The Book of Mormon Sleuth 2, The Lost Tribe
C. B. Andersen
Bookcraft , 2002. Trade paperback:
Suggested retail price: $9.95 (US)
The much-anticipated second volume in the Book of Mormon Sleuth seriesby C. B. (Carl) Andersen has finally arrived. Some of you will recallmy enthusiasm for the first volume in the series, titled simply Bookof Mormon Sleuth. In that volume, we met the Andrews family, atypical Utah Mormon family, engaging in a quest for "buried treasure"-- buried, that is, in a copy of the Book of Mormon owned by anancestor. In this volume, Andersen takes a different approach, butcontinues his quest for ways to make studying the Book of Mormoninteresting to children.
The Lost Tribe is told through the eyes of Jeff Andrews, one ofthe Andrews boys. Their father had won a vacation trip to Alaska, anexciting prospect for the family. When their airplane encountersproblems and cannot take off, the passengers are offered alternativeflights. But the Andrews family decides to stay on that plane. They,a man named Tom, and a small flight crew, constitute the entirepopulation of the plane.
The plane's navigational system fails, and they find themselves makinga forced landing somewhere in the Arctic Circle, although they don'tas yet know where they are. They encounter a strange "tribe" and findthemselves in a very sticky situation, unable to communicate andguilty, it seems, of some transgression they don't yet understand.
Turns out this "tribe" is one of the lost tribes of Israel! I won't gointo how they figure this all out, not wanting to reveal all thedetails of the book. Suffice it to say that their adventures arehair-raising. Finding themselves in the midst of a serious tribaldispute, and fortunately discovering a young man who actually speaks alittle English (an American they named "Christian" had similarly foundhis way into the tribal community, and lived among them long enough toteach them some English), the small group -- the Andrews family, Tom,and the flight crew -- must somehow find a way to escape the tribe andfind some help.
As I read, I wondered how this book would sound to a younger person.The sense of adventure and wonder in the book is, I believe, a greatexperience for a young LDS reader. Andersen is to be commended forwriting a book that doesn't "speak down" to the young people. Whilethe story has all the earmarks of an youthful adventure, it assumes alevel of intelligence that, I believe, does the young reader justice.
This fellow Tom emerges as one of the central characters in the book.I was gratified to see a non-Mormon playing such a key role in theadventure.
In fact, the part of Tom represents something of a departure inAndersen's story-telling technique. Tom is a sympathetic andauthentic character. Sadly, in a few places, Andersen fails toproduce a believable dialogue between Tom and the Andrews family,between gentile and Saint. This problem is not unique to this book --Mormon understanding of other religions is often no better than anon-Mormon's understanding of Mormonism. And when conversations arerelated in Mormon fiction, they often go beyond what is believable.
Seeing through the eyes of a non-Mormon is a skill that involves adeep understanding of non-Mormon thought.
Let's look at one example. To set it up, the family and Tom are stillon the airplane. They've been discussing biblical matters with Tom,and are now talking about ordinances. The unfamiliar names are thoseof the Andrews children:
Dad paused and Aaron began to turn to Jacob again, but turned back once more as Dad added, "Most of these ordinances are performed for both the living and the dead."
My attention was caught by Tom's obvious shock over this last statement. "Do you perform baptisms for the dead?" he whispered. "As spoken of in the New Testament?"
Dad answered quietly yet firmly. "Yes. We do." He was staring at Jacob as he spoke.
"I've never heard of a church that followed all those biblical teachings," Tom replied. (102-3)
How likely is it that a non-Mormon would have this view of proxybaptism? How many non-Mormons feel that baptism for the dead is a"biblical teaching"?
Fact is, non-Mormons find the practice a bit strange. And let it besaid that contemporary Mormon scholars are reluctant to point to thesingle verse in Paul's first letter to Corinth to justify thepractice. Instead, modern revelation is the key support.
The discussion would have been more realistic had Dad pointed Tom tothe verse in 1 Corinthians and explained how the Church understandsthat scripture. It was simply not believable that Tom, a non-Mormon,would consider proxy baptism a "biblical teaching."
Another problem. Pages 138-9 contain a muddled dialogue aboutsabbath-keeping. Having lost track of time somewhat, the family can'tdecide whether it's Saturday or Sunday. They decide that it is indeedSunday. The tribe is about to observe the sabbath. The question isasked:
didn't the Israelites celebrate the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday?"
"Maybe when Christian taught them about Christ, they changed their Sabbath to Sunday," Dad suggested.
Problem is, it has already been established that the tribe at largehad rejected the Messiah, were insistent on observance of the law ofMoses, including daily animal sacrifices. Given the centrality of theseventh-day Sabbath in the Israelite economy, the idea that they wouldhave yet embraced Sunday as their Sabbath is a bit much.
I realize that a young reader will never notice the flaws I found.And, to be frank, they really don't detract from the enjoyment of thebook. Nonetheless, Andersen would have benefited from submitting thetext of his conversations with non-Mormons to ensure some level ofcredibility.
This is a fine book. It will be enjoyed by young people and adultsalike. And, like the first book, it will give parents and teachersnew ideas about how to teach the Book of Mormon to young people.
Get this book. It's only ten bucks, a real bargain in today'sover-priced book market. I believe your young people will enjoy it,and you, too, will find it an enjoyable read.
----------------------- Jeff Needle email@example.com
© 2002 Jeff Needle < firstname.lastname@example.org >