Friday, December 15, 2017
An Other Testament: On Typology
How does the Book of Mormon itself suggest that it should be read? According to Joseph Spencer, it may not be the way that most of us have been reading the Book of Mormon. In his book An Other Testament: On Typology, Joseph Spencer argues that the Book of Mormon is meant to be read typologically as typology is understood through the eyes of a converted soul, such as that of Lehi's son Nephi. Spencer's argument, like the Book of Mormon itself, is much more complex than that, but the simple thread that ties his argument together pertains to a particular understanding regarding the nature of grace, the law, and the prophets.
Like Grant Hardy (see also here), Spencer has read the Book of Mormon more closely and more carefully than most people. One of the benefits of reading Hardy's book Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide and Spencer's book An Other Testament: On Typology together is that their books reveal how much more there is to discover in the book that Joseph Smith called "the most correct of any book on earth." Moreover, those who suppose that Joseph Smith could have somehow written the Book of Mormon face not only the daunting obstacle of explaining the complexity of the Book of Mormon itself, but now they also face the obstacle of explaining the intricacies outlined by Hardy and Spencer that may have escaped the notice of more casual readers. Could Joseph Smith have written the Book of Mormon? First read the Book of Mormon. Then read Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide and Spencer's An Other Testament: On typology. Try if you will to come up with an argument to support the conclusion that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. All I can say to you then is... good luck.
While I don't agree with every detail of Spencer's or Hardy's readings of the Book of Mormon, their books open up new vistas for those who seek a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the Book of Mormon. You may not be persuaded by Spencer's thesis, but if you read An Other Testament: On Typology, you may never read the Book of Mormon in the same way again.