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“Had for Good and Evil”: 19th-Century Literary Treatments of the Book of Mormon

Title“Had for Good and Evil”: 19th-Century Literary Treatments of the Book of Mormon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsCracroft, Richard H.
JournalJournal of Book of Mormon Studies
Pagination4-19, 110-111
Keywords19th Century Literature; Angel Moroni; Anti-Mormon; Misperception; Prophecy; Smith, Joseph, Jr.; Translation

Moroni prophesied on 21 September 1823 that Joseph’s “name,” and by implication the book he would eventually translate and publish, “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues.” Many current criticisms of the Book of Mormon trace their roots to the antagonistic critiques by 19th-century authors, beginning with Abner Cole, Alexander Campbell, and E. D. Howe. Campbell in particular was responsible for introducing the “environmental” theory: that Joseph Smith introduced 19th-century elements into his story. Travelers to Salt Lake City published their exposés, which were mostly critical of the Latter-day Saints and their book of sacred scripture. Mark Twain’s dismissive treatment of the book forged lasting popular misconceptions of the book. Fiction writers of the 19th century contributed to suspicion of and ignorance about Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. In more recent times, Fawn M. Brodie, Thomas O’Dea, and Robert V. Remini perpetuated environmental claims about the book. Recent Latter-day Saint scholars—Hugh Nibley, Richard Bushman, and Terryl Givens—represent those who speak “good” of the book and try to correct misperceptions about it.