Letter published in the 10 September 2012 issue of The New Yorker
After a lifetime of serious study of the Book of Mormon, as a textual and literary critic, I can come to no other conclusion than that it is an amazingly complex, deep, and sophisticated book—one that contains important, and in places, even profound spiritual messages. Like many critics, Gopnik reads the book through the biography of its assumed author, Joseph Smith, and thus sees it as a product of a deluded visionary. In addition to alluding to Mark Twain’s tired witticisms about the book, Gopnik faults it for being “compulsively biblical,” a charge that seems strange for a book claiming, in fact, to be biblical—written by Israelites who emigrated to the New World during the time of Jeremiah, and who brought the Hebrew scriptures with them as both heritage and model. Whether one sees the Book of Mormon as an ancient or a modern text, as history or fiction, like all sacred books, it deserves to be read with both an open heart and an open mind.
Robert A. Rees
Graduate Theological Union