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Author uses humor, scriptures in 'Bad Guys in the Book of Mormon'

Published: Monday, July 18 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

"BAD GUYS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON," by Dennis Gaunt, Deseret Book, $15.99, 256 pages (nf)

Sometimes birthday presents come in the form of a golden idea for that book you’ve always wanted to write.

Having come from a family of successful book authors, Dennis Gaunt’s wife, Natalie, always encouraged him to write a book himself. Gaunt had always been interested in studying the gospel and had been a seminary, institute and Sunday School teacher. Good books in his line of interest, he believed, had already been written.

“I knew all my favorite books on gospel subjects, and they were all written by giants in the field,” Gaunt said. “I always thought, ‘What am I going to say?’ ”

One Sunday, on Gaunt’s birthday last year, he was up early watching a round-table discussion on Korihor by BYU professors on KBYU-TV. Gaunt, who had always been fascinated by the bad guys in the Book of Mormon, watched with interest when one of the professors quoted LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson saying, "One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is to expose the enemies of Christ."

“I’d heard that before, but something about it dinged in my head and I thought, there is an idea,” Gaunt said. “I wonder if I could write a book that focused just on the bad guys … and lessons that could be drawn from them.”

That evening, as his family arrived for his birthday dinner, Gaunt cornered his sister, Lisa Mangum, assistant editor at Deseret Book and author of the “Hour Glass Door” book series, to confirm that no similar books had already been written and to see if it was a good idea.

Gaunt’s mother, LaRene, assistant managing editor of the Ensign magazine, had been working on turning a talk by LDS Church Relief Society General President Julie Beck into an article for the Ensign. In the talk, LaRene mentioned that Sister Beck said youths of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints needed to know what they were fighting against. Otherwise they couldn’t prepare for the battle.

“All the sudden, I had the three pieces of the puzzle together. It wasn’t about just bad guys. The unifying theme was, you have to study the bad guys so you can prepare for the battle,” Gaunt said. “It’s like spying on the enemy in a time of war.”

By his count, there are 43 “bad guys” mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon, with a dozen of them listed only by name.

With help and advice from Mangum, Gaunt used his humor, teaching skills and gospel knowledge to write a fun and insightful book that helps readers learn spiritual lessons from the bad guys.

Gaunt uses quotes by LDS Church leaders, scriptures and some of his own personality to shed perspective on how the bad guys became bad — and how people are faced with those same choices today.

Gaunt’s writing and personality makes for an easy, enjoyable read that allows readers to understand his points and gain insights to gospel principles. Reading “Bad Guys in the Book of Mormon” was like sitting through a seminary, institute or Sunday School class with your favorite teacher. The one who makes things easy to understand always has a joke on hand and leaves you feeling empowered by the gospel.

And for Gaunt, the whole experience turned out to be the best birthday present he ever received.

If you go ...

What: Dennis Gaunt book signings

Where: Deseret Book, Salt Lake downtown store

When: Friday, July 22, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Web: deseretbook.com

Also ...

Where: Deseret Book, Layton Hills Mall

When: Saturday, July 23, 1-2:30 p.m.

Web: deseretbook.com

Also ...

Where: Deseret Book, University Village, at University Mall, Orem

When: Saturday, July 30, 1 p.m.

Web: deseretbook.com

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