The Salt Lake Tribune, July 12, 2003
By Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune
Some people might wonder how The Book of Mormon ended up alongside The Feminine Mystique and Uncle Tom’s Cabin on a recently released list of “20 Books That Changed America.”
But the Barnes & Noble-sponsored review journal Book has no trouble defending inclusion of the LDS scripture. And, said editor Jerome Kramer, defend it he has.
Since the July/August issue hit newsstands last week, Kramer has heard from “some anti-Mormon grousers who were apoplectic that it was included.” These critics give little credence to Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s claims of translating an ancient history written on gold plates. For Kramer, the book’s origins were irrelevant.
The editors were looking for novels and non-fiction titles that led to concrete, definable changes in the ways Americans lived, he said. “Freedoms won, lives lost, factories made safer.”
The Book of Mormon “provides theological underpinnings for the country’s biggest homegrown religion,” Kramer wrote in the article. “Today, Mormonism has eleven million followers around the world; in the United States alone, its adherents outnumber Episcopalians or Presbyterians.”
Some of the 20 book titles like The Communist Manifesto and All the President’s Men were staff choices, he said. Others were proposed by authors such as Studs Terkel and Tom Wolfe.
They omitted even seminal religious texts such as the Bible that existed before the country did. But what about Dianetics, the Ron Hubbard volume at the center of Scientology?
“It was a matter of scale,” Kramer said in a phone interview from his New York City office. “Greater impact on a larger group of people.”
More than 115 million copies of The Book of Mormon have been sold or given away since the church’s founding in 1830, said Brigham Young University religion professor Robert Millet. It has been translated into more than 100 languages.
But numbers alone may not explain the LDS scripture’s influence, he said.
“Books that have impact or influence are often controversial. The Book of Mormon is, too.”