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

322 pages

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

Order Your Copy Today

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.

Order Your Copy Today

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

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

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.
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



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"

Q&A with Traditions of the Fathers Author Brant Gardner June 30 2015

by Brant A. Gardner

Approximately 590 pages

Paperback $34.95 (ISBN 978-1-58958-665-9)

Pre-order your copy today.

Q: You've already commented extensively on the Book of Mormon, first in your multi-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, and The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of MormonHow does this volume differ from these previous volumes? 

Brant: Second Witness was an attempt to provide a comprehensive commentary on the Book of Mormon that included multiple perspectives, including a historical context. There is so much in Second Witness, that only the most persistent reader could gain a chronological understanding of how the Book of Mormon fits into a particular time and place. Traditions of the Fathers concentrates on the story rather than the doctrine. It pulls together the history in a more compact and more easily readable form. It also includes information and insights available since the publication of Second Witness.


Q: There are many volumes dedicated to investigation and study of the Book of Mormon, including the questions of its historicity. What makes this book stand out from those?  

 Brant: Even the best of the previous volumes on the history and historicity of the Book of Mormon use somewhat of a shotgun approach to understanding the text. Some have had better aim, but the process has still been to rely heavily on proposed similarities--that sometimes are not that similar. Traditions of the Fathers looks more closely at tying together multiple types of information belonging to the same time and location, as well as providing some in-depth analysis of some previous suggestions that were more enthusiastic than correct. In addition, the intent of the book is not necessarily to provide proofs of the Book of Mormon, but rather to give it the kind of historical and cultural background that we have for the Old and New Testament. Understanding those historical and cultural contexts can deepen our understanding of the Bible, and the proper historical and cultural background for the Book of Mormon should similarly deepen our understanding.


Q: What is most valuable about this book for the believing Latter-day Saint? What is there to recommend it for the interested reader who is not a believing Latter-day Saint? 

Brant: The believing Latter-day Saint should begin to see the people and actions recounted in the Book of Mormon in new and more human ways. The characters and events of the Book of Mormon should become more real, and therefore we should be able to see our own humanity transformed in similar spiritual ways. For those who are not believing Latter-day Saints, Traditions of the Fathers can provide a way to understand why Latter-day Saints accept it as history, even when many assume that it doesn't seem similar to known populations. Those similarities and the way to see the Book of Mormon in history should be easier to understand.


Q: Can you give us an example or two of the work you do in teasing out the culture and context for where the Book of Mormon is said to take place? 

Brant: There are two important aspects to placing the Book of Mormon in time and space. The first is to find the right place, since the text provides the timeframe. Geography is only a first step to that determination. Other major factors deal with the people discussed in the text. For example, there is no direct communication between Jaredites and Nephites. There is the last king of the Jaredites who lives with the people in Zarahemla before the Nephites arrive. That tells us that there must be a physical separation between the original Nephite lands and those of the Jaredites.

Once there is a time and place, the culture of the area is compared to the events in the Book of Mormon to see if there are correspondences where the Book of Mormon is reflecting the culture or events at the appropriate times. That comparison leads to insights elaborated in Traditions of the Fathers about why Nephi's people wanted a king, why Mosiah fled at the time he did (and in the direction he did), why Mormon is so interested in the Gadiatons, and why the Nephite final battle occurred when it did and not earlier (or later).


Q: What are some of the ways of discussing the Book of Mormon and historicity that you find are not helpful or are even detrimental? 

Brant: When the approach to discussing Book of Mormon historicity doesn't have sufficient controls on the evidence presented, it is too easily dismissed. It is also dangerous when believers start to base testimonies on fundamentally flawed approaches.


Q: How might you describe the current state of Book of Mormon studies? What do you hope to see in the future? 

Brant: This is a very interesting time for Book of Mormon studies. There are a wider number of serious studies looking at a larger number of aspects of the text. The work on the critical text of the Book of Mormon helps answer some simple questions that help understand certain confusions. The work on poetic and other literary features of the text look at it in new ways. There are new aids in deepening our understanding of the theology behind the text. There are studies looking at the place of the Book of Mormon in our own modern history. We are seeing more and better correlations between the text and the ever-increasing amount of information coming from archaeology and history, both in the Old and New Worlds.

The future should see a continued expansion of and refinement of all of these fields. Personally, I'd love to see a continued shift away from attempts to prove the Book of Mormon to better understanding the Book of Mormon--to see it in history not to prove what only spiritual witness can prove, but to bolster that spiritual witness by better understanding the real people who lived the lives behind the Book of Mormon stories.


Pre-order your copy here.