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Customer Review

42 of 161 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Blind faith, November 9, 2010
This review is from: Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide (Hardcover)
This book presents a detailed discussion of the Book of Mormon. However, when one starts from the position of blind faith, accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet and everything he wrote as a revelation from God, much of the discussion ends up being so laudatory it detracts from any of the value judgments the author makes. This is the same problem seen with the reviews here of Grant Hardy's book.

The Ostlings, in Mormon America, point out many of the problems and errors, historical and archaeological, in The Book of Mormon and there are a number of other books that analyze the problems in a much more critical way, including one written by the Mormon scholar, Grant Palmer, The Insider's View of The Book of Mormon. There are also a number of books that look at the origins of The Pearl of Great Price, one of the three sacred texts of Mormons. The latter is based on translations Joseph Smith claimed he made of Egyptian papyri, which - unfortunately for the church - still exist and have nothing to do with what he wrote but are hieroglyphics and pictures from the commonplace Book of Breathings, a Book of the Dead, an Egyptian burial guide.

The most significant problem with Grant Hardy's book is that it tries to make the Book of Mormon into something it is not. The Book of Mormon is not great literature, nor is it filled with much wisdom. Regardless of whether you think Joseph Smith a prophet or a charlatan, the Book of Mormon is not pleasant to read; most will find it is poorly written, and has little to recommend it to non-Mormons, especially when compared to the King James Bible. It lacks the poetry of Psalms, the Wisdom of Solomon, or the charity and ethics in The Sermon of The Mount and other lessons in the New Testament. It is not surprising that few outside the Mormon Church pay attention to the book. You will find no quotations of Joseph Smith in any Book of Quotations, literary or philosophical, and no English Department is going to use The Book of Mormon as a set-book, even if Harold Bloom has a few good things to say about it. Far better to read and understand Shakespeare, Goethe or Milton, Herman Nellville or Steinbeck, or a hundred other writers of note. There you will find much more poetry, insight into humanity, and philosophy than in The Book of Mormon. Grant Hardy does not take that view, nor can one expect him to.
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Showing 1-10 of 262 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 14, 2010, 6:38:56 PM PST
I agree with you. I think the greatest challenge to the Book of Mormon is going to come from the work at Stanford University where Matt Jockers have produced an important study which seems to support a view held by a minority (lead by Dale Broadhurst) that the Book of Mormon is a combination of the writing of Sidney Rigdon and Solomon Spalding. Time will tell. It's an exciting time. It has made me delve more into the book and see the interesting patterns.

Posted on Nov 15, 2010, 11:21:47 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2010, 11:03:37 AM PST
Mobster 94 says:
Blind faith goes both ways, and is evident in your review. That is, if you *reject* Joseph Smith as a prophet and take everything he wrote as a fraud, your "review" ends up being so blatantly hostile that it's difficult to take it seriously. Adding to your own bias, you cite a non-Mormon and a disaffected "insider" to make your claim that the Book of Mormon has "many... problems and errors." (I've heard Grant Palmer's concerns from his own mouth and fail to find them persuasive, his resume notwithstanding.) That is not a very credible rejection of Hardy's work. To that you add your own swipes at the Pearl of Great Price, all the while ignoring the most credible evaluation of the book, your own experience with it.

In other words, what does it matter where the Pearl of Great Price came from when you have the majesty of the book's teachings to review directly? (You don't comment on your own reading of it.) I'm hard-pressed to find more beautiful teachings anywhere--in philosophy or literature--about the creation, the mortal condition, and the eternities. And count me among those who find the Book of Mormon great literature. Yes, it's complex and at times a bit of a challenging read. But I also find it unequaled in wisdom and profundity on matters that truly matter, those about God, His purposes, and our own potential. And to the profound, we can add the great practical wisdom of how to get along with one another in society and the family.

If you don't like the Book of Mormon, fine. If you have specific issues with it, fine. I'd recommend that you articulate them rather than taking broad, generalized pot shots at a commentary about the book. My experience with critics of the Book of Mormon is that they haven't made the effort to read it carefully enough to make credible critiques. I have read it (and the Bible) enough to find great value in its prose, its doctrine, and its authorship.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010, 3:54:50 PM PST
C. Godfrey says:
I've read the BoM carefully and God's witness to me is that it is false. There is absolutely no proof as to the veracity of the BoM or any BoM claims. There is plenty of evidence for the claims of the Bible, so there is not "blind faith" involved when believing it as there is with the BoM. There is nothing "beautiful" about the writings of the BoM except that which was obviously plagiarized from the Bible. The BoM itself does not point to any Mormon doctrines. My experience with Mormons (and I have spoken with many Mormons) is that they believe the BoM on blind faith; they have to, due to the lack of evidence for it. Question for you - can you point me to ANY of the unique places in the BoM that are not already spoken of in the Bible?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010, 4:20:51 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 15, 2010, 4:21:53 PM PST
Mobster 94 says:
C.G. I would never presume to question someone's witness from God. I, myself, use my own witness as my primary "proof" of the Book of Mormon's authenticity. (BTW, you yourself have not--and cannot--*prove* your claim that the BoM is false; you only have your belief.)

If I understand your request, you want me to point out physical/geographic places that are unique in the BoM? If that's what you're asking for, my reply is that I reject your premise. Why is it required that the BoM identify unique places? I'm not a geologist interested in physical locations; I'm a believing Christian interested in living "by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God." To that end, I am interested in studying doctrines and receiving revelation from God and living peaceably with my brothers and sisters, including you.

If that's not your request, please forgive my misunderstanding and clarify.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010, 5:24:32 PM PST
C. Godfrey says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010, 5:35:25 PM PST
You find with Mormons that will demand really really hard evidence from you to disapprove the BOM while allowing the smallest amount of evidence to support their view. Scholars say there were no horses in the New World during BOM times, so Mormons argue that some evidence will be found later to prove them right or because the Spanierds called the tapir "little horse" that that qualifies as a horse. Hardy has written a book that was the creation of a Solomon Spalding with theological matters added by Sidney Rigdon.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010, 8:04:01 PM PST
Mobster 94 says:
Of course there is a Jerusalem: That's where Lehi and his family came from. I didn't say that I couldn't prove BoM geography, I'm merely not interested in proving it. That's a red herring that distracts from the book's true purpose: to testify of Jesus Christ. That's my core interest, and historicity, geography, monetary systems, military strategy, and other ancillary issues are of a distant secondary consideration. They're interesting but unimportant, other than as a testament as to the impossibility that Joseph Smith either made it all up or was a really good guesser.

And let's not get into silly you're-not-a-Christian accusations. Those are beneath the dignity of both of us.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010, 8:06:11 PM PST
Mobster 94 says:
Noel, if the Book of Mormon is the creation of Spalding and Rigdon, then why isn't the writing style of either found in the book? That's just one of many such questions you'll have to answer to hold to this long-ago debunked theory.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010, 8:18:03 PM PST
No the style of both writers has been found in the BOM from the latest research from Stanford University , Dr Matt Jockers from the English Dept and Dr Witten from stats along with a Dr Craig Criddle. It has NOT BEEN DEBUNKED. The response by Bruce Schaalje from BYU will be interesting. Go to premormon.com for some more information on this issue.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010, 8:45:57 PM PST
Mobster 94 says:
Noel, I just went to check out premormon.com. With all due respect, I'm really not interested in murky discussions of opinions on where the LDS faith may or may not have originated. I've learned by long experience to avoid such speculative groups; their ruminations don't really shed much light.

I am primarily interested in the Church today. While I find history interesting, I can't live there so I focus on the current. Also, I have thoroughly investigated the claims of Joseph Smith and modern Mormonism, and I find a very good fit for myself there. I am persuade far more by my own experience than the scholarship of professors, including those in my own faith. Again, while I find them interesting--I am no ostrich burying my intellect in the sand--they aren't the "bread of life" that the Holy Ghost is to me.

I do thank you sincerely, though, for the inherent respect in the absence of invectives in your post. And while I will keep myself open to what Drs. Jockers, Witten and Criddle have to say, my understanding is that Rigdon and Spaulding are not found in the BoM authorship voices. If they can convincingly show otherwise, I'll have to seriously consider that. I imagine the debate will rage on...
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