Topic pages: Book of Mormon Studies

July 18, 2021

 


2020: Elizabeth Fenton; Brian M. Hauglid,; Michael Austin, “Dialogue Book Review Roundtable: Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon by William Davis” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Web Only (2020).

A Roundtable discussion of William L Davis’ Visions in a Seer Stone (published in 2020). The reviewers conclude that William L Davis was putting Joseph Smith squarely within 19th century sermon culture. A culture that influenced the translation process of the Book of Mormon.

2019: Rebecca A. Roesler, “Plain and Precious Things Lost: The Small Plates of Nephi” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 52 No. 2 (2019): 85–106.

Nephi put significant time and effort into the small plates, and wrote at least once to his posterity to perserve his record. However, Roesler shows that his descendants in the Book of Mormon seem mostly unaware of their existence.

2019: Larry E. Morris, “Empirical Witness of the Gold PlatesDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 52 No. 2 (2019): 59–84.

Due to the fact that visiting with angels isn’t part of the normal human experience, it makes it hard for historians to prove that it happened through an academic investigation. The best way, as discussed by the author, to determine what really happened is by studying other individual’s first-hand accounts about the Gold Plates.

2019: Ryan Thomas, “The Gold Plates and Ancient Metal EpigraphyDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 52 No. 2 (2019): 37–58.

Ryan Thomas highlights the different metal writing cultures from around the same time as the Book of Mormon periods to see if it is historically likely for the Gold Plates to exist from that time period.

2019: Brian Hales, “Automatic Writing and the Book of Mormon: an UpdateDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 52 No. 2 (2019): 1–35.

In recent years scholars have put forward automatic writing as an explanation for Joseph Smith’s translation process of the Book of Mormon. Hales evaluates the weaknesses of this theory.

2017: Colleen McDannell, “Mexicans, Tourism, and Book of Mormon GeographyDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 50 No. 2 (2017): 55–85.

McDannell analyzes the material ways that Latter-day Saints engage their study of scripture, including the growing industry of tours of “Book of Mormon” lands in Central America.

2015: Jared Hickman, “Learning to Read with the Book of MormonDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 48 No. 1 (2015): 169–177.

In this “From the Pulpit,” Jared Hickman discussed the self-confessed weaknesses of multiple authors in the Book of Mormon, indicating that the text is not the literal word of God. He observes that it still has sacred truths to teach us.

2014: Roger Terry, “Archaic Pronouns and Verbs in the Book of Mormon: What Inconsistent Usage Tells Us about Translation Theories” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 47 No. 3 (2014): 53–80.

Terry examines why pronoun errors show up frequently throughout the Book of Mormon as a way into understanding the translation process.

2014: Bryan R. Warnick et. al, “Hospitality in the Book of Mormon” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 47 No. 1 (2014): 24–47.

In ancient cultures hospitality is a prominent theme with both positive and negative examples. The authors compare hospitality in the Bible with multiple different examples of hospitality in the Book of Mormon.

2014: Clyde D. Ford, “The Book of Mormon, the Early Nineteenth-Century Debates over Universalism, and the Development of the Novel Mormon Doctrines of Ultimate Rewards and Punishments” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 47 No. 1 (2014): 1–23.

During the translation process of the Book of Mormon, there were opposing views coming from Universalists against mainsteam Protestantism. In addition to defining the debate, Ford also showed how the Book of Mormon disagrees with the Universalists but also can resolve problems between the two groups.

2012: Karen Austin, “Review: Richard E. Turley Jr. and William W. Slaughter How We Got the Book of Mormon” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 45 No. 3 (2012): 207–210.

Karen D. Austin, responding to How We Got the Book of Mormon, expressed that the book is meaningful for longtime members and others to learn about the translation and publication process of the Book of the Mormon.

2012: Jacob Bender, “Association of Mormon Letters Conference: “For All Things Must Fail”: A Post-Structural Approach to the Book of MormonDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 45 No. 3 (2012): 138–149.

Several Book of Mormon authors express frustration in the writing process and their perceived weaknesses in written communication. Bender analyzes the theme of imperfect language in the Book of Mormon.

2012: Blair Hodges, “Review: Paul C. Gutjahr, “The Book of Mormon: A Biography” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Web Only (2012).

Book of Mormon: A Biography which dicusses the debate between Book of Mormon critics and members of the Church. Guthjar outlines the Book of Mormon’s life starting with the translation process, showing that is not just the text of the Church, but also what Blair Hodges calls “the world’s text.”

2011: Julie M. Smith, “Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s GuideDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 44 No. 1 (2011): 198–202.

Julie M Smith, responding to Hardy’s work, summarizes it as “an attempt to bridge the gap between believers and others through a literary reading of the Book of Mormon.”

2010: Peter Huff, “A Gentile Recommends the Book of MormonDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 43 No. 2 (2010): 206–213.

Peter A. Huff decided to read the Book of Mormon even though for years he had been trying to avoid reading it. Because he is not a member nor is he an Anti-Mormon, he is put into a position where he is able to reccomend to people that they should read it in a way that according to him is ‘free and candid.’

2009: James Olsen and Mark Bohn, “Terryl Givens and the Shape of Mormon Studies: A Review of Terryl Givens, The Book of Mormon: A Very Short IntroductionDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 42 No. 4 (2009): 209–219.

Marc Bohn and James Olsen write that Givens is essentially able to appeal to academic and general audiences.

2006: Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards, “Response to Earl M. Wunderli’s ‘Critique of Alma 36 as an Extended Chiasm’Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 39 No. 4 (2006): 164–169.

In 1969, Alma 36 was discovered by John W. Welch to be of the ancient form of writing called chiasmus. The authors respond to Earl M. Wunderli, “Critique of Alma 36 as an Extended Chiasm”, defending Welch’s position on chiasmus. They argue that the structure could have happened unintentionally.

2005: Earl M.Wunderli, “Critique of Alma 36 as an Extended ChiasmDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 38 No. 4 (2005): 97–112.

When Wunderli first read the alleged Book of Mormon chaismus in Alma 36, it looked valid. However in this article he brings forth evidence that contradicts Alma 36 in particular being a true chaismus.

2005: Clyde Ford, “Lehi on the Great Issues: Book of Mormon Theology in Early Nineteenth-Century PerspectiveDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 38 No. 4 (2005): 75–96.

The Book of Mormon emerged during a era of theological debate between different Protestant religions. The Book of Mormon contains themes from different Protestant religions, but does not agree with one group completely.

2005: John R. Williams, “A Marvelous Work and a Possession: Book of Mormon Historicity as PostcolónialismDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 38 No. 4 (2005): 37–55.

An analysis of parallelism debates between ancient and modern contexts for the Book of Mormon, Williams discusses connections between The Travels of Marco Polo and the Book of Mormon’s construction of a Lamanite identity.

2005: David Wright, “A Maturing View of the Book of Mormon: An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins by Grant H. PalmerDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 38 No. 1 (2005): 168–173.

Responding to Grant H. Palmer’s An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, David P Wright presents evidence that the Book of Mormon could have a 19th century origin.

2003: Thomas Murphy, “Simply Implausible: DNA and a Mesoamerican Setting for the Book of MormonDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 36 No. 4 (2003): 109–131.

Murphy discusses advances in DNA science to argue against the historicity of the Book of Mormon’s claim that the ancestors of the Native Americans are from Jerusalem.

2003: Robert Price, “Joseph Smith in the Book of MormonDialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 36 No. 4 (2003): 89–96.

Price argues that Joseph Smith could be the author of the Book of Mormon, and inspired by earlier works like The View of the Hebrews.

2003: Clay Chandler, “Scrying for the Lord: Magic, Mysticism, and the Origins of the Book of Mormon Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 36 No. 4 (2003): 43–78.

When Joseph Smith was busy acquiring and translating the Book of Mormon he was also practicing folk magic, especially the use of seer stones. Chandler argues that if magic helped the translation process, this could have set Joseph Smith on the path that led to him being a prophet.

2002: Jana Riess, “Book of Mormon Stories Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 35 No. 3 (2002): 242–246.

Terryl L Givens, author of, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion, argues that until very recently there has been a general neglect among members of the church regarding the Book of Mormon.

2002: Earl M. Wunderli, “Critique of a Limited Geography for Book of Mormon Events Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 35 No. 3 (2002): 161–197.

Wunderli analyzes the recent arguments for a “limited geography” model for the Book of Mormon and efforts to locate those lands with real places. So far, the evidence for Book of Mormon lands has been inconclusive.

2002: Robert Rees, “Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the American Renaissance Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 35 No. 3 (2002): 83–112.

Rees compares the publication process of the Book of Mormon to the popular literary works that were published during the 19th century, at time which became known as the American Renaissance. Whereas other authors of the time spent years refining their writing skills before publishing their masterpieces, Joseph Smith began the process of the Book of Mormon as an unskilled writer.

2000: Douglas F. Salmon. “Parallelomania and the Study ofLatter-day Scripture: Confirmation, Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol. 33 No. 2 (2000): 129-156.

This article looks at some of the ways parallels have been used by Nibley in the exposition of latter-day scripture, the types of parallels employed, and some of the problems that arise from this comparative exercise.

2000: Robert Patterson, “Hebraicisms, Chiasmus, and Other Internal Evidence for Ancient Authorship in Green Eggs and Ham Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 33 No. 4 (2000): 164–170.

In conclusion, this paper is the first to reveal the true origins of an ancient complex manuscript that for too long has been cavalierly dismissed as a mere twentieth century work of fiction. Although we have arrived at a better understanding of the roots of this crucial work, many critical questions remain unanswered.

2000: Polly Stewart, “Evidence Without Reconciliation: The Creation of the Book of Mormon: A Historical Inquiry by Lamar Petersen Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 33 No. 1 (2000): 198–200.

Responding to The Creation of the Book of Mormon, Polly Stewart reinforces LaMar Petersen’s idea that if you read or write about the Book of Mormon, an opinion is formed either for or against it. She reviews this book as non-partisan, where the evidence is allowed to speak for itself.

1998: David Wright, “Joseph Smith’s Interpretation of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 31 No. 4 (1998): 182–206.

Biblical scholar David P. Wright analyzes the use of Isaiah material in the Book of Mormon and comparing it to the King James Version.

1997: Brigham Madsen, “Reflections on LDS Disbelief in the Book of Mormon as History Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 30 No. 3 (1997): 87–97.

Madsen makes an extended argument against historicity of the Book of Mormon and draws on B.H. Roberts as a predecessor of disbelievers. This controversial article generated a heated set of letters to the editor in the summer 1998 issue! 

1996: Mark D. Thomas, “A Mosaic for a Religious Counterculture: The Bible in the Book of Mormon Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 29 No. 4 (1996): 47–68.

Thomas addresses the problem of the appearance of the Bible in the Book of Mormon, specifically how passages from the New Testament show up in the Nephite writing. He offers some argument for how to resolve this problem.

1996: Quinn Brewster, “The Structure of the Book of Mormon: A Theory of Evolutionary Development Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 29 No. 2 (1996): 109–140.

This article puts forward and evolutionary approach to Joseph Smith’s growing understanding about the Book of Mormon. Brewster evaluates how Smith dealt with the (now lost) Book of Lehi.

1994: Stephen Thompson, ‘Critical’ Book of Mormon Scholarship,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 27 No. 4 (1994): 109–140.

Responding to two different journals — New Approaches to the Book of Mormon and Review of Books on the Book of Mormon — Steven E Thompson shows how these two different works are simply another one of the heated debates between members who have opposing views on the Book of Mormon. One group believes that Joseph Smith is the author and it is of 19th century origin ; the other group believes in the miraculous translation of the Book of Mormon.

1993: Brent Metcalfe, Apologetic and Critical Assumptions About Book of Mormon Historicity,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 26 No. 3 (1993): 153–184.

Metcalfe surveys the different assumptions about interpreting the past that critics and apologists bring to Book of Mormon historicity.

1993: Brigham Madsen, B.H. Roberts’s Studies of the Book of Mormon,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 26 No. 3 (1993): 77–86.

Madsen offers more insights into how BH Roberts dealt with his questions about Book of Mormon historicity. Madsen offers new historical details to the drama around this story.

1991: Neal Chandler, “Book of Mormon Stories that My Teacher Kept from Me,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 24 No. 1 (1993): 129–163.

It may be no more than a kind of perversity that brings me to admit what I will tell you now, namely, that when it comes to the Book of Mormon, that most correct of books, whose pedigree we love passionately to debate and whose very namesakes we have, all of us, become, I stand mostly with Mark Twain. I think it’s “chloroform in print.” It is a humorous, but serious critique. “This is a book of men, by men, for men, and openly and conventionally, at least, about men only.

1990: Brian Keck, Ezekiel 37, Sticks, and Babylonian Writing Boards: A Critical Reappraisal Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 23 No. 1 (1990): 126–138.

The sticks of Judah and Joseph are first mentioned in Ezekiel 37 where it claims that they were previously separated, but eventually will be combined into one. Brian Keck questions the LDS interepretation of comparing the sticks to the Book of Mormon and Bible.

1987: Blake Ostler, The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 20 No. 1 (1987): 66–123.

Ostler’s classic article attempted to explain the 19th century elements and the ancient elements of the Book of Mormon. He argues that there was an original ancient source, but that this was expanded by Joseph Smith.

1986: A. Bruce Lindgren, Sign or Scripture: Approaches to the Book of Mormon Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 19 No. 1 (1986): 71–77.

This is by an RLDS scholar who says that maybe this whole debate about which context we need to read the Book of Mormon is wrongheaded. That is reading it as a history book. “why does discussion of the book of Mormon typically tend to focus on questions of its historicity and authorship, on meso American archaeology, Chiasmus, and word prints?” This sees the BoM as a “sign” of Joseph Smith’s prophetic call or his status as a fraud. But that is a pretty narrow way of reading it. Instead, he issues a challenge to focusing on historicity in BoM interpretation and instead read it as scripture. “I find a more personally relevant question to be: how does the book of Mormon present the basic doctrines of the gospel? What role should the book of Mormon play in our religious and intellectual lives? Is it a sign of the divine origin of the restoration movement or is it scripture?” There has grown up a whole school of thought around this latter approach in Book of Mormon theology now, especially from Jim Faulconer, which says that history is the wrong genre for understanding scripture. But we see here this early treatment.

1984: Grant Underwood, Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 17 No. 3 (1984): 35–75.

Underwood’s argument was an interesting intervention in two ways. First, a number of LDS schoalrs were looking to the Book of Mormon to udnerstading early LDS doctrinal development. It is notable that the theology of the book of Momron departs from mainstream LDS teachings on a number of points, and people began to argue that it represented an earlier Joseph Smith, for instance. Underwood’s argument challenged this by suggesting that the Book of Momron had minimal use or impact on early LDS thought in general, let alone doctrinal development. Second, this absence was implicitly contrasted with the modern church, where the Book of Mormon was quickly outpacing the Bible in importance. Whether good or ill, the Book of Mormon was treated rather casually in Smith’s day, including by Smith himself. What was important, when it was cited, was the millenniarian ideas in the Book of Mormon. So, this is what we call reception history, which looks at how a text has been received. Different from George Smith’s study of BH Roberts, Underwood was expanding this kind of research to statistical analysis.

1984: George Smith, ‘Is There Any Way to Escape These Difficulties?’: The Book of Mormon Studies of B.H. Roberts, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 17 No. 2 (1984): 94–111.

Smith offers an account of B.H. Roberts’s treatment of the Book of Mormon and the questions he raised about it over the course of his studies. Roberts wrote Book of Mormon Difficulties when questions about Book of Mormon archaeology and language were arising. Roberts then presented his findings to the Brethren.

1983: George Smith, ‘Isaiah Updated, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 16 No. 3 (1983): 37–52.

In 1983, George D. Smith published an article titled “Isaiah Updated.” He discussses a problem that had been
earlier mentioned by BH Roberts and by Sindey Sperry, among others. The problem in brief was this: scholars no
longer accepted the unity of the Book of Isaiah, nor attributed it all to the historical Isaiah. The problem was that
the later chapters from a later prophet, nicknamed Second Isaiah wrote during the Babylonian exile, namely, after
Lehi had reportedly left Jerusalem. The problem is that this text which didn’t exist until after Lehi was on a boat
sailing to the New World somehow ends up in Nephi’s record. The paper goes into a lot more issues about
Christian and LDS interpretaitons of Isaiah more generally, challenging the validity of these supposed
prophesies. Defenders of the Book of Mormon argued that the evidence should be read the other way around,
that the BoM provided clear evidence that Second Isaiah was pre-exilic, and that Isaiah is a unified text. Smith’s
article called into question these claims. This article got lots of attention in letters, inluding from Bill Hamblin, an
apologetic staple for the next several decades.

1978: Henry Ibarguen, Mormon Scholasticism: The World of the Book of Mormon by Paul R. Chessman Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 11 No. 3 (1978): 92–93.

In 1978 The World of the Book of Mormon, a reason-based study, was published. In his review, Henry J. Ibarguen argues that fact-based scholarship does not compete with faith-based study.

1977: Stan Larson, Textual variants in Book of Mormon Manuscripts Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 10 No. 4 (1977): 8–30.

An early study to the textual changes to the Book of Mormon, Larson asserts that these changes “show that valuable readings have been lost through scribal and typesetting errors.”

1969: Robert E. Nichols Jr., Beowulf and Nephi a Literary View of the Book of Mormon Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 4 No. 3 (1969): 40–47.

Nichol’s notes the same challenges to the literary scholar–the lack of a source text and of a text-critical edition. But still he attempts to offer a literary reading of 1-2 Nephi—perhaps the first one ever. He concludes, “the Book of Mormon remains a challenging critical prize, undoubtedly the major prize of 19th CenturyAamericana, perhaps the chief prize of the literature we call English.”

1969: Roundtable, Toward a History of Ancient America Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 4 No. 2 (1969): 63–71.

In Summer 1969 examines an interesting, initially promising approach to New World archeology, a project that
included Latter-day Saints interested in locating a context for the Book of Mormon. But in the mid-60s, there was
a broader popular theory in non-LDS circles of ancient contacts between the near eastern and American peoples.
A roundtable in this issue examines some of these ear;y efforts.

1969: John Sorenson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon Resisted Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 4 No. 2 (1969): 80–94.

To show that there was at least some connection between the Old World and Mesoamerica, which is where the Book of Mormon is alleged to take place, John L. Sorenson provides a list of common parallels between Mesoamerica and the Old World.

1969: Dee Green, Book of Mormon Archaelogy: The Myths and the Alternatives Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 4 No. 2 (1969): 71–79.

Dee F. Green identifies three periods of church archeological approaches: Geographical-Historical Approach, Back-Door Approach (which is the author’s method) and the Anthropological Approach. The Back-Door Approach was the Church’s official method during the time of this publication.

1968: Wilson Douglas, Prospects for the Study of the Book of Mormon as a Work of American Literature Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 3 No. 1 (1968): 29–41.

Wilson notes that the Book of Mormon still is not counted as part of American literature canon. Part of the reason, according to Wilson, is that the book is a difficult read. Wilson likens the Book of Mormon to the Old Testament — “equally ill-written.”