Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide
Grant Hardy calls his book “a reader’s guide,” and it deserves that indefinite pronoun. He specifies neither the reader nor the nature of the guide, because he is after any reader willing to take the book seriously, and his approach to the Book of Mormon is literary. He welcomes you to study the book as a nineteenth-century American literary artifact — and then proceeds to show you how strange this put-offering is. He does this by focusing on three putative narrators of the book: Nephi, Mormon and Moroni.
What, if anything, new can he say about that trio? A lot, as it turns out, 273 pages worth, as well as offering new insights into Jacob, Enos, Jarom, and the Omni-narrators that precede the Words of Mormon. By directing the reader’s attention to the narrators, he brings them face-to-face with the people in the story, not the people external to it. Hardy presents a fine example of how those writers function as both characters and narrators on pages 16 through 23, where he discusses Nephi’s account of his return to his father’s encampment with the booty of Laban, and how his telling of the story makes his father an accessory after the fact to the killing and looting.
Hardy introduces the reader to a stranger book than most Mormons know, a book far more unusual, involved and compelling than most non-Mormons imagine. It’s all one to Hardy: he offers a guide to the Book of Mormon, a reader’s guide, to complement the reader’s edition of the Book of Mormon he published in 2003. This guide wants you to read.