Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


Sean Leahy


Joseph Smith, First Vision, The Book of Mormon, narrative, text


In recalling his "First Vision" in 1820, Joseph Smith writes of the "anxieties" over the "contests of [the] parties of religionists" that drove him to seek solace in scripture and "attempt to pray vocally" for the first time in his young life. Smith describes turning to the Epistle of James, a reading that precipitated his calling out for an answer to his "anxieties." The reply to Smith's "vocal" prayer initiated a course of events that ultimately led to the publication of The Book of Mormon in March 1830. Since then, the story of the plates whose translation constitutes the text The Book of Mormon has provoked nearly as much-if not more-attention than the exceedingly complex narrative itself. The experience of reading the text poses challenges, though not because of its tedium (as Mark Twain suggested) or the demands it places on one's willingness to suspend disbelief; instead, the challenges it poses derive, I will argue, from the way in which reading itself is figured in the text. This paper intends to take up the problem of reading and The Book of Mormon, which I believe the text presents but does not fully resolve.