The "Book of Mormon": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books)

The "Book of Mormon": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books)

Paul C. Gutjahr

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 069114480X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Late one night in 1823 Joseph Smith, Jr., was reportedly visited in his family's farmhouse in upstate New York by an angel named Moroni. According to Smith, Moroni told him of a buried stack of gold plates that were inscribed with a history of the Americas' ancient peoples, and which would restore the pure Gospel message as Jesus had delivered it to them. Thus began the unlikely career of the Book of Mormon, the founding text of the Mormon religion, and perhaps the most important sacred text ever to originate in the United States. Here Paul Gutjahr traces the life of this book as it has formed and fractured different strains of Mormonism and transformed religious expression around the world.

Gutjahr looks at how the Book of Mormon emerged from the burned-over district of upstate New York, where revivalist preachers, missionaries, and spiritual entrepreneurs of every stripe vied for the loyalty of settlers desperate to scratch a living from the land. He examines how a book that has long been the subject of ridicule--Mark Twain called it "chloroform in print"--has more than 150 million copies in print in more than a hundred languages worldwide. Gutjahr shows how Smith's influential book launched one of the fastest growing new religions on the planet, and has featured in everything from comic books and action figures to feature-length films and an award-winning Broadway musical.

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own mother recounted how, long before he sat down to translate the plates, he regaled his family with spellbinding tales of “the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, their manner of traveling, the animals which they rode, the cities that they built, and the structure of their buildings with every particular, their mode of warfare, and their religious worship as specifically as though he had spent his life with them.”35 For those holding to the theory that Joseph was a more ordinary

argued against the Spalding-Rigdon theory, stating that there existed “no good evidence to show that Rigdon and Smith ever met before Rigdon’s conversion late in 1830.”36 Instead, she believed that Joseph was both unusually charismatic and intelligent, fully capable of composing the Book of Mormon and enticing others into believing it to be a new revelation from God.37 According to Brodie, Joseph came to believe his own lies concerning a book he had originally written as a moneymaking hoax. As

typesetter. In 2009, Skousen published The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, a work many considered “the definitive scholarly version of the Book of Mormon.”19 Because this single work could not encompass his more than two decades of bibliographic scholarship, with the help of FARMS Skousen also published a six- volume set entitled Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon.20 Because the Book of Mormon is a living text, open to revision by the Church’s inspired leader and prophet at

them as he dictated God’s message. She steadfastly maintained that he could not have hidden such a book from her. Joseph simply used the “interpreters” or a seer stone placed in a hat as he dictated twenty to thirty words at a time. In explaining the later stages of the translation process, Joseph told of words that glowed to life in the seer stone itself. Joseph Knight, a local farmer who witnessed this portion of the translation process, recounted that Joseph saw the words “apper in Brite Roman

treasured sacred text. Grandin needed to think long and hard before becoming the publisher of a text many would consider an upstart rival to, and thus critique of, the book American Christians held most dear. Eventually, Grandin did agree to print the book. All the reasons for his change of heart may never be known, but his course reversal came, in part, because Martin Harris guaranteed payment for the book’s printing costs and Grandin discovered that another printer, located in Rochester, New

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