On a Dawning Era for the Book of Mormon


Book of Mormon, Religious Studies, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints


G. W. F. HEGEL FAMOUSLY SAID THAT the owl of Minerva takes flight only at dusk, that it is only as a historical sequence comes to a close that it becomes possible to reflect fully on its meaning and implications. 1 In this sense, Terryl Givens’s 2002 By the Hand of Mormon, a full-blooded reception history of “the American scripture that launched a new world religion,” marked an important break in the history of academic study of the Book of Mormon. 2 Its appearance significantly coincided with the slowdown of the most intense and productive period of investigation the Book of Mormon has witnessed in the almost two centuries of its circulation. Givens thus attempted in his book not so much to take the pulse of a flourishing movement as to eulogize what had been generally regarded as a great era for academic study of the Book of Mormon. Inaugurated by Hugh Nibley and Sidney Sperry in the 1940s, becoming dormant for a period beginning in the 1960s, and reemerging with peculiar force under the guidance of John Welch and John Sorenson in the 1980s, the era whose end Givens effectively announced was dominated by an unmistakable apologetic impulse and aimed at defending the plausibility of the Book of Mormon’s ancient origins

Original Publication Citation

“On a Dawning Era for the Book of Mormon.” The Mormon Studies Review 1 (2014): 132–43.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL







Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor