- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 7, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199731705
- ISBN-13: 978-0199731701
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 70 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Too often, the Book of Mormon has been dismissed out of hand by scholars who think it a fraud (without having read it) or the faithful who accept it as gospel truth (without having read it carefully). In this long-overdue corrective, historian Hardy takes the Book of Mormon seriously as a complex, multivocal document by analyzing the contributions and perspectives of the three men who purport to be its primary narrators: Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni. Hardy teases out the unique voice of each narrator, showing particular nuance as a student of character. He has great skill in reading between the lines—in the Book of Mormon, what is implied is often more intriguing than what is made explicit, and the editorial omissions of a redactor like Mormon can be revealing gaps. In Hardy's hands, the Book of Mormon begins to come alive as a kind of Shakespearean tragedy as Hardy nimbly employs various tools of literary criticism. It is past time for a study like this, which eschews tiresome debates about the Book of Mormon's historical authenticity in favor of a careful, lucid exploration of the book's construction, themes, and characters. Hardy's writing is clear, sometimes even piercing. This will be a classic work in the field of Mormon studies for decades to come. (Apr.)
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"What is unique about Hardy s study...is that it explicitly presents literary work on the Book of Mormon as a way forward for students of the Book of Mormon after a rather different era of study has passed. And Hardy makes a compelling case." --Mormon Studies Review
"Hardy (history & religious studies, Univ. of North Carolina, Asheville) here argues that the book of Mormon has not received, but deserves, treatment as a literary document on its own terms and that in order to do so the questions of historicity need to be bracketed. While some may question the latter approach, Hardy does provide a thorough literary analysis of the text, especially focusing on its narrative structure, the style of its main writers, and the characterizations of its principle actors. The focus, therefore, is on the narrators. Hardy begins with general observations about the book that he thinks everyone could agree on, a good starting point for any discussion of the book of Mormon. VERDICT General readers might be stymied by some of the literary theory, but clearly academics will appreciate the seriousness with which Hardy goes about the task of examining a document whose influence is often overlooked in cultural and literary history."--Library Journal
"Hardy teases out the unique voice of each narrator, showing particular nuance as a student of character. He has great skill in reading between the lines-in the Book of Mormon, what is implied is often more intriguing than what is made explicit, and the editorial omissions of a redactor like Mormon can be revealing gaps. In Hardy's hands, the Book of Mormon begins to come alive as a kind of Shakespearean tragedy as Hardy nimbly employs various tools of literary criticism. It is past time for a study like this, which eschews tiresome debates about the Book of Mormon's historical authenticity in favor of a careful, lucid exploration of the book's construction, themes, and characters. Hardy's writing is clear, sometimes even piercing. This will be a classic work in the field of Mormon studies for decades to come."--Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"The Book of Mormon is a strange work, whether read as fiction, sacred history, or revealed mythos. As the most widely distributed religious book in America after the Bible, it has inspired religious faith, derision, and often-superficial treatment by analysts put off by its ponderous style, large claims, and deceptively complex structure. On this last point, Grant Hardy's accomplishment has obliterated excuses: There now exists a key to understanding the Mormon scripture¹s narrative architecture."
--Philip Barlow, author of Mormons and the Bible: the Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion
"In a subtly intriguing analysis Hardy challenges devotional predilection, critical antagonism, and assumed irrelevance and invites all to discern an internal rationale to the Book of Mormon as a core text of what is now an expanding religious tradition."
--Douglas J. Davies, Professor in the Study of Religion, Durham University
"Grant Hardy offers an ingenious literary reading of the Book of Mormon. He enters into the minds of the book's three major historians, Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni, to show how differently they thought, as evidenced in the rich complexity of the text. Every serious student of the Book of Mormon will want to read this landmark study."
--Richard Bushman, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, Claremont Graduate University
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This book is written in a way that both believers and unbelievers can enjoy and learn about the Book of Mormon. It is not an attempt to prove the veracity of the Book by an appeal to externalities. Rather it is in an in-depth internal analysis of the text that reveals the intentional structure of the work and highlights the complexity, symmetry and beauty of the work.
Mr. Hardy explains his intent to set aside questions of authorship and origin. He does not consider them unimportant, but he does feel that those questions can be completely separate from a close analysis of the text itself. Disagreements about authorship have led many to dismiss the book outright, but whether Nephi was a real person or a creation of an author, *someone* wrote the words, and the words are what Mr. Hardy focuses on in this book.
By focusing on the words, Mr. Hardy hopes to provide a new approach by which readers might find common ground. Certainly other scriptural/religious texts such as the Bible can be read and appreciated whether one "believes" or not, and Mr. Hardy presents a compelling case that The Book of Mormon can and should be appreciated in similar (and similarly significant) ways.
Believers and non-believers alike will gain fascinating insight and new perspectives into the narrators of the book, be they real or imaginary. Either Nephi narrated his life and history, or an author (or authors) created a story framed and structured by a narrator/character. Whatever you believe, this type of analysis leads to a much greater understanding of the book and a much greater appreciation of its depth and complexity.
He made it clear that the three narrators had different styles of making their points along with different focuses. It is still clear that the focus of the Book of Mormon is about Christ, but is so much more. Among other things Nephi was focused on the gathering of Israel and applying Israelite scriptures to his descendants. Mormon was more of a historian trying to teach through events important truths. Moroni was trying to teach that the best way to know truth is through direct revelation.
Mormon's style was more crafted and pre-meditated. He told similar stories at least twice, even using almost identical phrasing. Moroni closed the Book of Mormon three times, using very comparable words. Most of his writings were either direct quotes from other scriptures or existing scriptures slightly modified to impart what he was trying to say.
There were many literary techniques used throughout the Book of Mormon. From a scholarly point of view, it is a very rich book.
I highly recommend this book to either an LDS looking for a fresh perspective of the Book of Mormon, or a scholar trying to understand the book as a work of literature, or as someone who is just getting interested in learning more about the book. I found the time spent reading this book very worthwhile.