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Literacy and Orality in the Book of Mormon

TitleLiteracy and Orality in the Book of Mormon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsGardner, Brant A.
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture
KeywordsCulture; Lamanite; Literacy; Nephite

The Book of Mormon is a literate product of a literate culture. It references written texts. Nevertheless, behind the obvious literacy, there are clues to a primary orality in Nephite culture. The instances of text creation and most instances of reading texts suggest that documents were written by and for an elite class who were able to read and write. Even among the elite, reading and writing are best seen as a secondary method of communication to be called upon to archive information, to communicate with future readers (who would have been assumed to be elite and therefore able to read), and to communicate when direct oral communication was not possible (letters and the case of Korihor). As we approach the text, we may gain new insights into the art with which it was constructed by examining it as the literate result of a primarily oral culture.