As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture


edited by Julie M. Smith

“An invitation to go back to the scriptures and reread these speakers’s stories in a new light.” — By Common Consent
“A unique and absorbing engagement with the Mormon scriptural canon that is well worth reading.” — Association for Mormon Letters
“A model for a new, Jewish-informed way of reading scriptures with rich potential for Latter-day Saint audiences.” — Fiona Givens

2016 Best Religious Non-fiction Award,
Association for Mormon Letters

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Book Description:

Our scripture study and reading often assume that the prophetic figures within the texts are in complete agreement with each other. Because of this we can fail to recognize that those authors and personalities frequently have different—and sometimes competing—views on some of the most important doctrines of the Gospel, including the nature of God, the roles of scripture and prophecy, and the Atonement.

In this unique volume, fictionalized dialogues between the various voices of scripture illustrate how these differences and disagreements are not flaws of the texts but are rather essential features of the canon. These creative dialogues include Abraham and Job debating the utility of suffering and our submission to God, Alma and Abinidi disagreeing on the place of justice in the Atonement, and the authors Mark and Luke discussing the role of women in Jesus’s ministry. It is by examining and embracing the different perspectives within the canon that readers are able to discover just how rich and invigorating the scriptures can be. The dialogues within this volume show how just as “iron sharpeneth iron,” so can we sharpen our own thoughts and beliefs as we engage not just the various voices in the scriptures but also the various voices within our community (Proverbs 27:17).

Read a Q&A with editor Julie M. Smith

Listen to an interview with editor Julie M. Smith

Author Spotlight

2016 AML Award Citation:

It is with great pleasure that we give this years Religious Non-fiction Award to Julie M Smith who was the editor of the Greg Kofford published volume As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture.

As Iron Sharpens Iron provides an excellent study on the challenges found in the Mormon scriptural cannon in a manner that is very intriguing and is sure to challenge Mormon readers to rethink how they approach their scriptural studies and thought. Mormons try harder than most Christians to try and find complete harmony in the scriptural cannon, but as Smith observes, the scriptures are filled with “weird bits”, “profound disagreement(s)” and “not all scripture texts agree with each other…since no writer has been freed from the confines of his (or her) fallen state”. The authors in As Iron Sharpens Iron were allowed to choose various scriptural authors and figures with disagreeing positions and rather than force them to harmonize these authors allowed their subjects to have a “dialogue” and debate with each other in an attempt to air out their differences and work through their opposing positions in a search for more truth, even when that meant continuing to disagree with each other at the end of the “conversation”. The result is a book that is sure to intrigue, challenge, and inspire all those who read it. AML congratulates Julie M Smith, Kofford Books, and all of the contributors for bringing new light, insight, and ideas to Mormon studies.

Praise for As Iron Sharpens Iron:

A model for a new, Jewish-informed way of reading scriptures with rich potential for Latter-day Saint audiences. One that embraces complexity rather than fleeing from it; an approach that values nuance and richness over simplicity and closure. Highly recommended.” — Fiona Givens, co-author of The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections On the Quest for Faith and The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life
This is a book worth reading.  But it should be a beginning, not an end. It should be an invitation to go back to the scriptures and reread these speakers’s stories in a new light, a model on how to search out, approach, and celebrate additional disagreements in the scriptures, and an invitation to practice disagreeing without letting conviction rob charity.” — JKC, By Common Consent
Smith and her authors provide a unique and absorbing engagement with the Mormon scriptural canon that is well worth reading. . . . Reading these dialogues emphasizes a very real humanity in these characters and their stories that is not always easy to locate when reading a scriptural text. We have all their voices available to us—we know things unavailable to our predecessors for a host of reasons, but do we really appreciate the value of these texts, and even more, of these past lives? — Jenny Webb, Association of Mormon Letters
These conversations are fascinating, enlightening, and in some cases, heartbreaking. . . . [They] serve to sharpen our understanding of history and theology as we contemplate why individual prophets’ views of their lives and experiences vary so widely. . . . Handle this book carefully. It looks innocent enough, but you’ll likely end up needing a few bandages and stitches as you play with the new sharper edges that it creates in your vision, thinking, and faith.”
— Kevin Folkman, Keepapitchinin

This volume represents a sincere effort to influence and improve the Latter-day Saint laity in their understanding, appreciation, and engagement with their scriptural canon. It is a volume that can provoke deep thinking and new insights. As such, it is a very important piece that should be taken seriously by its Latter-day Saint audience, not as a fully academic undertaking (though there are academic aspects and approaches utilized), but as an artistic or creative endeavor promoting the broadening and deepening of interpretation and analysis of Mormon scripture. It should likewise be viewed as an important secondary work on Latter-day Saint scripture by scholars (LDS and non-LDS) interested in Latter-day Saint scripture and theology, as well as scholars interested in the ways and means by which Mormons interpret and understand their canon.
— Andrew C. Smith, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 27 

Contributors to the Volume:

Julie M. Smith - Editor, Introduction, “Mark and Luke: Women’s Roles”
Michael AustinAbraham and Job: Suffering
Mark T. DeckerJacob and Joseph Smith: Polygamy
Nicholas J. FrederickJohn the Evangelist and John the Revelator: The Divinity of Jesus
Heather HardyJoseph and Nephi: Rivalry and Reconciliation
Ronan James HeadJob and John: The Satans
James D. HoltAlma and Abinadi: The Worth of Souls
Jason A. KerrTamar and David: Personal Morality
Jared Ludlow - Moses and Paul: The Law
Steven L. PeckAbraham and Thomas: Doubt
Benjamin Peters and John Durham PetersMaster and Disciple: Communication
Joseph M. SpencerAmulek and Alma: Atonement
Walter E. A. van BeekBalaam and Daniel: Prophecy, Solomon and Josiah: Writing History, Jeremiah and Jonah: Prophets
Miranda WilcoxHannah and Sariah: Complaint
Walker WrightMormon and Israel: Wealth

About the Editor:

Julie M. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in English and from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, with an MA in Biblical Studies. She is the author of Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels and is on the executive board of the Mormon Theology Seminar and the steering committee of the BYU New Testament Commentary series, for which she is writing the volume on the Gospel of Mark. She also writes for Times & Seasons.

More Information:

188 pages
ISBN 978-1-58958-501-0 (paperback)

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