Before I start, a big neon-sign warning – this is NOT the place to debate The Book of Mormon or the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (also called Mormons). I’m reviewing an edition of the Book of Mormon that I found useful. Thus this is more of a product review than a true book review.
Hardy, Grant. The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition. (University of Illinois Press, 2005) Kindle edition.
This edition of the Book of Mormon is aimed at two groups – members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints who are looking for a slightly different edition of the scriptures, and interested readers who find the usual edition of the work a challenge to navigate. As transcribed while Joseph Smith translated the book in the late 1820s and first published in 1830, the Book of Mormon lacks certain divisions and features that readers of the Bible are accustomed to. As a result, it can be hard to get through. I am one of those readers. I read it once in the 1980s. I had been given a copy by the then-bishop of the local congregation (stake) in the early 1980s, because I found an illustrated children’s edition fascinating as Sib and I waited for our sitter to finish meeting with some elders and the bishop*. I read it, and found it exceedingly dull, frustrating, and blah. Not unlike my reaction to parts of Deuteronomy and Leviticus (and the “begats’ in Genesis).
However, I needed to re-read it in order to make sure I got some things right in the Familiars series. So I went looking on-line. Lo and behold, this edition came up, and the price was right.
Grant Hardy’s edition contains the full text of The Book of Mormon, divided into chapters and verses (as best can be done), with reference notes and section headings. The edition I first read has very large chapter breaks, which threw me out of the text. This has smaller set-offs, so it reads more easily. In other words, it looks much more like the Bibles I’m familiar with (KJV, NIV, RSV, Geneva), so it is easy to read in the same way. The notes lead to various scripture references, and explain some places that are either uncertain in the original, or clarify which person is being referred to (names repeat on occasion). Sections that are poetry are set as poetry, something I found useful. On the screen, it is a single page, like a novel or non-fiction book, rather than the two-column form found in other editions and Bibles. This is true of the print edition as well.
The book begins with a very good introduction to the work, the history of the work, and its place in the church. Hardy then discusses his editorial work, and offers some suggestions and caveats. This edition has several appendices, including names, corrections and changes, maps, testimonies about the translation and transcription of the text, and suggestions for further reading. These add to the usefulness of this edition, especially for those of us not steeped in the story of The Book of Mormon.
As with all scriptures, The Book of Mormon does not include the doctrines and specific teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. However, it and the Bible (KJV) provide the foundations for the denomination. If you are a scholar of religion, a member of the church looking for a new way to read the text, or are just curious about “What does The Book of Mormon really say,” then I recommend this edition.
*If I recall correctly, our sitter was marrying outside of the denomination, and this required some premarital counseling and sorting out. All I really remember was finding some picture books with really cool and new-to-me religious stories and reading for the entire time Sib and I were there, both visits. I still appreciate the bishop giving me the book.
F.T.C. Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration from either the editor or the publisher of this work.