A new article up at First Things recounts a Catholic professor’s experience reading the Book of Mormon. Although he does not have a spiritual experience with it, he finds much to praise in its insistent focus on Christ, and some to criticize in its drabness. I rejoice whenever anyone recognizes the former, and frankly have no argument with the latter. Though any Mormon would quibble with a few things in the piece, he brings up some terrific points–I especially like the whole “grandfather’s funeral” analogy–and the whole thing is definitely worth reading. The money quote:
Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him. It adds to the plural but coherent portrait of Jesus that emerges from the four gospels in a way, I am convinced, that does not significantly damage or deface that portrait.
I came to this conclusion when I read through the Book of Mormon for the first time. I already knew the basic outline: that it recounts the journey of a people God led from Jerusalem to the Americas six hundred years before the birth of Christ. In America, they split into two groups, the good guys (the Nephites) and the bad guys (the Lamanites), who battled each other until there were no good guys left—except for Moroni (Mormon’s son), who buried the chronicles of their wars and then, in 1823, told a farm boy from upstate New York where to find them.
When I actually read this book, however, I was utterly surprised. I was not moved, mind you. The Book of Mormon has to be one of the most lackluster of all the great works of literature that have inspired enduring religious movements. Yet it is dull precisely because it is all about Jesus. Continue reading