Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon

William L. Davis. Univ. of North Carolina, $29.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-46965-566-6
Davis, an independent scholar, successfully depicts in his engrossing debut the sociocultural milieu of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and the 1829 creation of the Book of Mormon. Davis explores 19th-century composition techniques for sermons and speeches, such as the practice of “laying heads” (a brief oral outline) or using “concealed outlines” (limits for any given topic), and argues that the Book of Mormon, created from transcriptions, is “one of the longest recorded oral performances in the history of the United States.” Rejecting the idea that Smith was uneducated, Davis paints a picture of him as a man of pastoral appeal, trained as a lay Methodist “exhorter” in a time of religious revival and burgeoning new religious movements. Davis claims that Smith “preached the Book of Mormon as much as he composed it” and demonstrates how the Book of Mormon must be seen within the wider context of premeditative, semi-extemporaneous Protestant preaching during the period. At the same time, Davis takes pains to respect that Smith believed the Book of Mormon was written with “divine inspiration and guidance.” Readers interested in Mormon studies or mid-19th-century American religions will be enlightened by Davis’s thorough analysis. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/07/2020
Release date: 05/25/2020
Genre: Religion
Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-1-4696-5565-9
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