BH Roberts – Studies of the Book of Mormon – book review
This book contains manuscripts of Roberts (who was a General Authority, author, and church historian) in which he expresses some serious doubts about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and frankly admits that Joseph Smith had a vivid enough imagination and the source material available to produce the Book of Mormon. I found the introductions in this book by Brigham Madsen and Sterling McMurrin to be very insightful. I think that Roberts had to keep much of his knowledge under wraps for fear of what it would mean to his family, position, etc. I wonder how many there are involved in religion that believe one thing and say another to protect their family, job, positions of power, etc.? I’ve heard some Mormons say that Roberts was merely playing “devil’s advocate” with these writings. Anyone who tells you this either hasn’t read the book, or they are less than honest.
Here is the famous B.H. Roberts letter found in this book as well as some additional commentary surrounding the letter for those who like to read things “in context”.
For those interested in B.H. Roberts, you don’t want to miss The Truth, the Way, the Life : An Elementary Treatise on Theology : The Masterwork of B.H. Roberts which is the work the LDS church wouldn’t let Roberts print. Roberts also did the editing of the 7 volume History of the Church.
The Fall 1997 Dialogue contains an update on the issues provided by Brigham D. Madsen in an essay entitled Reflections on LDS Disbelief in the Book of Mormon as History. Madsen recommends three books to those who want to know an accurate history of the American Indians: The Great Journey: The Peopling of Ancient America, Americans Before Columbus: Ice-Age Origins, and The First Americans: Search and Reasearch.
from the publisher:
Available for the first time fifty years after the author’s death, Studies of the Book of Mormon presents this respected church leader’s investigation into Mormonism’s founding scripture. Reflecting his talent for combining history and theology, B. H. Roberts considered the evident parallels between the Book of Mormon and Ethan Smith’s A View to the Hebrews, a book that predated the Mormon scripture by seven years. If the Book of Mormon is not historical, but rather a reflection of the misconceptions current in Joseph Smith’s day regarding Indian origins, then its theological claims are suspect as well, Roberts asserted.
In this and other research, it was Roberts’s proclivity to go wherever the evidence took him, in this case anticipating and defending against potential future problems. Yet the manuscript was so poorly received by fellow church leaders that it was left to Roberts alone to decide whether he had overlooked some important piece of the puzzle or whether the Mormon scripture’s claims were, in fact, illegitimate. Clearly for most of his colleagues, institutional priorities overshadowed epistemological integrity.
But Roberts’s pathbreaking work has been judged by the editor to be methodologically sound–still relevant today. It shows the work of a keen mind, and illustrates why Roberts was one of the most influential Mormon thinkers of his day. The manuscript is accompanied by a preface and introduction, a history of the documents’ provenances, a biographical essay, correspondence to and from Roberts relating to the manuscript, a bibliography, and an afterword–all of which put the information into perspective.