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C.C.A. Christensen's painting of Joseph Smith kneeling to receive the Golden Plates from the Angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah

The revelation of the Book of Mormon at 200 [podcast]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormonism, is one of the fastest growing global religions—as of the latest reports, there are over 17 million members, and while it is still predominately considered an American religion, almost half of those members live outside of the United States due to the church’s reliance on global missionary work. 

This September marks the 200th anniversary of the Church’s founder Joseph Smith’s first vision of the angel Moroni. In this vision, the angel told Smith that he had been chosen to restore God’s church on earth and instructed him to go to the Hill Cumorah in western New York State, where he would discover a set of gold plates. Smith translated and published these plates as the Book of Mormon in 1830, giving birth to a new religion.

On today’s episode, we’re joined by two preeminent scholars on the history and theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to discuss with us the legacy of Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates as well as the state of academic scholarship surrounding the Book of Mormon.  

First, we welcomed Richard Lyman Bushman. Bushman’s books include Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling and Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction. His most recent book with Oxford is Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Cultural History, which traces the history of the gold plates over the last two centuries. We then interviewed Grant Hardy whose new The Annotated Book of Mormon is the first ever fully-annotated, academic edition of the book. His previous works include The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition as well as Understanding the Book of Mormon (OUP, 2010).

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For a more in-depth introduction to Joseph Smith’s visions and the founding of the church, read the chapter “Revelation” from Richard Lyman Bushman’s Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction. 

You can also read more of Bushman’s scholarship on the Gold Plates and Joseph Smith’s translation and publication of the Book of Mormon in the chapter “The Gold Plates as Foundational Text” from Foundational Texts of Mormonism

To learn more about the Book of Mormon’s language, style, organization, and religious claims, read Grant Hardy’s “A Brief Overview: Narrator-based Reading” from Understanding the Book of Mormon

Finally, Terry L. Givens explores the scriptural implications of the Book of Mormon and its relationship with biblical doctrine in “’Plain and Precious Truths’: The book of Mormon as a New Theology, Part 1—The Encounter with Biblical Christianity” from By the Hand of Mormon

Featured image: C.C.A. Christensen’s painting of Joseph Smith receiving the Golden Plates from the Angel Moroni at the Hill Cumorah. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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