In the past year, blogs discussing the Bible and the Koran have appeared. With the candidacy of Mitt Romney for President of the United States, and a corresponding rise in media attention to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, I thought I might want to do a similar blog on the Book of Mormon.
Relatively few people have actually read the Book of Mormon. Anti-Mormons are fond of cherry-picking selected quotations to give a misleading idea of what it says, while believing scholars have supporting evidence for some of the claims that seem incredible at first glance. It's not my purpose here to debate or defend accounts of the origin of the Book of Mormon. Rather, I wish to give an introductory summary of what the book itself says and does not say. It should not to be taken as an alternative or substitute for reading the Book of Mormon itself.
Although I am not a professional scholar of the Book of Mormon, I have read it often enough, both from beginning to end and in various parts, to be somewhat familiar with it, and I have also followed various criticisms, commentary, and scholarship.
There have been many changes since the first printing, most of them in small points of punctuation and grammar. Few have been material. I am using the "official" 1981 edition, but I may take not of others when they have been controversial. The Book of Mormon is divided into fifteen books of varying length. The current division into chapters and verses was introduced in about 1923.
The first of these books is named the First Book of Nephi, and subtitled his reign and ministry. It begins with a synopsis of this first book, recounting how one Lehi with his wife Sariah and four sons Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi and another family were commanded by God to leave Jerusalem, travel through the wilderness, and build a ship to travel to a promised land. The author identifies himself as Nephi, the fourth and youngest of these sons.