Grant Shreve: I fell hard for the Book of Mormon but did not convert to the LDS Church

Casey Adams, Deseret News

The first editions of the Book of Mormon were prepared and bound using old traditional methods. After printing the 592-page first edition of the Book of Mormon on sheets of paper, Church members, folded the sheets into folios to be sewn, glued and bound into a finished book.

Editor’s note: This essay by scholar Grant Shreve is part of an ongoing Deseret News opinion series exploring ideas and issues at the intersection of “Faith and Thought.”

When I first picked up the Book of Mormon in preparation for a dissertation on religion and the rise of the American novel, I didn’t expect to fall in love with it. But I did fall — and hard — although not into the arms of the church. I did not, in other words, become a Latter-day Saint.

Mine was an aesthetic experience, not a religious one. The Book of Mormon gripped me in the same way Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick” and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Dred” had years earlier. I’m a sucker for books that go against the grain, and the Book of Mormon went against just about every grain I knew. Its strangeness, its audacity, its rebuke to the tacit creeds structuring everyday life in antebellum (and contemporary) America, utterly thrilled me. In it, I felt I had discovered a singularly penetrative and searching intelligence. “How does such a book exist?,” I thought. And why isn’t everyone talking about it?

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