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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 nineteenth-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.
- Published: August 2009
- Pages: 152
About the Author
Terryl Givens (PhD Comparative Literature, UNC Chapel Hill) holds the James A. Bostwick chair of English and is Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. Author of several books, his writing has been praised by the New York Times as “provocative reading,” and includes, most recently, When Souls Had Wings, a history of the idea of premortal life in Western thought, and a biography (with Matthew Grow) of Parley Pratt (winner of the 2012 Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association).
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