Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Book of Mormon

by Joseph Smith

This is my second attempt at reading this book. I bailed on the first attempt, many years ago, as I found the book, ah, uninspiring. Now and then, I thought about giving it another go, but never bothered to until a couple months ago. I got into a conversation with a couple of Mormon missionaries and felt a bit ashamed that I had rejected their views based on such a cursory reading. So I dusted off the book and tried again. This time, with determination, I persevered and was able to read it through.

This time I found the book, ah, uninspiring.

The cover of my copy of The Book of Mormon proclaims it to be "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". As I read the book, I had in mind the other testaments, namely the Bible. I was especially mindful as to how well the three testaments fit together. The problem was, The Book of Mormon never quite fit. It tells the tale of Lehi, an Israelite from one of the tribes of Joseph. He is a righteous man, living in Jerusalem around 600 BC, soon before the Babylonians will come and destroy the city and take the people into captivity. God calls Lehi to take his family and leave Jerusalem, which they do, and head towards a new promised land across the waters. They settle in this new country, but troubles arise even as they leave Jerusalem. Sons Laman and Lemuel go along but are not totally on board with Dad and his spirituality. The younger Nephi, however, is a faithful son and heir to his father's faith. The reader is then treated to about a thousand years worth of rebellions and revivals among the children of Lehi, punctuated by prophecies and then a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ.

So that kind of sounds like the history of the children of Israel, right? Well, compare my pedestrian prose above to the rich text of the Old Testament, and you can start to understand my big beef with The Book of Mormon. Except where it quotes the Bible, the text of The Book of Mormon is very bland. Instead of the thought provoking imagery of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel detailing the transgressions of Israel, you get a regular refrain of "Repent ye, repent ye!" over a generic set of sins. Instead of complex characters like David, Ahab or Nebuchadnezzar, you get guys like Nephi or Ammoron who come across as complex as 1950s television characters.

Of course, beyond that, there's the theology. I'm a Lutheran Christian, so I was raised  hearing that we're saved by faith in Jesus, not by our own good works. In The Book of Mormon, it's all about the good pious people versus the nasty rebels. Jesus will forgive you, sure, but only after you turn yourself around and start behaving. It goes against what I've been taught. And since The Book of Mormon doesn't read like it's in the same class as the Bible, I'm not inclined to question my current beliefs.

Just toss it into the Elbe River.
LibraryThing link


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