I’ve been reading Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon again. It does the Book of Mormon a great service: it examines that text with an eye towards figuring out how it does what it tries to do.
He analyzes how each of the book’s three main voices–Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni–organize and present their thoughts, with careful conclusions drawn from close study of those evident agendas.
Here is a brief summary of the largest lessons:
Mormon and Moroni are very close in the narrative—father and son—but their editorial approaches are radically different.
Mormon demonstrates the reality of Christian doctrine by presenting a factual, historically sourced record with very light editorial intrusion.
Moroni demonstrates the reality of Christian doctrine by presenting a didactic, spiritually plaintive record with very heavy editorial intrusion.
Nephi, meanwhile, is largely content to preach directly from scripture and base his attendant remarks primarily on those texts.
Indeed, though Hardy never uses these exact formulas, his book suggests that the three narrators’ messages could be summarized as follows:
Nephi: come to Jesus by studying the scriptures
Mormon: come to Jesus by following the prophets
Moroni: come to Jesus by seeking the Spirit