Anything Good in the Book of Mormon
I’m going to ask a strange question of a bunch of exMos, but I hope you can help me out. I don’t know where I could ask this question on the Bloggernacle without it ending badly.
I was reading James Kugel’s essay on biblical criticism’s strange relationship to apologetics (highly recommended), and it led me to wonder about the Book of Mormon.
Biblical scholars have long ago abandoned many naive beliefs about Bible authorship. There is strong evidence that—far from being an inerrant, monolithic work of divine authorship—it is a hodgepodge of preexisting scraps of human stories and myth floating around the ancient Middle East which were later collected and repurposed by redactors. I’m sure this claim won’t be terribly controversial around these parts (at least it shouldn’t be given the weight of scholarship behind it). Yet, there are many biblical scholars who continue to practice a Bible-based religion. James Kugel, as an orthodox Jew, is one example.
I’ve been reexamining the Book of Mormon with a more scholarly eye lately, and for many reasons, it seems that the most reasonable explanation is that it is the work of human imagination (surprise!). So for the sake of discussion, let’s say that because of the information available on the internet, more and more Mormons begin to view the Book of Mormon like religious scholars see the Bible: as a work of religious fiction.
My question is this: is there something valuable in the Book of Mormon despite it being fiction? Any inspiring stories? Any advice on how to live a good life? In other words, is there anything that makes it worthwhile aside from its claims to historicity?
I’m encountering something of a stupor of thought here. I’m drawing a complete blank, but there’s got to be something, right? What am I forgetting?