Beliefs Culture Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

I’m joining the “Book of Mormon challenge.” And no, watching the musical doesn’t count.

book-of-mormonI decided this afternoon, on the spur of the moment, to read the Book of Mormon again. It’s been a while since I delved into the whole thing — at least three years, truth be told — and I’ve been idly wondering for some time how I might get back into regular scripture study.

But something has held me back, and this afternoon I remembered what it was: Oh, yeah. I hate reading alone.

One thing I learned with both Flunking Sainthood and The Twible is that individual spiritual growth is important and all very well, but at least for me, the chief bailiff of Extrovertville, it takes a village.

Yes, pathetically enough, I need an entire freakin’ village to keep me on the spiritual straight and narrow. I’m just not spiritually tough and monastic and John Wayneish.

Well, today I found a potential village. I joined a Facebook group to read the Book of Mormon together, a chapter a day, for 239 days. I’m already a week behind it seems, so I’ve got to get cracking on 1 Nephi.

Affirmation, the gay Mormon support group that is sponsoring the read-fest, is encouraging people to read the chapters, pray, and share our thoughts online if we want to. According to the Salt Lake Tribune,

This is not the place to debate LDS history or to discuss the Book of Mormon text, organizers says, “from a scholarly, apologetic or critical point of view.”

“Our approach is studying it for spiritual and personal growth,” Affirmation President Randall Thacker writes in an email, “versus ‘Is the book true?’ ’’

My hope is that many different kinds of people will want to do this — gay or straight, Liahona or Iron Rod — whether they join up publicly or read quietly on their own. (Introverts tend to do that sort of thing, just go off in a corner and think deep thoughts alone. Weird, huh?)

And who knows? Maybe you’ll join me too. There’s a lot that my Mormon blog readers disagree about, but surely reading the Book of Mormon isn’t one of them. From time to time I’ll be sharing my thoughts on what I’m reading over the next eight months or so . . . both the sublime and the disturbing.


About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.


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  • Hi Jana:

    When you write about reading the Book of Mormon this year, I for one would be very be interested in your observations on 1) how to approach reading the Book of Mormon, 2) how you see the books in it relating to each other, 3) how these books relate to the Hebrew and Christian bibles, 4) What kind of different methods do Mormons use to interpret it, and 5) How the book is really used in the religious life of Mormons.

    I read the book recently. As a Protestant Christian completely unfamiliar with the book, I think I really was never sure how to approach reading the book, or how to go about interpreting it. Your short annotated excerpt was the best thing I saw, and I wished it could have been much more comprehensive. I was never able to locate a useful commentary (other than yours) or other resource, printed (or human), such as I have found so helpful in reading the Bible (such as N.T. Wright’s commentaries, or some of the other ones Westminster John Knox publishes). The resources on the LDS website really weren’t very helpful.

    I think if you were to ever write an excerpt ‘reading plan’, along with thematic guidance, textual connections, etc… it would be something that would really help a non-Mormon read the book. I did finish the whole book, but I would suspect that a lot of non-Mormons would give-up before finishing Alma (and to be honest, I debated doing that several times…. and that was before I encountered the book of Ether….)

  • I am a horrible reader. There is an alternative for those that have difficulty reading.

    Book of Mormon and I think a Kings James version of the Bible audio files are downloadable from I find it much easier and faster to listen to the book of Mormon or Bible, than read it. I tend to comprehend more by listening to it. So there is less distractions, I like to get in a quiet room or a quiet space outside; then close my eyes as I listen to the book of Mormon.

    If I recall correctly that one nice thing about having the actual book of Mormon is in the back there are some definitions to some of the terms that are unfamiliar to non-Mormons.

  • @ Ken

    Wow. Thanks for the info and the link.

    I didn’t realize that it was being used without permissions (aka stolen). Another way the LDS has gone against Christ’s teachings.

    The more I learn about the LDS, the more I realize it is a false religion. They do have many good teachings and in many ways many of them have a fairly good walk, but the more I learn about them the more I see a darker side.

    I am very disturbed that they put an evil man like Brigham Young on such a high pedestal and hold him in such high regard. Brigham Young was a sexist, racist, hate monger, warmonger and polygamist that seemed to advocate genocide. I was reluctant to be baptized LDS or otherwise formally join the LDS because some of their teachings and practices seem to go against God. The last straw was when they discriminated against me by barring me from attending service with my service dog. The Bishop, the missionaries and most of the other parishioners chose to discriminate and go against Christ’s teachings. They bore false witness against me. The LDS website is bearing false witness by claiming they don’t discriminate against the disabled or women.

    Glad I never was baptized by the LDS or formally joined.

    Do you know if any of the downloads that are still available on LDS are stolen (without permissions/copyright violations)?


  • Ken,

    Your information is incorrect. After reading your post, I went to and listened to the audio recording of Mathew 1. Since it is still there and functioning quite well, i believe you must be mistaken. Your comments and those of the other commenter who replied to you about “stealing” are absolutely untrue. The LDS Church has had rights to the King James version of the Bible for decades!

  • @ cary Martinez
    Ken may have been mistaken about the digital files being removed. It seems that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has failed to comply with the request to cease and desist of the dispersal of copyrighted material without permissions. The facts seem to indicate that the church had been and continues to violate the law, hence theft.

    cary Martinez “Your comments and those of the other commenter who replied to you about “stealing” are absolutely untrue.”

    I think you are a slander bearing false witness. Your post is uncivilized and abusive. Your personal attacks seem to be unfounded.

    cary Martinez “The LDS Church has had rights to the King James version of the Bible for decades!”

    That’s not what the lawsuit is about. Your argument is a dishonest diversion. I suspect the older versions of the King James Bible is public domain.

    However the audio of Scourby reading the King James Bible appears to be copyrighted and owned by Litchfield Associates. So your tirade and straw arguments seem to be unfounded.

    If your unfounded attack is a mistake, then you should apologize. If you don’t apologize, it implies that your unfounded attack was a deliberately act of malice and deception.

  • I suggest having someone else read the Book of Mormon (BOM) to you, because it makes a boring book more interesting and you can do something else at the same time. The My Book of Mormon podcast is reading the entire BOM word for word, with interspersed commentary from a “questioning” perspective. His commentary on the BOM passages is getting better as he goes along because he is a first time reader of the BOM. He is not a Mormon. I listen on Stitcher, but I believe it can be listened to on a computer. You can do the usual search techniques to easily find the podcast.