As methods by which texts are to be understood, positivism and historicism have a long tradition and continue to exert wide influence in all academic disciplines. Other approaches to textual concerns have recently emerged to challenge the dominance of these two approaches. Foremost among these new approaches are hermeneutics and deconstruction. Both of the latter approaches recognize that interpretation is inescapable. The latter challenges even the possibility of determinate meaning. A theoretical discussion of historicism and positivism uncovers questionable and troublesome difficulties. Hermeneutics in its conservative or radical variations overcomes the difficulties of interpretation that positivism and historicism can't explain. As an example of the problems of positivism and historicism, several narratives from the Book of Mormon illustrate how readings by revisionist Mormon readers—those who believe it is a modern work of fiction rather than an authentic ancient document—find exactly the evidence sought, largely without consulting the text they attempt to explain. Using biblical criticism with the assumption that it will illuminate the Book of Mormon text, especially of the literary rather than the historical variety, the narratives are complex and sophisticated works. Four narratives (the stealing of the daughters of the Lamanites, the broken bow, the Nahom incident, and the building of the ship narrative) illustrate the texture of the Book of Mormon as a set of complicated narratives that draw strongly from biblical archetypes of the exodus and patriarchal narratives.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Book of Mormon, Hermeneutics, Criticism, interpretation