Friday, December 8, 2017

Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide

Understanding the Book of Mormon, by Grant Hardy
Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide is a remarkable book.  It is remarkable in terms of Hardy's very close and careful reading of the Book of Mormon, but it is even more remarkable for the way in which it inspires both experienced readers and skeptics alike to take a closer look at the Book of Mormon.  If you think that you have read the Book of Mormon closely and carefully, I encourage you to read Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide to catch a glimpse of what you might have missed.

In his article "The Book of Mormon: A Great Answer to 'The Great Question'", Elder Neal A. Maxwell expressed his eagerness to broaden and deepen his understanding of the Book of Mormon: 

"For my part, I am glad the book will be with us 'as long as the earth shall stand.' I need and want additional time. For me, towers, courtyards, and wings await inspection. My tour of it has never been completed. Some rooms I have yet to enter, and there are more flaming fireplaces waiting to warm me. Even the rooms I have glimpsed contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights and design and decor dating from Eden. There are also sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly prepared by predecessors which await all of us. Yet, we as Church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall to the mansion."

In a similar vein, Hardy has explored many of the towers, courtyards, and wings of the Book of Mormon.  He has entered rooms and found fireplaces, furnishings, panels, decor, and banquet tables that may have escaped the notice of rushed readers.  Hardy ventures beyond the entry hall, into the mansion, and his exploration invites us to do the same.  Whether we have been hurried tourists or skeptics in the past, Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide invites us to enter the Book of Mormon mansion with a fresh perspective.  

In some instances, Hardy stretches his interpretations beyond credible speculation.  Nevertheless, for the most part, his study of the Book of Mormon is enhanced by his capacious knowledge of world religions and his keen literary interests.  Throughout his book, Hardy highlights the editorial efforts of the three major prophet-historians of the Book of Mormon, namely Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni.  The result is a panoply of penetrating insights into a book that for good reason members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regard as a "marvelous work and a wonder."

There is simply too much in Hardy's book, and even more in the Book of Mormon itself, to appreciate in one short blog post.  But it is a such pleasure to read Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide in part because it allows the reader to enter into a conversation with someone who treasures the book enough to read it carefully.  The Book of Mormon is anything but "chloroform in print."  Critics have wrongly supposed that the Book of Mormon is not "one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion of it."  The Book of Mormon does not easily reward the casual or cavalier reader.  Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide demonstrates that the Book of Mormon brims with meaning for those who are willing to pay the price of careful study.  But you don't have take my word for it.

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