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The Dark Way to the Tree: Typological Unity in the Book of Mormon
TitleThe Dark Way to the Tree: Typological Unity in the Book of Mormon
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1981
AuthorsJorgensen, Bruce W.
Book TitleLiterature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience
Chapter11
Pagination217-232
PublisherReligious Studies Center, Brigham Young University
CityProvo, UT
KeywordsLehi (Prophet); Theology; Tree of Life; Typology; Vision
Abstract

In this paper, Professor Jorgensen suggests a method for understanding the variously interpreted Book of Mormon as “a structurally unified verbal whole.” From Lehi’s opening vision with its linked elements of wilderness and fulfillment, to the ultimate fulfillment of the risen Lord’s appearance to Lehi’s descendants, to their final degeneration into barbarism and suicidal destruction, he sees the Book of Mormon in the pattern of a transformation “by means of the Word.” The implications of that pattern—not only for Nephite society but for ultimate theories of history and language—are suggested in a compact and richly allusive manner that entices the reader into studies of his own. His “Postscript, 1980,” which follows the paper, gives a historical overview of the state of the typological art as it relates to the Book of Mormon since then; it also suggests some directions for further exploration that might have been taken had the limitations for this paper been different.

URLhttps://rsc.byu.edu/archived/literature-belief-sacred-scripture-and-religious-experience/11-dark-way-tree-typological

Full Text

Chapter 11: The Dark Way to the Tree: Typological Unity in the Book of Mormon

Bruce W. Jorgensen

A graduate of Brigham Young University with master’s and doctorate degrees from Cornell University, Bruce W. Jorgensen had taught at Brigham Young University’s English Department since 1975 where he had been assistant professor since 1978 when this was published. Among his academic honors are a Danforth Graduate Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. His academic emphasis on American literature and prose fiction has not narrowed his interests; he had published more than twenty stories, poems, reviews, and literary essays in Mormon periodicals when this was published.

In this paper, Professor Jorgensen suggests a method for understanding the variously interpreted Book of Mormon as “a structurally unified verbal whole.” From Lehi’s opening vision with its linked elements of wilderness and fulfillment, to the ultimate fulfillment of the risen Lord’s appearance to Lehi’s descendants, to their final degeneration into barbarism and suicidal destruction, he sees the Book of Mormon in the pattern of a transformation “by means of the Word.” The implications of that pattern—not only for Nephite society but for ultimate theories of history and language—are suggested in a compact and richly allusive manner that entices the reader into studies of his own. His “Postscript, 1980,” which follows the paper, gives a historical overview of the state of the typological art as it relates to the Book of Mormon since then; it also suggests some directions for further exploration that might have been taken had the limitations for this paper been different.

This paper was originally delivered at the meeting of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters in December 1977, and published in the Academy’s journal, Encyclia, 54, pt. 2 (1977): 16–24.

The Book of Mormon has yet to be carefully read as a literary text. Almost twelve years ago, Douglas Wilson, a non-Mormon, summarized this situation which Thomas O’Dea had remarked over twenty years ago and which still has not visibly changed. To Bernard DeVoto’s charge, “formless,” Fawn Brodie had countered with “elaborate design” and “unity of purpose,” yet she did not provide analysis. Wilson predicted that critical scrutiny from a “mythic” or “archetypal” perspective would confirm Brodie’s judgment; such an approach, he held, “would be concerned with . . . [the book’s] dramatic configurations and structure, not with its historical validity.” [1]

But Wilson’s claim, too, has yet to be visibly substantiated. Non-Mormons seem content with O’Dea’s enumeration of the book’s apparent reflections of Joseph Smith’s nineteenth-century American milieu—concerned with historical validity, not literary structure. Mormons continue to publish testimonials, or expositions for missionary uses, or compendious aids to reading for maxims, proof texts, prophetic warnings, and exempla, or apologetics for historical validity. [2] Of these, Hugh Nibley’s tracings of pattern resemblances with ancient Old World culture might help the literary analyst, but that has not been Nibley’s concern. [3] One recent essay by Richard L. Bushman, challenging historians who find American revolutionary patterns in the book, traces instead a “divine deliverance” pattern that has importance to its literary structure. [4]

Among more specifically literary articles on the book, Robert E. Nichols limits his “close reading” to 1 and 2 Nephi and concerns himself primarily with Lehi and Nephi as heroic or epic characters. [5] John W. Welch’s studies argue that a Hebraic rhetorical pattern of chiasmus also controls larger structural relations in the book. [6]

. Robert K. Thomas’s essay, “A Literary Critic Looks at the Book of Mormon,” is largely a moralistic reading of the “small plates of Nephi” and does not attempt to grasp the book’s imaginative wholeness. [7] A redaction by Clinton F. Larson, the Church’s finest poet, has not been seriously reviewed either in the Church press or in Mormon scholarly journals, probably because, appearing in the guise of sixteen volumes of “illustrated stories” for children, it has not invited that kind of reading. [8]BYU student Courtney J. Lassetter’s short essay on “Lehi’s Dream and Nephi’s Vision” shows an important insight but does not develop it very far. [9]

It is surprising that since Wilson’s article no one has come along with some tools from Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, or Northrop Frye to unfold the archetypal structure of the book. In particular, Frye’s still unpublished work on the Bible might suggest the methods and their rich potential for insight. [10] Literary description of the book in our decade might call itself structuralist rather than mythic, but surely it is possible, without either pleading for or impugning it as an historical document of whatever century, to describe the Book of Mormon as a literary text, as a structured verbal whole with an “elaborate design.”

Some of the book’s own internal declarations of purpose invite a kind of response that even a practicing Mormon, if he has some literary training, can call literary without compromising the book’s prophetic, theological, or moral values for Mormons and without urging those values on non-Mormons. All of the Book of Mormon narrators who say anything of their “intent” use words like “persuade” or “convince” (see title page; 1 Ne. 6:4; 2 Ne. 33:4). The second narrator, Jacob, says that he and his brother Nephi desired “that all men would believe in Christ, and view his death, and suffer his cross” (Jac. 1:8). With the verbs “view” and “suffer,” Jacob suggests more strongly than any of the narrators that the book’s unity of purpose is ultimately kinetic and experiential, that like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress it would “make a traveller of thee,” or that like Rilke’s “Torso of an Archaic Apollo” it says to the reader, “Du mufit dein Leben andern” (“You must change your life”). [11] And this does not mean that the book’s inclusive intention will reduce to the merely hortatory, for like many literary works and like all scriptural books, Judeo-Christian or otherwise, the Book of Mormon means its reader to have a new vision of the world and experience. What Erich Auerbach says of the Bible may equally be said of the Book of Mormon: “Far from seeking . . . merely to make us forget our own reality for a few hours, it seeks to overcome our reality: we are to fit our own life into its world, feel ourselves to be elements in its structure of universal history.” [12] And Northrop Frye’s remarks that the Bible is a “systematically constructed sacred book,” a “typological unity,” and “a single archetypal structure” or “gigantic cycle from creation to apocalypse” can apply, on a small scale, to the Book of Mormon as well. [13]

In this narrow space, if I attempt to describe the Book of Mormon as a structurally unified verbal whole, I must be severely abstract, but I hope also for a persuasive clarity. I prefer at the outset to call my approach neither mythic nor archetypal but, deriving from a term and concept used by the narrators Nephi, Jacob, Alma, and the editor-narrator Mormon, typological. After all, as Frye’s work suggests, the critical activity of patristic and medieval typological exegetes, like that of Renaissance mythographers, resembles that of modern mythic or archetypal critics. Further, typological interpretation of scriptural books has, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the sanction of its prophetic and messianic use in the Bible.

Auerbach defines the concept of typology under the alternative term figure or, in Latin, figura, which affords figural, a useful and briefer alternative to typological. “Figural interpre tation,” he says, “establishes a connection between two events or persons, the first of which signifies not only itself but also the second, while the second encompasses or fulfills the first. The two poles of the figure are separate in time, but both, being real events or figures, are within time, within the stream of historical life.” [14] This last point deserves reiteration: figural interpretation is not figurative, not merely allegorical, for both figure and fulfillment, both type and antitype, or in Auerbach’s words, both “sign and what it signifies” are regarded as fully historical. When Jesus cites Jonah or Moses’ brazen serpent as figures of himself, when Paul cites Adam as a type of Christ, when Jacob in the Book of Mormon cites Abraham’s sacrifice as “a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son”—none of them denies the historicity of the event or person thus given the added dimension of figural meaning (see Matt. 12:40; John 3:14; Rom. 5:14; Jac. 4:5).

Turning then to the Book of Mormon, we find that the key to understanding its typological or figural unity is, as Lassetter recognized without using the concept, Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life (see 1 Ne. 8). The dream itself, not being an external event, is not properly a type or figure; rather it is an interpretive vision that reveals the figural significance of Lehi’s present experience and, through a further interpretive vision given his son Nephi (1 Ne. 11–14), the figural significance of the entire Nephite history.

Nephi’s vision, in fact, should impel any reader of the book toward figural interpretation, for it acts out the method: Nephi asks for and receives a vision of what Lehi saw; then, when he asks “to know the interpretation” of the brilliantly white and beautiful tree, the Spirit of the Lord responds not with explanation but with a series of visions—first, the “fair and white” virgin of Nazareth, then “the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms,” then “the Son of God going forth among the children of men,” his baptism and ministry, and climactically his being “lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world,” so that, as in patristic Christian typology, the tree of the cross fulfills the figure of the tree in Eden (1 Ne. 11:8–9, 11, 13–15, 20, 24, 27–31, 33).

To be sure, Nephi and the Spirit (or “angel” as he is called later) do discuss abstractly “the meaning of the tree”: Nephi says, “It is the love of God . . . the most desirable above all things,” and the angel responds, “Yea, and the most joyous to the soul” (1 Ne. 11:21–23). But the point is that the love of God is concretely present with men in history in actions like his “condescension” to Mary and, most fully, in the personal, actual presence of the Son (1 Ne. 11:16). Further, Nephi’s vision goes on for three more chapters, with the angel reiterating “Look” or “Behold” and Nephi recording “I looked and beheld,” until Nephi has seen all of Nephite history and all of world history down to the last day, which he is forbidden to write because that task is reserved for the apostle John (1 Ne. 14:18–28). Like the Bible, then, the Book of Mormon has folded into it, in figure, the “gigantic cycle from creation to apocalypse”; certainly its inclusive narrative runs from the creation to the apocalypse of the Nephites.

Consider now the way Lehi’s dream figurally orders that narrative. Structurally, the important features of Lehi’s dream are simple: Lehi finds himself in “a dark and dreary wilderness”; then he encounters a white-robed man who bids him follow; then, after praying, he sees “a large and spacious field” and “a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy”; finally he partakes of the fruit and is “filled . . . with exceeding great joy” (1 Ne. 8:4–12). The dream has obvious congruence with Lehi’s present experience: living in a Jerusalem under divine condemnation, he has prayerfully responded to God’s word and is now midway on the road from that spiritual waste toward a promised land of peace and abundance (1 Ne. 1–2); ultimately, as in all Judeo-Christian figures of pilgrimage, he goes through the wilderness of a fallen world toward a redeemed world abounding in the joy of God’s loving presence.

Call it quest or conversion, at bottom the pattern is a simple transformation: from dark and barren waste by means of the Word to a world fruitful and filled with light. And the transformation is enacted again and again in the Book of Mormon, at both the individual and communal levels. I can cite and sum marize only the most obvious instances. The book’s third narrator, Enos, tells the same story: in the wilderness hunting for food, his soul hungers for a remission of his sins; remembering his father Jacob’s “words . . . concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints,” he prays all day and into the night, receives forgiveness, and to the end of his days rejoices in Christ the Word and in the expectation of “see[ing] his face with pleasure” (Enos 2–5, 26–27). A much later character, Alma the elder, similarly lives in spiritual waste as a priest of the corrupt king Noah. Hearing and believing the word of the prophet Abinadi, he first tries to defend him, then, when that fails, flees into hiding, writes down that word, and begins privately to teach it; finally he gathers his followers in the wilderness near “a fountain of pure water” where he institutes the covenant ritual of baptism, beginning with himself and coming “forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit” or “with the grace of God” (Mosiah 17:2–4; 18:1–5, 8–16).

Perhaps the richest individual instance of this transformation occurs with the younger Alma, who rejects the world of grace and becomes a sort of wild beast ravening at the church his father has established. Like Saul of Tarsus, he is confronted by an angel with a word of warning, then stricken into a deathlike coma, which lasts three days and nights while his father and other priests fast and pray for him (see Mosiah 27:8–23; Alma 36:10, 16). During this dark night of bodily insensibility and immobility, Alma later recounts, he was spiritually “racked with eternal torment” for his sins, and wished to “become extinct both soul and body”; then, remembering his father’s words concerning the atonement of Jesus Christ, he cried mercy from the Son and was instantly released from pain into “light” and “joy” (Alma 36:12, 15–20). As he wakes, he announces, “I am born of the Spirit”; “I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God” (Mosiah 27:24, 29).

Alma’s experience not only follows the typology of Lehi’s dream, but he deliberately uses typological language and elaborately alludes to Lehi’s dream, suggesting he fully understood its figural relation to his own and his people’s experience, in a missionary sermon on faith, which compares “the word unto a seed” and traces the growth of that seed, nourished by faith, to its full flourishing as “a tree springing up unto everlasting life” within the soul, upon whose fruit the faithful may “feast . . . even until [they] are filled” (Alma 32:28, 41–42). At one point Alma uses the striking synaesthetic metaphor of “tast[ing] the light” (Alma 32:35). When such a minute stylistic detail resonates with the broadest and deepest structural patterns of the whole book, critics easily chloroformed by its dully repeated “and it came to pass” and other infelicities might wake up and read on.

The narratives of the two Almas replicate a second movement of Lehi’s dream that prefigures a large proportion of the Book of Mormon narrative. Having eaten the fruit and rejoiced, Lehi immediately “began to be desirous that [his] family should partake of it also” (1 Ne. 8:12); similarly, the forgiven Enos immediately “began to feel a desire for the welfare of [his] brethren, the Nephites,” and then, when somewhat reassured about them, he “prayed . . . with many long strugglings for [his estranged] brethren, the Lamanites” (Enos 9–11). As later with the two Almas, the converted man is moved centrifugally outward from private partaking of grace to communal sharing—from conversion to covenant or, if you will, from the sacrament of baptism to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. What drives the larger and more inclusive narrative of the Book of Mormon is a hunger for sanctified community: God’s action in the world, of which each converted man’s action becomes a component vector, [15] must culminate in the city of God which, as Ezekiel and John envision it in the Bible, is simultaneously a restoration of the betrayed, bewildered garden of the first creation (see Ezek. 40; 47:1–12; Rev. 21:2, 10; 22:1–5).

In the Book of Mormon this motive of divine action is implied by the book’s second large interpretive image, Jacob’s story of the olive vineyard, the figural obverse or complement of Lehi’s dream (see Jac. 5). (In some Jewish legends, the tree of life is an olive. [16]) For our purposes, just a few features of this elaborate figure matter: (1) though it proceeds in a zigzag that recalls the Book of Mormon (and biblical) vision of history as a sine wave—the tedious entropic pulse of fallen time—its overall movement is from wildness to tameness, decay to fruitfulness, and it ends, like Nephi’s expansion of Lehi’s dream, in the expectation of apocalypse, the burning of the vineyard that will consume and refine fallen time into the grace of eternity (see Jac. 5:3–4, 18, 25, 30–37, 74–75, 77); (2) the separate trees may all be offshoots of one primal stock planted by the Lord of the vineyard, whose intention is to make them “one” (Jac. 5:68, 74); (3) finally, like Lehi desiring the^fruit of the tree of life, the vineyard’s Lord also looks toward “most precious” fruit in which he will rejoice, a fruit that Jacob suggests represents the perfected love of man toward God (Jac. 5:54, 60–61, 71, 74–75; 6:5–7).

Very briefly, the drive toward sanctified community—oneness among men who have each become inwardly at one with themselves and God—can most clearly be seen in the conversions and covenants of King Benjamin’s people in Zarahemla and of the nomadic bands of Limhi and Alma the elder in the wilderness, in the joyous conjunction of these three groups, and in the subsequent missionary campaigns of the younger Alma and the sons of Mosiah among both Nephites and Lamanites (see Mosiah 4–5; 17–21; 22:13–14; 24:25; 27:32–37; 28:1–9; Alma 4:19–20; 5–15; 17–26.) Because the creation of godly community must proceed in a world of “opposition” that is at once fallen into the barren disorder of wrath and graced by the possibility of human participation in divine love, this narrative movement follows the wearying sine curve of demonization and sanctification as men in their agency divide themselves over pride, envy, and reciprocal anger or unite in humility, gratitude, and reciprocal love: hence the wars, contentions, and conspiracies that occupy the middle action of the book and utterly dominate its falling action, that last helpless despairing slide into the apocalypse of wrath that leaves in the dust and “dung” of a selfdestroyed nation only scattered seeds of charity—Mormon, Moroni, the precious plates bearing the word (see 2 Ne. 2:11–19; Mormon 2:13–15; 5:2; 6:6, 15–22; 8:1–5; Moro. 1:3; 7; 9; 10:2.)

But before that ending, bleak as any Germanic Gotterdammerung, the drive toward sanctification climaxes in the merid ian advent of the Redeeming Son, the brief noon of Nephite history. When Jesus, Alpha and Omega, descends to the temple in the wasted Land Bountiful, he fulfills and renews the figures that have shadowed his coming in an apocalyptic gesture that both reenacts Genesis and prefigures the last destruction and transfiguration of the world (see 3 Ne. 11:1–8). His death at Jerusalem is typified to the Nephites by storm, earthquake, and a “thick darkness” such that “there could be no light”—as if creation were unraveled back to chaos (3 Ne. 8:5–22).

After three “days” of this dark, as the dawn marking the resurrection approaches, the first note of change is “a voice” enumerating the destruction of the wicked, pleading with the “more righteous” survivors to turn and be made whole, and announcing, “I am Jesus Christ the Son of God,” creator of “the heavens and the earth” and “the light and the life of the world” (3 Ne. 9:1–11, 13–15, 18). After this comes a silence for “many hours,” then another call to turn and be “gathered”; then it is morning “and the earth did cleave together again, that it stood” and “mourning was turned into joy, and . . . lamentations into praise and thanksgiving” (3 Ne. 10:1, 4–5, 10). Creation has been renewed in a perfect figure of the Son’s ultimate descent in justice and mercy at the end of time.

As his quiet voice pierces the Nephites and ignites their hearts (see 3 Ne. 11:3), so Christ’s climactic advent lays open the core of the figural structure of the Book of Mormon, revealing the single archetype that fires the whole: all of God’s actions in his world—creation, conversion, covenant, redemption—are one act of transformation from dark, barren chaos, by the Word, to a world abounding in light and joy. The Book of Mormon, then, is a “true” myth in precisely Eliade’s sense, [17] a story of how God makes the world—and, in a Christian sense, makes it his. It is also, despite its infelicity of style, a work whose complexity and unity of design and whose tragic and comic seriousness of experiential and historical vision warrant for it at least some consideration alongside its neighbors in nineteenth-century American literature and alongside the Bible with which it claims kin. It is the nearest thing to a literary classic that the Mormon culture has produced; or better, like a classic, it created a culture. It sings love like Lucretius and wrath like Homer [18] and beatitude and redemption like Jesus and John his beloved son of thunder, and it deserves ears that will at least listen if not hear.

Postscript, 1980

Since I first wrote this paper in 1977, several more papers have pursued literary analysis of the Book of Mormon in illuminating ways under the auspices of the Association for Mormon Letters. Richard Dilworth Rust’s “‘All Things Which Have Been Given of God . . . Are the Typifying of Him’: Typology in the Book of Mormon” which follows and Steven Sondrup’s “The Psalm of Nephi: A Lyric Reading” appear in the Proceedings of the Symposia of the Association for Mormon Letters 1978–79. From the AML’s fall 1979 symposium at BYU come papers by Mark Thomas on Lehi’s dream as apocalypse, by Steven Walker on the stylistic density of the text, now published as “More Than Meets the Eye: Contraction in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, 20 (1980): 199–205; and by Clifton Holt Jolley on Moroni as a tragic figure. From the AML section meeting at the RMMLA Convention in Albuquerque, October 1979, we see George Tate’s analysis of Exodus typology in the book, also in this volume, At the University of North Carolina, Richard Dilworth Rust and a non-Mormon colleague, John Seelye, have begun collaboration on a handbook to the Book of Mormon as literature. And at the 1980 meetings of the Mormon History Association in Canandiagua, New York, Mark Thomas and I presented papers.

This paper is, in fact, the core of a longer projected work; yet even as a paper, its narrow limits forced omissions that I regretted in 1977. Here I’d like briefly to suggest some larger changes and additional reflections.

First, the essay tends to treat typology as having only one mode, the horizontal or historical prefiguration of either Christ’s ministry or the apocalypse. In fact, various uses of typological language in the Book of Mormon (“type,” “shadow,” “similitude,” “liken”) suggest contextually that its figures foreshadow not only Christ and the End, but also the Church, its sacraments or ordinances, and the inner moral and spiritual lives of believers. At one point, when Nephi insists to his skeptically evasive brothers that his and Lehi’s visions represent “things both temporal and spiritual” (1 Ne. 15:32), we might suspect that all these modes are expressions of a single interpretive effort: that for Nephi, Alma, Mormon, and Moroni, typing or figuring or likening, guided by revelation, is simply the one way to make sense of the universe, time, and all the dimensions of individual and communal human experience.

Aside from illustratively expanding my discussions of the communal narrative, the Nephite self-destruction, and the survivals of charity, I would also want to acknowledge explicitly that I have not stayed quite within the bounds of typology as traditionally construed when I have tried, as the text itself seemed to urge, to go behind the multiple typological patterns to what I have called “a simple transformation” or “single archetype,” which I summarize with formulae like “from dark, barren chaos, by the Word, to a world abounding in light and joy.” In using the term archetype, I did not wish to invoke its Jungian connotations so much as its root sense of “primal type,” the one type behind all types.

My formula may suggest a theology of the Word, which in turn might suggest a philosophy of history and of language. Here I grope near the borders of my own understanding. History, as sheer chronicity endured, may well be (as we are often told these days) without teleology or plot, a sequence without story. Yet to write history is to compose it, verbally, as discourse or story—that is, to figure it, to order it by concept and metaphor. The minds that made the Book of Mormon clearly believed that this was not only possible but essential, even crucial, if humanity were to continue. Further, those minds believed that the master-figures were both transcendent and immanent: that God could and would reveal them to human minds, and that once received, these figures would be seen (and could be used) to order all human experience.

This is perhaps to approach the matter from the angle of “sacred” or “dogmatic theology.” But from something like the angle of “natural theology” we might reach almost the same point. Consider what it means to use a word, say man. To use a word at all presupposes (at least by logical priority) an act of likening one object to another, since to identify two objects by the same noun is to subsume them under a concept whose definition is their shared likeness. Likening, then, on which both the typologies of sacred texts and the coherence of even the most skeptical secular histories must finally depend, not to mention the coherences of both science and poetry, might be seen as the root-act of language itself, logically prior to the utterance of any word even if temporally simultaneous with it.

Pondering the centrality of the Word—both the verbal sign and the person of Christ—in the complex system of types that shapes the Book of Mormon, I come to such guesses. Last of all, I suspect that the dynamics of the Word in the Book of Mormon entail a view of language deeply at variance with the postmodernist view that we dwell amid infinitely self-referential and nontranscendent signs. With the Bible, with Augustine and Dante (as I’ve lately begun to learn), indeed with Judeo- Christian tradition generally, the Book of Mormon seems to me to say that signs point beyond themselves not finally to other signs but ultimately toward God. Our trouble (and Lehi’s, Nephi’s, Alma’s, Mormon’s, and Moroni’s) is to read them. Here the real work begins, and all I have said or might yet say about typology may be only preliminary to that work.

Notes

[1] “Prospects for the Study of the Book of Mormon as a Work of American Literature,” Dialogue 3 (Spring 1968): 29–41. Wilson cites O’Dea’s The Mormons (Chicago, 1957) and Brodie’s No Man Knows My History (New York, 1945) on 30, 31–32 and makes his own proposal on 37–38.

[2] A sampling of these would include a two-year series of articles in the adult Church magazine, The Ensign, beginning in September 1976; Glenn L. Pearson and Reid E. Bankhead, A Doctrinal Approach to the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962); Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968); George Reynolds and J. M. Sjodahl, A Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1955–61); Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976). Of course, all these are useful in their own ways, but they will not much help a reader who seeks to understand the book’s structural and thematic unity.

[3] Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1952); An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1964); Since Cumorah: The Book of Mormon in the Modern World (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967).

[4] “The Book of Mormon and the American Revolution,” BYU Studies 17 (Autumn 1976): 320. Bushman’s “deliverance” pattern resembles both the Exodus typology discussed by George Tate, 245–62, of this volume, and the pattern I will discuss here.

[5] “Beowulf and Nephi: A Literary View of the Book of Mormon,” Dialogue 4 (Autumn 1969): 40–47.

[6] “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10 (Autumn 1969): 69–84. In a similar vein, John A. Tvedtnes, “Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon: A Preliminary Survey,” BYU Studies 11 (Autumn 1970): 50–60, might afford some help to a stylistic critic but little to a critic interested in structure.

[7] In Truman G. Madsen and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., To the Glory of God: Mormon Essays on Great Issues (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972), 149–61.

[8] Illustrated Stories from the Book of Mormon, 16 vols. (Salt Lake City: Promised Land Publications, 1967–72); in all sixteen volumes, Larson is credited with “narrative and editing” while in vols. 1–11, Joseph N. Revill is listed as “correlator and writer”; Paul R. Cheesman replaces him (and additionally is called “director of research”) in vols. 12–16. A rich source of literary inspiration for Larson, the Book of Mormon lies behind his plays Coriantumr and Moroni: Two Plays (Provo: BYU Press, 1961) and “The Brother of Jared” and “Third Nephi” in The Mantle of the Prophet and Other Plays (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966). Though Larson’s choice of protagonists in these two pairs of Book of Mormon plays suggests deliberate thematic paralleling, no one, so far as I know, has pursued the question of Larson’s implicit insights into the symbolic and thematic unity of the Book of Mormon.

Incidentally, 3 Nephi has also inspired a story by Truman Madsen, “Ye Are My Witnesses,” included in his Christ and the Inner Life, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1978), 43–54, though here again no one has pursued the story’s possible interpretive insights.

[9] “Lehi’s Dream and Nephi’s Vision: A Look at Structure and Theme in the Book of Mormon,” Perspective: A Journal of Critical Inquiry [published by the BYU College of Humanities], (Winter 1976), 50–54. Lassetter and I arrived independently at similar lines of analysis; his essay appeared just after I had completed an essay requested by the Ensign (later rejected), “‘Most Desirable Above All Things’: The Tree of Life in the Book of Mormon,” the first organized result of nine years’ intermittent study.

[10] Frye’s comments on the Bible in his Anatomy of Criticism (cited below, note 14) forecast the direction of his work, which he presented as a fourlecture series, “The Faces of the Bible,” at Cornell from 27 March to 7 April 1972 and later expanded in a course on the Bible as literature at Harvard. As of December 1979, his projected book “The Great Code,” had yet to appear.

[11] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, ed. Roger Sharrock (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1965), p. 36. Rainer Maria Rilke, “Archaischer Torso Apollos,” Gesammelte Werke, 6 vols. (Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1930), 3:117.

[12] Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953), p. 15.

[13] The Anatomy of Criticism (1954; reprint ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), 315–16.

[14] “Figura,” trans. Ralph Manheim, in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature: Six Essays (New York: Meridian, 1959), p. 53.

[15] John Macmurray’s “The World as One Action” in The Self as Agent(1957; reprint ed., London: Faber, 1969) and Teilhard de Chardin’s “The Divinization of Our Activities” in The Divine Milieu, revised Torchbook ed., (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 49–73, esp. 65–67, have helped me to formulate this conception of history, which I believe is implicit in the narrative structure of the Book of Mormon. My discussion in this and the following two paragraphs has also profited from remarks by my colleague James Faulconer (BYU Philosophy Dept.) on religious community in history.

[16] Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, trans. Henrietta Szold, 7 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909), 1:93; 5:119.

[17] Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 1, 5–6, 18–19.

[18] My allusion to Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura is not meant to be as wildly out of control as it may seem. I have in mind, of course, his invocation of Venus as “sole mistress of the nature of things” at the beginning of his dogmatically materialistic and antireligious book. The Book of Mormon, it could be argued, is materialistic (certainly Mormon metaphysics is), though it goes beyond that; and it implicitly makes “love” one of the names for the Word that brings order and peace out of chaos. And it deals as much with “ruinous wrath” as does the Iliad.

 

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