With over 140 million copies in print, and serving as the principal proselytizing tool of one of the world's fastest growing faiths, the Book of Mormon is undoubtedly one of the most influential religious texts produced in the western world. Written by Terryl Givens, a leading authority on Mormonism, this compact volume offers the only concise, accessible introduction to this extraordinary work.
Givens examines the Book of Mormon first and foremost in terms of the claims that its narrators make for its historical genesis, its purpose as a sacred text, and its meaning for an audience which shifts over the course of the history it unfolds. The author traces five governing themes in particular - revelation, Christ, Zion, scripture, and covenant - and analyzes the Book's central doctrines and teachings. Some of these resonate with familiar 19th-century religious preoccupations; others consist of radical and unexpected takes on topics from the fall of Man to Christ's mortal ministries and the meaning of atonement. Givens also provides samples of a cast of characters that number in the hundreds, and analyzes representative passages from a work that encompasses tragedy, poetry, sermons, visions, family histories, and military chronicles.
Finally, this introduction surveys the contested origins and production of a work held by millions to be scripture, and reviews the scholarly debates that address questions of the record's historicity.Here then is an accessible guide to what is, by any measure, an indispensable key to understanding Mormonism. But it is also an introduction to a compelling and complex text that is too often overshadowed by the controversies that surround it.
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"Good overview of Mormonism"
My daughter converted to Mormonism. This work helped me understand their belief system so I can dialog with her more fully.
"Appropriate title; insigtful teaser"
Scholarly, well-written overview of the times, the themes and the messages of the Book of Mormon and the consistency of God's dealings with record keeping civilizations. This intro contains numerous notable examples of the depth of Dr. Givens' plumbed insights into the book and its value for any reader.
"And it came to pass..."
"The Book of Mormon likewise shatters familiar religious paradigms and reconfigures them with a totality that is resistant to compromise."
- Terryl L. Givens, The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction.
Terryl Givens' Very Short Introduction (VSI #219) to The Book of Mormon is my third selection of Oxford's Very Short Introduction series. I read it 1) because I'm a bit obsessed with the series, 2) I've been following Givens for some time and respect the work he has done and the rigor he uses when writing about LDS topics and the Book of Mormon for Oxford and others. I wanted to examine this because it was a topic I was very familiar with having studied the Book of Mormon and much of the literature surrounding it the last couple decades. I wasn't expecting to find much new in the book, and since it WAS written as an introduction to a general audience, I didn't find much new. But that doesn't mean I didn't find anything new. I rather enjoyed Givens' focus on the change of audience throughout the Book of Mormon and appreciated his analysis of the limitations of the Book of Mormon as literature. So, obviously, this is the issue with VSIs. To the reader very familiar with the subject, the books, no matter how carefully written end up being a bit of a disappointment and a retread. So, read this if you aren't familiar with the BOM, read it if you aren't familiar with the origin, narrators, structure, themes, stories, teachings of the BOM. But if you are, you might try some of Givens' more academic pieces that delve deeper.
Reading this reminds me that I still need to finish By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion and start Givens' other Oxford published books: People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture and Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity. I really have neglected my LDS theology shelf the last four or five years.
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