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Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide

4.4  ·  Rating Details ·  347 Ratings  ·  88 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 w ...more
Hardcover, 346 pages
Published April 7th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published June 2003)
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Jul 16, 2011 Benita 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 thoughtfu
Dec 01, 2010 Nelson 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 26, 2010 William rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mormon-studies
This is one of the better books I've ever read on the Book of Mormon. In the Top 3, to be sure. Grant steers clear of polemics and apologetics (mostly, or at least hides it subtly) and focuses on the narrative structure beneath the words of the text. He shows how the narrative structures, with all the interweavings, complex and convoluted turnings, still pull together into a cohesive text. Though the Book of Mormon is didactic with mostly two-dimensional and superficial characters, Hardy shows a ...more
May 04, 2014 Anna 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
Corey Landon Wozniak
Dec 29, 2014 Corey Landon Wozniak 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 Nep
Jun 26, 2010 Jake 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. I
Trevor Price
May 28, 2012 Trevor Price rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
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 bru
Tom Doggett
Jan 02, 2011 Tom Doggett 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 sum ...more
Jaycee Limutau
May 04, 2015 Jaycee Limutau 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
Matt Evans
Feb 13, 2012 Matt Evans 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.
May 11, 2017 Mari 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.
Jul 15, 2017 Elaine 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.
Jan 18, 2013 Samuel rated it it was amazing
"When read verse by verse, the Book of Mormon can sink under the weight of its repetitive, awkward sentences, but when viewed from the perspective of the narrators [Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni]--who are envisioned as deliberately shaping the texts they create--it exhibits a literary exuberance that frustrates quick judgments and reductive analyses." So concludes Grant Hardy at the end of his "Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide." In many ways I think this conclusion is substantiated ...more
Mar 07, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it
This was a fantastic book. It is a literary analysis of the Book of Mormon text, with a particular focus on its narrative structure and the personalities and motivations of its three primary authors/characters: Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni (whether they are "authors" or "characters" in a book depends on your point of view). Dr. Hardy is a member of the church, but he tries very hard to take an objective look at the text of the Book of Mormon itself, without expressly passing judgment as to whether ...more
Terry Earley
Dec 29, 2010 Terry Earley rated it really liked it
I gave this book 4 stars because I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I appreciated Hardy's exhaustive treatment of the three narrators, Nephi, Mormon and Moroni. But then, I usually do not go far wrong in taking Deja's book recommendations. A brief example:
The narrators provide a controlling perspective that can bring together diverse incidents, voices, and documents in the service of major themes such as the nature of faith, the reliability of prophecy, and the role of Israel in God's pro
Sep 19, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
I've read the Book of Mormon literally dozens of times over my life and while I always find value in the practice, I'll freely admit to falling into a rut occasionally, too. It's refreshing and exciting to discover a new way of look at the stories that are so familiar. Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide offers just that, a fresh perspective on this sacred text.

First of all, Hardy explains that while he is a faithful Latter-day Saint, he wanted to write a book that w
Chris Taber
Sep 05, 2013 Chris Taber rated it really liked it
Hardy's book does two things that make this a must-read for serious students of the Book of Mormon:

First, he breaks down the text of the Book of Mormon based on who is narrating each section and examines how differently each record-keeper (primarily Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni) handles their task. This leads to some fascinating insights into the possible motivations and mindsets of the writer(s) than a more detached reading can offer.

Second, he offers a coherent argument for why Joseph Smith's ex
Nov 30, 2013 Heidi rated it it was amazing
I have a friend I won't see movies with because she insists on over-analyzing each character's back-story, motivations, and ultimate fates (40 years after the movie) based on the 2-hour snapshot she saw in the cinema. I don't know how someone can possibly speculate that the protagonist must have been the youngest of several children (and thus must have had a strong desire to prove himself) or would ultimately have three children but the youngest would be much younger than the other two (two plan ...more
Dec 28, 2011 Jacob rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, religious, own
An interesting take on several aspects of the narrative format of the Book of Mormon. While there aren't a ton of answers to the issues which are brought up, the suggestions the author does provide are intriguing. The organization of the book clearly addresses topics as they come up in the order the Book of Mormon reads.

For a book with "understanding" in the title I find it ironic that a lot of the writing is challenging to read. I'm not a Literature or Humanities major and the extensive use of
Nov 15, 2015 Trevor rated it it was amazing
- Simply put, the best literary analysis of The Book of Mormon to date. The idea of treating The Book of Mormon as literature might be off-putting to believers, because of the assumption that literature is fiction and fiction is essentially fake. But they need not fear: Hardy aptly demonstrates that many of the tools used to analyze literature are also used to analyze historical accounts, such as those by Greek historians Thucydides (The History of the Peloponnesian War) and Herodotus (Histories ...more
Jonathan Case
Nov 04, 2016 Jonathan Case rated it it was amazing
I have held off from writing a review on this book because I don't feel like I can do it justice. I was deeply moved and inspired by this analysis of the Book of Mormon. I believe that the BoM is scripture, written by ancient authors and translated by Joseph Smith. In this book, Grant Hardy brings those authors to life in a way that I've never experienced before. Perhaps most importantly, the impact of reading this book for me is how it has changed the questions that I ask when I approach the Bo ...more
Jan 02, 2015 Tanya rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, i-own-it
I have read The Book of Mormon from cover to cover about 15 times in my life, and though I am far from an expert on this book of scripture, it is so familiar to me that I have to work pretty hard to get something new or meaningful out of it each time I read. For this reason, Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide was a revelation for me. He dives deeply into each narrator's language, style, and personality to find golden nuggets of knowledge that I'm sure I would overlo ...more
Jun 02, 2011 Jason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: churchy-stuff
This is a long overdue literary study of the Book of Mormon, and Hardy does masterful job. I generally consider myself a pretty attentive reader, but Hardy's keen eye uncovers a depth in this text that I'd never expected.

Hardy advocates an approach to studying the Book of Mormon that I have long believed in, bracketing questions of historicity and Joseph Smith's authorship and analyzing the text on its own terms. His primary focus is on the different narrative techniques of the book's three prin
Alexander Poulsen
Apr 02, 2016 Alexander Poulsen rated it it was amazing
"Every serious student of the Book of Mormon will want to read this landmark study," says Richard Bushman, author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.
I have loved the Book of Mormon for many years as a book of scripture that I can go to for spiritual guidance, but Understanding the Book of Mormon has helped me see the Book of Mormon as also a beautiful, intricate piece of literature, and a carefully crafted account history. Grant Hardy suggests that we read the book as the work of principally 3
Joshua Sears
Jul 31, 2016 Joshua Sears rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-of-mormon
This is one of my favorite books on the Book of Mormon. Grant Hardy is a scholar who studies religious literature and he has an amazing ability to read between the lines. This book essentially examines the Book of Mormon as a narrative by looking in depth at the different goals, style, and motivations of the book's three primary editors, Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni. Every page is crammed with insights and new ideas that I found fresh even though I've read the Book of Mormon myself many times befor ...more
Matthew Kern
Jan 02, 2013 Matthew Kern rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, theology
This book is intriguing and impressive. Grant Hardy has written a book about another book, the Book of Mormon, that has fundamentally changed my of the Book of Mormon. His analysis causes you to carefully read the book like never before. I am pretty sure I made right around 100 highlights as I read through it.
This is not another one of those dime a dozen books that just explain to you what the words mean or give you a little background as you read verse to verse.
The main concept of the book is t
Oct 21, 2013 Erma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The Book of Mormon has influenced my life more than any other book. It is my daily text and I have read it many times. Each time I begin, I choose a different theme or focus, and new insights emerge with each reading. I have also read several commentaries on the Book of Mormon, but Hardy's book is not doctrinally based commentary. It is a study of The Book of Mormon as a narrative. Hardy delves into structure, literary devices, point of view, style, and theme, as he examines The Book of Mormon f ...more
Jan 01, 2013 Regan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: church, 2013
A well thought out exploration of a book that so many know about but that few (Mormons included) really understand. Hardy's writing is full of unique insights into the personalities of the main narrators while identifying the important broad themes and patterns that make the Book of Mormon a much richer book than many people realize. I did feel like he came back, too often, to one of his initial premises (whether it is a historical record or written by Joseph Smith it is still compelling literat ...more
Sep 21, 2010 Adam rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious
It's probably more accurate to call it Analyzing the Book of Mormon ("understanding" has the connotation that only one interpretation is correct), but what an analysis!

It deepened my appreciation for a text I call scripture and addresses a lot of questions I've had about its didacticism and redundancies. I'd recommend it to anyone who has read the Book of Mormon more than a few times and is serious about peeling back its many layers.

Hardy's book, however, is not written as a commentary for belie
Nov 06, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. It provides a unique perspective on a unique book that I think is beneficial to those that believe the book to be scripture as well as those who do not. As one who has read the Book of Mormon several times I found it fascinating to get Grant Hardy's perspective on things I had never even noticed or considered. The bulk of the book analyzes the Book of Mormon's three main narrators/editors (Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni) and discusses their differing styles, prefer ...more
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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 ex
More about Grant Hardy...

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