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Review: Grant Hardy. Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide.

TitleReview: Grant Hardy. Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsWalker, Steven C.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly

Understanding the Book of Mormon may be the book for a lot of us. As often as we Latter-day Saints have read the Book of Mormon, we may yet read it better, read it with more understanding, if we were to read it with the benefit of the perceptive perspective that Hardy opens up for us with this volume. For all our Book of Mormon enthusiasms and even our critically careful analyses, we may have sometimes shortchanged ourselves in our readings in the same way Oliver Cowdery did in his translating: "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind" (D&C 9:7–8). However well we have done in seeking testimonies of the book, we have done less well at understanding all we might of it. In this practical guide, Grant Hardy shows readers how to read deeper into the Book of Mormon. Hardy not only maps but also models a way to do that: focus on the literary aspects. Hardy seems to hold out hope that a literary approach will invite even unbelieving readers into the book. I am less hopeful on that front. Unbelieving readers (for whom much of the focus of the Book of Mormon revolves around their unbelief) aren't likely to willingly suspend that disbelief, not even for the rich textual rewards Hardy demonstrates so definitively. On the other hand, they might be open enough in light of this literary approach to concede the book is better writ­ten than previous readings revealed. Even unbelievers might not be so determined to read the Book of Mormon so reductively that they fail to recognize richer ways to read it.