On June 6, 2015, the Claremont Mormon Studies program, sponsored by the Howard W. Hunter Foundation was pleased to host Dr. Robert A. Rees, with a lecture entitled, “Reading the Book of Mormon.”
The Book of Mormon was named by the Library of Congress as one of the one hundred “Books That Shaped America.” Since 1830, 150,000,000 copies of it have been published making it the sixth most published book in history. While it has been popular since 1830 for critics to debunk or diminish the Book of Mormon, it has stood the test of time. Recently, two non-Mormon critics praised the Book of Mormon. In his The Lost Book of Mormon, Avi Steinberg, a “fascinated nonbeliever,” ”nominates the Mormon scripture as a Great American Novel, or, failing that, as a priceless artifact . . . that deserves our attention.” In a review of Steinberg’s book in the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Manseau says the Book of Mormon is “without a doubt one of the most remarkable books ever written.” And in a recent interview in the New York Times, the author Freeman Dyson, when asked, “What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?” replied, “’The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.’ I treasure it because . . . [it] tells a dramatic story in a fine biblical style. The reader has to wait with growing tension almost until the end of the story to reach the final climax, when Jesus arrives in America and founds his second kingdom here. Literary critic and Book of Mormon scholar Bob Rees discusses some of the stylistic complexities of the Book of Mormon, shedding new light on the oft-debated question of how such a remarkable literary creation emerged from nineteenth-century America.
Robert A. Rees teaches Mormon Studies at Graduate Theological Union and Religious Studies at UC Berkeley. He is the editor of Why I Stay: The Challenges of Discipleship for Contemporary Mormons and the co-editor of The Reader’s Book of Mormon, both published by Signature Press.