Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


Alana Smith


messianic time, The Book of Mormon, materialization, Joseph Smith


Walter Benjamin famously claimed that "only a redeemed mankind is granted the fullness of its past-which is to say, only for a redeemed mankind has its past become citable in all its moments. Each moment it has lived becomes a citation a l'ordre du jour. And that day is Judgment Day." The Book of Mormon (1830) posits a pathway to redemption for believers and organizes all time around the coming of Christ. I aim to use Benjamin's model of messianic time to interpret the complicated formal and narrative temporalities in The Book of Mormon and to offer a possible answer to the question, "Why did The Book of Mormon materialize when and where it did?" The Book of Mormon anticipates its own appearance in the nineteenth century. This temporal peculiarity authorizes my reading of the sacred text in its economic and historical context. I will argue that Joseph Smith's discovery and translation of the plates he unearthed on a hillside in Palmyra, New York, presented a challenge to the capitalist perception of time that threatened to further disenfranchise Smith and others in the Burned-over District.