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Professors take arguments to SquareTwo

SANDY, Utah — Editors of a new online LDS journal asked a group of Mormon apologists on Friday to stand with them.Richard Sherlock, Valerie M. Hudson and Ralph C. Hancock are hoping to take their views on controversial social issues to the public square. The three college professors are part of an eight-member editorial team that oversees, a site dedicated to articulating an LDS perspective on issues such as abortion, war, stem cell research, gay marriage, religious liberty, terrorism, torture and others.\"We want to make arguments in defense of what we know to be true,\" said Sherlock, a Utah State University professor of philosophy. During an afternoon session at the Mormon Apologetics Conference at South Towne Exposition Center, the three made an appeal for recognition and interaction. They explained their mission and invited audience members to contribute content, whether it be through scholarly papers or Web comments.The editors emphasized that SquareTwo will not be a forum for questioning church policies.\"We do not aspire to be Sunstone,\" said Hudson, a BYU professor of international relations who initiated the project two years ago.The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the \"bedrock upon which we build our beliefs and our world views,\" Hudson said. She explained that \"square one\" refers to the gospel, while \"square two\" refers to the public square.\"We're not interested in being a forum for those who are not at square one,\" Hudson said.The editors hope the site will be \"launching pad\" for faithful discussion on complex social issues.\"This is a forum (where) Latter-day Saints can practice honing arguments together,\" said Hancock, who teaches political philosophy at BYU.All three professors recounted individual experiences they've had with Mormon students who struggled to reconcile their faith with social issues such as Proposition 8. The students, who considered themselves faithful Latter-day Saints, either opposed their church's stance or were unable to articulate a defense for the church's involvement.Hudson said it was \"stunning\" to see students unable to discuss the issue outside of LDS circles.\"When we step out into the public square, we become speechless, we become mute, because we do not have the language to engage in the public square,\" she said.Hudson, who said topics on the site could range from pre-emptive war to health-care reform, doesn't think LDS doctrine \"gives necessarily one possible answer on all these issues.\"\"There's so much to talk about and look at and bring our perspective to bear,\" she said.SquareTwo's editorial board is comprised of eight members. Hudson pointed out that half of the board members are in their 20s and the group has four men and four women, an effort to avoid focusing on \"one particular subgroup.\"Scholarly submissions will undergo peer review, and comments on the Web site will be moderated. However, the objective is not \"unanimity,\" Hudson said.\"You'll see some vigorous back-and-forth debate, but it's always built upon that bedrock of square one, the faithful perspective on these issues.\"The site will produce three volumes a year and is already populated with pieces dating back to Fall 2008. SquareTwo requires that submissions be previously unpublished works, and commenters must put some thought into their posts. At least 300 words are required.\"You can't just say, 'You're a moron, and hit send,\" Hudson said.