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Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon$
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Elizabeth Fenton and Jared Hickman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190221928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190221928.001.0001

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Nephite Secularization; or, Picking and Choosing in The Book of Mormon

Nephite Secularization; or, Picking and Choosing in The Book of Mormon

(p.207) 8 Nephite Secularization; or, Picking and Choosing in The Book of Mormon
Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon

Grant Shreve

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers The Book of Mormon as a singular literary reflection on secularization as an effect of religious pluralism. The defining event in Joseph Smith’s early life was a visionary experience occasioned by a crisis over religious choice, wherein conversion is refigured as persuasion. Although published more than a decade later, The Book of Mormon stands as a monumental historical interrogation of the conditions that gave rise to this crisis and an archive of narrative and theological strategies for its resolution. Curiously, the book bypasses European church history entirely to recast standard narratives of secularization—such as those proposed by Charles Taylor and Peter Berger—in distinctly New World terms. Throughout this counterhistory, The Book of Mormon attempts to reconcile tacit commitments to religious choice and an egalitarian attitude toward divine revelation with the need for an orthodox center. It ultimately discovers a resolution not in theology but in narratology.

Keywords:   secularism, disenchantment, pluralism, heresy, Korihor, humanism, theophany, revelation, narratology

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