Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Book of Mormon Commentary

Three things stand out for me about this new Book of Mormon Study Guide. The first is the promise of "helpful maps and charts." That will be interesting but I imagine they will be the same as the maps in the back of your Bible since there is no Book of Mormon geography. It is always a good question to ask, "Why are there no maps at the back of the Book of Mormon as there are at the back of the Bible?" Since the first part of the book purports to be set in the Middle East maps create an opportunity to add authenticity to a book that otherwise has not a scrap of evidence to back it up. Don't expect any maps identifying Zarahemla though.

The second item of interest is the claim to "explain and assist with passages that sometimes baffle the average LDS scripture reader, putting things in historical context." Again its the historical context that might prove a stretch because, while it is easy enough to tread the well-worn path of biblical scholarship, when it comes to the seminal book of Mormonism there is really nothing to say about historical context outside the context of the book itself. No Josephus to give a wider historical perspective, no equivalent of the Roman world as a back drop, no widely recognised people groups whose existence is beyond dispute, not even modern descendants of the Lamanites these days since they disappeared in the night of a thousand DNA tests some time ago.

The most interesting question however is that of authority. We are familiar with how difficult it is to pin down "official" Mormonism. How authoritative will these commentaries be? It is published by Deseret Books but that doesn't mean it is endorsed by the Mormon politburo in downtown Salt lake City.  But I am sure it will be more than capable of being plausibly denied as all these things are.

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