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By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion Paperback – August 21, 2003
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From Library Journal
In 1830, Joseph Smith, founder of the Christian sect known as Mormons, published writings he had translated from golden plates reputedly delivered to him by the angel Moroni. These writings were to become the controversial sacred writings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and were titled the "Book of Mormon." Although more than 100 million copies of the Book of Mormon are in print in 94 languages, it has been roundly ignored as a legitimate topic of academic study. To correct the situation, Givens (English, Univ. of Richmond; The Viper on the Hearth) has written a thickly detailed book covering the theology and history of the Book of Mormon and its influences on American culture. The result is not a casual read, and the depth of detail makes the reading difficult for those not familiar with basic theological concepts. Yet for scholars of American religious movements and those with more than a passing interest in the LDS Church, this book is a worthy place to begin one's research and study. Recommended for academic and theological libraries. Glenn Masuchika, Rockwell Collins Information Ctr., Cedar Rapids, IA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
"This outstanding book investigates the history and theology of the Book of Mormon, which Givens calls 'perhaps the most religiously influential, hotly contested, and, at least in the secular press, intellectually underinvestigated book in America.' Givens persuasively demonstrates how the Book of Mormon was trumpeted by early Latter-Day Saints more for the fact of its existence--which to them indicated an imminent apocalypse--than for its content per se. He notes that it was only during the late 20th century that Mormons began to regard the Book of Mormon as a cultural and spiritual 'keystone.' Givens's well-argued, engagingly written book takes the emerging field of Book of Mormon Studies to a new level."--Publishers Weekly
"Givens is fair-minded, sympathetic, and knows his Mormon history, as well as the history of visionaries.... Givens's surest ground is in folding Joseph Smith in with the religious mystics who claimed immediate and intimate knowledge of the supernatural. The importance of his book lies in its scholarly, unbiased, and disinterested examination of a sacred text."--Harpers
"A closely written, thoughtful (if polemical) book by a devoted scholar. It is certainly provocative reading, whether you happen to be a Mormon or not."--Benson Bobrick, New York Times Book Review
"By the Hand of Mormon, Terryl L. Givens's study of the Book of Mormon, is vastly informative, particularly to the general reader who seeks for insight into this extraordinary work. There are enigmatic splendors in the Book of Mormon, whether it was revealed to Joseph Smith or whether it emerged from his indubitable religious genius." --Harold Bloom, author of The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation
"This is an exceptional study. Terryl Givens has written an important work that increases our understanding of both the Book of Mormon and of Mormonism generally. He demonstrates how a single literary work gave rise to an enduring community, a theology, a religion, and a culture, and helps to explain not only the book's history but also the persisting success of Mormonism as an enduring belief system and worshipping community. By the Hand of Mormon is an achievement of real distinction." --Jan Shipps, author of Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons and Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition
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He wrote in the Introduction to this 2002 book, "'many non-Mormons ... wonder how any intelligent person could ever accept (the Book of Mormon) as true.' This present work is an attempt to answer that question, among others, but in the context of a larger history of the reception and impact of a scripture that has hitherto received little critical investigation."
Here are some quotations from the book:
"The mental map that Joseph (Smith) must have been forming for Book of Mormon history apparently encompassed both north and south American continents. Two virtually identical maps exist, allegedly produced by Joseph himself..." (Pg. 99)
"Joseph would both see and present the Book of Mormon not as a text in search of evidence... but as ITSELF the evidence scholars needed to solve THEIR mysteries." (Pg. 103)
"Clearly, the Smithsonian is no longer willing to claim discrepancies exist between the Book of Mormon and the current state of American archaeology (though this is in all likelihood a product of controversy-avoidance rather than [John L.] Sorenson's scholarly suasion)." (Pg. 132)
"In the case of the pre-Columbian horse, there is general agreement among scholars that it didn't exist. Nonetheless, researchers at FARMS have ferreted out bits of scattered evidence and dissenting scholars to challenge that consensus." (Pg. 141)
"At the present, therefore, while Mormons wait for an increasingly persuasive Book of Mormon apologetics... to attract more serious attention to their scripture, the Book of Mormon wars that rage most furiously are taking place WITHIN the Mormon scholarly community." (Pg. 175)