What the Book of Mormon actually says (part II)

Ran across the following quote from 1952 and thought it relevant to the flap over the change to the (non-canonical) introduction printed with the Book of Mormon starting in 1981:

“The first rule of historical criticism in dealing with the Book of Mormon or any other ancient text is, never oversimplify. For all its simple and straightforward narrative style, this history is packed as few others are with a staggering wealth of detail that completely escapes the casual reader. The whole Book of Mormon is a condensation, and a masterly one; it will take years simply to unravel the thousands of cunning inferences and implications that are wound around its most matter-of-fact statements. Only laziness and vanity lead the student to the early conviction that he has the final answers on what the Book of Mormon contains.”

— Hugh Nibley, 1952 (The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 5: Lehi in the Desert / The World of the Jaredites / There Were Jaredites [Deseret Book/FARMS, 1988] p. 237.)

I think that Nibley’s observation from 55 years ago not only sums up the major focus and findings of Book of Mormon research for the past half-century, it also illustrates why the vast majority of Book of Mormon criticism is (in my opinion) insipid, shallow, and unconvincing. Evangelists in particular should be aware that most of their Book of Mormon “analysis” is pretty silly to anyone who has actually studied the Book of Mormon and frankly makes the Jesus Seminar‘s critique of the New Testament look downright objective and scholarly.

“The Book of Mormon is tough; it thrives on investigation; you may kick it around like a football, as many have done, and I promise you it will wear you out long before you ever make a dent in it.”

— Hugh Nibley, 1952 (CWHN Vol. 5, p. 153)

While I’m in the middle of writing another post for this blog (“the myths of the Mormon hierarchy”), I do plan a series of posts on the Book of Mormon. I’m going to spend all next year (2008) teaching it in our ward Gospel Doctrine class, and I’ve started to re-read the 40 or so books I own about the Book of Mormon, in more-or-less chronological order. I’ll post relevant quotes and insights here as I go along. ..bruce..

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