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About Benjamin L. McGuire

Benjamin L. McGuire is a technologist in the field of healthcare in northern Michigan, where he lives with his wife and three children. He has special interest in the field of literary theory and its application to the Book of Mormon and early LDS literature. He has previously published with the Maxwell Institute.

Nephi: A Postmodernist Reading

Authors inevitably make assumptions about their readers as they write. Readers likewise make assumptions about authors and their intentions as they read. Using a postmodern framing, this essay illustrates how a close reading of the text of 1 and 2 Nephi can offer insight into the writing strategies of its author. This reading reveals how Nephi differentiates between his writing as an expression of his own intentions and desires, and the text as the product of divine instruction written for a “purpose I know not.” In order to help his audience understand the text in this context, Nephi as the author interacts with his audience through his rhetorical strategy, pointing towards his own intentions, and offering reading strategies to help them discover God’s purposes in the text. Continue reading

The Late War Against the Book of Mormon

Recently, the Exmormon Foundation held their annual conference in Salt Lake City.1 A presentation by Chris and Duane Johnson proposed a new statistical model for discussing authorship of the Book of Mormon.2 The study attempts to connect the Book of Mormon to a text published in 1816: The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain.3 The latter is a history of the war of 1812 deliberately written in a scriptural style. A traditional (non-statistical) comparison between this text and the Book of Mormon was apparently introduced by Rick Grunder in his 2008 bibliography Mormon Parallels. I will discuss only the statistical model presented by the Johnsons here.4 Continue reading


  1. The conference occurred between October 18th and October 20th, 2013. 

  2. The presentation was titled “How the Book of Mormon Destroyed Mormonism.” It was presented on Saturday, October 19th, by Chris Johnson. The study was co-authored by Chris and Duane Johnson. The presentation can be viewed here: http://buggingmos.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/chris-johnson-how-the-book-of-mormon-destroyed-mormonism. 

  3. The full title of the work is given as: The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain From June, 1812, to February 1815 (G.J. Hunt: New York, 1816). Rick Grunder provides this description of the various publications of this text: “This work went through at least sixteen editions or imprints 1816-19, all but two in 1819. All were published in New York City, under a total of ten different publishers’ names. First “Published and sold for the author, by David Longworth,” 1816… the book was then issued as The Historical Reader, Containing “The Late War… Altered and Adapted for the Use of Schools… ,” etc., promoted particularly as a textbook (Samuel A. Burtus, 1817). There was no edition in 1818, but in 1819 there appeared no fewer than six separate editions or imprints under the original title and eight more editions or imprints as The Historical Reader. All fourteen of these 1819 publications called themselves the third edition. In five instances that year, both of the titles were published by the same parties, including the author himself. Furthermore, most of the 1819 editions (irrespective of title) seem to have had the same pagination (233 pp., with possible differences in plates and ads).” (Rick Grunder. Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source. [Lafayette, New York: Rick Grunder—Books, 2008], p. 724.)  

  4. I may at some future point deal in a more detailed fashion with the thematic parallels presented by Grunder, along with his discussion of potential Hebraisms in the text. 

Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part Two

Review of Rick Grunder. Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source. Layfayette, New York: Rick Grunder—Books, 2008. 2,088 pp. On CD-ROM. $200.00.

Abstract: Discovering parallels is inherently an act of comparison. Through comparison, parallels have been introduced frequently as proof (or evidence) of different issues within Mormon studies. Despite this frequency, very few investigations provide a theoretical or methodological framework by which the parallels themselves can be evaluated. This problem is not new to the field of Mormon studies but has in the past plagued literary studies more generally. In Part One, this review essay discusses present and past approaches dealing with the ways in which parallels have been used and valued in acts of literary comparison, uncovering the various difficulties associated with unsorted parallels as well as discussing the underlying motivations for these comparisons. In Part Two, a methodological framework is introduced and applied to examples from Grunder’s collection in Mormon Parallels. In using a consistent methodology to value these parallels, this essay suggests a way to address the historical concerns associated with using parallels to explain both texts and Mormonism as an historical religious movement. Continue reading

Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part One

Review of Rick Grunder. Mormon Parallels: A Bibliographic Source. Layfayette, New York: Rick Grunder—Books, 2008. 2,088 pp. On CD-ROM. $200.00.

Abstract: Discovering parallels is inherently an act of comparison. Through comparison, parallels have been introduced frequently as proof (or evidence) of different issues within Mormon studies. Despite this frequency, very few investigations provide a theoretical or methodological framework by which the parallels themselves can be evaluated. This problem is not new to the field of Mormon studies but has in the past plagued literary studies more generally. In Part One, this review essay discusses present and past approaches dealing with the ways in which parallels have been used and valued in acts of literary comparison, uncovering the various difficulties associated with unsorted parallels as well as discussing the underlying motivations for these comparisons. In Part Two, a methodological framework is introduced and applied to examples from Grunder’s collection in Mormon Parallels. In using a consistent methodology to value these parallels, this essay suggests a way to address the historical concerns associated with using parallels to explain both texts and Mormonism as an historical religious movement. Continue reading

Josiah’s Reform: An Introduction

In 1951 in The Improvement Era, Sidney B. Sperry published a short article titled “Some Problems of Interest Relating to the Brass Plates.”1  In this article he outlines several problems including issues related to the Pentateuch, Jeremiah’s prophecies, The Book of the Law, and the Brass Plates themselves. In many ways, Sperry laid down a gauntlet that has been taken up many times by LDS scholars looking for answers that help to explain these issues in the Book of Mormon within the context of the best current biblical scholarship. Continue reading


  1. The article can be downloaded at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=4&num=1&id=89