Friday, January 28, 2011

Understanding the Book of Mormon

I gave this book 4 stars because I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I appreciated Hardy's exhaustive treatment of the three narrators, Nephi, Mormon and Moroni. But then, I usually do not go far wrong in taking Deja's book recommendations. A brief example:
The narrators provide a controlling perspective that can bring together diverse incidents, voices, and documents in the service of major themes such as the nature of faith, the reliability of prophecy, and the role of Israel in God's providence. Indeed, it is through the narrators that we are most likely to ascertain the primary message of the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, the meaning of the text is neither unitary nor static. The editors/historians are portrayed as living, thinking individuals who develop as characters over the course of their writings. In addition, there are differences of approach between the narrators. Mormon and Moroni, in particular, appear to have quite distinct ideas about how to best persuade their readers.
By evaluating the text, Hardy reveals so much more about these three prophet/historians we might not so readily uncover ourselves. In examining the extensive use of parallel and allusion, we see the connections between these prophets and others whose material they draw on so heavily. We also see the great care these editors took to instruct readers.

I particularly enjoyed the connections he drew to Isaiah. Isaiah continues to be quoted and applied throughout the entire Book of Mormon, more in fact, that we would think.

Not all of Hardy's assumptions are strong. I would not agree that this book might be so appealing to a non-Mormon. He makes a case for the Book of Mormon as literature, but when he constantly tries to point out its powerful meaning whether one imagines the author as Joseph Smith or Mormon, I doubt that this analysis would hold much interest. His real audience is believers, and he would have been better served if he had not tried to make his appeal so broad. This is not a book to read before you read the Book of Mormon.

Even believers who have read the Book of Mormon once or twice without digging deep would be lost here. Few will follow or recognize the many references back to the scriptural text.

If however, you are an avid student, and regular reader of the Book of Mormon and are looking for a fresh perspective to gain a new appreciation for its power and depth, this will be a breath of fresh air. You will experience many "aha moments" whether you agree with each of Hardy's conclusions or not.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you liked it. I was terrified of recommending both of these to you (this one and the Backslider), and you sure seemed skeptical about them. Glad they were a pleasant surprise. I'm about halfway through this one. I've always had trouble holding the Book of Mormon in my head in any sort of cohesive way, so I was glad he both explained why that's difficult and showed me a way to do it.