Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, November 28

Book of Mormon | Critique: Mormon as Manipulative Historian and King Noah (from Brant Gardner’s “Mormon’s Editorial Method and Meta-Message”)

Book of Mormon | Critique: Mormon as Manipulative Historian and King Noah (from Brant Gardner’s “Mormon’s Editorial Method and Meta-Message”)
by grego


Brant Gardner:
“The way Mormon treats inserted speeches suggests a great respect for them. The conceptual breaks after inserted sermons strongly suggests that they are copied from the plates, and we must assume that he intended to reproduce them faithfully. When Mormon is not quoting, but creating his own linking narrative, how faithful is he then to his sources? … Mormon often manipulated his facts into the moral story he was telling, and at times (he or perhaps the original plate author) simply invented “history” when the story required it and neither he, nor the original plate author, could not have known it.

When Mormon tells the story of the people of Zeniff, he begins by quoting King Zeniff’s entire record. Then, when he begins Noah’s story, he switches from quotation to narration. I hypothesize that this was a necessary shift because the source material for Noah’s reign could not have been as pejorative as Mormon painted Noah.

From the beginning, Noah is a nasty fellow. Mormon’s descriptions of Noah are so effective that modern readers immediately dislike him. While Mormon certainly had reasons for his dislike, they came from his reading of the sources and do not reflect the attitude of the sources themselves. The court record of the sitting king Noah could not have been so negative. If we read between the lines of Mormon’s description, it is easy to see that Noah presided over a period of economic growth and expansion. His people probably thought they were quite well off under Noah. They were probably not complaining, at least not much. It is Mormon who saw a larger picture and repainted his Noah to be rotten from the beginning of the story, even though Mormon’s sources could not have said that directly. In this case, Mormon is interpreting history rather than staying faithful to his sources.

Mormon’s manipulation of his material is also probable…”

grego: Mormon does quote quite well, I agree on this point. Let me add to what Brant Gardner said, that Mormon is very precise in quoting–when he stops, or there is any type of omission, Mormon writes so.

About the other stuff… Well, it looks like Brant Gardner is himself guilty of what he accuses Mormon of: “manipulat[ing] his facts into the… story he was telling, and at times… simply invent[ing] ‘history’ when… he… could not have known it.”

So, what are possible sources for the king Noah’s reign? Sure, maybe king Noah or his priests wrote something or had something written; on the other hand… Let’s see, we have Alma (the elder), Gideon, Limhi, and a host of other men and women who lived under his reign and were familiar with much of what he did. If that were the case, do you think Mormon was “faithful to his sources”, or “manipulat[ing]” and “interpreting history”? It’s apparent it would be the first.

I don’t see a need to “read between the lines”, as the text is quite clear that there was prosperity at the time of king Noah and that the people looked up to him as a leader (see Mosiah 11:2, 7, 8-13, 15, 18-19, 20-26, 29; 19:9, 11; etc.). No fudging or hiding by Mormon there.

Bookmark and Share

%d bloggers like this: