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Q&A with Bradley Kramer, author of Gathered in One: How the Book of Mormon Counters Anti-Semitism in the New Testament September 16 2019

 

 

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For some, hearing that the New Testament contains anti-Semitic language can be challenging. Can you provide a few examples of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the New Testament?

Yes. However, first I would like to clarify that I do not think that the New Testament as a whole is anti-Semitic. I do think that the New Testament contains many anti-Semitic statements, anti-Semitic portrayals, anti-Semitic settings, and anti-Semitic structuring elements that together form a kind of literary tide that pulls its readers towards an anti-Semitic point of view, but that is not the same as saying the entire New Testament is anti-Semitic or that anti-Semitism is its major theme.

The Gospel of John, for instance, not only contains a statement where “the Jews” are told that their father is the devil (John 8:44), but they are portrayed explicitly as questioning Jesus (2:18), as accusing him of being in league with the devil (8:48), and as instilling fear in his followers (7:13; 19:38; 20:19). In this Gospel, “the Jews” function as a foil to everything Jesus stands for and teaches. They are from beneath while Jesus is from above; they are of this world while Jesus is not (8:22-23), and they, unlike the enlightened Jesus, love “darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil” (3:19).

The Gospel of Matthew reinforces this view of Jews through its portrayal of Pharisees. In this Gospel, Pharisees are hypocritical (Matt. 16:3), judgmental (9:11), rule-bound (12:2), scheming (v.14), stupid (v. 24), sign-seeking (v. 38), superficial (15:1), easily offended (v.12), spiritually blind (v. 14), corrupt (12:33), petty (23:23), tricky (22:15), prideful (16:6), and murderous (12:14). True, the Pharisees are only a subgroup of Jews, but without many examples of other subgroups acting differently, they seem to represent Jews as a totality.

In addition, the Gospel of Matthew uses settings to undermine the viability and validity of Jewish practices. The Last Supper, for instance, is set as a Passover Seder and shows Jesus commenting on two of its most important elements: the bread and the wine. However, in this Gospel, the Mosaic meanings of these elements are not mentioned or discussed as stipulated by the Law of Moses (Ex. 12:25–27). Instead, they are presented simply as food items that have lost their Mosaic meaning and can, therefore, be easily repurposed as memorials of Jesus’s soon to-be-dead body and spilt blood. In this way, the Gospel of Matthew presents Passover, much like the Jews themselves, as something devoid of true spirituality and in need of replacement. 

Is there scholarly consensus regarding anti-Semitism in the New Testament? Can you provide examples of scholarly debate on the topic?

I think so, yes. Many scholars, however, prefer to use the term “anti-Judaic,” feeling that the New Testament attacks Jews more as members of a certain faith, which can change, than as members of an ethnic or genetic group, which cannot. I have elected to use “anti-Semitic” in my book because 1) most of my sources use that term, 2) “anti-Semitic” is the more common, inclusive term, and 3) in practice the distinction between these two approaches is not always clear—even in the New Testament. Jesus in the Gospel of John, for instance, does not tell “the Jews” that the devil is their spiritual leader; he says that the devil is their “father” (John 8: 44). Similarly, in Matthew the Jewish multitude cries out for his blood to be upon their “children, not upon their religious descendants (Matt. 27:25).

Scholars, as well as many devoted Christian ministers, are disturbed by this scene in the Gospel of Matthew. It seems to brand all Jews throughout time as “Christkillers” and has been used to justify numerous anti-Jewish atrocities. As a result, many of these scholars, ministers, and laypeople deny that it ever happened. They point out that there is no record of any Roman governor ever releasing prisoners on Passover and question the logic of such a custom. After all, why would a Roman official charged with keeping the peace run the risk of releasing his most dangerous enemies back into society? It makes no sense.

These scholars and ministers similarly dispute the Gospels’ portrayal of Pilate as a spiritually ambivalent government official who could be swayed by the voice of a Jewish multitude. According to Roman records, not only did Pilate place Roman images inside the Temple precincts in direct opposition of the will of his subjects, but he also confiscated Temple funds when they refused to pay their taxes. Furthermore, when people gathered before him to protest, he had his soldiers disguise themselves, infiltrate the crowd, and slaughter them all.

The majority of scholars and ministers see Pilate as a merciless ruler who would have had no qualms whatsoever about crucifying Jesus. However, by doing so, Pilate presented early Christians with a problem. After all, they had to live and work and worship within the Roman Empire. It would not be wise to paint a Roman official as a murderer, particularly as the murderer of the Son of God. Many scholars and ministers, therefore, see this scene as a fictional embellishment designed to shift the blame for Jesus’s death from the Romans to the already despised Jews.

Can you provide an example or two of how the Book of Mormon counters anti-Semitism in the New Testament?

I can think of no more powerful condemnations of anti-Semitic behavior than these:

O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people. (1 Ne. 29:5)

Yea, and ye need not any longer hiss, nor spurn, nor make game of the Jews, nor any of the remnant of the house of Israel; for behold, the Lord remembereth his covenant unto them, and he will do unto them according to that which he hath sworn. (3 Ne. 29:8)

Furthermore, these are not simply official declarations issued by a church or statements from an ecclesiastical leader. In the former, it is God who chastises non-Jews (probably Christians) for persecuting Jews; and in the latter, it is Mormon, a prophet of God, who commands these same Christians to cease oppressing the Jews.

Also, notice that these condemnations do not comment upon any particular passage in the New Testament, nor do they challenge the veracity of any specific New Testament event. However, given their clarity of expression, they make it very difficult for Christians to interpret the New Testament anti-Semitically.

In this way, the Book of Mormon does not change the New Testament’s words or call into question their ability to convey divine messages to their readers directly. However, for believers, it alters how the New Testament’s words are understood. When joined with the New Testament in the Christian canon, the Book of Mormon overwhelms the anti-Semitic statements, portrayals, settings, and structural elements with more numerous and more sweeping pro-Jewish statements, portrayals, settings, and structural elements of its own. In this way, the Book of Mormon turns the literary tide in the New Testament and causes it to flow in the opposite direction.

How does the Book of Mormon limit Jewish involvement in Jesus’ death?

For the most part, the prophets in the Book of Mormon seems more interested in what Jesus’s death accomplished than in who killed him. Nephi, for instance, recounts his vision of Jesus’s death saying only that Jesus “was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world” without specifying who did the lifting (1 Ne. 11:33), and Abinadi similarly prophecies that Jesus will be “led, crucified, and slain” again without mentioning who will do the leading, crucifying, and slaying (Mosiah 15:7). The same is true for Samuel the Lamanite (Hel. 13:6) and even Jesus (3 Ne. 11:14).

Furthermore, when these prophets do attempt to identify Jesus’s killers, they use vague terms such as “the world” or “wicked men” (1 Ne. 19:7–10), or they employ phrases that, while they may appear at first to indict all Jews everywhere, actually absolve the majority of Jews of any involvement whatsoever in Jesus’s death. Jacob’s “they at Jerusalem” (2 Ne. 10:5), for example, may seem to some readers to indicate that all Jews participate somehow in Jesus’s crucifixion. These readers link this phrase with “the Jews” in verse 3 and see it as affirming universal Jewish culpability regarding Jesus’s death. However, during Jesus’s lifetime, only a small percentage of the world’s Jews lived in Jerusalem. During that time, most Jews were still residing in Babylon or were scattered throughout the eastern Mediterranean and beyond—as Jacob, who as one of the most far-flung of these Jews, knew very well.

In other words, instead of serving as a synonym of “the Jews,” “they at Jerusalem” functions as the last element in a grammatical sequence that shrinks the number of Jews connected to Jesus’s death from all Jews everywhere to “those who are the more wicked part of the world” to just those Jews living in Jerusalem during the early first century. In a similar way, 2 Nephi 10 also softens “they shall crucify him” of verse 3 to “they . . . will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified” and complicates their complicity by stating in verse 5 that they do so not because of some deep-seated personal conviction but “because of priestcrafts and iniquities.”

What is supersessionism and how does the Book of Mormon refute it?

Supersessionism is the traditional Christian doctrine that the Jews have been disobedient for so long, failing to follow their own law as well as murdering its originator (Jesus), that their covenantal connection to God has been revoked and they have been replaced by Christian Gentiles. Statements in the Book of Mormon clearly refute this notion by confirming that the Jews remain God’s “covenant people” (2 Ne. 29:4–5) even after Jesus’s death (Morm. 3:21), and by affirming that despite being scattered “upon all the face of the earth,” the Jews will one day be “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (1 Ne. 14:14), that they will be delivered from their enemies (2 Ne. 6:17), and that pure people everywhere will seek “the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord” (Morm. 8:15).

In addition to these statements, the portrayal of the Nephites and Lamanites further reinforces the Jews’ ongoing covenantal connection to God. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jews, as Pharisees, are portrayed as so hypocritical and murderous (at least towards Jesus) that it is hard to see them as continuing in God’s covenant. In the Book of Mormon, Nephites also struggle with hypocrisy as do the Lamanites with murder, and yet never are these New World Jews removed from God’s covenant or detached from God’s care. Missionaries go to them, and often they repent, but even when they do not and their civilization disintegrates into self-destructive chaos, God continues to seek after their descendants and sees them always as heirs to the covenantal promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  

How should Latter-day Saints relate to Jews?

With charity, just like Nephi (2 Ne. 33:8), and not as potential converts. It is significant that the Book of Mormon never uses the words “convert” or “conversion” in connection with Jews. Instead, it employs “persuade” and “convince,” and presents Jesus as the only person authorized to do this persuading and convincing. As he tells the Nephites:

And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth; and then will I fulfil the covenant which the Father hath made unto all the people of the house of Israel. . . . And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them. (3 Ne. 16:5, 11)

This repetition of the pronoun “I” in this passage and in 3 Ne. 21:1 indicates to me that Christians should not press Jews to accept Jesus. They should instead have enough faith in their Master to let him do what he has covenanted to do without any help or interference from them.

Christians should embrace Jews as brothers and sisters in God’s covenant, as true friends with whom they can talk, play, work, worship, hang out, enjoy, and learn from, especially in regards to the Scriptures. As Nephi reminds his readers:

I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews. (2 Ne. 25:5)

What are you hoping readers will gain through this book?

I hope my readers will see more clearly just how the Book of Mormon can augment and enhance the Bible without undermining its scriptural authority or reliability. I hope they will also feel a closer, more informed, more appreciative connection with Jews. I think many Christians are fairly ignorant about Jews and are somewhat split in their opinion of them. Through movies such as “Schindler’s List,” “Denial,” and “The Pianist,” they may feel sympathetic towards Jews because of persecutions they have suffered and the pains they have endured. However, because of the New Testament, they may also be inclined to see Jews as chronic nitpickers who hypocritically follow superficial religious practices.  

With this book, I hope to resolve this difference by showing my readers that there is more to the Jews than is offered in the New Testament, that Mosaic practices remain relevant today, that the Law of Moses has been observed admirably by an admirable people; and that Jews have much to teach Christians religiously, ethically, and scripturally. They certainly have taught me much.

Bradley J. Kramer
September 2019


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Q&A Part 2 with the Editors of The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism & Sacred Texts September 11 2018

Edited by Blair G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch, and Boyd J. Petersen
276 pages, Paperback $25.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-638-3)
Hardcover $35.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-637-6)



Part 2: Q&A with Brian D. Birch
(Part 1)

Q: When and how did the Mormon Studies program at UVU launch?

A: The UVU Mormon Studies Program began in 2000 with the arrival of Eugene England. Gene received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to explore how Mormon Studies could succeed at a state university. A year-long seminar resulted that included a stellar lineup of consultants and guest scholars. From that point forward, the Religious Studies Program has developed multiple courses complemented by our annual Mormon Studies Conference and Eugene England Lecture—to honor Gene’s tragic and untimely passing in 2001. The program also hosts and facilitates events for independent organizations and publications including the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, the Dialogue Foundation, the Interpreter Foundation, Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, Association for Mormon Letters, and others.

Q: How is the UVU Mormon Studies program distinguished from Mormon Studies programs that have emerged at other campuses?

A: Mormon Studies at UVU is distinguished by the explicitly comparative focus of our work. Given the strengths of our faculty, we have emphasized courses and programming that addresses engagement and dialogue across cultures, faith traditions, and theological perspectives. Permanent course offerings include Mormon Cultural Studies, Mormon Theology and the Christian Tradition, Mormon Anthropology, and Mormon Literature. Our strengths lie in areas other than Mormon history, which is well represented at other institutions—and appropriately so. Given the nature of our institution, our events are focused first and foremost on student learning, but all our events are free and open to the public and we welcome conversation between scholars and nonprofessionals.

Q: How long has the annual UVU Mormon Studies Conference been held, and what have been some of the topics of past conferences?

A: As mentioned above, the Mormon Studies Conference was first convened by Eugene England in 2000, and to date we have convened a total of nineteen conferences. Topics have ranged across a variety of issues including “Islam and Mormonism,” “Mormonism in the Public Mind,” “Mormonism and the Art of Boundary Maintenance,” “Mormonism and the Internet,” etc. We have been fortunate to host superb scholars and to bring them into conversation with each other and the broader public.

Q: Where did the material for the first volume, The Expanded Canon, come from?

A: The material in The Expanded Canon emerged came from our 2013 Mormon Studies Conference that shares the title of the volume. We drew from the work of conference presenters and added select essays to round out the collection. The volume is expressive of our broader approach to bring diverse scholars into conversation and to show a variety of perspectives and methodologies.

Q: What are a few key points about this volume that would be of interest to readers?

A: Few things are more central to Mormon thought than the way the tradition approaches scripture. And many of their most closely held beliefs fly in the face of general Christianity’s conception of scriptural texts. An open or expanded canon of scripture is one example. Grant Underwood explores Joseph Smith’s revelatory capacities and illustrates that Smith consistently edited his revelations and felt that his revisions were done under the same Spirit by which the initial revelation was received. Hence, the revisions may be situated in the canon with the same gravitas that the original text enjoyed. Claudia Bushman directly addresses the lack of female voices in Mormon scripture. She recommends several key documents crafted by women in the spirit of revelation. Ultimately, she suggests several candidates for inclusion. As the Mormon canon expands it should include female voices. From a non-Mormon perspective, Ann Taves does not embrace a historical explanation of the Book of Mormon or the gold plates. However, she does not deny Joseph Smith as a religious genius and compelling creator of a dynamic mythos. In her chapter she uses Mormon scripture to suggest a way that the golden plates exist, are not historical, but still maintain divine connectivity. David Holland examines the boundaries and intricacies of the Mormon canon. Historically, what are the patterns and intricacies of the expanding canon and what is the inherent logic behind the related processes? Additionally, authors treat the status of the Pearl of Great Price, the historical milieu of the publication of the Book of Mormon, and the place of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. These are just a few of the important issues addressed in this volume.

Q: What is your thought process behind curating these volumes in terms of representation from both LDS and non-LDS scholars, gender, race, academic disciplines, etc?

A: Mormon Studies programing at UVU has always been centered on strong scholarship while also extending our reach to marginalized voices. To date, we have invited guests that span a broad spectrum of Mormon thought and practice. From Orthodox Judaism to Secular Humanists; from LGBTQ to opponents to same-sex marriage; from Feminists to staunch advocates of male hierarchies, all have had a voice in the UVU Mormon Studies Program. Each course, conference, and publication treating these dynamic dialogues in Mormonism are conducted in civility and the scholarly anchors of the academy. Given our disciplinary grounding, our work has expanded the conversation and opened a wide variety of ongoing cooperation between schools of thought that intersect with Mormon thought.

Q: What can readers expect to see coming from the UVU Comparative Mormon Studies series?

A: Our 2019 conference will be centered on the experience of women in and around the Mormon traditions. We have witnessed tremendous scholarship of late in this area and are anxious to assemble key authors and advocates. Other areas we plan to explore include comparative studies in Mormonism and Asian religions, theological approaches to religious diversity, and questions of Mormon identity.


Download a free sample of The Expanded Canon
Listen to an interview with the editors


Upcoming events for The Expanded Canon:


Tue Sep 18
 at 7pm | Writ & Vision (Provo) | RSVP on Facebook
Wed Sep 19 at 5:30 pm | Benchmark Books (SLC) | RSVP on Facebook


Twelve Days of Kofford 2017 November 21 2017

Greg Kofford Books is once again pleased to offer twelve days of discounted holiday shopping from our website!

HERE IS HOW IT WORKS: Every morning from Dec 1th through the 12th, we will be posting a DISCOUNT CODE on our Facebook or Twitter pages. Use this discount code on the corresponding day to receive 30% off select titles. The final day will be an e-book flash sale on Amazon.com.

To help you plan, here are the dates, titles, and sale prices we will be offering beginning Dec 1st. These sales are limited to available inventory. You must follow our Facebook or Twitter pages to get the discount code. Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. Customers in the Wasatch Front area are welcome to pick orders up directly from our office in Sandy, UT.

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Second Witness, Vol 1: First Nephi
by Brant A. Gardner

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Second Witness, Vol 2: Second Nephi through Jacob
by Brant A. Gardner

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Second Witness, Vol 5: Helaman through Nephi
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Second Witness, Vol 6: Fourth Nephi through Moroni
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The Gift and the Power: Translating the Book of Mormon
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Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History
by Brant A. Gardner

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Day 2 — The Garden of Enid

The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl
Part One

by Scott Hales

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The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl 
Part Two

by Scott Hales

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Day 3 — The Mormon Image in Literature

The Mormoness; Or, The Trials of Mary Maverick:
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Edited by Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall

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Boadicea; the Mormon Wife: Life Scens in Utah
Edited by Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall

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Dime Novel Mormons
Edited by Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall

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Day 4 — Women's topics

Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact
by Neylan McBaine

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Mormon Women Have Their Say: Essays from the Claremont Oral History Collection
Edited by Claudia L. Bushman and Caroline Kline

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Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism
Edited by Gordon Shepherd, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Gary Shepherd

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Day 5 — Polygamy titles

Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Vol 1: History
by Brian C. Hales

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Vol 2: History
by Brian C. Hales

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Vol 3: Theology
by Brian C. Hales

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Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding
by Brian C. Hales and Laura H. Hales

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Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto
by Brian C. Hales

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Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle
by Jesse L. Embry

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Prisoner for Polygamy: The Memoirs and Letters of Rudger Clawson at the Utah Territorial Penitentiary, 1884–87
by Stan Larson

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Day 6 — Science titles

Who Are the Children of Lehi? DNA and the Book of Mormon
by D. Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens

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“Let the Earth Bring Forth”: Evolution and Scripture
by Howard C. Stutz, with a foreword by Duane Jeffrey

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Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements
Edited by William E. Evenson and Duane E. Jeffrey

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Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision
Edited by A. Scott Howe and Richard L. Bushman

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Day 7 — Biography

Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life
by Boyd Jay Petersen

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“Swell Suffering”: A Biography of Maurine Whipple
by Veda Tebbs Hale

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William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet
by Kyle R. Walker

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LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 Vols
by Andrew Jenson

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The Man Behind the Discourse: A Biography of King Follett
by Joann Follett Mortensen

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Day 8 — Political topics

Liberal Soul: Applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Politics
by Richard Davis

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A Different God? Mitt Romney, the Religious Right, and the Mormon Question
by Craig L. Foster

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Common Ground—Different Opinions: Latter-day Saints and Contemporary Issues
Edited by Justin F. White and James E. Faulconer

$31.95 paperback
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Even Unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War
by Duane Boyce

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War & Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives
Edited by Patrick Q. Mason, J. David Pulsipher, and Richard L. Bushman

$29.95 paperback
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The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future
By Charles Shirō Inouye

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Day 9 — Personal essay

Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family
by Boyd Jay Petersen

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Mr. Mustard Plaster and Other Mormon Essays
by Mary Lithgoe Bradford

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Writing Ourselves: Essays on Creativity, Craft, and Mormonism
by Jack Harrell

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On the Road with Joseph Smith: An Author's Diary
by Richard Lyman Bushman

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Day 10 — Church history

Hearken O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith's Ohio Revelations
by Mark Lyman Staker

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Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836–39
by Leland Homer Gentry and Todd M. Compton

$36.95 hardcover
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A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple
by Matthew McBride

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Villages on Wheels: A Social History of the Gathering to Zion
by Stanley B. Kimball and Violet Kimball

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Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890–1930, 3rd ed.
by Thomas G. Alexander

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Day 11 — International Mormonism

Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealans, 1854–1958
by Marjorie Newton

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Mormon and Maori
by Marjorie Newton

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The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901–1968
by Shinji Takagi

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From Above and Below: The Mormon Embrace of Revolution, 1840–1940
by Craig Livingston

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The History of the Mormons in Argentina
by Néstor Curbelo

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For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830–2013
by Russell W. Stevenson

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Day 12 — Flash ebook sale

 CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS


Free Scriptural Theology ebook for newsletter subscribers! October 30 2017

FREE EBOOK FOR NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBERS

Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Scriptural Theology
Edited by James E. Faulconer and Joseph M. Spencer

Part of the Perspectives on Mormon Theology series

$24.95 FREE FOR OUR NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBERS (Limited time)

Greg Kofford Books is pleased to offer for a limited time a free ebook version of Scriptural Theology, the first volume in the Perspectives on Mormon Theology series.

This volume is edited by James E. Faulconer and Joseph M. Spencer and seeks to offer a variety of perspectives regarding the nature and meaning of scripture for Latter-day Saints.


Book description:

The phrase “theology of scripture” can be understood in two distinct ways. First, theology of scripture would be reflection on the nature of scripture, asking questions about what it means for a person or a people to be oriented by a written text (rather than or in addition to an oral tradition or a ritual tradition). In this first sense, theology of scripture would form a relatively minor part of the broader theological project, since the nature of scripture is just one of many things on which theologians reflect. Second, theology of scripture would be theological reflection guided by scripture, asking questions of scriptural texts and allowing those texts to shape the direction the theologian’s thoughts pursue. In this second sense, theology of scripture would be less a part of the larger theological project than a way of doing theology, since whatever the theologian takes up reflectively, she investigates through the lens of scripture.

The essays making up this collection reflect attentiveness to both ways of understanding the phrase “theology of scripture.” Each essay takes up the relatively un-self-conscious work of reading a scriptural text but then—at some point or another—asks the self-conscious question of exactly what she or he is doing in the work of reading scripture. We have thus attempted in this book (1) to create a dialogue concerning what scripture is for Latter-day Saints, and (2) to focus that dialogue on concrete examples of Latter-day Saints reading actual scripture texts.

Contributors: James E. Faulconer, Joseph M. Spencer, Robert Couch, Adam S. Miller, Eric D. Huntsman, Claudia L. Bushman, Bruce W. Jorgensen, Jane Hafen, Jenny Webb, George B. Handley



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Q&A with Joseph Spencer for The Vision of All February 27 2017

322 pages

Paperback $25.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-632-1)


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How and when did you begin to recognize the need for a different approach to studying the Isaiah sections in the Book of Mormon?

Well, I've always been overconfident about what I might be able to accomplish, so I first decided to tackle Isaiah in earnest when I was a teenager. Of course, I understood little, because I knew no real resources. I read carefully through the King James Version of the text, and I followed every footnote in the LDS edition. I spent a whole summer doing that, and I gained little more than some familiarity. I turned to Isaiah again shortly after my mission, when I was taking an introductory course on Hebrew. Studying straight from the Hebrew, using dictionaries and a few other tools, I felt like I came to understand the text a bit better, though I only worked at the time through about five chapters of Isaiah. At about the same time, I discovered a few other scholarly resources, especially the old FARMS volume Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Those helped orient me in Isaiah's world a bit better, but I wasn't yet doing the sort of thing I've come to do now.

What changed things was twofold. First, my wife, Karen, and I were studying First Nephi, and we struck on some structural features of Nephi's record that make clear he means to emphasize Isaiah above all else in his record. (I've talked about these structural features in my books.) That spurred me to give closer attention to Nephi's treatment of Isaiah than I had before. Up to that point, I'd tried only to approach Isaiah on his own terms, using just a few scholarly resources. But stumbling onto the idea that I could see how Nephi reads Isaiah fired me up. And it got me more interested than before in understanding Isaiah on his own terms as well. I figured that understanding Isaiah himself would allow me to see how Nephi was using him in his own inventive ways. So I began, finally, to read the massive scholarly literature on Isaiah. Second, I was asked to teach early-morning seminary one year, while we were living in Oregon. The course of study was the Old Testament, and I asked for permission to focus the whole year just on Genesis, Job, and Isaiah. The bishop granted it, and so I worked with my students all the way through Isaiah for three months. In preparation for each class discussion, I did nothing but read commentaries, and then we came together and just wrestled with the text of Isaiah. By that point, I was finishing work on my first book, An Other Testament, which is largely about how the Book of Mormon handles Isaiah, so working carefully through every line of Isaiah with my students helped me to see even better how inventive and interesting Nephi is in his reading of Isaiah.

So I suppose it's been a circuitous path. The short answer is that it was only when I saw (a) that Nephi really means to privilege Isaiah and (b) that he deliberately reads Isaiah in his own way that my project began to take shape.

In what ways does Nephi use Isaiah inventively? And how might his usage differ from scholarly consensus on Isaiah's original intent?

On my reading, Nephi explicitly tells his readers that he's reading Isaiah inventively. I believe this is what he tries to signal with the word "likening" (see, for example, 1 Ne. 19:23). He sees Isaiah's prophecies as having a meaning of their own, which we might call their immediate meaning. But then he sees the possibility of finding in Isaiah's prophecies a basic pattern that's replicated in Israel's history at times and in places where Isaiah wasn't himself focused. This is clearest when he applies prophecies from the Book of Isaiah, which in their biblical context are clearly about the return of exiled Jews from Babylon during the sixth century before Christ, to things he sees in vision regarding Lehi's descendants in modern times. He explicitly recognizes that passages from Isaiah have their natural fulfillment in the return of Jews from exile to the land of Judah, but then he suggests that the same passages can be likened to the return of latter-day Lamanites to the gospel of Christ their ancestors knew. He seems to see Isaiah as outlining patterns of how God works with Israel, whether in whole or in part, whether anciently or in modern times, again and again. And so he sees the possibility of adapting Isaiah texts to events that arguably outstrip the straightforward meaning of those texts. That is, I think, a rather responsible (because self-aware) form of inventive interpretation.

Of course, such an approach to the Book of Isaiah differs drastically from the kinds of approaches on offer in scholarly work on Isaiah today. For one, Nephi asks a rather different set of questions about Isaiah than do modern scholars. Academic work on Isaiah aims at reconstructing the historical origins and context of the Book of Isaiah, as well as the processes through which what originated with Isaiah came to have the shape we're familiar with from the Bible. Nephi isn't at all interested in these questions. He's apparently familiar with the basic, straightforward historical meaning of prophecies in the Book of Isaiah, but he moves pretty quickly beyond such meanings to explore other possible meanings and applications. Further, though, there are many other ways Nephi seems to differ from the conclusions of modern scholarly work on Isaiah. For instance, he clearly regards the whole of Isaiah 2–5 as a larger unit of text (as can be seen from connecting words and original chapter breaks in the Book of Mormon), but most interpreters today regard those chapters as divisible into at least two larger units (Isaiah 2–4 and Isaiah 5, for example). That only scratches the surface, of course. There are still larger issues of conflict between the way Nephi (or really, the Book of Mormon quite generally) handles Isaiah and the conclusions drawn by modern scholarship, but that would take some work to develop.

How does The Vision of All negotiate this sometimes tense or conflicting terrain of modern scholarship and a more philosophically-grounded reading of Isaiah?

First and foremost, I think it's important just to make clear that there are various ways of reading Isaiah, and that Nephi acknowledges the uniqueness of his approach. We're far too prone as Latter-day Saints to think that there's one correct answer to questions about the meaning of a passage of scripture. We tend to think that we're done with a text once we know the "right" interpretation. And, in many ways, that's mirrored in modern scholarship, although modern scholars come up with a very different set of answers about the meanings of Isaiah's writings. The result is that too many academics think that average believers (Mormon or otherwise) simply get scripture wrong, and average believers return the compliment by claiming that scholars in turn get scripture wrong. What Nephi teaches us, I think, is that a given passage of scripture can have a variety of meanings and applications. Meaning is dynamic and contextualized by the act of reading. The result is that there's more a history of interpretation than there's a definite meaning for any particular passage or text. In Nephi's writings we can glimpse Lehi's approach to Isaiah, and it's quite different from Nephi's. And then he sets his own interpretations side by side with Jacob's, which are similar but far from identical. Even within just the sermon Nephi quotes from Jacob in 2 Nephi 6–10, we can track two rather different interpretations of one and the same passage (Isa. 49:22–23).

Just getting clear about all this can help us to feel a good deal more at home with Isaiah. Our job isn't to figure out the one true meaning of Isaiah, but to let Isaiah's words work on us. They provide us with patterns and images, relationships and themes. Our task is to dwell in the text and to let it begin to shape the way we see things. We won't be able to do this very well if we don't become familiar with the range of meanings the text can accommodate. So we ought to read Isaiah scholarship to become familiar with historical reconstructions of Isaiah's (apparent) original meaning. In fact, it's important to read some of this scholarship just to become familiar with the fact that no two interpreters agree on Isaiah's meaning. There are key passages in Isaiah that are literally interpreted in a dozen different ways by major modern interpreters. And then it'd be helpful for us if we became more familiar with the history of interpretation of Isaiah. How have Jews read Isaiah 53? Do different sorts of Christians read Isaiah 11 in different ways? How does a Seventh-day Adventist read Isaiah's references to the remnant by comparison with a mainline Protestant? And then how might we, as Latter-day Saints, find meaning in Isaiah? These are questions that go a good deal further than I ever do in The Vision of All, but I try in the book to open the way to these kinds of approaches, since I argue that Nephi does something like this in his own context.

Can you give us a concrete example of a passage that Latter-day Saints may be prone to interpret a specific way, but which consideration of other interpretations, both within modern scholarship and other religious traditions, may be beneficial?

It's probably easiest here just to begin with an example that's decently known already. Most Latter-day Saints are familiar with those passages in Isaiah that play a prominent role in Handel's Messiah. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14). "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). These kinds of passages are generally understood by average Mormons to be straightforward prophecies of Jesus Christ's birth. Modern scholars, however, generally read these passages in a fundamentally different way, say, as prophecies concerning events that were to happen within Isaiah's own lifetime. Some familiarity with the history of Jewish interpretation also helps to reveal how differently these texts can be read. Even many modern Christians, usually in mainline Protestantism, don't read these passages as direct references to Jesus Christ. It turns out that there are many different ways of making sense of these texts. They can be read as predictions of Jesus's birth. But they can also be read in many other ways, often informatively. Now, I don't mean to suggest that the other ways are necessarily the best ways. They may or may not be. But any reading of these passages will be stronger and more interesting if it acknowledges that it approaches the text from a certain perspective, from the perspective of a certain faith.

And really, that's what matters here, I think. When I say that we can benefit from familiarity with the ways that other traditions or modern scholars read certain passages of Isaiah, I mean that we can grow out of the naive assumption that there's only one possible way to understand a text (an assumption that too easily leads us to think that everyone who doesn't see things our way is simply stupid), and we can grow into a recognition that our readings are rooted in our own system of beliefs. I might put that another way: we can grow out of the naive idea that our interpretations of Isaiah are a matter of straightforward knowledge, and we can grow into the deeply mature realization that our interpretations of Isaiah are a matter of invested faith. Now, I suspect that most who become a bit more familiar with the variety of interpretations of Isaiah will come to interpret some of the texts in a new way. I certainly have as I've studied. And that's good, I think. But I think also that the best readers will also find reasons to defend uniquely Mormon interpretations of many passages of Isaiah, even while recognizing that those interpretations are rooted in a very specific perspective of faith. Why shouldn't we grow all the fonder of interpretations that grow directly out of our faith commitments, even as we recognize that the text can be read in many ways? I think we should, that we should feel free to defend an understanding of Isaiah that's informed by other traditions and scholarly work but that's simultaneously rooted in the Restoration.

Switching topics, let's talk about the style of the book: The Vision of All is laid out as a series of twenty-five classroom-style lectures. Give us some insight into your decision to use this approach and if it had any precedent that inspired you.

A few things came together that led me to do the book this way. First, over the past few years, I'd begun to write some of my public presentations in this style, instead of always delivering a more formal or finished paper. I found I really enjoyed the writing process of producing something less formal, something where I don't have to tie up every loose thread and can focus on rhetorical delivery. Experimenting with that form of writing got me thinking. Second, I'd begun teaching courses on the Book of Mormon at Brigham Young University, and I'd found that students responded very well to my lectures on the Isaiah material. These weren't written up even in an informal style, but I began thinking that the sort of presentations I was making in the classroom with Isaiah might be more accessible to Latter-day Saints in general. Finally, I've been working steadily on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon for more than a decade now, and I began to think that I had too many ideas piled up in my head that really needed to be put in writing in some form or another, and writing up popular lectures would allow me to work quickly. These all came together at once, and so I began writing the book, one lecture a week.

In writing the book, I didn't try to follow any particular precedent. At the same time, I thought often while I was writing the book about a few similar projects. I thought sometimes about Hugh Nibley's four volumes of lectures on the Book of Mormon, which are literal transcripts of a four-semester honors course he taught on the Book of Mormon at BYU. I haven't read or watched all of those lectures, but certainly some of them, and I often thought about him providing a kind of example of something useful. Of course, my style in the lectures is quite different from Nibley's. Nibley largely began at one end of the Book of Mormon and worked his way to the other end, and he didn't always seem to have a sense of what he wished to accomplish in any given hour of lecture. I tried to impose a larger architectonic on the project, and I tried to assign myself several specific tasks in each lecture. But then, like Nibley, I let the time limits (or really, for me, word limits) decide where I had to stop. And so a lot of the lectures wrap up with overly quick summations of things. But that's meant to give readers a feel for how much more needs to be said than can be said about the subject of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. I hope it's effective.

Final question: Where do you hope your readers will go from here in their study of Isaiah?

I hope they'll start studying Isaiah on their own! Really, I hope the book itself makes clear that I want readers to take this just as a primer, a way of getting started. A recent review of The Vision of All criticized it because many of the lectures end with something like "Ack! We're out of time! We can't really tie up all these loose ends or get into everything we'd like!" The reviewer suggested that I was unwilling to write an extra thousand words to tie all the loose ends together, or that I was too lazy to work my way toward appropriate conclusions. But the fact is that I deliberately wrote the lectures this way. I want readers to feel how much work needs to be done, and I want them to feel responsible for that work. I want them to see how we might go about working on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, but I want them to know that I can't and won't do all that work for them. Neither I nor anyone else is going to write the book that sorts out everything important that needs saying about Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. But there's a danger in writing scholarly books, a danger that readers might think that reading the scholarly book is all that's needed. So I wanted to write a book that does scholarly work and nonetheless makes perfectly clear that it just points in the right direction, rather than travels the whole length of the road to its ultimate destination.

I'd love to see dozens, hundreds, even thousands of Latter-day Saint readers of Isaiah, scholarly and not. We of all people ought to be invested in making sense of Isaiah's writings. Perhaps I could even wish for the emergence of a marked Latter-day Saint approach to Isaiah, one that becomes recognized as uniquely Mormon and worthy of interest from outsiders. I'd love to see that Latter-day Saint reading be profoundly responsible academically, fully informed about the best scholarly literature. But I'd love just as much to see that Latter-day Saint reading be deeply invested in the unique faith claims of the Restoration, deeply rooted in faithfulness to what Mormonism claims about the world. Our own unique scriptures ask us to take Isaiah seriously, but we tend to leave that task to scholars whose writings we can barely understand or to oddball amateurs who borrow their interpretations from the fundamentalist Christian tradition. What if we began to work on Isaiah in a way that didn't ultimately feel it necessary to conform to every scholarly conclusion (while nonetheless being aware of them) but also didn't look like wacky esoteric speculation? I think we could forge an interpretive tradition that could speak to the world.

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On the tenth day of Kofford: 30% off war and peace titles! December 10 2016


War and peace titles are 30% off December 10th. These special prices are only available for one day, so don't wait!

To get the 30% discount, simply enter the code PEACEONEARTH (all caps) in the discount code box at check-out.


Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. Also, local Utah customers can opt to pick up their order directly from our office in Sandy (select this option under the shipping menu). 

For more information about the Twelve Days of Kofford holiday sales, click here.

War & Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives
Edited by Patrick Q. Mason, J. David Pulsipher, and Richard L. Bushman

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97

Even unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War
by Duane Boyce

Retail: $29.95
Sale price: $20.97

The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future
by Charles Shirō Inouye

Retail: $13.95
Sale price: $9.77

Saints of Valor: Mormon Medal of Honor Recipients, Updated 2nd Edition
by Sherman L. Fleek

Retail: $31.95
Sale price: $22.37


On the fifth day of Kofford: 30% off Contemporary Studies in Scripture titles! December 05 2016


All Contemporary Studies in Scripture titles are 30% off December 5th. These special prices are only available for one day, so don't wait!

To get the 30% discount, simply enter the code STANDARDWORKS (all caps) in the discount code box at check-out.


Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. Also, local Utah customers can opt to pick up their order directly from our office in Sandy (select this option under the shipping menu). 

For more information about the Twelve Days of Kofford holiday sales, click here.

Authoring the Old Testament, Volume 1: Geneses—Deuteronomy 
by David Bokovoy

Retail: $26.95
Sale price: $18.87

Re-reading Job: Understanding the World's Greatest Poem
by Michael Austin

Retail: $20.95
Sale price: $14.67

Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels
by Julie M. Smith

Retail: $27.95
Sale price: $19.57

Beholding the Tree of Life: A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon
by Bradley J. Kramer

Retail: $21.95
Sale price: $15.37

The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi's Record
by Joseph M. Spencer

Retail: $25.95
Sale price: $18.17


On the first day of Kofford: all Brant Gardner titles 30% off retail price! December 01 2016

 

Greg Kofford Books is pleased to offer 30% off of the following titles on December 1st. These special prices are only available for one day, so don't wait!

To get the 30% discount, simply enter the code BOOKOFMORMON (all caps) in the discount code box at check-out.


Orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. Also, local Utah customers can opt to pick up their order directly from our office in Sandy (select this option under the shipping menu). 

For more information about the Twelve Days of Kofford holiday sales, click here.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 1: First Nephi
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 2: Second Nephi through Jacob
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 3: Enos through Mosiah
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 4: Alma
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $49.95
Sale price: $34.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 5: Helaman through Third Nephi
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 6: Fourth Nephi through Moroni
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $39.95
Sale price: $27.97

The Gift and the Power: Translating the Book of Mormon
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $34.95
Sale price: $24.47

Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History
by Brant A. Gardner

Retail: $34.95
Sale price: $24.47

Best Religious Non-fiction Award, The Association for Mormon Letters


Year in Review and the Year Ahead December 29 2015

2015 was another amazing year for Greg Kofford Books! Here is a recap of the year and a look ahead to what is coming in 2016 and beyond.

Award-winning Publications

Several Kofford titles won awards from the Mormon History Association and the Association for Mormon Letters in 2015:

MHA Best Book Award

For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism, 1830-2013
By Russell W. Stevenson
$66.95 hardcover
$32.95 paperback

“Invaluable as a historical resource.” Terryl L. Givens, author of Parley P.
Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism
 and By the Hand of Mormon: The
American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion

MHA Best International Book Award

Mormon and Maori
By Marjorie Newton
$24.95 paperback

“Unflinchingly honest yet unfailingly compassionate.” — Grant Underwood,
Professor of History at Brigham Young University

AML Religious Non-Fiction Award

Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem
By Michael Austin
$50.00 hardcover
$20.95 paperback

“A new gold standard for Mormon writings.” — Julie M. Smith, author, Search,
Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels

 

All 2015 Titles

Here are all of the great titles that Greg Kofford Books published this past year:

Mr. Mustard Plaster and Other Mormon Essays
By Mary Lythgoe Bradford
Published January, 2015
$20.95 paperback

“Vibrant portraits of a kind and loving soul.” — Boyd J. Peterson, author of
Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and
Family

Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Scriptural Theology      
Edited by James E. Faulconer and Joseph M. Spencer
Published February, 2015
$59.95 hardcover
$24.95 paperback

Each essay takes up the relatively un-self-conscious work of reading a
scriptural text but then—at some point or another—asks the self-conscious
question of exactly what she or he is doing in the work of reading scripture.

Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding
By Brian C. Hales and Laura H. Hales
Published April, 2015
$19.95 paperback

“It is a book that will be read and discussed for years to come.” — Robert L.
Millet, Professor Emeritus of Religious Education, Brigham Young University 

Even Unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War
By Duane Boyce
Published May, 2015
$29.95 paperback 

“Indispensable for all future Mormon discussions of the subject.” — Daniel C.
Peterson, editor of Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture

William B. Smith: In the Shadow of a Prophet
By Kyle R. Walker
Published June, 2015
$69.95 hardcover
$39.95 paperback

“Walker’s biography will become essential reading.” — Mark Staker, author of
the award-winning Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph
Smith’s Ohio Revelations

Voices for Equality: Ordain Women and Resurgent Mormon Feminism
Edited by Gordon Shepherd, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Gary Shepherd
Published July, 2015
$32.95 paperback

“Timely, incisive, important.” — Joanna Brooks, co-editor of Mormon
Feminism: Essential Writings
and author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A
Memoir of an American Faith

Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History
By Brant A. Gardner
Published August, 2015
$34.95 paperback

“Illuminating, prismatic views of the Book of Mormon.” — Mark Alan Wright,
Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and
Associate Editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies

 

Looking Ahead at 2016 and Beyond

Here are a few eagerly-anticipated titles currently scheduled for the first part of 2016 and a look at what is in the works for the future:

The Mormon Image in Literature Series
Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall, series editors

The Mormoness; Or, The Trials Of Mary Maverick: A Narrative Of Real Events
By John Russell, edited and annotated by Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall
Available January 26, 2016. Pre-order your copy today!
$12.95 paperback

Published in 1853, the first American novel about the Mormons is also one of
the best. John Russell, an Illinois journalist and educator, witnessed the
persecution in Missouri and Illinois and generally sympathized with the Saints.
The Mormoness tells the story of Mary Maverick, the heroine of the novel,
who joined the Mormon Church when her husband was converted in Illinois.
Though not initially a believer, Mary embraces her identity as “the
Mormoness” when her husband and son are killed in a Haun’s Mill-like
massacre–and at the end of the novel, she must find a way to forgive the
killer.

The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future
By Charles Shirō Inouye 
Available February 16, 2016. Pre-order your copy today!
$13.95 paperback

Environmental decline, political gridlock, war and rumors of war, decadence,
and immorality. The End of the World, Plan B traces the idea of the end, or
destruction, of the world through a number of spiritual traditions. It shows that
our present understanding of the “end game” has been distorted by a modern
emphasis and demand on justice as the ultimate good. As an alternative to
this self-destructive approach, Charles Shirō Inouye shows that in these
traditions, justice is not the isolated end in itself that we ought strive for; rather
it is taught in tandem with its balancing companion: compassion. Plan B is a
hopeful alternative to our fears about how things are going.

 

Also forthcoming...

More volumes are in the works for our The Mormon Image in Literature, Contemporary Studies in Scripture, and Perspectives on Mormon Theology series.

Saints, Slaves, and Blacks by Newell G. Bringhurst, revised and updated

Lot Smith: Utah Hero, Arizona Colonizer by Carmen Smith and Talana Hooper

The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901-1968 by Shinji Takagi

Science the Key to Theology by Steven L. Peck

And much, much more...

Thank you for making 2015 exceptional and we are excited about 2016!

 

 

 

 

 


[FINISHED] Black Friday Sales: 30%-40% off all Book of Mormon titles! November 20 2015

Beginning on Black Friday and running through Cyber Monday, Greg Kofford Books is pleased to offer 30% off all Book of Mormon-related titles and 40% off the complete 6-volume set of Brant Gardner's Second Witness commentary series (offer limited to the first 100 sets). The Book of Mormon will be the Gospel Doctrine focus for 2016, so be sure to take advantage of this Black Friday weekend sale for your personal study, or for the teacher or student of scripture in your life.
 
 
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27 — MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30
30% off all Book of Mormon titles!
40% off complete set of Second Witness (limited to first 100 sets)!


 

Who Are the Children of Lehi?
DNA and the Book of Mormon

by D. Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens
$15.95 paperback
$11.16 Sale Price

“It may just cause you to think a little harder on the subject.”
— Association for Mormon Letters

Beholding the Tree of Life:
A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon

by Bradley J. Kramer
$21.95 paperback
$15.36 Sale Price

“Breaks fresh ground in numerous ways.”
— Terryl L. Givens

Traditions of the Fathers:
The Book of Mormon as History

by Brant A. Gardner
$34.95 paperback
$24.46 Sale Price

“For those who are teaching the Book of Mormon in Sunday School next year ... Gardner’s book is a tremendous resource. It’s informative, cogent, and altogether worth reading.”
— Association for Mormon Letters

The Gift and Power:
Translating the Book of Mormon

by Brant A. Gardner
$34.95 hardcover
$24.46 Sale Price

“Contributes new and exciting research”
— Mormon Times

Second Witness:
Analytical & Contextual
Commentary on the Book of Mormon

by Brant A. Gardner

Vol 1: 1 Nephi$39.95 hardcover, $27.96 Sale Price 
Vol 2: 2 Nephi through Jacob $39.95 hardcover, $27.96 Sale Price
Vol 3: Enos through Mosiah $39.95 hardcover, $27.96 Sale Price
Vol 4: Alma $49.95 hardcover, $34.96 Sale Price
Vol 5: Helaman through 3 Nephi $39.95 hardcover, $27.96 Sale Price
Vol 6: 4 Nephi through Moroni $39.95 hardcover, $27.96 Sale Price

“No other reference source will prove as thorough and valuable
for serious readers of the Book of Mormon.”
— Neal A Maxwell Institute for Religious Understanding, BYU

Brigham Young University
Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 9 Volumes
Various Authors
$129.95 paperback box set
$90.96 Sale Price

  

EXCLUSIVE OFFER:

40% off the complete Second Witness 6 Volume series!
(limited to first 100 sets)

Second Witness, Volumes 1 - 6
Complete Set: $249.70 hardcover
$149.82 Sale Price


LDS Theory of War in 3-Part Series October 08 2015

Kofford Books author Duane Boyce recently discussed the Mormon theology of war and violence in a three-part series at Meridian Magazine.

Boyce is the author of the Even unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War (2015), which has garnered the following praises:

“A careful and detailed argument against pacifism has long been needed, and it is hard to imagine someone doing a better job of it. The scholarship in this volume is impressive, and it is likely to be the definitive work on the subject for years to come. Truly a major accomplishment.” — K. Codell Carter, Professor of Philosophy, Brigham Young University

“Finally, we have a comprehensive and thorough discussion of war from an LDS perspective." — Royal Skousen, Professor of Linguistics, Brigham Young University, Editor, Book of Mormon Critical Text Project

In the first part of his series, Boyce discusses the question of pacifism vs. non-pacifism in LDS theology. He states:

"There are two fundamental views of war: pacifism, which argues that war cannot be justified and instead must be rejected as a matter of principle, and non-pacifism (of which just-war theory is an example), which argues that war is justified in certain circumstances.

It is easy to understand the appeal of both points of view. On one hand, all disciples of Christ detest violence; it is in the DNA of Christian embrace. And that gives pacifism a natural gravitational force: its appeal is both intrinsic and compelling. But an equally intrinsic and compelling influence in Christian DNA is the love of our families and of our brothers and sisters in general, and the obligation we feel to protect them from being brutalized and murdered.

The pull of these two moral forces creates a natural tension. The love of peace and the love of our brothers and sisters are both genuine, and both exert a natural influence on disciples of Christ. People end up leaning one way or the other, but it seems that everyone actually feels the pull of both.

The same tension seems to appear in the scriptures themselves."

Read part one: "Pacifism or Non-Pacifism? The First Great Question in Developing an LDS Theory of War."

In the second part of his series, Boyce examines the scriptural context of war:

"[One] view thought to support non-violence is the assertion that Book of Mormon wars occurred only because the Nephites were unrighteous. Every war they fought was completely unnecessary because the Lord promised Nephi that the Lamanites would never bother the Nephites if only the Nephites remained righteous (1 Nephi 2:23). We cannot, therefore, draw support for righteous conflict from the Nephites, since it turns out that the Nephites were always unrighteous when involved in conflict.

This claim, however—like the others—also appears to suffer when we examine the text more closely. It turns out that the Book of Mormon actually reports multiple occasions on which the Nephites suffered attack even though they were righteous—a feature of the record that straightforwardly disproves this categorical claim about them."

Read part two: "Do the Scriptures give us a Theory of War?"

In the third part of his series, Boyce discusses a theory of "just war" from an LDS perspective:

"Granted that the Lord abhors violence, what reason is there to think that he abhors all violence for the same reasons? Are all forms of violence the same? Do they all have the same moral character? Are the violence of a rapist and the violence of his victim the same? Do their violent acts have the same moral status? And are all forms of abhorrence-of-violence, then, the same?

And try this question. Why does scripture seem to countenance violence in some teachings/episodes and condemn it in others? Is there any reason to think the different cases and contexts are equivalent? Isn’t it more natural to wonder if there are differences between them and that that’s why they seem to teach different attitudes toward violence?"

Read part three: "Just War Theory and Key Gospel Texts"