An Imperfect Book


An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us about Itself

A careful analysis of the academic and scientific controversies surrounding the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

June, 2013

SKU: 978-1-56085-230-8 Categories: , Tags: , , Author: Earl M. WunderliProduct ID: 1372


A major theme in the Book of Mormon is the depiction of Native Americans as descendants of ancient Hebrews. Other prominent ideas are the restoration of pure Christianity to an apostate world, the visit of Jesus to the western hemisphere, and recurring cycles of ruin and renewal. All of this raises the question: “Is all of this true?” Wunderli has made an avocation of examining this and related questions by digging deeply into the Book of Mormon and surveying the large body of research generated by scholars of various disciplines. He succinctly summarizes his own findings and this mass of often conflicting information, then adds his own trenchant analysis to the mix. Fascinating reading due to how Wunderli has structured the book as his own personal quest for answers, An Imperfect Book is an accessible but thorough overview of major controversies involving authorship, use of idiom, anachronisms, contrived names, borrowed passages, and prophecies made and fulfilled within the book’s own narrative frame. Wunderli includes a discussion of dozens of curiosities such as the relative absence of polygamists in a culture where one would expect it and sons named after their fathers (Alma junior), which one would not expect among ancient Israelites. Wunderli has examined the arguments and reduced the data to a collection of informative observations and reasoned arguments in an altogether readable work.

Earl M. Wunderli has degrees in philosophy and law from the University of Utah. He retired in 1993 as Associate General Counsel for IBM in Connecticut. As a young man, he studied hoteliery in Lausanne, Switzerland, worked as a chef in the Bahamas, and was trained as a navy pilot before settling down to study law in Utah. He is a member of the board of directors of the Sunstone Foundation. He has presented aspects of his research at the annual Sunstone Theological Symposium in Salt Lake City and has published on Book of Mormon chiasmus and Book of Mormon geography in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

Additional information

Book Author

3 reviews for An Imperfect Book

  1. William Morain, John Whitmer Historical Association

    Reading this book brought to mind that old Swiss adage, “If you see something on top of the Matterhorn with all the characteristics of an elephant, you don’t ask what it is but rather how it got there.” For Earl Wunderli, that metaphor has been made flesh in a lengthy quest to discover how to explain the Book of Mormon’s perch on such exalted heights for nearly two centuries with so many missing pieces of provenance strung along the way. Fortunately, his quest has been richly rewarded with the present volume, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us About Itself.

    Drawing on his legal background, Wunderli has applied a strict evidentiary approach in his scrutiny of the Book of Mormon. Restricting his analysis to the internal evidence within the book itself to the exclusion of other sources of information, he presents an overwhelming case that the Book of Mormon was authored solely by Joseph Smith in the early nineteenth century.

    Wunderli’s book is exemplary in all respects. The writing is clear and unstilted, the paper and font easily readable, the documentation voluminous, and the section summaries well crafted. The book is organized with an overview and seven topical chapters, followed by four appendices of proper names and several maps and illustrations.

    The strength of the book is the author’s exhaustive database of words, phrases, and events portrayed in the Book of Mormon, indexed personally by hand before the computer over the space of a decade. Restricting himself to the evidence of the words on the page, the author’s conclusions are clear and compelling—and refreshingly free of the copout of spirituality.

  2. Dale E. Luffman, Association for Mormon Letters

    My first impression in reading this text was that it was rightly named in its title. Indeed the author intends to lead the reader through an exploration of a book that he describes as an imperfect book, and does so in a way that enables the book to speak for itself. Given the fact that so many approach the Book of Mormon through lenses already adjusted to read the text for apologetic purposes, I found the author’s engagement of the Book of Mormon to be respectfully and critically refreshing. Feeling unable to rely on historians, archeologists, self-designated authorities, or others with sure knowledge of the Book of Mormon, the author turns to the book itself for what it might reveal about itself. Rather than turning to external evidences to vindicate the central claims of the Book of Mormon, the author invites the reader to explore internal evidences to be discovered in the book itself. He does this while engaging a broad range of contemporary scholarship.

    The concluding statement of the book captures well a basic thesis of the book: “The Book of Mormon may be many things to different people, but it is not a literal history of ancient America” [p. 328]. The integrity by which Wunderli approaches the Book of Mormon is to be commended! In his own words, “there are few things in life as wrong-headed as someone who is willing to manipulate the truth for fear of what people may do if they know better” [p. 327]. Wunderli has been faithful to his stated intentions.

    All of us write out of our own experience and from our significant encounters. Wunderli is no exception. A professional attorney by training, he has meticulously engaged the Book of Mormon text. His professional competence has in many ways shaped how issues are approached and written about in a particular manner. Those competencies have proved to be helpful in working through many of the issues that were dealt with in the work. However, this style of writing can become tedious at times. That said, the effort has provided the reading public a solid resource to assist individuals, whose faith seeks to understand [St. Anselm of Canterbury], an opportunity to discover some things that the Book of Mormon has to tell us about itself.

  3. David P. Wright

    “Wunderli provides a reader-friendly discussion of evidence surrounding the issue of whether or not the Book of Mormon is an ancient work. He deals lucidly and insightfully with issues such as biblical citations in the Book of Mormon, anachronistic ideas and language, the limited inventory of Book of Mormon name -types, contradictions and inconsistencies across the text, the unity of narrative voice and style, and the prophetic horizon of the book centering in the time of Joseph Smith. Wunderli also provides a solid critique of some of the major arguments raised in defense of an ancient Book of Mormon. It is a wonderful contribution to the topic.”

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *