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Understanding the Book of Mormon

Grant Hardy

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780199731701
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199777167 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731701.001.0001
Understanding the Book of Mormon

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While the significance of the Book of Mormon in American history and religion is universally acknowledged, its complicated narrative can be bewildering to outsiders. In addition, controversy over its historical claims tends to overshadow its contents. This book argues that whether the Book of Mormon is approached as history, fiction, or scripture, focusing on its narrative structure, and in particular on the contributions of the major narrators, allows for more comprehensive, detailed readings. The Book of Mormon is nearly unique among recent world scriptures in that it is presented as a lengthy, integrated narrative rather than a series of doctrinal expositions, moral exhortations, or devotional hymns. Joseph Smith, whether regarded as an author or translator, never speaks in his own voice in the text; nearly everything is mediated through the narrators Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni. This study takes readers through the basic characters, events, and ideas in the Book of Mormon by focusing on each of the major narrators in turn and identifying their characteristic literary techniques. Critics and believers alike can agree that someone, sometime, decided how to tell the story—where to employ direct dialogue, embedded documents, parallel narratives, allusions, and so forth. This introduction sets aside questions of ultimate authorship in order to examine how the text operates, how it makes its points, and what its message is. Despite its sometimes awkward style, the Book of Mormon has more coherence and literary interest than is often assumed.

Keywords: Book of Mormon; Joseph Smith; scripture; American religion; narrative; narrators; Nephi; Mormon; Moroni; literary techniques

Book.  336 pages. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; East Asian Religions

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Table of Contents

A Brief Overview in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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Sons and Brothers in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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Prophets of Old in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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Mormon's Dilemma in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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Other Voices in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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Providential Recurrence in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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The Day of the Lord's Coming in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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Weakness in Writing in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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Strategies of Conclusion in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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Afterword in Understanding the Book of Mormon

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