The "Book of Mormon": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books)
Paul C. Gutjahr
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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.
angel also promised that later they would be ordained into a higher priesthood, the order of Melchizedek, which would allow them to baptize with the power of the Holy Ghost. Joseph and Cowdery returned to their translation work knowing that the United States was on the verge of not only a new revelation, but also a new divinely appointed authority structure to undergird that revelation’s message. Joseph took seriously his new anointing as an authorized baptizer. Before the first copy of the Book
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
Book of Mormon was also located in southern Mexico.6 Possible locations for events found in the Book of Mormon based on the work of the anthropologist John Sorenson. In the following decades, other Mormon scholars followed in Joseph’s footsteps, tracing the connections between Mesoamerica and the book, but Sorenson would distinguish himself in this scholarly tradition by popularizing a limited-geography theory of the Book of Mormon. He posited that the civilizations recorded in the Book of
England under the direction of Orson Pratt. 1852 Third British edition, including first use of numbered paragraphs, is published in England under the direction of Franklin D. Richards. 1858 Private edition is published in New York City by James O. Wright. 1874 First RLDS edition is published in Plano, Illinois. 1879 Major LDS edition is published in Salt Lake City and Liverpool under the direction of Orson Pratt, with the text divided into longer chapters and arranged in versification and
Charles Walker Whitman, “A History of the Hill Cumorah Pageant (1937–1964) and an Examination of the Dramatic Development of the Text of America’s Witness for Christ” (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 1967), 200–368. For modern changes to the script, see Argetsinger, “The Hill Cumorah Pageant,” 64. 19. Argetsinger, “The Hill Cumorah Pageant,” 64. 20. Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon (New York: Newmarket Press, 2011), v, vi. 21. Adam Markovitz, “ ‘Book of Mormon’