The New Republic just published a long article which includes a summary of LDS history. While repeating many expected errors (why is Mormonism apparently so hard to research and fact-check?), one passage about the Book of Mormon especially stood out to me:
By the 1820s, the jeremiad had long been a pervasive rhetorical form among American Puritans and their republican descendants. Nor was that the only connection between this supposedly timeless text and its early American context. There were references to debates over infant baptism, church government, and revivalism, allusions to fears of secret societies, and other evidence that marked the book as a product of its historical moment.
This flavor of brusque dismissal has been around since the book was published: if some fraction of the text can be interpreted as similar to some elements of the environment at the time of publication, then it must have been written at that time.
Such a myopic approach leaves out the majority of the text, evidences in its favor, and alternate explanations. It’s a desperate attempt to come up with an easy origin for the book—any explanation other than Joseph Smith’s will do—and then forget that the whole issue ever existed.
It’s ultimately a lazy and disingenuous endeavor, one completely divorced from intellectual honesty.
Imagine that after Jonathan Swift wrote his satirical masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels in the early 1720s, he took it to the American colonies and buried it instead of publishing it. (more…)