "Books relating to Mormon history are appearing in the catalogs of top academic presses, while secular universities are adding courses, graduate fellowships and endowed chairs," the article observes.
The piece focuses heavily on the books now in the offing, including a forthcoming biography of Brigham Young by John Turner (Harvard, Sept. 20, 2012), Laurel Ulrich's WIP on Mormon women and polygamy, and Kathleen Flake's WIP on women and authority. There are a lot of studies we can add to that, including Paul Gutjahr's excellent new reception history of the Book of Mormon (Princeton, 2012) and Samuel Brown's In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death, which for me was one of those "Aha!" books that cast Mormon origins into a fresh light.
And that's not even including major popular studies by Matt Bowman (The Mormon People, Random House) and Joanna Brooks's sparkling memoir Book of Mormon Girl, which has been picked up by Simon & Schuster after Joanna self-published it six months ago.
To me the even more interesting story is the corresponding upsurge in all of the attending academic attention: the courses, fellowships, endowed chairs, etc. that the article mentions but does not cover in depth. This year I'm aware of courses on Mormonism being taught at major universities such as Harvard, Georgetown, Claremont, the University of Virginia, the University of Utah, Columbia, and others. At Columbia this semester, the class registration filled up on the first day it was opened to students. Claremont now has a graduate program in Mormon Studies, and other universities—including Utah Valley University and Utah State, have full-fledged degree programs in Mormon Studies.
Moreover, discussion of Mormonism is finally making its way into general survey courses in religion and history. This, to me, is the most significant change -- when a religion graduates from "exotic species at the zoo" to being part of the principal story.