The Māori Stairway to Heaven

A review of Jason Hartley. Ngā Mahi: The Things We Need to Do; The Pathway of the Stars. n.p.: Xlibris, 2013. 264 pp., no index. $23.00AUD (softcover).1

Jason Hartley’s book manifests a passion for alleviating the problem of Māori surging into the prisons of Aotearoa/New Zealand2 by restoring their old, traditional religious ethos and the social control that hinges on the recovery of the old belief that they are potentially noble children of God. In setting out his own disappointing discovery of the roots of both a growing problem and what he believes is the solution, he describes how he came to learn the arcane moral teachings, or old stories, that once buttressed Māori social order. For Latter-day Saints, he also demonstrates that for some Māori, despite much degradation, the Heavens are still open, just as they were when Latter-day Saint missionaries first encountered a people prepared for them and their message by their own seers, thus also implicitly challenging recent efforts to downplay or explain away the old stories as mere embellishments, wishful thinking, or an implausible founding mythology. Continue reading

Inattentional Blindness: Seeing and Not Seeing The Book of Mormon

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 Wunderli, an attorney who has made a lifelong study of the Book of Mormon, concludes that the book is a product of Joseph Smith’s mind and imagination. In doing so, Wunderli marshals evidence and presents his argument as if he were an attorney defending a client in court. Unfortunately, Wunderli’s case suffers from the same weaknesses and limitations of other naturalist criticism in that it exaggerates Joseph Smith’s intellectual and cultural background and compositional skills while ignoring the Book of Mormon’s deep structure, narrative complexity, and often intricate rhetorical patterns. Continue reading

The Book with the Unintentionally Self-Referential Title

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