The journey of The Book of Mormon from gold plates into today’s triple combination is a story that most Latter-day Saints think they know.
Co-authors Richard E. Turley Jr. and William W. Slaughter respectfully disagree.
“I think most members of the church have no conception of what it took to get The Book of Mormon, and they have never heard the interesting stories that lead to our present edition,” Turley said.
“How We Got The Book of Mormon,” (Deseret Book, $34.99) a new book by Turley and Slaughter, tells the remarkable, start-to-finish tale of how The Book of Mormon came to be, using scholarly research and high-quality historical images.
Turley is an assistant historian and recorder for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has written or edited several books, as well as worked on “The Joseph Smith Papers” series and “Massacre at Mountain Meadows.” Slaughter is a photograph historian and consultation archivist for the LDS Church History Department. He has also authored or co-authored several books.
Last summer, the two longtime friends decided to work together on a project that would recount in words and pictures the trials, sacrifices, setbacks and eventual successes that have led to the present edition of The Book of Mormon, scripture that has been printed more than 150 million copies in 100 languages.
A year later, this visual volume provides the unique history of the unique book.
“Many will never see a manuscript or the inside of a library,” Slaughter said. “There has been a deliberate effort to take information generally only available to scholars and make it available to a broad audience, in a form you don’t see very often in the Latter-day Saint market.”
Turley researched and wrote the text, while Slaughter gathered the images. Each chapter tells a story that includes richly toned photos of people, places and copies of the various editions of The Book of Mormon. Each photo was purposely placed to engage the reader, Slaughter said.
“The design of the book is important,” Slaughter said. “When you jump into water, you don’t jump in to come out the other side. You jump in to be immersed in the water. We hope people have the same experience with this book. We hope they will want to be immersed in this book, that it's something they enjoy viewing, holding and reading.”
The book is not just a collection of analytical facts. The text, in narrative style, describes the efforts made by Joseph Smith and associates, printer Egbert B. Grandin and John H. Gilbert, who spent months setting the type for the first edition; and William W. Phelps and others who contributed to the publication of each edition. The book includes details about the printing of The Book of Mormon in England and how a committee of general authorities later added chapter summaries, footnotes and cross references to later editions.
Slaughter, a church convert who says The Book of Mormon changed his life, gained a greater appreciation for the sacred scripture and the people who brought it forth while working on the project.
“I don’t think I will look at The Book of Mormon the same again,” he said. “People argue in Sunday School about the placement of a comma. But we want readers to come away with a greater appreciation for The Book of Mormon. It changed lives and it still changes lives.”
While it's true that members of the church, with a few keystrokes, can have access to The Book of Mormon, Turley hopes they don’t take it for granted.
“In the earliest days, it took a tremendous amount of sacrifice on the part of Joseph Smith and others ... to have The Book of Mormon,” Turley said. “I worry that if members of the church don’t appreciate the sacrifices required to get The Book of Mormon to us today, they may also underappreciate the book’s intent and purpose.
“I think sometimes we take lightly what we get easily. I am disheartened to find copies gathering dust, copies tossed irreverently on the floor, places that seem to suggest their owners don’t know what they have. If they knew what they have, they would treat it with greater respect. If they understood how much sacrifice and labor went into bringing us The Book of Mormon, they would value and read it more. This is a story worth knowing.”
“How We Got The Book of Mormon" is available on DeseretBook.com and at LDS book retailers.
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