September 22, 2008

Gardner's Book of Mormon Myths: Number 1

Likening With Care, Part  8

"I think the top of my list of misconceptions is 'the Book of Mormon is written for our day.' That is a dangerous one to list as a misconception since General Authorities have said it in just that way. However, it is both right and wrong."1

The most obvious source of this view comes from Moroni's ghostly admonition:
Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing (Mormon 8:34-35).
We know of no one who read it anciently (save Moroni, and we don't know that, it is just a logical assumption). Therefore, it really is a text that is used for a modern audience. It is also very true that we can gain much from it. The place where I think it is a misconception is that we therefore assume that Mormon understood us and specifically wrote things that we would understand. I see no evidence of that at all. Mormon wrote to future Lamanites (and understood that the future Gentiles would get to see it as well). Nevertheless, his concerns for were for the children of Lehi.
There is also nothing in the text that suggests that he saw the ultimate audience as significantly different from the people he knew. In this, he is appropriately ancient. That it is "ours" is our privilege, but not because it was designed for a people like us. As with the Bible, it is applicable to us even though it was written for a different culture and assuming a different time.

One example of Mormon's writing "for our day" but not necessarily in a way we might expect is in his treatment of race, which will be discussed with Gardner in the next part of the series.

See the other four Book of Mormon misconceptions:

Five, four, three, and two.

Brant Gardner, personal email in author's possession, Sept. 1, 2008.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Gardner. Mormon assumed that everyone looked at the world around them as the Nephites did. We, in this century fall into the same trap and assume that those living in Joseph Smith's time viewed the world around them as we do. For example, in Joseph's time, they were still using Metes and Bounds to describe property boundaries. The Geological Survey was just getting started and land descriptions based on rectangular coordinates were just beginning to be required for title transfers. Reading ancient documents and even documents only a couple of hundred years old requires some knowledge of the culture in which the documents were written.

Larry Poulsen

BHodges said...

Larry, good to see you!

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed this series.

Larry Poulsen

poulsen said...

Checking to see if my google account works and to up the comment count

Larry Poulsen

BHodges said...

Looks good, larry.

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T20 WorldCup

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