The latest in Signature Books’s Essays on Mormonism series, American Apocrypha combines the insights of nine different authors in a comprehensive study of the Book of Mormon, its role in history, and the way religious communities use sacred texts create meaning and culture. ” Published in 1930, the Book of Mormon acts as a modern-day example of apocrypha—literature with deep religious meaning that are excluded from the biblical cannon and often dismissed as heretical. As such, each essay examines the various lenses Mormons use to view and appreciate the Book of Mormon, despite allegations of historical and scientific inaccuracies.
Thomas W. Murphy discusses the Book of Mormon’s claim that American Indians are descendants of ancient Hebrews, despite recent DNA tests indicating that Native Americans descended from Siberian ancestry and not from Jewish or Middle Eastern descent. Nor is the Book of Mormon a traditional translation from an ancient document, writes David P. Wright, as indicated by the underlying Hebrew in the book’s Isaiah passages. Other contributors to American Apocrypha explore the evolution of ideas in the Book of Mormon during the course of its dictation.
Editors Dan Vogel and Brent Metcalfe curated essays by authors who represent a wide range of disciplines and perspectives: Robert Price edits the Journal of Higher Criticism; Thomas Murphy chairs the anthropology department at Edmonds Community College; David Wright teaches Hebrew Bible at Brandeis University. They are joined by Scott C. Dunn; Edwin Firmage, Jr.; George D. Smith; and Susan Staker—all of whom explore what can be reasonably asserted about the Book of Mormon as scripture.
Dan Vogel is the editor of The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture and the award-winning series Early Mormon Documents; author of Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, and Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism; and a contributor to The Prophet Puzzle: Interpretive Essays on Joseph Smith.
Brent Metcalfe is the editor and host of Mormon Scripture Studies: An E-Journal of Critical Thought, editor of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, and a contributor to other anthologies and journals. Professionally, he is a technical editor in the computer industry.