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Table Rules: A Response to Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon

TitleTable Rules: A Response to Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsChristensen, Kevin
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
KeywordsHistoricity; Literary Analysis; Racism

Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon is an ambitious collection of essays published by Oxford University Press. By “Americanist” the editors refer to their preferred mode of contextualization: to situate the Book of Mormon as a response to various currents of nineteenth- century American thought. The “table rules” in this case determine who gets invited to the table and what topics can be discussed, using what types of evidence. The approach is legitimate, and the contributors offer a range of interesting perspectives and observations. Several essays base their arguments on the notion that the Book of Mormon adapts itself to a series of racist tropes common in the nineteenth century. In 2015, Ethan Sproat wrote an important essay that undercuts the arguments of those authors, but none of them address his case or evidence. This raises the issue of the existence of other tables operating under different assumptions, confronting the same text, and reaching very different conclusions. How are we to judge which table’s rules produce the best readings?