2016 Gospel Doctrine- Recommended Resources on the Book of Mormon (updated)

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 10.00.50 PMAs with the Old and New Testaments, here are my suggestions for this year’s study of the Book of Mormon. (Edit for newcomers: Who am I and why do my suggestions have any merit?)

First, there is a lot of material written on the Book of Mormon, and a lot of it is now available online, between the Maxwell Institute (including the Hugh Nibley library), BYU Studies, and  the Religious Studies Center. A lot of this material consists in either articles (shorter) or books directed at narrow sections or topics, like King Benjamin’s Speech or Warfare in the Book of Mormon or Isaiah. I’m not listing those specific kinds of treatments, but will refer to them as the year goes on in my Gospel Doctrine posts. I used to run a database of those resources, organized by book/chapter/verse, but ran out of time to keep all the links updated and add material. Eventually, the out-of-dateness got embarrassing, and I took it down, but it’s archived here. Several people/groups have put it to good use since, so it lives on, in a way.

Second, I’m keeping this mainstream, traditional, and high quality. That’s obviously subjective, and it rules out a lot. You’ll notice there’s little here that’s “devotional.” That is, I believe we need to study the Book of Mormon deeply, not venerate it as a fetish with big leather pretty editions that we don’t actually read, or short, cheesy, shallow expositions. Devotional is not necessarily a dirty word, but there’s good devotional and there’s “fried fluff” and theological Twinkies. The Mormon market consumes far too much of the latter, and demand drives supply.

The Short List (no particular order)

  • Terryl Givens, By the Hand of Mormon (Oxford Press, 2003), Amazon link.
    • An excellent overview of the coming forth, translation, reception, and controversy of the Book of Mormon, and its contents.
  • Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (Oxford Press, 2010), Amazon link.
    • Hardy is a close reader, bringing out literary connections and implications, while demonstrating the complexity of the text.
  • Grant Hardy, Reader’s Edition of the Book of Mormon (UofI Press, 2005), Amazon link
    • See Other Ways to Read below, #1.
  • Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem (Maxwell Institute, 2004) Amazon link. Maxwell Institute link.
    • The best single source for understanding the ancient Near Eastern background and setting of Lehi’s family. This is solid work.
  • John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (FARMS/Deseret Book, 1996), Amazon link.
    • For some background on Sorenson, this book, and the two Ensign articles that preceded it, see his experience with Correlation here.
  • James Faulconer, The Book of Mormon Made Harder (Maxwell Institute, 2014 ), Amazon Link.
    • Like his other books in the Made Harder series, this is mostly thought-questions about the reading, and is really excellent work. This is the only book here that follows the order of the Book of Mormon, book/chapter/verse, with something for everything.

Learning about the Book of Mormon changes how I read and understand it. These books give very solid grounding in the background, literary complexities, controversies, content, and mainstream interpretations of the Book of Mormon.

Other Ways to Read

Many of us have read the Book of Mormon a lot, and it can be a challenge to approach it differently. Let me suggest a few ways to make it new and interesting again.

  1.  Try Grant Hardy’s Reader’s Edition. He has changed the format to bring out literary parallels and distinguish poetry from prose. Moreover, it does away with the break-every-verse-into-its-own-thought, and offers occasional footnotes, commentary, and introductions. Minimal as it is, it’s the closest thing we have to a Study Edition of the Book of Mormon.
  2. Pick up an 1830 reproduction Book of Mormon, care of the Community of Christ (formerly known as the RLDS Church), and experience it in “classic” or “original” format.
    • EDIT: I’m told this may be a higher quality reproduction.
  3. Write your own paraphrase, as I did here for Alma 32, using Webster’s 1828 dictionary, close reading, the KJV, and my suggestions and cautions in the latter part of this article.
    • Basically, work through it verse-by-verse, putting a verse at a time in your own words. Then read through 8-12 verses at a time, and see if it flows and makes sense. If not, you’ve missed something.
  4. Or try this one done by a BYU prof, and be prepared to enjoy, disagree, and take a grain of salt.
  5. Go through and reformat the text yourself, as Ardis did (see here and here ).
    • EDIT: Nathan R (a friend of mine) has  created Word files with the Book of Mormon text assigned to different styles, allowing easy reformatting. See here for discussion and links to the files.
    • EDIT: Since the punctuation in the Book of Mormon was added by the printer, feel free to repunctuate it yourself if it makes more sense. Grant Hardy provides several examples of where this makes better sense of the text. Nathan R. has a word doc with all punctuation and sentence-initial capitalization removed, page here.
  6. Or, go back to your mission language or a language you studied. Spanish is pretty easy.
  7. Try listening to it instead of reading it. This link is a direct download from lds.org of Book of Mormon audio files.
  8. EDIT: Also, I just went and checked out BookofMormonCentral, a new thing out of BYU (I think, albeit unofficially)  (nope, not a BYU thing) that looks promising, though still in Beta. Check out the reading demo here.

The point is, get involved with it somehow, so it gets into your brain a different way. Audio. Different format. Different language. Read it in a different order (Ether first, then Mosiah, then the Small Plates?). Take notes (see my 3-part series on note-taking suggestions here.) Read it out loud.

Formal Commentaries

The vast majority of Book of Mormon commentaries just regurgitate current Mormon doctrinal understandings back at you instead of reading the text closely and allowing it to challenge and change us. The one real exception is Brant Gardner’s 6-volume commentary Second Witness (Kofford Press), Amazon link to 1 Nephi volume, the first in the series. Reviews are positive from across the spectrum. My Mom taught an adult class on the Book of Mormon, working through it carefully in six years, using Gardner’s commentary and Hardy’s Understanding. Gardner assumes a mesoamerican setting, and looks for Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon, not vice-versa. This isn’t apologetics, but exegesis using a particular cultural and linguistic setting. That said, speculative commentary (as such cultural and linguistic commentary must be) makes up a small part of the overall, so don’t let that turn you off.

EDIT: I want to mention one very unusual “commentary” of sorts, a sci-fi adaptation and retelling of the Book of Mormon by Orson Scott Card, the Homecoming series. It follows the Book of Mormon quite closely. He was actually accused of plagiarism, and his tongue-in-cheek response was, “you can’t plagiarize history.” What’s interesting is how it brings out potential motivations, conflicts, and other bits. Like I said, it’s not a commentary in the traditional sense, but it does make you think about the Book of Mormon differently.

Coming Forth, Translation, Publication, and Text

  • Mackay and Dirkmaat- From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon (BYU Religious Studies Center/Deseret Book, 2015), Amazon link
    • These two have been involved with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, which is shedding new light on lots of things.
    • Has chapter about seerstone and art here, on which see my brief discussion here.
  • Richard Turley and William Slaughter, How We Got the Book of Mormon (Deseret Book, 2011)- Amazon link.
    • Turley is well-known from his Church history materials.
  • Matthew Brown, Plates of Gold: The Book of Mormon Comes Forth (Covenant, 2003), Amazon link 
    • Brown had a talent for turning up interesting bits, before his untimely death.
  • Brant Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Kofford Press, 2011), Amazon link
    • Gardner shows up on this list again. If you’re interested in issues of tight vs loose translation, how it was done, this book makes a good argument.
  • Don Bradley’s book The Lost 116 Pages: Rediscovering the Book of Lehi,(Kofford, ??)
    • Alas, is not in print yet. However, see some of his work on it here.
  • If you want to get into the nitty gritty of the text, you’ll need Royal Skousen’s various works, like these.
    • Edit: Note that the above link does not get you to Skousen’s Earliest Text of the Book of Mormon (Yale, 2009), Amazon link, which some readers have found useful.
    • Edit: The Skousen volumes discussing textual variants are all linked and available from The Interpreter here.
  • For an overview, however, you can read Uncovering the Original Text of the Book of Mormon from the MI, here. Recommended.
  • Also, the Joseph Smith Papers Project has made quality photographs of the  Printer’s Manuscript, 1830, and other editions available here online. “The first volume of the Documents series covers the time period of the translation. The first volume of the Histories series (and the online history series) have histories written by Joseph Smith and other covering that time period.”


  • John Sorenson, Visualizing the Book of Mormon (FARMS, 1997), Amazon link, from $0.49. Used and older books are great from Amazon.
    • Again, this assumes a Mesoamerican setting, which I consider the most probable. It also has the most professional academic support behind it.
  • Similar is this newer volume. Val Brinkerhoff does excellent visuals, but I have some questions about any included commentary by Joseph Allen.
  • John and Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (FARMS, 1999), Amazon link.
    • These have largely been reprinted online at BYU Studies, used to be in pdf format, though I can’t locate that anymore. I find myself often referring to this one comparing the original vs. “new” (Orson Pratt in1879) chapter breaks.


  • The Encyclopedia of Mormonism has articles on each book and many of the Book of Mormon characters, seerstones, etc., and is online here.
  • The closest thing to that in paper is the Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Deseret Book, 2003) Amazon link
    • At 850 pages, it covers a lot. Some of the articles are great, others, not so much. I think the best thing is probably that each of the Isaiah chapters has an article devoted to it.


  • Gardner’s new book- Traditions of the Fathers- the Book of Mormon as History (Kofford, 2015) Amazon link
    • New, and on my shelf.
  • Nibley’s class transcriptions from teaching the Book of Mormon here. (Spoiler: Hard to follow.)
    • Nibley is always classic, but outdated, and it’s all online. Or will be shortly.
  • John Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex (Maxwell Institute, 2014) Amazon link
    • This is Sorenson’s magnum opus,a compilation of decades of research… which means it’s mixed. The quality depends which decade of work is being represented. See review here.
  • Joseph Spencer’s books, which are being reprinted, I hear.
    • Joe is a blogger, professor, philosopher, prolific writer, and all-around good guy. His books need to get back in print soon.
  • The Mormon Theology Seminar books.
    • This changing group has produced some very good work. You can see the rough, in-process work here; the conference editions are being published by the Maxwell Institute.
  • Bradley Kramer, Beholding the Tree of Life: A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon (Kofford, 2015)
    • On my shelf, heard good things, haven’t read it yet.
  • Charles Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Knopf, 2006) Amazon link.
    • The sole non-LDS author, Mann’s book doesn’t directly address the Book of Mormon. However, somewhat like Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes makes you rethink the world of the Bible, this book will make you rethink the history of the Americas and its pre-Columbian inhabitants… which most Mormons will contend include the peoples of the Book of Mormon. IIRC, he doesn’t address that claim directly  or indirectly.

Now go forth, and read.

40 comments for “2016 Gospel Doctrine- Recommended Resources on the Book of Mormon (updated)

  1. December 19, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    As a Gospel Doctrine teacher who loves the scriptures but is often overwhelmed with the responsibility of teaching from them I appreciate this list! I own and have read several of these books and know I won’t be able to get through a fraction that you suggest in addition to studying for and preparing lessons. But I rely on these tomes from learned friends so I can myself can learn, and then teach, testify and challenge the members attending my class!

  2. Ben S.
    December 20, 2015 at 1:22 am

    The BoM is really kind of a double-edged sword; on the one hand, people haven’t been writing about it for 2000 years, so the bibliography is a bit more manageable. On the other hand, because it’s familiar and misleadingly easy to read, people tend to think we have a good handle on it, and therefore, don’t really need anything else.

    And of course, this list is all enhancement. I don’t want to imply that if you’re not reading these, somehow you lack all spiritual insight (Spiritual in-tune-ness has little to do with Oxford Press) and a clueless chump who knows nothing. (You may well be, I don’t know.) But if I, with my lists and libraries and degrees, have learned something from these books, you can too!

    We need people with different perspectives and backgrounds to bring it! Which reminds of these interesting articles, Into the Desert: An Arab View of the Book of Mormon and A Maori View of the Book of Mormon.

  3. Camille Alexander
    December 20, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Thank you for these resources. I enjoy studying the scriptures immensely. I am pleased you listed Neal Maxwell Institue and BYU-RSC.

    For those newer to studying the Book of Mormon, I would recommend CHRIST and THE NEW COVENANT, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I feel it speaks to & teaches many levels of understanding.

    I also do not enjoy fluff. Unfortunately not everyone is ready for more, and once received must live up to it. Rather like the Temple.

    I love Nibley, and agree his compilation of teaching notes can be confusing. At one time there were videos, which may be easier to follow. I prefer the books, as I like to write down references and impressions.

    Thanks again for the list,

    Sis. Camille Alexander

  4. Kevin Barney
    December 20, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    As a GD teacher I very much appreciate this list.

  5. Ben S
    December 20, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks Kevin and Camille. I remember that volume by Holland. As I recall (and I don’t recall much) , he actually does some good exegesis and interpretation in it, unusual both for a GA and Deseret Book in the 90s.

  6. December 20, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    How about the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies? (http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/periodicals/jbms/)

  7. Jim Wallmann
    December 20, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    For my last time through the Book of Mormon I used The Earliest Text, ed. Skousen, and found it quite readable.

  8. December 21, 2015 at 3:14 am

    I know you mention above that you aren’t listing specialized books (like King Benjamin’s speech, etc.), but I have to put in a plug for Joe Spencer’s An Other Testament. Personally, the Isaiah text in the BoM was always a chore for me more than it was a pleasure, but Spencer’s book changed that entirely for me. Considering the extent of Isaiah text in the BoM, I would add this to the list. It is one of the few books on the BoM that I know I will re-read.

  9. Brad L
    December 21, 2015 at 3:30 am

    Since you’re recommending Charles Mann, might I add to the list Paul C. Gutjahr, The Book of Mormon: A Biography (Princeton University Press, 2012) to the list? Here is what the author has to say about the Book of Mormon: “No matter whether one considers the Book of Mormon to be divinely inspired holy writ or the work of one man’s impressive imagination, it is increasingly hard to argue against the growing scholarly consensus that ‘the Book of Mormon should rank among the great achievements of American literature.'”

  10. Dave
    December 21, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Guidelines for teachers rom the BOM manual :
    This manual is a tool to help you teach the doctrines of the gospel from the scriptures. It has been written for youth and adult Gospel Doctrine classes and is to be used every four years. Additional references and commentaries should not be necessary to teach the lessons. Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “Teachers would be well advised to study carefully the scriptures and their manuals before reaching out for supplemental materials. Far too many teachers seem to stray from the approved curriculum materials without fully reviewing them. If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 93; or Ensign, May 1983, 68).

  11. December 21, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Tim- Spencer’s book is out of print, but it’s linked up there under Grab-bag.

    Brad- I actually didn’t find a lot of value in Gutjahr. I appreciate a non-LDS taking the Book of Mormon seriously, but if you’ve read Hand of Mormon, for example, there’s little new or insightful in there.

    Dave- Glad I’m not in your ward where people lob quotes at each other without any explanation.

  12. Clark Goble
    December 21, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    One thing that would be nice is someone to write a popularizing book that summarizes a lot of this data – especially the conflicts and disputes. That way people can get an idea what what the consensus. The problem with old books like Sorenson (and perhaps even moreso his recent book) is that there are elements that are very agreed upon among faithful interpreters and other issues that are much more disputed. For instance as fun as Nibley is to read a surprising number of his claims have been modified or outright rejected.

    Regarding Joe’s books why are they out of print even in a Kindle edition. That suggests they were intentionally removed since there are no printing runs for eBooks.

    I’m very looking forward to Don Bradley’s book.

  13. Dogberry
    December 21, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Ben, I am happy you added a link to Skousen’s Earliest Text, “which some readers have found useful.” Instead of placing it where it is in your posting I would promote it. And I think it deserves “which is an extremely important and highly useful text”. I wish to note here that the current LDS text has 654 conjectural emendations in it while the earliest text has only 354. So if readers want to read 300 more conjectures made by various editors who understood the text much less well than Skousen did — who benefited from working in the digital age, but still took the trouble to make an exhaustive computer collation and hundreds of thorough textual comparisons throughout ATV — then they should continue reading the standard text.

    Also, if you yourself would like to learn some nonbiblical eModE, which seems like an area of interest to you, then by all means study the earliest text of the Book of Mormon. There you will encounter such little-known gems of (attested) eModE usage such as “there are many promises which is extended”, “the burdens which was laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light”, “the souls of them which has been slain have entered into the rest of their God”, “there shall be a new star arise”, “he will cause it that it shall soon overtake you.”, etc.

  14. athena
    December 21, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks for posting the essays (#2). As a Maori I wanted to make a quick comment on Midgley’s excellent essay. English literacy, let alone reading a text translated into Maori, among the early Maori saints was very rare. The BoM would not have been read by all Maoris until a generation or two later and even then was interpreted (and prophesies reinterpreted) by someone else (usually a European and sometimes an ex-convict adopted into a tribe that could read English and whom acted as a translator; one that usually also had an ax to grind about either the Catholic Church or Church of England). Having said that, the early Maori saints did indeed liken scripture to themselves–unlike what Midgley writes Bushman as saying–not from an ancient historical view, but one very much closer to home (and one of the darkest periods in our history). The civil wars of the late 1700s and early 1800s between the tribes uprooted families from across the country that decimated what some historians have estimated into six-digit figures. So when Maori likened the BoM to them this was what they saw and were very much looking for an actual savior, not a spiritual renewal. They had more in common or were more familiar with the revengeful God of the Hebrew Bible than they were the peaceful one of the NT that the English church came to teach them of. The message of the BoM that the American church gave them was one of hope and restoration of their lands. We are afterall talking about refugees.

    While I know Sunday school isn’t exactly a mini-university and that members come to be edified or a place where they can come to be feel good about their choices, we tend to be asked to liken the scriptures to our modern selves far more often than we do putting scripture into it historical context. Sometimes I wish we could read the BoM from a literary view and less a theological and dogmatic text.

  15. Brad L
    December 21, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I was hesitant to make this suggestion, but after some thought and reading, I will suggest Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon (Signature Books, 1986). Vogel articulately paints of picture of the discussion that was taking place about ancient inhabitants in the Americas before 1830 and how the Book of Mormon may have contributed to that discussion. LDS apologist Kevin Christensen, who reviewed Vogel’s book in 1990, notes (in spite of his criticisms of the book) that it “provides new and interesting information on the pre-1830 environment of the Book of Mormon, especially concerning knowledge of Mesoamerican antiquities.” Vogel’s exchange with Christensen is worth a read as well. Agree with Vogel or not about Joseph Smith being a “pious fraud,” his work on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon cannot be ignored. Richard Bushman has referred to Vogel as “one of Joseph’s best-informed critics.” I tend to agree.

    On a side note, anyone who is serious about studying the Book of Mormon must deeply entertain the proposition that the Book of Mormon was a product of Joseph Smith’s imagination and engage a number of the works that either strongly suggest that (as Vogel’s work does) or try to directly support that with evidence as other works do. It is not enough to simply read apologetic responses to these ideas. You have to actually sit down and deeply read the works yourself, come to an understanding of their arguments and supporting evidence, and engage their ideas.

  16. Ben S.
    December 21, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Brad- I don’t mind, but that’s unlikely to be directly useful to Gospel Doctrine…

    Dogberry (Obadiah?)- ATV? eModE?

  17. Sylvie-Anne
    December 21, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Athena, I love the historical background on the BoM in Aotearoa that you gave. I agree, I wish we were taught more about the literacy and historical backgrounds of our texts. I tend to teach that way whenever called into Sunday School.
    Also, to add to the list of text to read. John’s Welch lecture on 3nephi is a must.

  18. Clark Goble
    December 22, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Brad, I actually like Vogel’s book a lot even though I obviously disagree with his take on Joseph Smith. I agree that being able to engage the naturalistic take is important. I’m not sure I’d recommend it for this list though.

  19. T&S Admin
    December 22, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Laser guy, you’ve been banned here before because you’ve not been able to follow the comment policy – “Critiques of others’ positions are to be expected, but those critiques should be of the argument, not the person. No insults…. it is also unacceptable to call into question a commenter’s personal righteousness.”

    You’re on notice.

  20. Susan
    December 22, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Thanks for this list. I’ve been teaching G.D. for three years and your suggested resources have been helpful each year. I am a toddler when it comes to using sources beyond the scriptures and Institute manual to enhance my study. I was first introduced to basic reference books for the Bible not from Sunday School or BYU Religion classes but from a home school curriculum I bought to teach my children. I actually felt angry to discover that there were resources like “Strongs” that other people knew about, but I had been denied. It felt like there were resources for the elite and then there was me- a commoner. It has been a soul satisfying experience to wade into the deeper water. For what it’s worth my experience has been that as I educate myself about different opinions and ways of interpreting I often come back to the Sunday School manual and understand it better. I can see why certain choices are made in what to include or not include in a lesson. Then, I teach the lesson as outlined on a much different level than when I was just “sticking to the manual.” Thanks again.

  21. Ben S.
    December 22, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Susan, I think D&C 123:12 applies, adapted. “For there are many yet on the earth among all branches, wards, and stakes… who are only kept from these resources because they do know not where to find them.”

    Most people simply don’t know that kind of resource exists.

    Strong’s is a good stepping stone, but with cautions, as you probably know. (See the Study Suggestions part of this article , already linked in the post.)

  22. Dogberry
    December 22, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Ben, I’m glad to help you out. If you google “skousen atv” you’ll get an online link to where his Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon (which you provide an Amazon link for) can be accessed freely at mormoninterpreter.com. Also, one of the world’s authorities on Early Modern English, Charles Barber (d. 2000), whose 1976 book (updated in 1997) can be profitably studied today, used the abbreviation eModE to refer to English from that time period. And yes, I use here the made-up last name of the infamous copyright-infringer — Abner Cole, IIRC. Cheers.

  23. Ardis
    December 22, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    When someone posts a quotation without comment, as someone did in #10, it is difficult to know what point he intended to make. In the case of #10, however, I suppose the intent was to denigrate the use of resources like those Ben suggests — “Only the manual, scriptures, and church magazines! Anything else is unnecessary and wrong!!”

    That quotation, however, pertains to material presented as part of the lesson, used in class, taught to class members to add to (that’s what “supplement” means) the lesson. The lesson *should* be taken directly from the scriptures. Nobody disputes that.

    Ben’s suggestions are for use of the teacher during preparation, to better understand the scriptures and therefore to better teach from the scriptures. Anything that helps a teacher — or anyone else — better understand the text and doctrine of the scriptures can only result in good. Nothing in instructions given to teachers forbids personal study and preparation, for pete’s sake.

    That should all go without saying — but as long as this passive-agressive anti-intellectualism infests these discussions, it *can’t* go without saying, in fairness to Ben and to every other conscientious teacher and student of scripture.

  24. David Day
    December 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you Ardis 23. 100% agree.

    Let me go a bit farther. It’s interesting to me to see how often some go to a manual before going to the scriptures. There are several scriptures that are relevant about how to teach, at least one is this: seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (D&C 88:118).

    I don’t wish to suggest that one should not use the manual and instructions therein, quite the contrary. The manual includes the following ideas. First, teach whatever the Spirit tells you to teach. It may well be that the Spirit inspires one or more of our teachers to use one or more of the items listed above. Second, focus on the scriptures. This section includes a part about obtaining the Lord’s word before declaring it, and diligently studying the scriptures. I find a number of the resources identified to be helpful in making a diligent study, as opposed to the kind of study that involves casually reading the manual on Saturday night and thinking that that somehow is what the Lord would have me do.

    Now let’s talk about Elder Ballard’s quote. My sense is that Ardis is correct when he observes that some people do read it to say “Only the manual, scriptures, and church magazines! Anything else is unnecessary and wrong!!”. Of course that is not what Elder Ballard actually says. Let me break down Elder Ballard’s quote (my comments in ALL CAPS):


    Let me end where I started, with the scriptures: And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach. (D&C 42:14). And again: seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (D&C 88:118).

  25. Ben S.
    December 22, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks Dogberry. I’ve updated accordingly.

    Ardis, such was my assumption, but wanted to see if I could draw out any further explanation. My response would be as yours is. FWIW, I think the Church is somewhat inconsistent about their directives and models on this, as I write in this old post elsewhere.

    David, agreed. Scripture takes precedence over the manual. There’s the related issue of what to do when the manual is wrong or incomplete, as happens to one degree or another. For one take, see this post at BCC . I responded to that post with my own take here.

  26. Brad L
    December 22, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Come on, Dave, we have every reason to believe that you came on here to softly condemn Ben’s suggestion to undertake any sort of deep reading or deep thinking to prepare to teach Sunday School classes. Ardis’ characterization of your efforts as passive-aggressive anti-intellectualism is dead on. While you don’t tell people to completely avoid the use of supplemental materials, your posts come off as a stern caution against it.

  27. Cameron N.
    December 22, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Ardis, that quote in #10 is also very outdated and if ready carefully doesn’t preclude anything suggested in this OP.

    “Far too many teachers seem to stray from the approved curriculum materials without fully reviewing them.” – EG don’t just wing it without even studying what the actual topic is about.

    “If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines” – Given before the advent of the internet. The church is moving toward an even-more bare bones in lesson guidance, similar to Come Follow Me, but for everyone.

  28. Terry H
    December 22, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Brad L and Ben S. An interesting story about the Gutjahr book. Originally, Terryl Givens was preparing the Book of Mormon volume for that series from Princeton. Somewhere in the manuscript, he was REMINDED by Oxford that he was under contract to them and so his manuscript turned into The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction. (2009). Frankly, having reviewed both, Gutjahr is adequate (especially for a person who’s not LDS, but Givens would have been better). I also agree that the book that should be on top of Ben’s list is By The Hand Of Mormon. (I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but whenever I’m asked for such a list, that’s my number one).

    Ben, thanks for this list. I really think you’ve covered the subject. I’ve used Second Witness for years and its terrific. One feature that caught my attention was his reference to “Yahweh” wherever the text mentions “the Lord”. In addition to the commentary having a Meso-American emphasis, it also has an Old Testament emphasis as well. The Lehites were clearly Old Testament, pre-exilic Israelites.

    I also have to mention for a few that there’s a very light-hearted (light-minded) version called The Lost Plates of Laman, 2d Edition that has recently been reprinted. Its by Bob Smith (who I don’t know). Not for everyone, but parts of it had me laughing out loud. Its original version was from Signature and I’m not sure how it sold. Too bad. Funny.

    The best Book of Mormon book I read last year was From Darkness Into Light. I look forward to more such volumes from the JSP project.

  29. Ben S.
    December 23, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Thanks Terry. Interesting story.

    I’m adding one last element under commentaries.

  30. JT
    December 23, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Brad (26) – There are few things that annoy me more than discouraging learning, but one of them is telling someone else what their actual intentions are. Let Dave speak for himself.

  31. Brad L
    December 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    JT, it is perfectly fine to tell infer someone’s intentions when we have ample and/or clear evidence of what they are. What else can be understood from writing, “additional references and commentaries should not be necessary to teach the lessons” in response to a post that gives reading suggestions for this year’s study of the Book of Mormon (clearly referring to its study in the context of the correlated Sunday School)? Dave has already spoken. We have strong evidence that his intent was to come on here and subtly frown on Ben’s encouragement to engage in extensive reading about the Book of Mormon and even more evidence that he is cautioning against reading supplemental material. At this point, Dave needs to either take ownership for what he has already written or recant.

  32. Larry Cheesman
    December 24, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I have written a couple of books that would make good resource material for GD teachers in the church. One is titled- “Morals of the Book of Mormon”. This lists the “and thus we see” type references in the Book of Mormon and then I support those scriptures with quotes from General Authorities. The other book is titled- “The Script of the Book of Mormon”. In this book, I have just reformatted the Book of Mormon into two columns. One column shows who is speaking and the other column contains the verses that are spoken. It’s a very interesting way to read the Book of Mormon. I would be glad to submit them for review and make them available for download through your site.

  33. Joseph Stanford
    December 24, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    I want to put in a second vote for Beholding the Tree of Life. A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon. Great to learn some new ways to engage the text of the Book of Mormon on multiple levels.

  34. December 28, 2015 at 1:17 am

    The Book of Mormon Online (http://bookofmormon.online/) is my attempt at presenting the Book of Mormon text in a web-friendly, accessible format with lots of study resources and supplement. It has not gotten a lot of attention through the years, but those who have used it have found it to be quite useful.

  35. PJ
    December 28, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    KC Kern –

    I’ve used your “bookofmormononline” site, and think it’s fabulous. I was encouraged to check it out by a prominent LDS scholar. Your work is definitely appreciate!

  36. Nathan Ellsworth
    January 10, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Other Ways to Read #7, about listening to the scriptures, contains a duplicate link to Ardis’ site. I would appreciate the correct link to download audio versions of the scriptures. I’m looking for Japanese Book of Mormon MP3. Thanks for compiling this fantastic list of resources.

  37. January 10, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Ah, sorry Nathan. Here’s the link to the Book of Mormon audio. Alas, it’s only English, I don’t know why. I know they had French audio 20 years ago, because I bought the cassettes on my mission. I’ve emailed repeatedly about that language, and never gotten replies.

  38. January 10, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Nathan, the Japanese version is here: https://www.lds.org/media-library/audio-interim?lang=jpn

  39. Nathan Ellsworth
    January 10, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks KC! MP3 audio for the Book of Mormon in Japanese is there as well as Spanish, but not for any of the other selectable languages. However, for Ben, I found this site via Google which appears to have a French version to download. http://www.lelivredemormon.org

  40. Ben S.
    January 11, 2016 at 1:15 am

    I’d seen that one before. It’s read by a non-native speaker, not the posh Parisian of my official mission cassettes.
    Thanks for the Japanese link, too.

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