Mormon Style

I’ve recently completed Paul Gutjahr’s monograph “The Book of Mormon”: A Biography.  Short and to the point, Gutjahr details the debated origins of the text that Joseph Smith found/plagiarized/completely made up in the first half of the 19th century, its development within the larger Mormon community, and its place in visual media and (briefly) the more contemporary American scene.  Particular notable here is Gutjahr’s discussion of the process and challenges of translation  together with questions related to Mormon biblical scholarship as they developed over time.

The book’s aims are modest: to tell the story of The Book of Mormon.  Despite the fact the narrative gets a little bogged down near the middle as it discusses details related to the various editions of the book, on the whole it is a succinct walk through the relevant topics.  Those desiring a more in-depth look at Joseph Smith or the history of the Mormon movement will be disappointed, but for those who want a brief introduction to the specific subject matter will be satisfied…even if this satisfaction only whets their appetites for more.

In this year of the Mormon candidate, it serves us to pay more attention to the LDS movement–a truly American phenomenon if there ever was one.  Historically, sociologically and religiously, they remain a fascinating study.  Theologically, both the Mormons and their book confront Christians with questions both familiar and unique: rather than just deciding what counts as the minimum amount of belief to be “in” the Christian faith, the existence of something like the book of Mormon also asks–in some ways–how much other stuff can you add on top of the Bible and still be a Christian?

I’d love to hear from (and perhaps be corrected by) others who are much more familiar with Mormonism concerning the challenges, questions, and issues posed by the existence of this growing sect.

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2 comments on “Mormon Style

  1. Kathy says:

    My grandfather lived for most of his life just downriver from Nauvoo (where Joseph Smith’s temple was burned). He was very interested in the history and did both written and oral historical research. He came to a couple of conclusions: According to the platt maps of the time, each family was alloted 1/2 acre to support their family. If you have ever tried farming, you will know that this is not enough land. So they went out and stole animals from local farmers. This being before wide-spread paving, the farmers followed the tracks of their missing animals to Nauvoo. But since Nauvoo had been granted a charter granting them the right to govern themselves, the courts (police and judges) were run by Mormons, and of course ruled against the wronged farmers every time. The local farmers were also upset over the fact that females were much more likely to convert to Mormonism. This was the time that the word came down about polygamous marriages. So the farmers were upset that their daughters were going into “plural” marriages. That’s why one night they got together and rioted against the Mormons. One lady my grandfather talked to said that her father denied taking part in the mob, but boy he sure knew a lot of details from when it happened!

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