One of my favorite things about the Book of Mormon is how fully it presents the emotional depth of mature life experiences. It profoundly describes, for example, both the crushing frustration and the soaring ecstasy of missionary work (Alma 31 and Alma 26, respectively), the anguish of parents who worry about straying children (2 Nephi 1, Alma 39), and the utter loneliness of those whose devotion to God has made them outcasts among their own people (Jacob 7:26, Ether 13:13-14, Moroni 1:1-3).
It seems unreasonable to me to think that undereducated, 23-year-old farm laborer Joseph Smith could have fathomed these extreme feelings, much less could have imagined them in rich detail.
Another example: there are three characters in the Book of Mormon who make it their professional business to publicly oppose the work of the Church, arguing that the beliefs of the Saints are wrong (Jacob 7, Alma 1, Alma 30). By far the most fully developed of these is Korihor, the Nietzsche wanna-be in Alma 30. The Book of Mormon presents his rhetoric in ample, sophisticated texture. The prophet Alma ultimately engages him and responds to each attack with withering, syllogistic precision. Their dialogue is worthy of Aristotle’s tales of Socrates. And we’re supposed to believe that this, also, was written by the unlettered and inexperienced Smith?
But most impressive to me of all this, these days, is just how presciently Korihor prefigures the current spate of elite Anti-Mormon commentators who seek to enlighten the unwashed masses about the insane, conniving cultists from Utah in this cultural “Mormon moment.” Continue reading