Archive for the ‘The Book of Mormon’ Category

A cover from dime novels and the NY Detective Library (Courtesy of the University of Rochester’s Rare Books and Special Collection)

compiled by Fred W. Anson
In my last article, I considered the interesting genre parallels between the Book of Mormon and 19th Century Dime Novels (which in Joseph Smith’s day were known as “Story Novels” and typically were serialized in newspapers)1. In that article, I gave examples of frontier and historical fiction. However, Dime Novels were also the birthplace of crime fiction, detective stories, and today’s modern mystery story. While this particular Dime Novel genre didn’t really come into its own as a standalone genre later in the 19th Century it was still present earlier in the century as well. As Wikipedia explains:

“The genre of mystery novels is a young form of literature that has developed since the early-19th century. The rise of literacy began in the years of the English Renaissance and, as people began to read over time, they became more individualistic in their thinking. As people became more individualistic in their thinking, they developed a respect for human reason and the ability to solve problems.

Perhaps a reason that mystery fiction was unheard of before the 19th century was due in part to the lack of true police forces. Before the Industrial Revolution, many of the towns would have constables and a night watchman at best. Naturally, the constable would be aware of every individual in the town, and crimes were either solved quickly or left unsolved entirely. As people began to crowd into cities, police forces became institutionalized, and the need for detectives was realized – thus the mystery novel arose.”
(see Wikipedia, “Mystery Fiction”

In Joseph Smith’s day, the genre was just in its infancy and the setting was more typically rural than urban. So the setting for a Story Novel mystery in his day would be a crime on the American Frontier rather than say, Chicago, or New York.

So what does any of this have to do with the Book of Mormon? Well, nothing, except for the fact that we have an archetypical 19th Century Dime Novel detective story anachronistically in a work that claims to be ancient – the entire ninth chapter of the book of Helaman in fact. Sadly, due to its length, I couldn’t include it in my prior article, but I also didn’t want it to get away either. So here we are.

In the Book of Mormon, our intrepid Dime Novel detective is Nephi, the son of the Prophet Helaman (the second), who was the son of the Prophet Helaman who was the son of King Benjamin – got all that? (if nothing else, Joseph Smith was great at recycling Book of Mormon names wasn’t he?). This Wikipedia synopsis will set the stage for our story:

Upon returning to the “land of his nativity”, Nephi found the people in a state of “awful wickedness.” The Gadianton robbers had usurped positions of power and the government had, therefore, become full of corruption. [see Helaman 7:4] 

Being filled with sorrow because of the wickedness of the people, Nephi ‘bowed himself’ and prayed upon a tower in his garden, which was by the highway leading to the ‘chief market’ in the city of Zarahemla. In the ‘agony of his soul,’ Nephi lamented the state of the people and wished that he could have lived during the time of Lehi, the forefather of his people. [see Helaman 7:6-10]

Those passing by heard his prayer of anguish, and they ran and called others together to determine the cause of this great mourning. Upon seeing the gathering people, Nephi turned his attention from praying to preaching. He counseled the onlookers to repent and to overcome the attraction of pride and riches. He prophesied of the loss of their great cities if they did not repent and earn the protection of the Lord. He also explained that the Lamanites, who were traditionally more wicked, would enjoy a better fate in the afterlife, and live longer in the promised land because they had not “sinned against that great knowledge” that the Nephites had received – representing a principle of the accountability that comes with knowledge. Lastly, he testified that he knew what he had spoken was true “because the Lord God has made them known” unto him. [Helaman 7:7-19]

Upon hearing Nephi’s words, there were some judges, who were members of the Gadianton robbers against whom Nephi taught, who roused others to opposition in an attempt to have Nephi arrested and tried. Others, however, were convinced of the truth of his words to the extent that those who were opposed feared to lay their hands on him. [see Helaman 8:1-10]

Seeing that he had convinced at least some of the crown, Nephi continued his preaching. He began by addressing the skeptics in the group who did not believe in his status as a prophet of God by comparing himself to Moses using the example of the parting of the Red Sea. From there he transferred into a discussion of different prophecies that had been made concerning the coming of Christ, first by teaching of the parallels between the serpent staff Moses raised in the wilderness and then teaching of the Priesthood given to Abraham, which was after the order of Christ. He also mentioned prophecies by Zenos, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Jeremiah he addressed specifically with respect to the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, something the people knew of from the descendants of Mulek in their own land. Lastly, he taught of the people’s ancestors, including Nephi and Lehi, as witnesses of the “coming of Christ.” [see Helaman 8:11-24]

Then, after reminding the people of their wickedness due to choosing riches and pride rather than following the counsel of these prophets, he testified that their destruction was “even at [their] doors” and reveals the secret murder of their Chief Judge by his brother – both of whom were Gadianton robbers. [see Helman 8:25-28]

Five members of the crowd ran to the judgment-seat to test Nephi’s words.
(Wikipedia, “Nephi, son of Helaman”

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, the game is afoot!

An artist’s rendering of a scene from Helaman 9. (“Seantum” by Briana Shawcroft)

Helaman 9:1-41
Behold, now it came to pass that when Nephi had spoken these words, certain men who were among them ran to the judgment-seat; yea, even there were five who went, and they said among themselves, as they went:

Behold, now we will know of a surety whether this man be a prophet and God hath commanded him to prophesy such marvelous things unto us. Behold, we do not believe that he hath; yea, we do not believe that he is a prophet; nevertheless, if this thing which he has said concerning the chief judge be true, that he be dead, then will we believe that the other words which he has spoken are true.

And it came to pass that they ran in their might, and came in unto the judgment-seat; and behold, the chief judge had fallen to the earth, and did lie in his blood.

And now behold, when they saw this they were astonished exceedingly, insomuch that they fell to the earth; for they had not believed the words which Nephi had spoken concerning the chief judge.

But now, when they saw they believed, and fear came upon them lest all the judgments which Nephi had spoken should come upon the people; therefore they did quake, and had fallen to the earth.

Now, immediately when the judge had been murdered—he being stabbed by his brother by a garb of secrecy, and he fled, and the servants ran and told the people, raising the cry of murder among them;

And behold the people did gather themselves together unto the place of the judgment-seat—and behold, to their astonishment they saw those five men who had fallen to the earth.

And now behold, the people knew nothing concerning the multitude who had gathered together at the garden of Nephi; therefore they said among themselves: These men are they who have murdered the judge, and God has smitten them that they could not flee from us.

And it came to pass that they laid hold on them, and bound them and cast them into prison. And there was a proclamation sent abroad that the judge was slain, and that the murderers had been taken and were cast into prison.

And it came to pass that on the morrow the people did assemble themselves together to mourn and to fast, at the burial of the great chief judge who had been slain.

And thus also those judges who were at the garden of Nephi, and heard his words, were also gathered together at the burial.

And it came to pass that they inquired among the people, saying: Where are the five who were sent to inquire concerning the chief judge whether he was dead? And they answered and said: Concerning this five whom ye say ye have sent, we know not; but there are five who are the murderers, whom we have cast into prison.

And it came to pass that the judges desired that they should be brought; and they were brought, and behold they were the five who were sent; and behold the judges inquired of them to know concerning the matter, and they told them all that they had done, saying:

We ran and came to the place of the judgment-seat, and when we saw all things even as Nephi had testified, we were astonished insomuch that we fell to the earth; and when we were recovered from our astonishment, behold they cast us into prison.

Now, as for the murder of this man, we know not who has done it; and only this much we know, we ran and came according as ye desired, and behold he was dead, according to the words of Nephi.

And now it came to pass that the judges did expound the matter unto the people, and did cry out against Nephi, saying: Behold, we know that this Nephi must have agreed with some one to slay the judge, and then he might declare it unto us, that he might convert us unto his faith, that he might raise himself to be a great man, chosen of God, and a prophet.

And now behold, we will detect this man, and he shall confess his fault and make known unto us the true murderer of this judge.

And it came to pass that the five were liberated on the day of the burial. Nevertheless, they did rebuke the judges in the words which they had spoken against Nephi, and did contend with them one by one, insomuch that they did confound them.

Nevertheless, they caused that Nephi should be taken and bound and brought before the multitude, and they began to question him in divers ways that they might cross him, that they might accuse him to death—

Saying unto him: Thou art confederate; who is this man that hath done this murder? Now tell us, and acknowledge thy fault; saying, Behold here is money; and also we will grant unto thee thy life if thou wilt tell us, and acknowledge the agreement which thou hast made with him.

But Nephi said unto them: O ye fools, ye uncircumcised of heart, ye blind, and ye stiffnecked people, do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?

O ye ought to begin to howl and mourn, because of the great destruction which at this time doth await you, except ye shall repent.

Behold ye say that I have agreed with a man that he should murder Seezoram, our chief judge. But behold, I say unto you, that this is because I have testified unto you that ye might know concerning this thing; yea, even for a witness unto you, that I did know of the wickedness and abominations which are among you.

And because I have done this, ye say that I have agreed with a man that he should do this thing; yea, because I showed unto you this sign ye are angry with me, and seek to destroy my life.

And now behold, I will show unto you another sign, and see if ye will in this thing seek to destroy me.

Behold I say unto you: Go to the house of Seantum, who is the brother of Seezoram, and say unto him—

Has Nephi, the pretended prophet, who doth prophesy so much evil concerning this people, agreed with thee, in the which ye have murdered Seezoram, who is your brother?

And behold, he shall say unto you, Nay.

And ye shall say unto him: Have ye murdered your brother?

And he shall stand with fear, and wist not what to say. And behold, he shall deny unto you; and he shall make as if he were astonished; nevertheless, he shall declare unto you that he is innocent.

But behold, ye shall examine him, and ye shall find blood upon the skirts of his cloak.

And when ye have seen this, ye shall say: From whence cometh this blood? Do we not know that it is the blood of your brother?

And then shall he tremble, and shall look pale, even as if death had come upon him.

And then shall ye say: Because of this fear and this paleness which has come upon your face, behold, we know that thou art guilty.

And then shall greater fear come upon him; and then shall he confess unto you, and deny no more that he has done this murder.

And then shall he say unto you, that I, Nephi, know nothing concerning the matter save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God.

And it came to pass that they went and did, even according as Nephi had said unto them. And behold, the words which he had said were true; for according to the words he did deny; and also according to the words he did confess.

And he was brought to prove that he himself was the very murderer, insomuch that the five were set at liberty, and also was Nephi.

And there were some of the Nephites who believed on the words of Nephi; and there were some also, who believed because of the testimony of the five, for they had been converted while they were in prison.

And now there were some among the people, who said that Nephi was a prophet.

And there were others who said: Behold, he is a god, for except he was a god he could not know of all things. For behold, he has told us the thoughts of our hearts, and also has told us things; and even he has brought unto our knowledge the true murderer of our chief judge.

And there you have it folks: Nephi, Son of Helaman, Dime Novel Detective Extraordinaire! Nick Carter, Allan Pinkerton, and William J. Burns (aka “America’s Sherlock Holmes”) would be proud.2

NOTES
1 “Throughout the Victorian period, novels in serial parts were published in abundance in newspapers and magazines—by far the most popular form—or in discreet parts issued in installments, usually 20 monthly issues.

Many 19th century authors established themselves by first publishing original fiction in serial format. Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, George Meredith, Robert Louis Stevenson and more, all published serial novels, either in monthly magazines or as discreet serial parts.”
(University of Victoria Library, “19th Century Serial Novels”

2 For those unfamiliar with these names, here’s a primer:

Nick Carter
“Nick Carter is a fictional character who began as a dime novel private detective in 1886 and has appeared in a variety of formats over more than a century. The character was first conceived by Ormond G. Smith and created by John R. Coryell. Carter headlined his own magazine for years, and was then part of a long-running series of novels from 1964 to 1990. Films were created based on Carter in France, Czechoslovakia and Hollywood. Nick Carter has also appeared in many comic books and in radio programs.”
(Wikipedia, “Nick Carter (literary character)”

Allan Pinkerton
“Allan J. Pinkerton (25 August 1819 – 1 July 1884) was a Scottish–American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency…

Pinkerton produced numerous popular detective books, ostensibly based on his own exploits and those of his agents. Some were published after his death, and they are considered to have been more motivated by a desire to promote his detective agency than a literary endeavour. Most historians believe that Allan Pinkerton hired ghostwriters, but the books nonetheless bear his name and no doubt reflect his views.”
(Wikipedia, “Allan Pinkerton”

Willliam J. Burns
“Despite the fact that Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional characters, though, their cultural influence can even be discerned in the history of the world outside of the printed page. Ever since the end of the Victorian age, real detectives and police officials have often been held to the standards of fiction and have even seen their exploits re-cast as updated versions of one of Doyle’s many gaslight era tales. One American law-enforcement figure, in particular, bore the burden of living up to Holmes’s legacy: William J. Burns, an Irish-American sleuth who bore more than a passing resemblance to Doyle himself.

According to William R. Hunt’s biography Front-Page Detective: William J. Burns and the Detective Profession, 1880-1930, Burns was a friend of both President Theodore Roosevelt and Doyle—the latter of whom publicly hailed Burns as “America’s Sherlock Holmes.” For much of his career, Burns was almost guaranteed a headline each time he caught on to a forgery or risked his life in the line of duty…”
(Benjamin Welton, “The Man Arthur Conan Doyle Called ‘America’s Sherlock Holmes'”, The Atlantic, November 20, 2013) 

by Fred W. Anson
Dime Novels are as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. They are so entrenched in the American psyche and culture that most consumers of American Pop Culture have been exposed to the Dime Novel genre even if they have never actually seen or read a Dime Novel. As Wikipedia explains: 

“The dime novel is a form of late 19th-century and early 20th-century U.S. popular fiction issued in series of inexpensive paperbound editions. The term dime novel has been used as a catchall term for several different but related forms, referring to story papers, five- and ten-cent weeklies, “thick book” reprints, and sometimes early pulp magazines. The term was used as a title as late as 1940, in the short-lived pulp magazine Western Dime Novels. In the modern age, the term dime novel has been used to refer to quickly written, lurid potboilers, usually as a pejorative to describe a sensationalized but superficial literary work.”
(Wikipedia, “Dime Novel”

If you have ever seen an early 20th Century Western, or Mystery that was produced in America you have been exposed to Dime Novel fiction. American Television, Radio, Movies, popular literature, and plays all followed the Dime Novel formula which was as follows: 

“[Western] Protagonists would often come into conflict with Native Americans, which would become a recurring feature of the genre and lend it a reputation for racism and jingoism. These stories are occasionally fictional accounts of real historical figures, such as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but more often the characters are completely fictional, like Nick Whiffles. It wasn’t long before the setting of these novels shifted to the contemporary Western frontier, especially mining camps in the Dakotas and California. At first, outlaws, gamblers, and other anti-heroes were especially popular, such as Edward L. Wheeler’s Deadwood Dick or real-life gang leader Jesse James. These characters were almost always driven to a life of crime by their circumstances, but often had basically good intentions. With growing concerns about the moral appropriateness of dime novels for children, however, stories about cowboys and plainsmen came to replace outlaws…

At the dawn of the dime novel era, historical fiction was almost as popular as Western stories, with tales about the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 predominating. In many ways, America’s popular conception of its early history can be attributed to these novels, which often focused on the exploits of self-reliant patriots, either spies or privateers, who would heroically stand up against English and Tory oppression…

Real historical figures sometimes featured in these novels, like George Washington or Ulysses S. Grant, but more often these stories deal with few real historical events or characters, even sometimes leaving the date unspecified (e.g. 187-). When historical figures do appear, their character is often based on their popular conception, with seldom any relation to reality.”
(North Illinois University, “Nickels and Dimes: Genre”)

For those of us who have read through the Book of Mormon at least once is this all beginning to sound eerily familiar: 

      • Morality Plays
      • War Rhetoric
      • Battlefield Narratives
      • Racism
      • Jingoism
      • Patriotism
      • Cardboard, Two-Dimensional characters
      • Heroes (the “White Hats”) 
      • Outlaws (the “Black Hats”) 
      • Self Reliant Patriots (fighting to defend their religion, freedom, peace, and families)
      • Spies 
      • Privateers
      • Real Historical Figures inserted into fictional settings

Interesting, isn’t it? Now consider all the above in light of the following excerpts from the Book of Mormon: 

Mosiah 19:4-7
And now there was a man among them whose name was Gideon, and he being a strong man and an enemy to the king, therefore he drew his sword, and swore in his wrath that he would slay the king.

And it came to pass that he fought with the king; and when the king saw that he was about to overpower him, he fled and ran and got upon the tower which was near the temple.

And Gideon pursued after him and was about to get upon the tower to slay the king, and the king cast his eyes round about towards the land of Shemlon, and behold, the army of the Lamanites were within the borders of the land.

And now the king cried out in the anguish of his soul, saying: Gideon, spare me, for the Lamanites are upon us, and they will destroy us; yea, they will destroy my people.

Now just recontextualize that for the Old West with guns, Sheriffs and Desperados and you have a great Western story, don’t you? 

Helaman 6:16-20
And in the commencement of the sixty and seventh year the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again.

For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain.

And now behold, those murderers and plunderers were a band who had been formed by Kishkumen and Gadianton. And now it had come to pass that there were many, even among the Nephites, of Gadianton’s band. But behold, they were more numerous among the more wicked part of the Lamanites. And they were called Gadianton’s robbers and murderers.

And it was they who did murder the chief judge Cezoram, and his son, while in the judgment-seat; and behold, they were not found.

And now it came to pass that when the Lamanites found that there were robbers among them they were exceedingly sorrowful; and they did use every means in their power to destroy them off the face of the earth.

And there it is, another otherwise good territory has privateering outlaws running amuck. So the good guys have to hunt down them and clear them out. Several exciting armed conflicts ensue. Sound familiar?

Alma 46:19-24, 34-36
And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:

Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.

Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression.

Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.

Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment…

Now, Moroni being a man who was appointed by the chief judges and the voice of the people, therefore he had power according to his will with the armies of the Nephites, to establish and to exercise authority over them.

And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.

And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites.

I can almost feel the flag fluttering in the air while Moroni proudly hugs his scripture to his chest, can’t you? Haven’t we all seen this scene before somewhere… 

The Jay Ward cartoon characters Dudley Do-Right and his nemesis Snidely Whiplash were satirical takes on Dime Novel heroes and villains as they manifested themselves in the American Silent Film era.

1 Nephi 4:6-27
And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.

Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.

And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.

And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.

And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.

And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.

And after I had done this, I went forth unto the treasury of Laban. And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury.

And he supposed me to be his master, Laban, for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins.

And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.

And I spake unto him as if it had been Laban.

And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls.

And I also bade him that he should follow me.

And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me.

And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls.

And there you have it, a good and righteous man is forced to slay an evil villain for the sake of the greater good due to circumstances beyond his control. Surely this is one that we’ve never heard before, well, except for in just about every Dime Novel Western Hero story ever, that is, of course.

I think you get the idea, here. I would encourage you to read (or reread) the Book of Mormon in light of these Dime Novel genre formulations and consider how they just pop out at you. 

Consider, for example, The “Dudley Do-Rightism” of the courageous and righteous Nephi against the constant malice and murmurings of the scheming and the conniving “Snidely Whiplash” characters of Laman and Lemuel in the opening books of the Book of Mormon. 

Then compare and contrast those simplistic protagonists and antagonists against the deep, complex, characters in the Bible. The biblical characters are never cardboard, they’re deep and conflicted. Case in point, King David was a man after God’s whole heart due to his devotion and passion for God, but he was also a murderer and an adulterer. This isn’t a superficial, shallow, easily understood, literary figure, is it? 

Ditto for Noah who God calls just and perfect (see Genesis 6:9) but who still manages to get crazy, drunk, and naked in the midst of God’s calling on his life. Furthermore, the Noah narrative in the Bible, it has been noted, has strong parallels to the Sumerian and Babylonian flood narratives (see Wikipedia, “Gilgamesh Flood Myth”)And let’s not forget the book of Job for which there are similar “lamentation songs” and stories from the ancient Mesopotamian basin (see, for example, Morris Jastrow, Jr., “A Babylonian Parallel to the Story of Job”)Thus, regardless of whether you believe that it’s divinely inspired or not, the body of evidence is clear that the Bible is indeed ancient, Middle Eastern literature.

On the other hand, The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient work of Middle Eastern origin but is actually more reflective of a uniquely American literary genre from the 19th Century – which would suggest that it is neither. Rather, it is strongly suggestive of American culture in general and 19th Century American culture in particular. Couple that with the fact that as of a decade ago, 150-Million copies of The Book of Mormon had been published (see LdS Newsroom, “Book of Mormon Reaches 150-Million Copies”) and you will understand why my assertion is that based on the body of evidence, The Book of Mormon is, quite simply, the most successful 19th Century Dime Novel in history. 

Presenting the Most Successful 19th Century Dime Novel in History.

… Read the Book of Mormon Without Proper Mormon Grooming!

Social Justice Warrior, Greta “How Dare You!” Thunberg, weighs in on the matter.

by Fred W. Anson
The Book of Mormon is one of the worse pieces of American literature ever published. I say this as someone who has read it cover-to-cover not just once but more than once and then only after studying it for decades prior to that. But hey, don’t take my word for it, take the word of the man who is considered by many to be one of America’s greatest authors and creator of some of the best American literature ever written, Mark Twain, who said of the book:

“All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow,” so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle—keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, accourding to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason…

The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable—it is “smouched” from the New Testament and no credit given.”
(Mark Twain, “Roughing It”, Chapter 16)

Or how about the assessment of Charles H. Spurgeon, one of the most respected and influential preachers of the late 19th Century:

“One of the most modern pretenders to inspiration is the Book of Mormon. I could not blame you should you laugh outright while I read aloud a page from that farrago.”
(C.H. Spurgeon, “Our Manifesto”, April 25th, 1890)

And if you don’t believe Mark Twain, C.H. Spurgeon, or me, consider the words of Harold Bloom, American’s leading 20th Century Literary Critic:

“With the Book of Mormon, we arrive at the center of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission, but hardly at any center of Mormonism, because of Smith’s extraordinary capacity for speculative development in the fourteen years that remained to him after its publication. The Book of Mormon was not only his first work; it is the portrait of a self-educated, powerful mind at the untried age of twenty-four. It has bravura, but beyond question it is wholly tendentious and frequently tedious. If one compares it closely to Smith’s imaginings in the Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants, it seems the work of some other writer, and I don’t mean Mormon or Moroni.”
(Harold Bloom, “The American Religion”, Chu Hartley Publishers. Kindle Edition, Locations 1184-1189) 

And if you’re thinking, “Well, that’s not fair, you and Harold Bloom are critiquing a 19th Century literary style based on today’s modern standards”, consider this from Alexander Campbell, the founder, and leader of Campbellism, who said this of the book only two years after its publication:

“These are but as one drop out of a bucket compared with the amount of Smithisms in this book. It is patched up and cemented with “And it came to pass” — “I sayeth unto you” — “Ye saith unto him” — and all the King James’ haths, dids and doths; in the lowest imitation of the common version; and is, without exaggeration, the meanest book in the English language; but it is a translation made through stone spectacles, in a dark room, and in the hat of the prophet Smith from the reformed Egyptian!!! It has not one good sentence in it, save the profanation of those sentences quoted from the Oracles of the living God. I would as soon compare a bat to the American eagle, a mouse to a mammoth, or the deformities of a spectre to the beauty of Him whom John saw in Patmos, as to contrast it with a single chapter in all the writings of the Jewish or Christian prophets. It is as certainly Smith’s fabrication as Satan is the father of lies, or darkness the offspring of night. So much for the internal evidences of the Book of Mormon.”
(Alexander Campbell, “Delusions an analysis of the Book of Mormon…”, (1832), p.14) 

And if that’s still not enough, I would encourage you to speak to anyone who has read the book on its own merits without having Mormon Missionaries or any other Mormon influence hovering around them and telling them what a marvelous work and a wonder this insipid mess of mangled Elizabethan English combined with antiquated 19th Century ideas (such as American Restorationism and American Anglo-Israelism) it really is.

So the question remains, then how and why can millions of Mormons all over the world claim that this horrible book is some kind of inspired glory? Enter the power of suggestion. From the 2004 edition of the current, official LdS Church Missionary Manual:

“This message of the Restoration is either true or it is not. We can know that it is true by the Holy Ghost, as promised in Moroni 10:3–5. After reading and pondering the message of the Book of Mormon, any who desire to know the truth must ask in prayer to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ if it is true. In order to do this, we address our Heavenly Father. We thank Him for our blessings and ask to know that the message of the Book of Mormon is true. No one can know of spiritual truths without prayer.

In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts.

Feelings that come from the Holy Ghost are powerful, but they are also usually gentle and quiet. As we begin to feel that what we are learning is true, we will desire to know all that we can about the Restoration.

Knowing that the Book of Mormon is true leads to a knowledge that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him.”
(LdS Church, “Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service” (2004 edition), p.39)

Not enough? Then how about this from former LdS Church President and “Living Prophet” Thomas S. Monson?

“This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.

We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.

If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. However, once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.

My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives. I so testify with all my heart in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
(Thomas S. Monson, “The Power of the Book of Mormon”, Spring General Conference 2017)

I mean, with over-the-top hyperbole and gushing like that how can it possibly be anything but one of the greatest, most powerful, stunningly inspired, incredible, works of English literature ever produced, right?

Two words in response: Read it. Yes, read it yourself so you can experience “inspired” prose like this, for yourself:

1 Nephi 14
23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.

25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.

Wow, how can you argue with circular, over-blown, repetitious, grammar-challenged, gibberish like that?

Missionaries weigh in on the matter.

Back in December 2019, my Mormon Studies colleague, Kathy Petersen, had the brilliant idea of setting up a Book of Mormon daily reading program so non-Mormons could do just that – read it all in a year, cover-to-cover, just like many Bible reading programs out there do. And to do all that without any Mormon influence or interference, so the group could discuss the book honesty without being told (see above) what we should think and feel about it in advance, during, or after it was read. So she did. And, full disclosure here, I agreed to help her get it established, running and maintained because, candidly, I thought that the idea was pure, absolute, genius (still do!) Here’s how the group description, in part, reads:

“The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year (aka “TOYBOM”) is specifically for Non-Mormons reading the Book of Mormon in a year as a group so that we can openly and honestly discuss and deconstruct it without any Mormon interference, umbrage, or offense…

NO MORMONS ARE ALLOWED HERE
Mormons (that is, members of any Latter Day Saint group or denomination) are NOT allowed in this group. Period.

That’s so we can speak freely and deconstruct the Book the Mormon honestly and openly without having to deal with the typical Latter Day Saint agendas, dogmas, thin-skinned offense, spin doctoring, and confirmation bias driven apologetics that typically swirl around the Book of Mormon in public.

Our goal here is to quietly, objectively, civilly and dispassionately consider the Book of Mormon devoid of any of such partisan Latter Day Saint encumbrances.”
(see Facebook, The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year

The wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth that we got from Latter-day Saints in general, and Mormon Missionaries was swift and to the point: We were told that no one could possibly understand or appreciate this great, soaring, inspired, paradigm-changing work on its own without Latter-day Saints being in the room to explain it to them. We were told by virtue of the fact that Mormons could not be a part of the discussion and conversation the Book of Mormon would, no doubt, be completely misunderstood and misinterpreted by the non-Mormons in the group.

To all this, my Latter-day Friends and Mormon Missionary friends I just have one question: Why?

After all, if the Book of Mormon is truly everything that you all claim it is, shouldn’t it speak for itself? Shouldn’t its stunning inspiration and clear veracity be apparent simply by cracking its cover and reading it? Shouldn’t it be exactly as the Moroni 10 Challenge states?

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
— Moroni 10:3-5

Latter-day Saint friends, can you please show us where in the Moroni 10 Challenge it says, “Unless, of course, there are no Latter-day Saints around or present to groom and guide you, in which case, fuggedaboutit!”? I can’t seem to find it, and neither can anyone else.

So, back to the “The One Year BOM: Non-Mormons Reading Through the Book of Mormon in a Year” group. We started the daily readings and it didn’t take long before the wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth were soon coming from these intrepid non-Mormons who had committed to reading this overwhelmingly boring and dreadfully written book in a year. They were stunned, absolutely stunned from the front cover to the back cover that anyone could come to anything but the obvious conclusion that (to borrow and paraphrase from Lamoni’s queen in Alma 19:5): As for myself, to me it doth truly stink.

So I will end this article the way that I began it: The Book of Mormon is one of the worse pieces of American literature ever published. Or to put it another way, friends, the Emperor has no clothes! And if you doubt that, then just read it for yourself. With no one else around. It speaks for itself, and it says loudly, “These things are not true.”

(click to zoom)

I think that anyone who has actually done it can relate to this.