Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide

Understanding the Book of Mormon A Reader s Guide Mark Twain once derided the Book of Mormon as chloroform in print Long and complicated written in the language of the King James version of the Bible it boggles the minds of many Yet it is unquestio

  • Title: Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide
  • Author: Grant Hardy
  • ISBN: 9780199731701
  • Page: 448
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Mark Twain once derided the Book of Mormon as chloroform in print Long and complicated, written in the language of the King James version of the Bible, it boggles the minds of many Yet it is unquestionably one of the most influential books ever written With over 140 million copies in print, it is a central text of one of the largest and fastest growing faiths in the wMark Twain once derided the Book of Mormon as chloroform in print Long and complicated, written in the language of the King James version of the Bible, it boggles the minds of many Yet it is unquestionably one of the most influential books ever written With over 140 million copies in print, it is a central text of one of the largest and fastest growing faiths in the world And, Grant Hardy shows, it s far from the coma inducing doorstop caricatured by Twain.In Understanding the Book of Mormon, Hardy offers the first comprehensive analysis of the work s narrative structure in its 180 year history Unlike virtually all other recent world scriptures, the Book of Mormon presents itself as an integrated narrative rather than a series of doctrinal expositions, moral injunctions, or devotional hymns Hardy takes readers through its characters, events, and ideas, as he explores the story and its messages He identifies the book s literary techniques, such as characterization, embedded documents, allusions, and parallel narratives Whether Joseph Smith is regarded as author or translator, it s noteworthy that he never speaks in his own voice rather, he mediates nearly everything through the narrators Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni Hardy shows how each has a distinctive voice, and all are woven into an integral whole.As with any scripture, the contending views of the Book of Mormon can seem irreconcilable For believers, it is an actual historical document, transmitted from ancient America For nonbelievers, it is the work of a nineteenth century farmer from upstate New York Hardy transcends this intractable conflict by offering a literary approach, one appropriate to both history and fiction Regardless of whether readers are interested in American history, literature, comparative religion, or even salvation, he writes, the book can best be read if we examine the text on its own terms.

    One thought on “Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide”

    1. Saw Jacob Walley reading this and he recommended it. Initial response (after ~50 pages): my gads, a thoughtful examination of the Book of Mormon that is accessible to believers and nonbelievers alike. Too early to rate, but my mind and my spirit have needed a dose of something like this! I have to buy my own copy and return the public library's copy because I need to scribble in the margins!********Having now finished the book, I can say it lived up to my hopes and expectations. It was thoughtfu [...]

    2. UPDATE: Having read Robert Alter's The Art Of Biblical Narrative and having learned that Grant Hardy idolizes Alter, I think Hardy's volume would have been strengthened by a discussion of Leitwort in the Book of Mormon, as Alter has done with the Bible. Hardy's analysis is more narrowly focused on narrator analysis (no, not a Hebraism). But because the only Hebrew and Egyptian present in the English Book of Mormon lie in proper names, Leitwort and wordplay would have been applicable in narrator [...]

    3. This is one of the better books I've ever read on the Book of Mormon. In the Top 3, to be sure. Grant steers clear of polemics and apologetics (mostly, or at least hides it subtly) and focuses on the narrative structure beneath the words of the text. He shows how the narrative structures, with all the interweavings, complex and convoluted turnings, still pull together into a cohesive text. Though the Book of Mormon is didactic with mostly two-dimensional and superficial characters, Hardy shows a [...]

    4. Born and raised a Mormon, I've been on that inevitable intellectual and spiritual journey of my mid-twenties to deeply analyze the doctrines, beliefs, and scriptures of the religion of my youth, as well as to find a comfortable stance as to what I believe and where I want to situate my life and devotion.Grant Hardy is a really good guide for looking at what theBook of Mormonreally says, does, and signifies. His excellent scholarship and insightful literary connections makeUnderstanding the Book [...]

    5. I've been a sloppy reader of scripture. Grant Hardy taught me how I should have been reading the BOM this whole time. He reads between the lines, against the grain, and just pays good attention, and his hard work is richly rewarded. Here's a handful of random insights to serve as teasers from the first 1/4-or-so of the book:1) Laman and Lemuel can be read much more sympathetically. In fact, in some senses they may have been more "orthodox" in their Jewish faith than Lehi or Nephi.2) Lehi and Nep [...]

    6. When it comes to scripture, I am devoutly skeptical. However, I generally appreciated Dr. Grant Hardy’s scholarly work Understanding the Book of Mormon. He reads the way I love to read. Hardy digs deep and buries himself in the text. He engages in thorough cross-referencing and rigorous comparing and contrasting. To get the most out of Hardy’s analysis, I reread the Book of Mormon while reading his book. In particular, I found his assessments of Captain Moroni and the Book of Ether innovativ [...]

    7. I was interested in the narrators of the Book of Mormon and started reading with anticipation, and there were definitely some interesting insights which caused me to look at the situation differently; however when I finished reading, I felt slightly dirty. Hardy represented some scripture heroes in a strange and kind of negative light and made some leaps on what the Narrators were thinking as though he were reading their minds. Here's a little spoiler on Mormon as narrator ** He indicated that M [...]

    8. Grant Hardy managed to get a book about the Book of Mormon published by the prestigious Oxford Press. That alone should draw attention and help potential readers ignore the terribly generic title and stock photograph decorating the book's cover.I suspect there may not be a person in the course of history (including Joseph Smith himself) more obsessed and devoted to the Book of Mormon than Grant Hardy, so in some ways that uniquely qualifies him to write this book. Refreshingly, though, he is bru [...]

    9. A decade ago there were few scholarly books written for the non-Mormon audience about the Book of Mormon, and in another decade there will probably not be many more. However, within those twenty years I doubt that there will be a book that approaches the depth and complexity in regards to the text as Dr. Hardy's volume. The approach to the characters and editors of the story of the Book of Mormon will, undoubtedly, infuriate some members of the LDS Church. Dr. Hardy's aim is not to produce a sum [...]

    10. So I began reading this as my "Sunday Novel" but being 3 months shy of reading it a full year I had quit that notion as I often didn't take the time to pick it up on Sundays. This is not my usual fluff I tend to gravitate to. This is a book you need to invest time into to understand. Not an easy peasy read. That being said once I did focus my time on completing the book it was enjoyable and enlightening. Great book for believers and nonbelievers a like. I feel the author did a good job at laying [...]

    11. I heard a radio interview w/ Grant Hardy and his wife. They compared the Book of Mormon to V. Nabokov’s Pale Fire. That alone made me want to read it. And I did, and I'm in the middle of reading it again. This book will transform your understanding of the book -- that description's vague, I'll add more to it later.04/2013: read it again.

    12. I wanted to like this book very much, and looked forward to reading it. I appreciate Hardy's approach of looking at the narrators of the Book of Mormon and teasing out their approaches to the material they were conveying. It was interesting to note their different styles. However, like some others, I had a hard time with Hardy's judgmental approach to several of his subjects. He was fine when confining his analysis to the actual evidence in the book. It was off-putting, however, when he indulged [...]

    13. Grant Hardy has applied the techniques of Literary Criticism to his subject, and met with fruitful results. Reading against the text and looking for narrative omissions can illuminate narratorial motivations. Recommended, even from a secular perspective for larger-scale architecture in the text. Almost five stars, except for the latter half when the study laboriously went through example after example of parallelism. This portion felt less well-developed, except maybe as a springboard for furthe [...]

    14. After checking this book out from the library, I liked it so much I bought it so I could read it again with my highlighter. Hardy examines Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni as narrators of the Book of Mormon and discusses how their purposes affect what they include and how it is written. Although I didn't agree with every conclusion Hardy comes up with, it was a very thought-provoking book which provided much insight.

    15. Everyone who is interested in the Book of Mormon should read this incredible book. At the very least, read the portion of the book on Nephi. It was so intellectually rigorous and so fascinating overall that I read every footnote also. Grant Hardy is a scholar of the highest order. His ability to discern literary patterns in the book was impressive. His insights into the book were novel and surprising. I feel like it has forever changed the way I will read the Book of Mormon.

    16. Such a compelling analysis of the BoM from its structure and literary characteristics to the breakdown of the two major voices who compiled and abridged the plates that later were delivered to Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. Quite a scholarly approach that often went over my head, but was thought provoking throughout.

    17. This was a literary approach to The Book of Mormon which gave interpretations and insights that had never occurred to me. I especially appreciated the author's system of breaking the narrative up by author/editor and helping me think through their backgrounds and purposes.

    18. Some of this was over my head for sure. But it brought up some interesting questions and ideas I had never even come close to thinking of myself.

    19. Analyzing the Book of Mormon as literary text told by three narrators. This was a reread, and I loved it as much this time as the first two.

    20. "When read verse by verse, the Book of Mormon can sink under the weight of its repetitive, awkward sentences, but when viewed from the perspective of the narrators [Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni]--who are envisioned as deliberately shaping the texts they create--it exhibits a literary exuberance that frustrates quick judgments and reductive analyses." So concludes Grant Hardy at the end of his "Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide." In many ways I think this conclusion is substantiated [...]

    21. This was a fantastic book. It is a literary analysis of the Book of Mormon text, with a particular focus on its narrative structure and the personalities and motivations of its three primary authors/characters: Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni (whether they are "authors" or "characters" in a book depends on your point of view). Dr. Hardy is a member of the church, but he tries very hard to take an objective look at the text of the Book of Mormon itself, without expressly passing judgment as to whether [...]

    22. I gave this book 4 stars because I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I appreciated Hardy's exhaustive treatment of the three narrators, Nephi, Mormon and Moroni. But then, I usually do not go far wrong in taking Deja's book recommendations. A brief example:The narrators provide a controlling perspective that can bring together diverse incidents, voices, and documents in the service of major themes such as the nature of faith, the reliability of prophecy, and the role of Israel in God's pro [...]

    23. I've read the Book of Mormon literally dozens of times over my life and while I always find value in the practice, I'll freely admit to falling into a rut occasionally, too. It's refreshing and exciting to discover a new way of look at the stories that are so familiar. Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide offers just that, a fresh perspective on this sacred text.First of all, Hardy explains that while he is a faithful Latter-day Saint, he wanted to write a book that w [...]

    24. Hardy's book does two things that make this a must-read for serious students of the Book of Mormon:First, he breaks down the text of the Book of Mormon based on who is narrating each section and examines how differently each record-keeper (primarily Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni) handles their task. This leads to some fascinating insights into the possible motivations and mindsets of the writer(s) than a more detached reading can offer. Second, he offers a coherent argument for why Joseph Smith's ex [...]

    25. I have a friend I won't see movies with because she insists on over-analyzing each character's back-story, motivations, and ultimate fates (40 years after the movie) based on the 2-hour snapshot she saw in the cinema. I don't know how someone can possibly speculate that the protagonist must have been the youngest of several children (and thus must have had a strong desire to prove himself) or would ultimately have three children but the youngest would be much younger than the other two (two plan [...]

    26. An interesting take on several aspects of the narrative format of the Book of Mormon. While there aren't a ton of answers to the issues which are brought up, the suggestions the author does provide are intriguing. The organization of the book clearly addresses topics as they come up in the order the Book of Mormon reads.For a book with "understanding" in the title I find it ironic that a lot of the writing is challenging to read. I'm not a Literature or Humanities major and the extensive use of [...]

    27. - Simply put, the best literary analysis of The Book of Mormon to date. The idea of treating The Book of Mormon as literature might be off-putting to believers, because of the assumption that literature is fiction and fiction is essentially fake. But they need not fear: Hardy aptly demonstrates that many of the tools used to analyze literature are also used to analyze historical accounts, such as those by Greek historians Thucydides (The History of the Peloponnesian War) and Herodotus (Histories [...]

    28. I have held off from writing a review on this book because I don't feel like I can do it justice. I was deeply moved and inspired by this analysis of the Book of Mormon. I believe that the BoM is scripture, written by ancient authors and translated by Joseph Smith. In this book, Grant Hardy brings those authors to life in a way that I've never experienced before. Perhaps most importantly, the impact of reading this book for me is how it has changed the questions that I ask when I approach the Bo [...]

    29. I have read The Book of Mormon from cover to cover about 15 times in my life, and though I am far from an expert on this book of scripture, it is so familiar to me that I have to work pretty hard to get something new or meaningful out of it each time I read. For this reason, Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide was a revelation for me. He dives deeply into each narrator's language, style, and personality to find golden nuggets of knowledge that I'm sure I would overlo [...]

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