John 11 in the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon; Gospel of John; Lazarus; Realized Eschatology; Intertextuality; Women in Scripture; Christology; Religious Epistemology
In a 1978 study, Krister Stendahl traced the use of Johannine theology in the Book of Mormon’s most central narrative: the climactic story of the resurrected Jesus visiting the ancient Americas. According to Stendahl, the reproduction of the Sermon on the Mount with occasional slight variations suggests an attempt at deliberately recasting the Matthean text as a Johannine sermon. Building on Stendahl’s work, this essay looks at the use of John earlier in the Book of Mormon, in a narrative presented as having occurred almost a century before the time of Jesus. In an inventive reworking of the narrative of John 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus, the Book of Mormon suggests that it bears a much more complex relationship to the Johannine theology than its unhesitant embrace at the book’s climax indicates. Broad parallels and unmistakable allusions together make clear that the Book of Mormon narrative means to re-present the story from John 11. But the parallels and allusions are woven with alterations to the basic structure of the Johannine narrative. As in John 11, the reworked narrative focuses on the story of two men, one of them apparently dead, and two women, both attached to the (supposedly) dead man. But the figure who serves as the clear parallel to Jesus is unstable in the Book of Mormon narrative: at first a Christian missionary, but then a non-Christian and racially other slave woman, and finally a non-Christian and racially other queen. But still more striking, in many ways, is the fashion in which the Book of Mormon narrative recasts the Lazarus story in a pre-Christian setting, before human beings are asked to confront the Johannine mystery of God in the flesh. Consequently, although the Book of Mormon narrative uses the basic structure and many borrowed phrases from John 11, it recasts the meaning of this structure and these phrases by raising questions about the meaning of belief before the arrival of the Messiah. The Book of Mormon thereby embraces the Johannine theology of a realized eschatology while nonetheless outlining a distinct pre-Christian epistemology focused on trusting prophetic messengers who anticipate eschatology.
Original Publication Citation
“John 11 in the Book of Mormon” (with Nicholas J. Frederick, Brigham Young University). Journal o the bible and Its Reception 5.1 (2018): 81–106.
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Frederick, Nicholas J. and Spencer, Joseph M., "John 11 in the Book of Mormon" (2018). Faculty Publications. 3290.