Review of Gerald E. Smith, Schooling the Prophet: How the Book of Mormon Influenced Joseph Smith and the Early Restoration (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2015). pp 305. $19.95.
Abstract: Schooling the Prophet provides a good survey of many early Latter-day Saint doctrines. It suggests that there is a causal link between the Book of Mormon and those doctrines. Sometimes it makes the case; many times it is close but doesn’t quite support the thesis of the book. Continue reading
Review of Royal Skousen, Robin Scott Jensen, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations Volume 3, Part 1: Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi–Alma 35 (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2015). pp 575. $89.99.
Abstract: All of the volumes in the Joseph Smith Papers series are beautifully presented, with important photographic and excellent typographic versions of the texts. This volume continues by providing this treatment for the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon.
Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book is unquestionably a monument to an impressive career defending, defining, and explaining the Book of Mormon. John L. Sorenson has been for the New World setting of the Book of Mormon what Hugh Nibley was for the Old World setting. From his earliest 1952 publications using anthropology and geography to defend the Book of Mormon to the 2013 publication of Mormon’s Codex, Sorenson has been the dominant force in shaping scholarly discussions about the Book of Mormon in its New World setting.1 With an impressive 714 pages of text with footnotes, Mormon’s Codex is physically an appropriate capstone to his long publishing career. Continue reading
Review of Earl M. Wunderli, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us about Itself (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2013), 328pp + Appendices, Maps, and Index.
Earl M. Wunderli has written a book that works through the reasons he fell out of belief in the Book of Mormon. These are combined with issues that he has added to his original reasons. His presentation is clearly intended to suggest that what he found compelling will also be compelling to other readers. Should it? This review looks at how his arguments are constructed: his methodology, the logic of the analysis, and the way he uses his sources. Although he argues that it is the Book of Mormon that is the imperfect book, his construction of the arguments makes that designation ironic. Continue reading
Abstract: The Book of Mormon is a literate product of a literate culture. It references written texts. Nevertheless, behind the obvious literacy, there are clues to a primary orality in Nephite culture. The instances of text creation and most instances of reading texts suggest that documents were written by and for an elite class who were able to read and write. Even among the elite, reading and writing are best seen as a secondary method of communication to be called upon to archive information, to communicate with future readers (who would have been assumed to be elite and therefore able to read), and to communicate when direct oral communication was not possible (letters and the case of Korihor). As we approach the text, we may gain new insights into the art with which it was constructed by examining it as the literate result of a primarily oral culture. Continue reading