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Book Of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained (Skylight Illuminations) Paperback – 24 Feb 2006

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"The Book of Mormon" stands alongside the Bible as the keystone of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism). Translated by the prophet, Joseph Smith, from ancient writings inscribed on golden plates, "The Book of Mormon" is an account of people living in the Western Hemisphere in a timeline that parallels that of the Bible. It covers a thousand years of loss, discovery, war, peace and spiritual principles that focus on the teachings of Jesus Christ, outlining a plan for salvation and the responsibilities we must assume to attain it. "The Book of Mormon" explores this sacred epic that is cherished by more than twelve million members of the LDS church as the keystone of their faith. Probing the principal themes and historical foundation of this controversial and provocative narrative, Jana Riess focuses on key selections that offer insight into contemporary Mormon beliefs and scriptural emphases, such as the atonement of Christ, the nature of human freedom, the purpose of baptism and the need for repentance from sin.

She clarifies the religious, political and historical events that take place in the ancient communities of "The Book of Mormon" and their underlying contemporary teachings that serve as the framework for spiritual practices that lie at the core of Mormon life. Now, you can experience this foundational sacred text even if you have no previous knowledge of Mormonism. This SkyLight Illuminations edition presents the key teachings and essential concepts of the Mormon faith tradition, with insightful yet unobtrusive commentary that helps to dispel many of the misconceptions that have surrounded "The Book of Mormon" since its publication in 1830.

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Terrific Introduction to American Scripture 5 Nov. 2005
By R. W. Rasband - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you are not Mormon and are curious about the "Book of Mormon", the foundational text of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this book is a very good introduction (LDS members can learn from it, too.) Jana Riess, the religion book editor for "Publisher's Weekly" and an adult convert to the LDS faith, tells what attracted her to the Book of Mormon and annotates selected passages from it. This edition is part of a series of abridged versions of sacred texts from around the world, and it's interesting to see the Book of Mormon stacked up against Buddhist and Hindu scripture, as well as the Christian Old and New Testaments and the Koran as well as Jewish holy books. How the format works is: on the right hand side page is the selection from the Book of Mormon, and on the left hand side are Riess' notes. She draws from the best Mormon scholars, explains things in a clear and concise way, and occasionally relates a Mormon way of seeing to that of another faith tradition. Riess correctly locates Christ at the center of the book and shows how Mormons believe in His power to atone for our sins. Although only a fraction of the actual text of the Book of Mormon is included here, I'm glad to see that Alma chapter 32 is, along with thoughful notes from Riess. It's about how faith can ripen into knowledge, and really does explain the Mormon way of looking at the world. Congrats to everyone involved in producing this striking volume.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Good Primer on The Book of Mormon 10 Feb. 2012
By Eric Maroney - Published on
Format: Paperback
Skylight Illuminations is an imprint of Jewish Lights, and its mission is to bring radically abridged versions of holy texts to a wide audience, along with commentary by religious experts. (I often wonder at the "orthodoxy" of such experts having mainly read Rabbi Rami Shapiro's wonderful contributions to this series).

Jana Riess took on the daunting task of taking The Book of Mormon and reducing it by a tenth of its size. She overwhelming chose portions that show key concepts in Mormonism, mainly long homilies by prophets. She purposely left out the violence and war. This seems like a bad choice. If we are going to get a true slice of the Book of Mormon, then there should be representative portions of many styles. To leave out the narrative aspects gives us a skewed look at the work. Yet Riess did an admirable job presenting a difficult book to a general audience, and stuck to the mandate of Skylight Illuminations. If you want to read portions of the Book of Mormon, get a feel for the text, this is a good place to go.

On a content note, I see the Book of Mormon as a curious mix of fantasy and wish-fulfillment. First there is what I would call the historical problems of the book. Certainly, events in the Hebrew bible are not true in a modern historical sense. But there are a few places outside the bible where we can go to see that the religious and historical context of the book isn't pure fantasy (like the Mesha Stone, the inscriptions at Tel Dan, the Baalam, Deir Alla oracles, and other places). The stories told in the Hebrew bible have some grounding in a culture of a people called Israel. Scholars will debate all aspects of what this people where and what their written record mean, but there is hard evidence of their existence. The Book of Mormon does not enjoy this grounding. Not a single mainstream scholar has provided proof that the New World Hebrew culture chronicled in The Book of Mormon existed. Not a single piece of archeological evidence from non-Mormon sources has come to light. I see this as a major problem.

Next, there is the question of language. The Book of Mormon was supposedly translated by Joseph Smith from an Egyptian language (if these were Israelite peoples, why this language?) and when he was finished, the gold plates were returned to the angel Moroni. So, there goes the possibility examining the original text. As we know from other books, works of translation are full of problems. The suspect state of the translation, and the lack of an original, does not give The Book of Mormon the solid grounding that the Hebrew Bible has. We can't see the seams of the book, the layers of authorship, and the changes in the flow of language over the centuries. All we have is Joseph Smith's somewhat tedious version of King James English.

So, respectfully, this book is a hard sell for me. Certainly, people can and should believe what they want, and be left alone. Mormonism is interesting to study as an American event, and as a part of a set of ideas about the lost tribes of Israel that was common in the 19th century.
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