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By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  581 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
With over 100 million copies in print, the Book of Mormon has spawned a vast religious movement, but it remains little discussed outside Mormon circles. Now Terry L. Givens offers a full-length treatment of this influential work, illuminating the varied meanings and tempestuous impact of this uniquely American scripture.
Givens examines the text's role as a divine testamen
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 21st 2003 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published March 14th 2002)
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Jan 10, 2010 Rex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lds
Givens is a professor of religion and literature at the University of Richmond, Virginia and an active Mormon. Here, he devotes ~250 pages to the history, controversy, and the impact of the Book of Mormon. The book does not deal very closely with the text of the Book of Mormon. Nor is it a scholarly "Cliffs Notes"--providing a summary of the book. But Givens admirably covers the broader context surrounding the book. Here's my take on each of the nine chapters:

1. The first chapter deals with the
Nov 25, 2013 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to my brother Tim for bringing this book to my attention. It was fascinating.
This is considered to be the first scholarly examination of the Book of Mormon. It was published by Oxford University Press - not by the Church or by one of the traditionally "anti-Mormon" publishers. Givens does present both sides, but it's obvious that he is more interested in defending the Book of Mormon than condemning it.
There is so much information in this book that I'm reluctant to even try to summarize.
Aug 14, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it
Interesting look at the Book of Mormon's role in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over its 180+ year history. Written by a faithful member of the Church for a non-member audience, I (a life-long member of the Church) learned quite a bit about this book of scripture that I've read a dozen times or more from By the Hand of Mormon.

Dr. Givens approaches the early history of the Church by putting Mormonism in the context of the times. It was eye-opening for me to learn that the early c
Jun 11, 2011 Desiree rated it it was ok
I am not Mormon, in fact I'm not a person of faith at all. But I am very interested in Mormonism, both its history and practices. I am amazed that an American religion that was started in New Jersey has become a global force. When I ordered this book I did so thinking that I was going to read a non-bias account of the Book of Mormon. I also thought I would receive some of the history behind it, along with the way The Book has shaped the Mormon church over time including how perceptions of The Bo ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Wally rated it really liked it
We little realize some of the LDS distinctives. (Take Dialogic Revelation for example.) Yet these distinctives add up to significant differences.
Very insightful book--but also deep and philosophical. Not for all tastes.
Nov 23, 2014 James rated it really liked it
Givens' By the Hand of Mormon is a fascinating and scholarly book that examines the text's role as a divine testament of the Last Dispensation and as a sacred sign of Joseph Smith's status as a modern-day prophet. He assesses its claim to be a history of the ancient peoples of North America, and investigates whether new theology is contained therein. Ultimately he posits that the Book of Mormon is more valuable for its existence than its content: as evidence that Joseph Smith is a modern-day pro ...more
Summer Seeds
Nov 26, 2015 Summer Seeds rated it really liked it
I'm not Mormon, nor ever desire to become Mormon, but I read this for class and actually found it rather interesting.


Terryl L. Givens’ By the Hands of Mormon is a comprehensive study of Mormonism, from its origins to its theology. Unlike many academic studies of the Book of Mormon, the of the main scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Givens, despite being a Mormon himself, does not try to defend the teachings of Mormonism or the traditional story of Joseph Smith and
Aug 20, 2009 William rated it liked it
Shelves: mormon-studies
Looking over the other reviews, it appears a lot of people really enjoyed this book. But I found it very disappointing. As I first dipped into the text, I was pleasantly surprised with the high level of scholarly discourse. I thought this was going to be a book where Givens would address difficulties in the LDS past, offer up both sides of the arguments, and then propose new compelling insights and evidence to support an LDS perspective. Instead, I found a lot of tendentious and polemical argume ...more
Jan 25, 2013 Samuel rated it it was amazing
There are many interesting points made in this book that will interest those familiar with the Book of Mormon and those who are not. Although the Book of Mormon continues to be held sacred by Mormons and profane if not ridiculous by critics, Givens seeks to chronicle its legacy as the most successful composition of American scripture and interpret its cultural meaning to Mormons and Americans alike. Thus, he takes a scholarly approach to examining a book that too often is dismissed by scholars.

Brad Mclaws
Jan 29, 2015 Brad Mclaws rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Good read. One of the more thoughtful analyses of what the Book of Mormon says and how likely it is to be real.

Eric Lopez
Jan 11, 2016 Eric Lopez rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastically articulated history of how both Mormons and non-Mormons viewed the Book of Mormon in an intellectual, spiritual, and even cultural way.

The first three chapters are a history of the coming of the Book of Mormon.

Chapters four and five talk about some of the debates surrounding the ancient history of arguments for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. These arguments range from the dissenting statements from the Smithsonian institution, scholarly responses from Hugh
Aug 26, 2016 Christopher rated it really liked it
Terryl Givens’s study gives one of the first full-length academic treatments of the Book of Mormon. He covers, briefly, the history of its production, dissemination, and reception. He explores how the book was utilized more as a sign, rather than for the content, directly. In part, because the content largely reflected the 19th century Protestant beliefs of the time. Givens notes that it does not contain many of the distinctively Mormon doctrines that came about in the decades following 1830. Th ...more
Apr 09, 2015 Regan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: church, 2015
Overall well written. The historical background of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was fine but Givens' contributions are greatest in summarizing the history of the scholarly perceptions of this scripture. He brings to light the important theme of the existence of the Book of Mormon overshadowing its contents. His chapter on revelation started with an overview of empty terminology regarding various theories of revelation before providing a meaningful review of how that concept is presente ...more
Lisa Reising
Feb 28, 2016 Lisa Reising rated it really liked it
This is a different treatment of The Book of Mormon than I expected, but I enjoyed most of it. It deals more with the circumstances surrounding the coming forth of the book, and it's reception by believers and skeptics, than it does about the theological or doctrinal content of the book - which is a fascinating parallel to it's historical place in the LDS canon (although it has been greatly studied and focused upon since the presidency of Ezra Taft Benson). This would be a fascinating book to di ...more
Jacob Lines
Feb 03, 2015 Jacob Lines rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-of-mormon
This is a history of the reception of the Book of Mormon. In this book, Givens attempts to explain “why the Book of Mormon has been taken seriously – for very different reasons – by generations of devoted believes and confirmed skeptics.” He tells the story of how the book came to be and then how it has been accepted, rejected, used, and ignored over the nearly two centuries since then.

Givens starts with background. Plenty in here that even knowledgeable Church members may have forgotten. The d
Nov 14, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing
I found Terryl Givens' 'By the Hand of Mormon' to be a very interesting book about the Book of Mormon. Although he does present both sides of the issue, as a believer he does present the 'believing' side as fact (he explains in the introduction that he will do so to avoid the wordiness of saying 'Joseph Smith purported [insert event in coming forth of the Book of Mormon]' by just saying Joseph Smith did [insert event]. As a believe in the Book of Mormon myself I did not mind this approach, but c ...more
Feb 08, 2014 Lydia rated it really liked it
Shelves: lds, non-fiction
Outside of school, I've never been a big non-fiction reader, but I had made the goal to change that a while ago. After reading a few pages for a couple of days, this books sat around for a few months before I finally got myself in the habit of reading some each day. And I am so glad I did! I really enjoyed this book, and it has strengthened by testimony of, and appreciation for the Book of Mormon. It was interesting to learn about some of the arguments for and against the Book of Mormon as a his ...more
Oct 09, 2013 Heidi rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this scholarly look at the Book of Mormon's origins and impacts on Christianity. The target audience was non-Mormons, but lifelong members like me could find plenty of new material and insights.

The book starts with a look at Joseph Smith's history and society. When Joseph Smith was a teenager everyone in his life was searching for truth and trying to find the correct religion. The book talks about the tent revivals and Joseph's family history, and it also delves into the magic and myst
Nov 08, 2009 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an impressive accomplishment. Maybe I'm just sensitive to sound rhetorical moves because I try to teach them to my students every week, but Givens lays down a beating to cultural Mormonism's attempts to demystify the Book of Mormon. And he does it so lightheartedly! "No hard feelings Dan Vogel, but allow to most respectfully eviscerate your bubble of smug intellectualism" [my words, not his:]. The great thing, though, is that that isn't even the point of Givens' book. He looks carefully ...more
Jun 05, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
Nearly 600 books have been written about the Book of Mormon, but only a few dozen have taken a “scholarly” approach. Terryl Given’s By the Hand of Mormon is the first serious survey of the Book of Mormon’s place in the history of American thought and culture. It is an ambitious book, at times eloquent, at times pedantic (see the 62 pages of end notes), but always articulate in defense of the intellectual respectability of the Book of Mormon. Givens does a superb job of surveying the history of B ...more
Apr 01, 2008 Liesl rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone searching for answers to Book Of Mormon authenticity questions.
Shelves: lds-non-fiction
You might want to have a dictionary handy when reading this book! A lot of the words I'd never heard of! This book is very informative on the LDS (Mormon) religion. It covers most of the anti- mormon accusations against the church, and their so called "Proof" that it is false. It gives informative, corroborated answers to these questions.
pg. 143 : 'The 1997 addres of Carl Mosser and Paul Owen at a regional meeting of the evangelical Theological Society was remarkable.... In addition, Mosser an
Jul 26, 2009 Jason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: churchy-stuff
An excellent scholarly look at the Book of Mormon. Terryl Givens has done a lot to move forward the debate about the American scripture.

Givens's basic proposition is that, for both adherents and detractors, the Book of Mormon is more significant for its existence than for its content. For critics, the Book of Mormon represents an affront to the very notion of canonical Christianity or even to common sense. For devotees, the book presents an accessible God who still provides revelations to the fa
Greg Diehl
Mar 22, 2016 Greg Diehl rated it really liked it
It's difficult for me to give anything by Givens less than 4 stars. I'm a big fan and thus bring big expectations to everything he writes. That dynamic can be a double edged sword as there were definitely aspects of this work that felt a little disjointed as it was difficult at times for me to clearly see where it was Given's was trying to go with a couple of his points. Overall, however, this is a very insightful work if one is willing to invest a little effort and openness.

I really liked the q
Tanya W
This is an amazing, must-read book. In a few parts it is too intellectual for anyone besides intellectuals (which I'm obviously not).

This comprehensive book about the Book of Mormon is considered by many LDS scholars to be one of the greatest books ever written about the Book of Mormon. It examines criticisms of the Book of Mormon and looks at the period of time in which Joseph Smith lived. It brings up many interesting points which lend credibility to the Book of Mormon... certainly confirming
Brandon Byrd
Jul 01, 2013 Brandon Byrd rated it really liked it
This was extremely fascinating! A few parts were a bit dense, but the good parts were excellent! It gives very detailed back story on the events behind the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It's all written academically, and even though you know the guy is pro-Mormon, it's refreshing to read something that's not written like a squeaky-clean EFY skit.

He also talks about various evidences that have been found of the Book of Mormon. Some, like the archaeological site "NHM" that corresponds to the
Jul 29, 2008 Rodney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the Book of Mormon.
Recommended to Rodney by: a freind
I would agree that this is likely the best book ever written about the Book of Mormon. Mr. Givens has researched not only the Book of Mormon, but it seems everything ever written about it.

This is not just another LDS book, but a scholarly examination of the Book of Mormon. Unlike most authors, Mr. Givens does not seem to have a heavy agenda. He seems to be a believer, but delves deeply into anti-Mormon criticism of the book. I have heard everything from the fact that the author is a bishop in th
Joshua Sears
Jul 31, 2016 Joshua Sears rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-of-mormon
I'm a huge fan of Terryl Givens, and this volume from Oxford University Press provides a fascinating scholarly appraisal of the Book of Mormon and its history and significance as a book. Givens goes over how believers, non-believers, and critics have understood and reacted to the Book of Mormon from the 1820s until now and examines the book in the context of the greater field of religious literature.
Apr 19, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were two or three especially dense chapters, full of scholarly terms, that were tough to get through (especially when most of the erudite discussion conveyed concepts that really weren't all that complicated for someone who has read the Book of Mormon a few times and attends Sunday School every now and again), but as a whole this book was great. It's a study of how the Book of Mormon itself was received by Mormons and non-Mormons in the 18th century and how its treatment by both groups has ...more
Aug 16, 2009 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About a month ago I came across this book at our local community library in the new book section. I decided to check it out. I have heard of the author, Terryl Givens, but I am not familiar with any of his work; so I was basically stepping into something unknown. And I am glad I did. Givens' book gave me a historical perspective of the "Book of Mormon" which I had never considered much less known. I cannot begin to list the things I learned. One thing I love about this book is the precious doctr ...more
Terry Earley
Jun 01, 2013 Terry Earley rated it really liked it
As a student of the Book of Mormon, I thoroughly enjoyed this in-depth study. Those unfamiliar with the narrative and origins, might find it confusing, however. For a book written to a more broad, general audience, I highly recommend Givens' more recent work, "The God Who Weeps".

The Book of Mormon added to its early role as proof of the restoration, particularly during the time of Ezra Taft Benson's presidency, as living scripture, where LDS members came to read and know its actual contents more
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Terryl L. Givens was born in upstate New York, raised in the American southwest, and did his graduate work in Intellectual History (Cornell) and Comparative Literature (Ph.D. UNC Chapel Hill, 1988), working with Greek, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and English languages and literatures. As Professor of Literature and Religion, and the James A. Bostwick Professor of English at the University of Rich ...more
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