Too often, the Book of Mormon is viewed by nonbelievers as little more than an LDS Church conversion tool in which they have no interest.
That’s unfortunate, because if read as a spiritual, historical or literary text, the book provides “some rather startling insights” not only into what makes Mormons tick, but into why Utah’s culture and communities have evolved as they have, says Mark Thomas, a Brigham Young University professor and Book of Mormon scholar.
Even more broadly, “To understand American religion, you have to have an understanding of the Book of Mormon,” he says.
Thomas is among those who will participate Wednesday in a panel discussion, “Rediscovering an ‘American Bible,’ An Invitation to Explore the Book of Mormon from New Perspectives.” The event at 7 p.m. in the Salt Lake City Main Library Auditorium, 210 E. 400 South, is the second in a series of community dialogues sponsored by the Center for Documentary Arts and The Leonardo.
“These discussions are about coming together and sharing as a way to create common ground, so there’s a lot of audience involvement in the discussion,” says Lisa Davis James, a Leonardo spokeswoman.
Thomas says scholars participating in the discussion are members of the Book of Mormon Roundtable formed four years ago with the intention of exploring the book from broad perspectives and eventually creating an “Oxford Guide”-type primer on the book.
– What intractable problems face the Book of Mormon?
In addition to Thomas, participants will include:
Richard Bushman, Mormon historian and author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.
Robert Price, New Testament scholar and a member of the Jesus Seminar.
Phyllis Tickle, an Episcopal author, speaker and religious commentator.
Robert Rees, former editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.
The discussion is free and open to the public. For more information, call 801-230-9399.