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The 15 “Best Books” to Read BEFORE Having a Faith Crisis

Elder M. Russell Ballard recently stressed that it is important for Gospel educators to be well-informed on controversial topics, not only by studying the scriptures and Church materials, but also by reading “the best LDS scholarship available.” I personally think it is imperative in today’s world for every Latter-day Saint—not just Gospel educators—to make an effort to be informed on both controversial issues as well as knowing reliable faith-building information as well.
(Given that Elder Ballard’s CES address was published to general Church membership in the Ensign, I think it’s safe to say that Church leadership also feels this way.)
An important step in the process of getting informed is reading the 11 Gospel Topic essays and getting familiar with their contents. But what’s next? How can a person learn more about these and other topics? What are the “best books” (D&C 88:118) or “the best LDS scholarship available”?
Here are 15 suggestions.
1. Michael R. Ash, Shaken Faith S…

New Paper on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

Joseph M. Spencer, an adjunct professor at the BYU religion department, recently published a paper in the non-LDS peer review journal Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception, titled, “Isaiah 52 in the Book of Mormon: Note’s on Isaiah’s Reception History.” Spencer is a young scholar who is doing exciting stuff on the Book of Mormon from a theological perspective.
The paper is described as follows in the abstract: Despite increasing recognition of the importance of Mormonism to American religion, little attention has been given to the novel uses of Isaiah in foundational Mormon texts. This paper crosses two lines of inquiry: the study of American religion, with an eye to the role played in it by Mormonism, and the study of Isaiah’s reception history. It looks at the use of Isa 52:7–10 in the Book of Mormon, arguing that the volume exhibits four irreducibly distinct approaches to the interpretation of Isaiah, the interrelations among which are explicitly meant to speak to nineteent…

Words of Wisdom from a Biblical Scholar, with Personal Thoughts on Book of Mormon Historicity

The late Edwin R. Thiele (d. 1986) was a biblical scholar of the mid-20th century. His work in biblical chronology was groundbreaking and ahead of its time.[1] Although some challenge the premises of his chronology for the Israelite and Judahite kings,[2] it remains widely accepted today as the foundation for further study and clarification of biblical chronology during monarchic times.[3] Clearly, Thiele was a gifted scholar and thinker.
Throughout his lifelong pursuit of a rather complicated topic, Thiele learned that you can’t start out by thinking you know what the text already says. In the preface to the second edition of his still important book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, he explained that beginning with set views about what the text says “is not the attitude of true scholarship, nor is it in accord with biblical principles of religious faith.” He went on to explain:
Scholars impelled solely by a sincere desire for truth and an earnest effort to find it, and r…

Book of Mormon Day Reading

The Book of Mormon first went up for sale on March 26, 1830, at the E.B. Grandin Bookstore in Palmyra, NY. Tomorrow will mark the 187th anniversary of that occasion. In those intervening years, the book has had a major impact on countless lives—including my own. I love the Book of Mormon, and have a firm testimony of its truth. I can personally tell you that research into all kinds of questions about the book has only served to strengthen my testimony. It is a remarkable book, which will wear you out long before you make a dent in it, as Hugh Nibley said (pretty sure that is a direct quote, but too lazy to double check).

For those who would like to reflect on the Book of Mormon’s coming forth and long term impact in the last (almost) two centuries, I’ve compiled the following list of KnoWhys from Book of Mormon Central.
Moroni’s Visits to Joseph Smith

Why Did Moroni Quote Isaiah 11 to Joseph Smith? Why Did Moroni Deliver the Plates on September 22?

Translation

Why Did the Book of Mormon C…

Some Thoughts on Scribes and Smelters

I will apologize up front for the general lack of documentation in the this post. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on scribes, writing, and literacy in ancient Israel (and its ancient Near Eastern context) and wanted to hammer out some thoughts that have been jumbling around in my head. Something more refined (with sources cited) will be coming later as part of a larger work.
If there is one thing we know about Lehi and Nephi, it’s that they could read and write. Nephi, we know, could write very well. 1 and 2 Nephi is an impressively crafted text which accomplishes various narrative goals whilst employing a variety of literary conventions and all kinds of subtle allusions. It is, in a word, brilliant. Whether Lehi was such a skilled writer, we don’t know. We lack any samples of his direct writing, but we know he read and wrote because Nephi tells us about it. And Nephi’s own learning came from Lehi, but did his own skill and learning exceed Lehi’s? We don’t know (but as assumed below…