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Abridging the Records of the Zoramite Mission: Mormon as Historian

TitleAbridging the Records of the Zoramite Mission: Mormon as Historian
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsOlsen, Steven L.
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
KeywordsAbridgment; Literary Analysis; Missionary Work; Mormon (Prophet); Zoramites (Nephite Apostate Group)

Since the mid-twentieth century, scholarly studies of the literary craftsmanship of biblical texts have revealed considerable insights into the intended purposes of the authors of these scriptural narratives. The present study applies the analytical methods of these studies to Mormon’s abridgment of Alma’s records of the Zoramite mission (Alma 31–35), revealing intricate patterns of literary conventions ranging from the most specific (e.g., diction, syntax, and figures of speech) to the most general (e.g., rhetoric, tone, and structural logic). From this perspective, Alma 31 provides a framework to distinguish Nephite and Zoramite religious practices and structure the narrative of the entire Zoramite mission, including the missionaries’ teachings. More broadly, Mormon’s account of the Zoramite mission sets the stage for the general degradation of Nephite society that focuses his abridgment of Nephi’s Large Plates for the next one hundred years.

[Editor’s Note: This article provides a good example of using literary analysis to enhance understanding of the scriptures. While it was previously published, it has not been widely accessible, and thus we have chosen to republish it to bring it to the attention of readers. It was first presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Mormon Letters, 25 January 1992, at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. An abridged and edited version was later published as “Patterns of Prayer: Humility or Pride,” Ensign 22, no. 8 (August 1992), 8–11. The original presentation was included in The Association for Mormon Letters Annual 1994, 212–15. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the author, with minor edits.]

For a summary of this article, check out Interpreting Interpreter