Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History

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By Brant A. Gardner
Also available through Amazon and Deseret Book.

2015 Best Religious Non-fiction Award, Association for Mormon Letters

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Book Description:

The focus of the Book of Mormon is unquestionably on the things of God. Similar to the Bible, its sermons and explications of religious principles are presented against the framework of the story of a people. It is a story that covers a thousand years. In this book Brant Gardner looks around and behind the religious purposes of the book and teases out how those thousand years of Book of Mormon history correspond to those same years in the geographic and cultural context where they most plausibly took place.

Gardner works through the Book of Mormon chronologically, examining how events in the Book of Mormon reflect the greater historical and cultural developments happening around them at the same time. Gardner asks and answers questions against particular historical backdrops. Why does Nephi appear to be so Christian so long before Christ, and why does his particular time period in Jerusalem help answer that question? Why do Nephi apostate groups from different times appear to adopt the same religion? Why does the Book of Mormon end around A.D. 400? Why not earlier or later? The answers are developed by looking at the Book of Mormon as history in the context of what has become known of Mesoamerican history. Along the way, Gardner also looks at the problem of anachronisms, DNA, and some popular “proofs” of the Book of Mormon that need to be abandoned.

2015 AML Award Citation:

This outstanding contribution synthesizes cutting edge Book of Mormon scholarship in a compelling addition to the discussion on Book of Mormon historicity. Himself a seasoned scholar of the Book of Mormon, Gardner adds depth and nuance to the intricacies surrounding Book of Mormon historicity and provides both laypersons and scholars alike with an excellent resource on this topic. With the Book of Mormon receiving increased scholarly attention both inside and outside of Mormon circles, including scholarly investigations into the narrative, theology, reception history, and transmission of the text, Traditions of the Fathers should rightfully take center place in the discussion on the book’s historicity.
Gardner convincingly argues that the Book of Mormon can be taken seriously as an ancient record. His fruitful methodology of seeking “convergences” (not “proofs”) between the text and the archaeological record is illuminating. Whether it is geographical, cultural, or linguistic convergences with the ancient Near East or pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, Gardner has marshaled a substantive body of correlations between the Book of Mormon and the ancient world that should raise important questions for readers of the text on all sides of the debate. For these and other reasons, Traditions of the Fathers is essential reading for any student of the Book of Mormon, and is this year’s winner of the Non-Fiction Award.

Praise for Traditions of the Fathers:

“In the study of historical texts, context is king. Traditions of the Fathers masterfully contextualizes the diverse peoples of the Book of Mormon as they move, merge, and multiply across the Mesoamerican landscape. More than a simple lens, Gardner’s multidisciplinary approach provides readers with 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

“The work he has done is rich, thorough, provocative. Like all Kofford books, this one is attractively produced, easy to hold in the hands and easy on the eyes. But best of all, it’s informative, cogent, and altogether worth reading. I recommend it.” — Julie J. Nichols, Association for Mormon Letters

“Traditions of the Fathers is an important book on the question of historicity and the Book of Mormon. Careful readers of the Book of Mormon interested in understanding the Book of Mormon in a plausible pre-Columbian setting will be both challenged and deeply rewarded.” — Matthew Roper, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies

About the Author:

Brant A. Gardner earned his M.S. in anthropology (specializing in Mesoamerican ethnohistory) from the State University of New York at Albany. He is the author of the six-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon and The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon. He has presented papers at the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), the Book of Mormon Archaeological Symposium, and Sunstone. His other published works include chapters in Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl and Symbol and Meaning beyond the Closed Community: Essays in Mesoamerican Ideas, and articles in the FARMS Review, Sunstone, and Meridian Magazine. Brant and his wife, Valerie, have four children and eleven grandchildren.

More Information

476 pages
ISBN 978-1-58958-665-9 (paperback)

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