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Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  436 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Mark Twain once derided the Book of Mormon as "chloroform in print." Long and complicated, written in the language of the King James version of the Bible, it boggles the minds of many. Yet it is unquestionably one of the most influential books ever written. With over 140 million copies in print, it is a central text of one of the largest and fastest-growing faiths in the ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 7th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published June 2003)
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Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Saw Jacob Walley reading this and he recommended it. Initial response (after ~50 pages): my gads, a thoughtful examination of the Book of Mormon that is accessible to believers and nonbelievers alike. Too early to rate, but my mind and my spirit have needed a dose of something like this! I have to buy my own copy and return the public library's copy because I need to scribble in the margins!


Having now finished the book, I can say it lived up to my hopes and expectations. It was
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Non-Mormons, Anyone with a literary interest, LDS
UPDATE: Having read Robert Alter's The Art Of Biblical Narrative and having learned that Grant Hardy idolizes Alter, I think Hardy's volume would have been strengthened by a discussion of Leitwort in the Book of Mormon, as Alter has done with the Bible. Hardy's analysis is more narrowly focused on narrator analysis (no, not a Hebraism). But because the only Hebrew and Egyptian present in the English Book of Mormon lie in proper names, Leitwort and wordplay would have been applicable in narrator ...more
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Born and raised a Mormon, I've been on that inevitable intellectual and spiritual journey of my mid-twenties to deeply analyze the doctrines, beliefs, and scriptures of the religion of my youth, as well as to find a comfortable stance as to what I believe and where I want to situate my life and devotion.

Grant Hardy is a really good guide for looking at what the Book of Mormon really says, does, and signifies. His excellent scholarship and insightful literary connections make Understanding the
May 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mormon-studies
Though the Book of Mormon is didactic with mostly two-dimensional and superficial characters, Hardy shows a way to recognize some of the greater complexities of the text by dipping below the surface of the words to observe the complex narrative structures developed by the internal narrator(s). He shows how the narrative structures, with all the interweavings, complex and convoluted turnings, still pull together into a cohesive text.

Hardy brings a lot of new and novel insights to the text
Jean Kelly
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a complicated book that examines the Book of Mormon as one would examine a work of literature. Rather than seeing it as a jumble of odd stories,difficult and disjointed, the author offers a detailed guide to the contents that meets the needs of both believers and outsiders. By focusing on the narrative, he shows that there is an organizing principle at work. I read this to try to get some understanding of what Mormons are all about. I am not sure I know yet, but it was fascinating ...more
Jun 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Serious students of the Book of Mormon
Recommended to Jake by: My public library's New Release Display
Shelves: religion
When it comes to scripture, I am devoutly skeptical. However, I generally appreciated Dr. Grant Hardy’s scholarly work Understanding the Book of Mormon. He reads the way I love to read. Hardy digs deep and buries himself in the text. He engages in thorough cross-referencing and rigorous comparing and contrasting.

To get the most out of Hardy’s analysis, I reread the Book of Mormon while reading his book. In particular, I found his assessments of Captain Moroni and the Book of Ether innovative.
Corey Wozniak
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've been a sloppy reader of scripture. Grant Hardy taught me how I should have been reading the BOM this whole time. He reads between the lines, against the grain, and just pays good attention, and his hard work is richly rewarded. Here's a handful of random insights to serve as teasers from the first 1/4-or-so of the book:

1) Laman and Lemuel can be read much more sympathetically. In fact, in some senses they may have been more "orthodox" in their Jewish faith than Lehi or Nephi.
2) Lehi and
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! It is a difficult scholarly read, for me at least, but the pay off is substantial. It has helped me read the BOM in a different way and I can't stop sharing what I learn to see what other people think of it. I don’t necessarily agree with many of grant hardy’s opinions, not only on the people but on many of the circumstances and at times the opinions are a bit annoying when they’re written like mind reading but in all I really enjoyed his thoughts and it definitely expanded ...more
Jul 18, 2019 added it
I wish we had more Grant Hardys in the church. Such a delight to read about the authors of a book I've read a dozen times and realize I've never thought about them in this light. This sort of deep-dive
into narration and authorship is not something I will likely ever tackle on my own, so to have someone do it for me is greatly appreciated. Absolutely worth the time.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I was interested in the narrators of the Book of Mormon and started reading with anticipation, and there were definitely some interesting insights which caused me to look at the situation differently; however when I finished reading, I felt slightly dirty. Hardy represented some scripture heroes in a strange and kind of negative light and made some leaps on what the Narrators were thinking as though he were reading their minds. Here's a little spoiler on Mormon as narrator ** He indicated that ...more
Trevor Price
May 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
Grant Hardy managed to get a book about the Book of Mormon published by the prestigious Oxford Press. That alone should draw attention and help potential readers ignore the terribly generic title and stock photograph decorating the book's cover.

I suspect there may not be a person in the course of history (including Joseph Smith himself) more obsessed and devoted to the Book of Mormon than Grant Hardy, so in some ways that uniquely qualifies him to write this book. Refreshingly, though, he is
Tom Doggett
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A decade ago there were few scholarly books written for the non-Mormon audience about the Book of Mormon, and in another decade there will probably not be many more. However, within those twenty years I doubt that there will be a book that approaches the depth and complexity in regards to the text as Dr. Hardy's volume. The approach to the characters and editors of the story of the Book of Mormon will, undoubtedly, infuriate some members of the LDS Church. Dr. Hardy's aim is not to produce a ...more
Jaycee Limutau
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
So I began reading this as my "Sunday Novel" but being 3 months shy of reading it a full year I had quit that notion as I often didn't take the time to pick it up on Sundays. This is not my usual fluff I tend to gravitate to. This is a book you need to invest time into to understand. Not an easy peasy read. That being said once I did focus my time on completing the book it was enjoyable and enlightening. Great book for believers and nonbelievers a like. I feel the author did a good job at laying ...more
Jared Nelson
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Oh my goodness, what an excellent study of the Book Of Mormon! I enjoyed this book way more than expected even though it comes to the topic from a spiritually agnostic point of view. I really feel like I understand so much more now!

This is an indispensable volume for the casual religious reader as well as the devout member of the LDS faith.

This book is a study of a religious text as if it were only a literary work, which provides insights that might otherwise be unachievable if "bound" to the
Matt Evans
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I heard a radio interview w/ Grant Hardy and his wife. They compared the Book of Mormon to V. Nabokov’s Pale Fire. That alone made me want to read it. And I did, and I'm in the middle of reading it again. This book will transform your understanding of the book -- that description's vague, I'll add more to it later.

04/2013: read it again.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
Recommended to me by Richard Bushman himself! (long story.) This book looks at the book of Mormon from the perspective of each of its narrators in a way I've never seen before. Fascinating and refreshing, especially for a wannabe writer.
David  Cook
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
I first became aware of Grant Hardy when he was the editor of the Readers Edition of the Book of Mormon which I found surprisingly helpful and fresh. I was fascinated how the deletion of verses changed the experience of reading scripture. Hardy is a first rate scholar of religion and Mormonism.

I have read several commentaries of scripture. Most fall into the model of commentary on individual scriptures with what others have said and how the verse has been interpreted. Rarely is there any deeper
Alejandro Rodriguez
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This book carefully makes connections within the text that are not obvious, and with those connection makes a compelling case that The Book of Mormon is a sophisticated work of scripture, and not just propagandistic ramblings of a country boy. The literary connections, and prospective that Hardy provides is complex and provocative, especially towards the end of the book with his examination of the Book of Ether. However, this book is extremely boring.

A traditional, faithful LDS Member will read
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book very much, and looked forward to reading it. I appreciate Hardy's approach of looking at the narrators of the Book of Mormon and teasing out their approaches to the material they were conveying. It was interesting to note their different styles. However, like some others, I had a hard time with Hardy's judgmental approach to several of his subjects. He was fine when confining his analysis to the actual evidence in the book. It was off-putting, however, when he indulged ...more
Caleb Jones
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Grant Hardy's book achieves what it sets out to do: "to demonstrate a mode of literary analysis by which all readers, regardless of their prior religious commitments or lack thereof, can discuss the book in useful and accurate ways." I appreciate his bracketing historical claims and instead focusing on the literary richness that is there. Grant acknowledges the issues the book has (anachronisms, contradictions, failures, and biases) and frames them not as problems to be solved but as part of the ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: via-deadtree, lds, i-own
Grant Hardy has applied the techniques of Literary Criticism to his subject, and met with fruitful results. Reading against the text and looking for narrative omissions can illuminate narratorial motivations. Recommended, even from a secular perspective for larger-scale architecture in the text. Almost five stars, except for the latter half when the study laboriously went through example after example of parallelism. This portion felt less well-developed, except maybe as a springboard for ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Everyone who is interested in the Book of Mormon should read this incredible book. At the very least, read the portion of the book on Nephi. It was so intellectually rigorous and so fascinating overall that I read every footnote also.

Grant Hardy is a scholar of the highest order. His ability to discern literary patterns in the book was impressive. His insights into the book were novel and surprising. I feel like it has forever changed the way I will read the Book of Mormon.
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After checking this book out from the library, I liked it so much I bought it so I could read it again with my highlighter. Hardy examines Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni as narrators of the Book of Mormon and discusses how their purposes affect what they include and how it is written. Although I didn't agree with every conclusion Hardy comes up with, it was a very thought-provoking book which provided much insight.
Steve Congdon
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such a compelling analysis of the BoM from its structure and literary characteristics to the breakdown of the two major voices who compiled and abridged the plates that later were delivered to Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. Quite a scholarly approach that often went over my head, but was thought provoking throughout.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a literary approach to The Book of Mormon which gave interpretations and insights that had never occurred to me. I especially appreciated the author's system of breaking the narrative up by author/editor and helping me think through their backgrounds and purposes.
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious, how-to
I took a long time to get the this but I keep going back as I quite enjoyed it. There is some great material here. I didn't agree with (out to be honest, understand) all of it but I'm inclined to go back and use this as a reference as I continue reading The Book of Mormon.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
I loved the insights provided by looking at the Book of Mormon from the narrators' perspective. It was fascinating and illuminating, and gave me a fresh, deeper look at the book.
Maren Johnson
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting and informative. Learned a lot. Next time I'll read it for my own knowledge and not for school...
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic look at the Book of Mormon using a literary approach, examining the narratives of each of the three main writers/editors (Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni).
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Dr. Grant Hardy received a Ph.D. from Yale University in Chinese Language and Literature and a B.A. from Brigham Young University where he studied Ancient Greek.

He is Professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Ashville. Below is a quote by Dr. Hardy taken from the "Faces of UNC" web page:

“I am interested in how people use literature to make sense of their