Two years after Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, moved with his family to Manchester, New York, he witnessed “an unusual excitement on the subject of religion.” It was within this environment of unusual excitement that Smith began the process of soul searching, which led him to organize a religion after a series of heavenly visions. The man who witnessed unusual excitement created some of his own.
Attention to Mormonism has fluctuated since the 1830s, but the United States and the world continue to look with curiosity and bewilderment at the young religion. The past few years are no exception. National media coverage of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have focused on The Book of Mormon musical, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, the “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign, proxy baptisms for Holocaust victims, and Mormon women wearing pants to church. Perspectives in national media outlets regarding how to perceive, discuss, and evaluate Mormonism are still divided, although more nuanced than the past. Scholars will spend years determining how much this media blitz contributed to the public understanding of Mormonism.
Of course, the media are not the only ones creating excitement concerning Mormonism. Scholars both veteran and emerging, Mormon in faith or otherwise have interest in Mormonism as an element of American and global religious, social, and political landscapes. Others (primarily Mormons) have been engulfed in discussions concerning what Mormon Studies actually is and what relationship apologetics might have with this new and growing field. Whether in media outlets or academic scholarship, there is an unusual excitement surrounding public representation of and scholarship about Mormonism.
We hope that this blog, Unusual Excitement, will profitably influence the Mormon Studies conversation. Unusual Excitement is hosted by the Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association (CMSSA). As such, the views in each post are the views of the author thereof and do not reflect the opinion of Claremont Graduate University (CGU), the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at CGU, the Latter-day Saint Council on Mormon Studies, or other members of the CMSSA. (For information regarding these organizations please look here.) Although the blog authors will feature the thoughts of students of religion from Claremont Graduate University, Unusual Excitement will be open to blog contributions by interested parties outside of Claremont.
We welcome and encourage a wide variety of disciplinary approaches in a spirit of collegial exploration and synergy. Moreover, in speaking of “Mormonism,” we recognize the legitimacy of scholarly discussions of Mormonism in its present and historical forms (including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Community of Christ, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Apostolic Brethren, the Strangites, etc). If it relates to the religious movements who trace their spiritual lineage back to Joseph Smith, it will be open for consideration.
This blog hopes to capture something of the sentiment expressed by historian Richard Bushman: “Each book and article we write is an act of friendship. All scholarship is a yearning to take part in a broader community of friends.” In this spirit of friendship, Unusual Excitement will strive to foster friendships with each post and discussion. In other words, the conversations posted on this site are part of an effort to create and engage a broad community of scholars and friends.
All those who read and comment in a spirit of courtesy, respect, and scholarly criticism are welcome. We know that among reasonable people of good will, disagreement is just as possible as agreement. We celebrate the new insights that we gain from robust conversations directed by the spirit of friendship and openness.
It is with great pleasure that Unusual Excitement announces its opening. The first regular blog post will appear one week from today.
 Joseph Smith History 1:5
 Ben Park, “The Age of Cultural Power: Reflections on ‘Mormonism in Cultural Contexts: A Symposium in Honor of Richard Bushman,’” The Juvenile Instructor June 20, 2011, http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/the-age-of-cultural-power-reflections-on-mormonism-in-cultural-contexts-a-symposium-in-honor-of-richard-bushman/.