Friday, March 13, 2015

My Approach to Analyzing the Book of Mormon

I have been asked multiple times over the years about how I analyze the Book of Mormon, particularly given how many different views there are of it.  

If I had to be as concise as possible, I would say that I read the actual record (trying not to let previous assumptions influence my reading) and look at how it is said to have been compiled. I think it works really well when it's judged only by what it says and what it claims to be.

Looking at Mormon and trying to understand him as an individual also answers pretty much all of the contextual complaints I've heard, again if the only standard is what it actually says about who wrote it and why it was written. Trying to understand Mormon, the man, certainly answers the war-obsession slant - and the extreme focus on secret combinations and their activities is interesting when you look, again, at the stated purpose of the book and the rise of modern-day terrorism.

I did an analysis once of the narrative voices in the Book of Mormon - not necessarily a thematic analysis, but looking closely at where Mormon interjects commentary into the record, what is pure abridgment and what is attributed directly to other authors in quoted material. I didn't write anything formal about that exercise, but it was fascinating and instructive - and it illustrated how complex and internally consistent the entire book is.

I'm open to other interpretations, but the historical one resonates best with me - with a nod toward midrash in the translation / transmission process.