The Church have just published (although I wrote this from a draft that I had access to before it was published) the new CES Book of Mormon Institute manual and my previous post asked some questions about what people hoped for in content. This post is aimed at trying to develop a brief comparison of the most recent two. I have tried to search topics, compared content and appendices and focussed on searching authors. There are some interesting changes and some interesting constants.
Firstly the book is only 50 pages longer, which makes me wonder why bother to do a new one at all.
Secondly there is still no discussion of the translation process, Joseph’s relationship with Moroni and the plates and the witnesses get a small outline in the appendix which is more an exercise in stating that they ‘never’ denied their testimonies.
Thirdly, McConkie has been used even more extensively and Mormon Doctrine has been used 19 times. This is less than the previous manual but when contrasted with the new Gospel Principles manual, from which ‘Mormon Doctrine’ has been completely eradicated, this is quite interesting. Why this schizophrenic move is not clear? Perhaps we are seeing the impact of different writing committees. In addition, Joseph Fielding Smith is also quoted more extensively.
Another noticeable, but perhaps unsurprising change, is the preference for living Apostles and Prophets, or at least very recent. Yet, what is surprising, is the differences between those who are quoted frequently and those who are not. For example, Fielding Smith and McConkie are quoted over 70 times in the new manual. The other people who match that are President Benson, Joseph Smith (he is most quoted with 180 citations), Jeffrey R. Holland and Neal A. Maxwell. Not far behind them is Elder Oaks, Packer and President Hinckley. Why these brethren? Hinckely and Benson have both been prophets and there is an emphasis upon thir teachings. Elder Holland has written a popular book. But Maxwell, Oaks and Packer?
The appendices have changed slightly. They have dropped the map of the possible Book of Mormon geography while including a new map of Lehi’s journey. This seems like an interesting reflection of how comfortable the Church feels with speculating about Book of Mormon lands with the current DNA ‘crisis’, while they clearly feel more comfortable about some of the work done by scholars on Lehi’s journey. There is also a greater emphasis on the Scattering and Gathering of Israel.
Some of the things that have been reduced, or removed, or that are absent (which some might expect to be present); include the Journal of Discourses being cited only 3 times in the new manual compared to 13 in the old. Further Brigham Young received no increase in citations. FARMS (or the Maxwell Institute) are mentioned once and FAIR not at all. Robert Millet is mentioned 5 times (usually in connection Joseph Fielding McConkie). Even the Church sponsored Book of Mormon Symposiums only had 5 citations. Monson has only 11 citations, which seems low for the current Prophet. Interestingly, Uchtdorf has only 1, whereas Bednar has 15 even though they were called at the same time. In addition, Nibley is quoted less often in the new manual.
It seems therefore that we are still living in a McConkie and Fielding Smith inspired Orthodoxy. There are some other voices who are becoming important particularly Maxwell and Holland. From a personal point of view I would like to have seen something from Eugene England, Katheleen Flake, Catherine Thomas and Lowell Bennion (and others) who have all written insightful essays (and books) on the Book of Mormon. Who else would you have liked to have seen cited?
Any other thoughts?
The Manual is now available online.