This Fall issue marks the 10th autumn that SquareTwo has been published! I can’t say that it seems like only yesterday, but I can at least say that it’s a very meaningful anniversary for me personally.

I originally bought the domain name back in 2005, though the first issue did not appear until 2008. What was I thinking at that time? As an LDS social scientist, I often found myself asking, if “Square One” is the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, then what was “Square Two?” More precisely, how can the Restored Gospel enlighten our understanding of the world around us? I never believed, and still do not believe, that membership in the LDS Church means we all hold the very same opinions about everything. And yet the Restored Gospel helps us in two ways as we attempt to face the world we live in: 1) it places some strictures on some areas of possibly divergent opinion through doctrinal assertion (e.g., on the topic of marriage), and 2) it offers a means for reasoning about other areas where doctrine is not clear-cut, or where questions about the “administration and operations” of implemented doctrine arise. After all, the Lord himself said to Joseph Smith, “[L]et us reason together, that ye may understand; Let us reason, even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face. Now, when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so will I, the Lord, will reason with you that you may understand” (D&C 50: 10-12).

What an extraordinary passage of scripture! What hope it brings! Using the truths of the Restored Gospel as our Square One, we are capable of reasoning and understanding the world around us in a manner not so different from that of our Savior—and that effort is pleasing to our God. Furthermore, as we reason together in the context of that Square One, our reasoning skills will improve. We will consider that which we have not considered before; we can share perspectives and insights germane to the discussion of the issue at hand. I believe such an exercise can also open our hearts, as well as our minds.

The boundaries set by Square One, in combination with the enlightenment of our reasoning provided by the Holy Spirit, together promise that we shall have a better hope of seeing “eye to eye” and moving beyond partial understanding to fuller understanding (Isaiah 52:8; 1 Corinthians 13:12). Surely this is to approach Zion, where all are of “one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18).

This is the purpose of the online journal SquareTwo—to foster this approach to Zion.

And that is why SquareTwo has always been unusual. There are many wonderful blogs by LDS members—but SquareTwo is not a blog. There are many wonderful online magazines run by LDS members—but SquareTwo is not an online magazine. There are many admirable resources for Gospel study put together by the Church and by LDS members—but SquareTwo is not designed in the image of such resources. Instead, SquareTwo is an online quasi-scholarly LDS journal publishing three issues a year.

There are other scholarly and quasi-scholarly LDS journals, but SquareTwo differs from most of those peer publications. For some comparisons, the difference is that SquareTwo will not publish anything that contradicts or subverts official Church doctrine, or ascribes malign motives to Church leadership. There can be no Square Two without a Square One that makes it possible, and so we guard that Square One vigilantly. We have rejected submissions that we felt crossed the line. For other comparisons, the difference is that SquareTwo addresses itself to topics that have clear implications for the contemporary world. As noted on our website, we are not interested in publishing essays about the location of the narrow neck of land in the Book of Mormon.

So SquareTwo is a horse of a different color in the ecology of LDS publications. In addition, it also has a unique editorial board membership policy: in addition to active LDS membership, we strive for gender and age parity among our board members. We strive to have 50-50 male-female representation on the board. We also strive to have 50-50 older and younger members on the board, with our rough cut-off of older being age 45. We want a full orchestra of God’s children helping to produce the melody of SquareTwo. No groupthink!

We are also un-monetized. We accept no advertising on our site, and we ourselves don't advertise. We charge nothing for our content. Aside from one faithful donor (bless you!), we support the site ourselves on a shoestring budget. Some will see that as a foolish choice; we prefer to see it as a liberating choice. Another choice made was to moderate all comments rather than have them go live in real-time. We had seen what happened to other online publications where the comments became inflammatory in the extreme, and what we saw was not pretty. Moderating comments allows us to keep the conversation civil, though it regrettably precludes instantaneous back-and-forth.

So, looking back, have those ten years of SquareTwo been worth it? Should the effort—and the journal—continue?

To answer this question, some metric of worth must be chosen. What should it be? Perhaps an examination of readership—for example, has it increased over time? Yes, our average readership per issue has increased over time, about 2% a year, even though we do no advertising of our journal and rely on emails to individuals who have signed up to receive such notifications when a new issue is launched. But increased readership is probably not the right metric, even though the trajectory is heartening. Most find SquareTwo for the first time through word-of-mouth when one of our readers forwards them an article link.

There are other things my mind lights upon when thinking about whether SquareTwo has accomplished any good. There’s the “love letters” from readers that occasionally grace my inbox, the most recent of which said, “I read every article in every issue!” There’s the growth of the editorial board, bringing together an amazing and diverse set of individuals; SquareTwo annual board meetings are one of the highlights of my year. There’s the submissions from our readers that I get to shepherd through the review and copy-edit process, getting to know their fresh perspectives and polishing them into fine articles. There’s the occasional news article about a piece published in SquareTwo, most recent in memory being RealClearReligion and the Salt Lake Tribune. The work has been sweet in all these ways.

I suppose, though, at the end of the day, it is the fact that we have provided a home for the content we publish that gives me the most satisfaction. I look at the fine, fine articles we have published over the years, and I ask myself, “Where else could this have been published? Where else would this have found a home?” And honestly, I am not sure where many of the articles would otherwise have been published. Some excellent pieces have been quite long, which is usually the kiss of death for online publication. Others have asked questions that have not been asked before and no doubt made people uncomfortable even though the view was orthodox and faithful, such as our poll on the naming of women’s positions in the Church or our exploration and justification of the Church’s position on surrogacy. We’ve explored some social science “myths” about Mormons, reviewed books and movies in contemporary culture, asked searching questions about the consonance of LDS programs and practices with LDS doctrine (a SquareTwo article on “activity days” was one of our most-read pieces), promoted dialogue on issues of the day through our Readers’ Puzzles, and even attempted to model ways to articulate the Church’s stance on moral issues in the public square, which has become increasingly hostile to expressions of religious belief.

As I get older, I see that some of the most influential people in my life were those who showed me what is possible, and I think SquareTwo performs that same function. We show the possibility of many good things, I think. Yes, you can be interested in the life of the mind and be faithful. Yes, you can articulate in language the world will understand why the Church holds the positions it does. Yes, you can be a feminist and an orthodox Mormon. Yes, you can make a faithful distinction between Church doctrine and Church programs. Yes, you can put together an editorial board that is 50-50 and model diarchy within our faith community. All this is to say—yes, we can build Square Two on the foundation of Square One, and “reason together.”

So I suppose we will continue SquareTwo for another decade—just to show what is possible, and to show that possibility persistently. Furthermore, we hope you, dear readers, will be part of that continued journey. Forward SquareTwo’s articles to those you think will appreciate them, send us your comments on SquareTwo articles, contribute to the Readers’ Puzzles in each issue, submit your own works for possible publication! Let’s enlarge that space of possibility together, and see if thereby we can approach Zion together . . .

In gratitude,

V.M. Hudson, November 2017

Full Citation for this Article: Hudson, Valerie M. (2017) "10 Years of SquareTwo!," SquareTwo, Vol. 10 No. 3 (Fall 2017), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleHudson10YearsSq2.html, accessed <give access date>.

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