Monday, June 24, 2013

Religious Genius and the Book of Mormon

From Terryl L. Givens, By The Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched A New World Religion (Oxford University Press, 2002), 246.

Recognizing the ultimate insufficiency of cultural influences to account for the Book of Mormon taken as a whole, an intrigued observer like Harold Bloom, perhaps the most famous contemporary (non-Mormon) admirer of Joseph Smith, refers to the prophet as an “authentic religious genius.” Many Mormons would be happy for the complement. Such a tribute, however, as foremost historian of Mormonism Richard Bushman realizes, is still just another kind of intellectual failure to come to terms with the golden bible. “Genius, by common admission, carries human achievement beyond the limits of simple historical explanation, just as revelation does. To say that the Book of Mormon could only be written by a genius is logically not much different from saying God revealed it. In both cases, we admit that historical analysis fails us.”

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