Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


Angela Erdmann


The Book of Mormon, prophet, nineteenth century, religion


Given the remarkable story of the discovery and divine translation of gold plates hidden in a hill by an ancient Amerindian prophet, nineteenth- century readers could be forgiven for expecting an exotic new set of doctrines in The Book of Mormon. Instead, what many readers found (when they bothered to read the book at all) was an often dull, frequently complicated narrative with the veneer of biblical language and themes. Where they expected to find a heretical "Gold Bible'' designed to supplant and erase biblical authority, they instead found chapters lifted directly from the Bible itself. The Book of Mormon was a strange document indeed, having at once a "foundational role'' in but also a "theological irrelevance'' to a newly created religion, so that it was actually "the miracle the work embodied, not the doctrine it presented, that gave offense."