Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Newell, Linda King ; Newell, L. Jackson
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The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source
The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source Blake T. Ostler Even a casual reference to studies treating the Book of Mormon reveals a range of divergent explanations of its origins. At one extreme are those who are skeptical of the book's claims to antiquity who generally conclude that it is a pious fraud, written by Joseph Smith from information available in his immediate environment. At the other extreme are those who accept the book as scripture and suggest that it can be explained exclusively by reference to ancient sources either not available to Joseph Smith or available only if he were capable of the most recondite research and near-genius ability in comparative literature and ancient studies. It is my purpose to demonstrate that both extremes are too limited and to offer a theory of the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith's expansion of an ancient work by building on the work of earlier prophets to answer the nagging problems of his day. In so doing, he provided unrestricted and authoritative commentary, interpretation, explanation, and clarifications based on insights from the ancient Book of Mormon text and the King James Bible (KJV). The result is a modern world view and theological understanding superimposed on the Book of Mormon text from the plates. The first section of this paper provides examples and analysis of some of these expansions by using the scholarly tools of source, motif and form-critical analyses. The second section explores the concept of translation "by the gift and power of God" and discusses the usefulness of seeing the Book of Mormon as an ancient text mediated through the mind of Joseph Smith, who attempted to render its message in categories of understanding that were meaningful to him and his contemporaries. The final section of the paper explores a preliminary theology of revelation which is consistent with Mormon theology in general and with the expansion theory of scripture in particular. This final section will also suggest why scripture and the development of doctrine are necessarily bound by culture and language, thus demanding expansion and explanation to render God's revelations meaningful to every new generation. BLAKE OSTLER is an attorney with Fox, Edwards, Gardiner, and Brown in Salt Lake City.