There are many ways to approach scripture. At times we search the sacred narratives for doctrinal understanding or theological insights. Other times we might be interested in historical, cultural, and linguistic issues. Another, more common, approach is to see ourselves in the narrative stories and interpret them based on our own personal journeys and intellectual and spiritual background—to draw lessons for our own lives. With this in mind, literature and Mormon Studies scholars Robert A. Rees (UCLA) and the late Eugene England (BYU) asked prominent LDS writers to offer their own personal views on the Book of Mormon, followed by the scriptural text itself. Their insights should enhance the enjoyment and understanding of all readers. The text reprinted in this series comes from the first edition (1830) and retains its nineteenth-century usage; although a few glaring typesetting flaws have been corrected, no attempt has been made to regularize grammar and spelling. This should make reading the Book of Mormon a new adventure, hopefully full of possibilities for deeper insights into the layers of meaning and messages contained therein.
The contributors are Claudia L. Bushman, Susan Elizabeth Howe, Linda Hoffman Kimball, Douglas Thayer, Steven Walker, and William A. Wilson.
Robert A. Rees has taught literature and humanities for over forty years at UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, and elsewhere. At UCLA he was also Assistant Dean of Fine Arts, Director of Continuing Education in Arts and Humanities, and Director of the UCLA-Cambridge and UCLA-Royal College of Arts Programs. He was a Fulbright Professor of American Studies in Lithuania, which included lecturing at universities throughout the Baltic States. Currently he is Director of Education and Humanities at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California, for whom he lectures and conducts workshops at conferences and symposia. He is the author or editor of Fifteen American Authors before 1900; Washington Irving’s The Adventures of Captain Bonneville; and “Proving Contraries”: A Collection of Writings in Honor of Eugene England. He has produced two documentary films, The Golden Angel over the City and Spires to the Sun: Rodia’s Towers in Watts, shown on public television here and abroad.
Eugene England, the late Professor of English at Brigham Young University, died in 2001 before completing the Reader’s Book of Mormon project, which he initiated. He was a co-founder of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, author of six books (see Making Peace), editor of seven anthologies, and a contributor to sixteen volumes. He published some 150 articles in professional journals and magazines during his lifetime. He received his Ph.D. at Stanford University and taught at St. Olaf College in Minnesota before joining the faculty at Brigham Young University. At BYU, where he taught for two decades, he was alternately chair of the Department of English, director of the Honors Program, and director of the Theater Study Abroad program. After retiring from BYU in 1998, he joined the faculty at Utah Valley State in Orem, Utah, as a Writer-in-Residence, where he helped initiate a Mormon Studies program. In 2001 he was diagnosed with brain cancer and died August 17.