- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Signature Books (May 15, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1560851511
- ISBN-13: 978-1560851516
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,869,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon (Essays on Mormonism Series) Paperback – May 15, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
This collection of nine critical essays on the Book of Mormon generally evinces strong scholarship and compelling argumentation, though some of the articles are clearly superior to others. The anthology begins notably well, with Edwin Firmage Jr.'s autobiographical essay on historical criticism and the Book of Mormon. George Smith's article on early 20th-century LDS leader Brigham H. Roberts is also outstanding, documenting how Roberts publicly championed the Book of Mormon but privately experienced misgivings about its authenticity as an ancient text. Susan Staker's Secret Things, Hidden Things is the most innovative and fresh essay in the bunch, delving into the role of seership in the book and in Joseph Smith's life. Finally, David Wright's investigation into the Book of Mormon's many Isaiah passages an important, if highly technical, study. Other pieces are not as strong. Vogel's study of the conflicting accounts of the 19th-century witnesses who claimed to have seen or touched the original plates of the Book of Mormon begins promisingly enough, but ends with the disappointing and reductive assertion that these individuals were probably victims of hypnosis and group hallucination. Scott Dunn's essay, Automaticity and the Dictation of the Book of Mormon, is also a weak link, applying 1970s-era research on automatic writing (a phenomenon that many scholars and psychologists have dismissed) to Joseph Smith's purported translation of the Book of Mormon. On the whole, however, this anthology enlivens the debate about the origin and importance of the Book of Mormon.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
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Professor Edwin Firmage, Jr. writes:
"Nearly twenty years ago, as a first year-graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, my ambition was to become another Hugh Nibley, whose writings I loved since I was twelve...."
"Still a neophyte, but armed with German and a little Arabic, Greek, and Hebrew, and intent on acquiring the requisite apologetic tools, I cameo Berkeley to study ancient Near Eastern languages, particularly Egyptian, the language of mysteries par excellence.
"Not long after my arrival, I was asked to teach the Book of Mormon in the Gospel Doctrine class in my Berkeley ward. I welcomed the opportunity, as it would give me a chance to delve deeper into the book. By any standard, my wife and I were faithful Mormons who attended church, visited the temple, and prayed together. I expected my study of the Book of Mormon to result in an increase of faith as it had done on my mission. But within six months, I no longer believed the Book of Mormon to be an ancient text.
"To this day, I am not sure how it happened, although I can isolate several issues that played a role in my change of mind....I have often thought that what happened to me in Berkeley was fundamentally a conversion, or, if you like, an anti-conversion. The process had all the inscrutable suddenness that characterized some of the conversions I had witnessed as missionary. Like a conversion to faith, the effect of my change of mind propagated with amazing speed. Almost overnight my whole outlook on life was different."
"The remaining pages of this essay will present a few of what, for me in 1984, were discoveries of some importance. These do not by any means constitute a comprehensive explanation of the Book of Mormon. Nor are they offered as proof of my thesis that the book is modern, but as examples of how the assumption that is modern resolves otherwise significant difficulties."
Here are some quotations from the book:
"Both the brass plates and the Book of Mormon were written, according to Lehi, in the Egyptian language and not just Egyptian characters. Despite Hugh Nibley's efforts to make this extraordinary notion palatable, it is wildly improbable. Is one seriously to believe that for several generations Lehi's family was at home in the Egyptian language? Moreover, are we to believe that centuries before the Old Testament was translated into Greek (Septuagint), Lehi's kin had privately sponsored the translation of the entire Hebrew canon into Egyptian?" (Pg. 4)
"...we learn, for example, that the three (witnesses) did not experience the vision together; that Martin Harris's vision occurred separately. Both Harris and David Whitmer later testified that they also saw in their visions a table upon which rested a breastplate; the urim and thummim, the liahona, the sword of Laban, and brass plates---an interesting detail missing from the official testimony. The statement also fails to mention that the angel spoke, although it refers to the voice of God." (Pg. 81-82)
"Harris, for example, told several residents of Palmyra, New York, that he had seen the plates with his 'spiritual eyes.'" (Pg. 86)
"If the (eight) witnesses were shown an empty box or if ... it seems probable that at the signing of the testimony only some of the witnesses had handled them, that what was true for the group was not necessarily true for each man. Third, (Joseph) Smith may have produced a box containing the plates or perhaps something of similar weight. The witnesses were permitted to lift the box, but their view of the plates was visionary." (Pg. 104)
"During the last twelve years of his life, (B.H.) Roberts spoke with two voices regarding the Book of Mormon. When he could not come up with answers to his questions, he did not find it necessary to abandon his role as a general authority, nor to renounce his faith." (Pg. 145)
"The (Book of Mormon) conserves unacceptable translations of the KJV now clearly recognized as such from the stance of modern research." (Pg. 173)
"So far, I have tried to indicate that, far from being a miscnievous or malicious hoaxer, Joseph Smith was simply doing what the authors of the various biblical and extra-biblical pseudepigrapha were doing." (Pg. 333)
"A case in point would be Gordon H. Fraser, author of the polemical What Does the Book of Mormon Teach. One can scarcely imagine him welcoming Higher Critics of scripture to apply the same critical tools on Fraser's beloved Bible as he himself has used in vivisecting the Mormon scripture." (Pg. 334)