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. About the Series:
Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions
offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
Terryl L. Givens is Professor of Literature and Religion and holds the Jabez A. Bostwick Chair of English at the University of Richmond. Some of his books include Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (Oxford, 1997), By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (Oxford 2002), which the New York Times called "provocative reading," People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture, which was named Best Book of the Year by the Mormon History Association for 2007, and most recently, When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought (Oxford 2009).