Category Archives: Book Reviews
All of my book reviews as posted on Goodreads
I highly recommend reading An Imperfect Book, by Earl Wunderli, to anyone interested in focusing in on what the text of the Book of Mormon says about its own origins.
Wunderli uses the text of the Book of Mormon itself as his evidence to explore its origins by looking at character/place names, word-use distribution, idioms, prophesies, subject matter, concepts, etc. He also does a great job at surveying the extensive history of scholarship on the Book of Mormon’s authorship, geography, translation, and historicity, comparing it to what the BoM text actually says; letting the evidence speak for itself in relation to both apologists and critics alike, with little need for additional commentary.
While this book covers a lot of the typical questions regarding the Book of Mormon, it is by no means comprehensive. Wunderli notes that in making this book, his editor asked him to cut his content in half. This has allowed for a very concise book that focuses on the essentials and engages a wider reading audience without belabouring his points. Personally, I would have welcomed another hundred pages or so —because of my intense interest in the subject matter— but alas, I will have to track down and read his previous essays for a more detailed analysis.
His writing style and approach is very easy to read, academic, and neutral, in that his tone shouldn’t offend or discourage anyone with an open mind to the evidence. If you are a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who is willing to take your study of the Book of Mormon to a deeper level, you too will come to understand what makes it An Imperfect Book.
An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, by Grant H. Palmer, is a solid overview of the documented facts surrounding Joseph Smith Jr., the Book of Mormon, and the beginnings of the Mormon religion. With Palmer being a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a three-time director of the LDS Institutes of Religion, a former LDS seminary teacher, and a member of the Mormon History Association, I was fully expecting his book to be an apologetic view of Mormon origins, which I’m pleased to say was not the case. Palmer lays out a very well researched and referenced exposé of the foundational aspects of Mormonism that would make any ‘anti-Mormon’ proud.
Tell It All is the heartbreaking autobiography of Fanny Stenhouse. Her story begins with her as a young woman returning home to England, after spending some time in France, to discover that her family had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While investigating her family’s new-found faith, she became the object of one of the Elders’ affections. They were soon married and subsequently ‘counseled’ to serve a mission for the Church while in impoverished conditions. It was only after years of whispered rumours (and public denials by apostles) of polygamy being practiced among their American counterparts, that Joseph Smith’s polygamic ‘revelation’ was finally disclosed in England. Her adventures only truly began when she and her husband were later ‘counseled’ to emigrate to the ‘promised land’ of Utah, where she learned, first-hand, the detrimental effects of Brigham Young’s institutionalized polygamy.
LYING is Harris’s latest short-book / long-essay, much in the style of his previous “Letter to a Christian Nation”. I found that he was able to cover nearly all the major aspects to the subject matter while maintaining a very short read, which can be done in a single sitting. I read it entirely in one day’s public transit commute, and it came across much as one of Harris’s longer blog posts.
Due to the short length of the ebook, it did leave me wanting more at the end of each chapter. Though, because of Harris’s concise writing style, I can’t imagine what else there is to say without becoming wordy or redundant. LYING is very well written, something I have come to expect from Harris, and I highly recommend it.
It is my hope that Harris will follow up LYING with another ebook that broadens the scope to include collective misrepresentations, opposed to the individual lies that were addressed in this one.
The Mormon Delusion, Vol 1: The Truth Behind Polygamy and Secret Polyandry (TMD-1), by Jim Whitefield, is a comprehensive and thoroughly-researched look into the polygamous & polyandrous practices of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), that lasted nearly 100 years. The author’s ability to present an incredible amount of facts and research into a well-organized, and easy to follow book, is quite an accomplishment. I read the 3rd edition in eBook (PDF) format, released in 2011.
The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, is aptly named. It illustrates how the concept of a personal god (specifically the Abrahamic god of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is one of complete fiction, and yet has so many convinced of His existence, despite the mounting evidence that the world is not as described in ancient scripture.
Dawkins’s approach to his arguments against theistic belief in the supernatural is an obvious extension from his career in evolutionary biology. Dawkins is very careful to take the time to define each term that he uses, sorting out the different meanings, so that his specific use of the term is clearly understood. This goes a long way to avoid confusion, especially when talking about the polytheistic, monotheistic, pantheistic, and panentheistic uses of the word ‘god’. Dawkins is also very good at presenting a much more complete picture of commonly misrepresented & quote mined historical figures such as Einstein, the American founding fathers, Hitler, etc., and shows how their uses of the word ‘god’ rarely meets today’s Christian definition.
Dawkins’s ‘The God Delusion’ is a scientific approach, in methodology if not evidentiality, to the arguments against the beliefs in gods, and is much more reserved and soft-spoken than Christopher Hitchen’s rather abrasive book, ‘God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’. These two books have a stark contrast in their delivery, but share the same sound reasoning and logic. I highly recommend both of them.
A wonderfully concise and straightforward address to theists in general and traditional Christians in specific. The arguments brought forward in this short letter should be more than enough to convince anyone capable of rational thought of the dangerous and misguided superstitions that permeate our society. If humans expect to thrive and become more than the sum of our parts, we must shed these self-induced or inherited delusions. This work has been the first of Sam Harris’s that I have read, and it will definitely not be the last.