Review of Alex Beam. American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church. PublicAffairs, 2014. 352 pp.
Abstract: On April 22, 2014, PublicAffairs, an imprint of a national publisher Persues Books Group, released American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church, authored by Alex Beam. Beam, who openly declared he entered the project without personal biases against Joseph Smith or the Latter-day Saints, spent a couple of years researching his work, which he declares to be “popular non-fiction” and therefore historically accurate. This article challenges both of these assertions, showing that Beam was highly prejudiced against the Church prior to investigating and writing about events leading up to the martyrdom. In addition, Beam’s lack of training as an historian is clearly manifested in gross lapses in methodology, documentation, and synthesis of his interpretation. Several key sections of his book are so poorly constructed from an evidentiary standpoint that the book cannot be considered useful except, perhaps, as well-composed historical fiction. Continue reading
Review of John L. Lund. Joseph Smith and the Geography of the Book of Mormon. The Communications Company, 2012. 209 pp. + xviii, including index.
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?
–Joseph Smith Jr.1
Over the years, a plethora of theories have been advanced regarding the geography of the Book of Mormon.2 No doubt that many Latter-day Saints who have inquired on the subject have felt much like the young Joseph Smith: caught between a “war of words and tumult of opinions,” he or she wonders “What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together?” And how is one to know; how does one go about trying to judge between the competing views? Continue reading
Review of “Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony,” Jeremy Runnells, April 2013, Updated February 23, 2014. 83 pages. http://cesletter.com/Letter-to-a-CES-Director.pdf.
Abstract: In his Letter to a CES Director, Jeremy Runnells explains how a year of obsessive investigation brought about the loss of his testimony. In an LDS FAQ, LDS blogger Jeff Lindsay deals with all of the same questions, and has done so at least twenty years and has not only an intact testimony, but boundless enthusiasm. What makes the difference? In the parable of the Sower, Jesus explained that the same seeds (words) can generate completely different harvests, ranging from nothing to a hundred-fold increase, all depending on the different soil and nurture. This essay looks at how different expectations and inquiries for translation, prophets, key scriptural passages on representative issues can lead to very different outcomes for investigators. Continue reading
Review of Wade E. Miller, Science and the Book of Mormon: Cureloms, Cumoms, Horses & More (Laguna Niguel, California: KCT & Associates, 2010). 106 pages + viii, including two appendices and references cited, no index.
Abstract: Anachronisms, or out of place items, have long been a subject of controversy with the Book of Mormon. Several Latter-day Saints over the years have attempted to examine them. Dr. Wade E. Miller, as a paleontologist and geologist, offers a some new insights on this old question, especially regarding animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon, including a report on some preliminary research which might completely change the pre-Columbian picture for horses in America. Overall, this is an indispensable resource on Book of Mormon anachronisms.
Review of David E. Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Contemporary Studies in Scripture. Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2014. 272 pp. $26.95 (paperback); $70.00 (hardcover).
Abstract: To date, LDS scholars have largely ignored the important but rather complex questions about how primary sources may have been authored and combined to form the Bible as we have it today. David Bokovoy’s book, one of a projected series of volumes on the authorship of the Old Testament, is intended to rectify this deficiency, bringing the results of scholarship in Higher Criticism into greater visibility within the LDS community. Though readers may not agree in every respect with the book’s analysis and results, particularly with its characterization of the Books of Moses and Abraham as “inspired pseudepigrapha,” Bokovoy has rendered an important service by applying his considerable expertise in a sincere quest to understand how those who accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God can derive valuable interpretive lessons from modern scholarship. Continue reading