Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


Helaman, The Book of Mormon, self-conception, buried texts


The Book of Helaman is a segment of the Book of Mormon whose study is both imperative and complicated in underappreciated ways. The imperative behind the book of Helaman's study lies in the text's significance for the self-conception of the Book of Mormon as well as its mythmaking function for the early Saints in their imaginative mapping of the American West. Like the Book of Mormon, Helaman traffics in buried texts that disclose signs and covenants and makes explicit the latent Lamanite frame that undergirds the Book of Mormon as a whole. It presents, as well, the Book of Mormon's most robust account of secret combinations-a group that then entranced the text's earliest readers to such a degree that they used this characterization to imbue their landscape with religious significance, describing the mountains surrounding the Salt Lake Valley as "the abode of the spirits of Gadianton robbers." To understand the Book of Mormon's sense of itself as a material artifact, to clarify the theological status of the Lamanites, and to explore the way the Book of Mormon helped sculpt a sense of place for early Latter-day Saints, close attention to the book of Helaman is an unavoidable prerequisite.