Using the larger academic sense of the word, I think "cutting edge research" is incorrect. But with the caveats Aristotle implied, I guess that is what it means.
I suspect that translated it really means "quick retorts to 'criticism' with enough compound/complex sentences and name-dropping to appear learned and thus flatter/satisfy an unscholarly audience."
It probably has reference to subjects of which you have little or no knowledge, such as archeology, comparative religion, myth and folklore, biblical studies, the study of ancient religious texts (Bible, extra-canonical texts (OT pseudepigrapha, NT apocrypha, Christina gnostic texts, the Scrolls etc), and other similar areas of concentration.
Good scholarly research is good scholarly research and is useful to both secular and believing audiences. I have every hope that what is now emerging as Mormon Studies will be just that.
That's an assumption, an assumption that good research always implies cogent conclusions and an intellectually honest and bias-free approach regarding the subject of the research, as well as what counts as "good research" in a given area. No area of research is free of bias, and the modern academy, within the humanities and social sciences, has been severely corrupted and intellectual compromised by ideological agendas and intellectual faddism.
Because of the poor state of American education, though, many people are not equipped with a basic historical understanding, nor a very strong set of reading skills, nor much education in conceptual thought (philosophy, critical theory, etc).
Perhaps you meant to say critical thinking
? Critical theory is not about the disciplines of conceptual thought (though it requires them) but an ideology, or body of allied ideologies, embedded within academia.
I can understand why some may fear that the best of Mormon Studies may be inaccessible to the average member. But instead of pandering to that problem, a scholarly Mormon publication could do the church a real service by taking on the very serious task of education, indeed fulfilling the educational mandate that has been present throughout all of Mormon history. It would be a very different kind of publication than what currently exists and a challenging project to bring off. But it would be a very valuable one.
This all, again, depends upon what one means by "education" and what one thinks its purpose is and to what ends it is to be put.