Some scholars have referred to Joseph Smith’s 1830 Book of Mormon as “America’s Bible,” as though it was intended to replace the Protestant Bible. What has not yet been much appreciated is the extent to which the Book of Mormon was intended to save the Bible. In this lecture, Samuel M. Brown argues that the Book of Mormon hoped to save the Bible from things like religious voluntarism and the resulting interpretive chaos, from cessationist denial of miracles; it sought to make the Bible credibly American, to make evidential Christianity internally consistent. The Book of Mormon seemed to anticipate higher criticism and the threats posed to the Bible by late modernism. As such, the Book of Mormon is a crucial text of transitional readings of the Bible. It is a lens through which to view changes in biblical authority and interpretation.
But, Brown says, in order to save the Bible, the Book of Mormon had to “kill” it; unmasking the nature of scripture—its tentative, regional character, its fundamental inadequacy as a written text. There is strength in weakness.
The views expressed here and in Maxwell Institute publications are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)