Book of Mormon studies, charity, anachronisms, Nicholas J. Frederick, New Testament studies, pre-Christian Era, faith, hope, love
The eclectic Book of Mormon effectively collapses intellectual and sacred history. Anachronisms have drawn and do currently draw the attention of some Book of Mormon students and researchers. Nicholas J. Frederick, for instance, has written extensively on the presence of New Testament language in the largely pre–Christian Era record. Not all anachronisms are so extensive and involved as those Frederick traces. Some are minor and comparatively unimportant. However, there is a significant and pervasive conceptual anachronism that deserves critical attention. I speak of the primary narrators of the Book of Mormon using faith, hope, and charity (or love) as textual and exegetical principles. Divine love (and love of the divine and the divine within the human), or charity, was employed by the ancients, more or less, as a hermeneutic. But Christian charity as a fully articulated principle of exegesis began with Augustine (who was inspired by Ambrose) and continued for a thousand years or more until other less theologically oriented methods of interpretive reading emerged during the Renaissance and Reformation. Allegorical reading—historically what reading charitably (or sympathetically) permitted—was replaced slowly by more literal, rhetorical, Protestant, and enlightened approaches to difficult texts. An entire meditative tradition developed around this affective attribute of love. Love was the key to every quest. The diversity of historical approaches to interpreting texts (sacred and legal) is dramatized in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. There, Bassanio, the male protagonist, demonstrates what Augustine borrowed from Plato and adapted to Paul when reading the third casket differently than Portia’s other two suitors. Bassanio unlocks the riddle because of his true love for Portia. Romantic love and divine love have been the key to understanding texts from classical times until more modern times. Similarly, the Book of Mormon, in a day of rigorous rationalistic approaches to interpretation, articulates the exegetical value of faith, hope, and especially charity. Nephi and Moroni both seem to understand that these three Christian virtues are principles of both composition and reception, if not also of comprehension and, ultimately, conversion and salvation (see 1 Ne. 19:6–7; 2 Ne. 26:29–31, 33; Ether 12; Moro. 7, 10).
Stenson, Matthew Scott
"Charity as an Exegetical Principle in the Book of Mormon,"
BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 62:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol62/iss1/5