The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated & Explained


An inside look at the foundational sacred text of one of the world's youngest and fastest growing religions

The Book of Mormon stands alongside the Bible as the keystone of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church/Mormonism). Translated by the prophet Joseph Smith from ancient writings inscribed on golden plates, the Book of Mormon is an account of people living in the Western Hemisphere in a timeline that parallels that of the Bible. It covers a thousand ...

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An inside look at the foundational sacred text of one of the world's youngest and fastest growing religions

The Book of Mormon stands alongside the Bible as the keystone of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church/Mormonism). Translated by the prophet Joseph Smith from ancient writings inscribed on golden plates, the Book of Mormon is an account of people living in the Western Hemisphere in a timeline that parallels that of the Bible. It covers a thousand years of loss, discovery, war, peace, and spiritual principles that focus on the teachings of Jesus Christ, outlining a plan for salvation and the responsibilities we must assume to attain it.

The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated & Explained explores this sacred epic that is cherished by more than twelve million members of the LDS church as the keystone of their faith. Probing the principal themes and historical foundation of this controversial and provocative narrative, Jana Riess focuses on key selections that offer insight into contemporary Mormon beliefs and scriptural emphases, such as the atonement of Christ, the nature of human freedom, the purpose of baptism, and the need for repentance from sin. She clarifies the religious, political, and historical events that take place in the ancient communities of the Book of Mormon and their underlying contemporary teachings that serve as the framework for spiritual practices that lie at the core of Mormon life.

Now you can experience this foundational sacred text even if you have no previous knowledge of Mormonism. This SkyLight Illuminations edition presents the key teachings and essential concepts of the Mormon faith tradition with insightful yet unobtrusive commentary that helps to dispel many of the misconceptions that have surrounded the Book of Mormon since its publication in 1830.

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Editorial Reviews

The Association for Mormon Letters - Jeffrey Needle

Other titles in this series include "Rumi and Islam " "The Gospel of Phillip," "The Hebrew Prophets," "The Bhagavad Gita," you get the idea. The series takes a broad look at religious traditions both East and West, paring down the texts into bite-size pieces, with commentary by believing scholars, It's a wonderful idea. I'm glad someone has put this into print.

Reiss opens the present volume with her personal testimony, a quick look at how she came to belief in the Book of Mormon as sacred scripture and historical record. She offers a helpful recap of how the Book of Mormon has come into prominence since the 1980's with the strong advocacy of Pres. Ezra Taft Benson. It's an interesting historical perspective on the place of the Book of Mormon in the life of the church over the years.

Her commentary is pointed and clear. She has a two-fold purpose: first, she wants to tell the story of the Book of Mormon, although large portions are omitted - the Jaredites, for example, are nowhere to be seen. But second, and I think more importantly, she links texts from the Book of Mormon to explain and support current and past Mormon belief and lifestyle. Her comments therefore constitute an introduction to Mormon practice and history, touching on such subjects as early Mormon polygamy, the use of water instead of wine in the Sacrament service, etc.

So here in one book is an introduction just to the Book of Mormon, but to Mormon belief and practice, offered in clear, easy to understand language. It addresses the many ways in which Mormonism differs from larger Christianity, including a discussion on the doctrine of the unity.

At the same time, by its inclusion in the Skylight Illuminations series, it places Mormonism within the larger flow of religious traditions from around the world, dragging Mormonism out of the margins of religious life into the larger stream of spirituality.

I gladly recommend this book not so much for members of the Church, but for those interested in getting a first look at both the body and the book. As with Reiss's previous effort "Momonsim for Dummies," the current work makes simple some very complex ideas. Members should consider using this book in their personal missionary work.

The Washington Times - Julia Duin
Anyone wishing gracefulentry into the heart of theChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - or at least anexplanation of what this fast growingdenomination's theologyis all about - will get it inJana Reiss' useful introductionto the Book of Mormon: SelectionsAnnotated and Explained(Skylight Paths,$16.992, 34 pages)

The author, who convertedto the religion as an adult byreading "The Book of Mormon" plainlyloves the scripturesof the latter-day Saints.

Today's Books Book Register

Annotation by Publishers Weekly religion book review editor Jana Riess (The Spiritual Traveler). Foreword by former publisher Phyllis Tickle (The Divine, Hours), 25 titles. Praised by Philip Barlow (Mormons and the Biblo. SCRIPTURAL CRITICISM Book of Mormon: " Skylight Illuminations" series - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Contemporary teachings, Western Hemisphere and Christ, Abridgment.

From the Publisher

"Captures the spirit and gist of the distinctively Mormon scripture at one-tenth its length. Coupled with her informed, discerning, and accessible commentary, Riess's editorial accomplishment is an act of interreligious generosity."
Philip Barlow, ThD, author of Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion

“The most compelling, fascinating, and gracious approach to the Book of Mormon that I have seen. Transforms dozens of cryptic passages and symbols into powerful messages that make the Mormon story shine with the beauties and mysteries of God’s love.”
Mary Ford-Grabowsky, editor of Spiritual Writings on Mary: Annotated & Explained

“With her considerable historical and theological knowledge combined with her literary sensibilities, Jana Riess strikes precisely the right balance—an astute and sympathetic guide, not an overzealous proselytizer. Her informed and agile glosses help enormously in bringing the text to life.”
Randall Balmer, PhD, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of American Religion, Barnard College, Columbia University

“At last, a version of the Book of Mormon that is suitable in both size and content for the classroom.… Manages to leave the sense of the whole intact, while commentary provides a simple guide to Latter-day Saint belief. A very useful, even necessary supplement to the study of Mormonism.”
Kathleen Flake, PhD, assistant professor of American religious history, Vanderbilt Divinity School

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594730764
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/8/2005
  • Series: SkyLight Illuminations Series
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Jana Riess earned a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. She is the religion book review editor for Publishers Weekly. She is also the author of The Spiritual Traveler: Boston and New England and What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide.

Phyllis Tickle, a widely acclaimed expert on religion in America, is the author of more than two dozen books, including the three-part prayer manual The Divine Hours and the memoirs The Shaping of a Life and Prayer Is a Place. She has been a magazine editor, college dean, media commentator, and publisher.

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Read an Excerpt

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Phyllis Tickle vii
Introduction xi
A Note about Language xxi
The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi 1
Selections from the Book of Mormon
1. The First Book of Nephi 5
2. The Second Book of Nephi 51
3. The Book of Jacob 79
4. The Book of Mosiah 109
5. The Book of Alma 139
6. The Third Book of Nephi 185
7. The Book of Mormon 207
8. The Book of Moroni 219
Notes 232
Suggested Readings 234

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  • Posted March 18, 2010

    This author violates Church doctrine in writing this book

    By writing this book and selling it for a profit, Riess ironically appears to violate core teachings of her own Mormon faith. How?
    1) She commits and act of priestcraft. In the Book of Mormon itself, it condemns this act. It is the act of preaching (in this case, writing) for money. Perhaps she has missed that doctrine in Mormonism. She laudably donates the proceeds, but it still falls under the category of priestcraft.
    2) Only Church authorities have the authority to speak and elucidate Church doctrines. Despite good intentions, Riess has NO authority from the Church whatsoever, either as a scholar or as an official Church representative!
    3) In Mormonism, scholarship alone bears no authority. But this is the only claim that this author has -- that her scholarship in religion gives her the right to teach the Book of Mormon. This simply isn't harmonious with Church doctrines!
    4) By abridging the Book of Mormon and putting it in her own words, she has committed the same act as uninspired "translators" and "abridgers" of the Bible. This is also condemned in the Book of Mormon itself! She has imposed her OWN interpretation of the book rather than the "inspired" one as it came from the quill of the prophets (in the case of the Old Testatment and Book of Mormon) and apostles (in the case of the New Testament). She may have placed herself on a firm path to apostasy! Within the tome, she even admits to her own "hubris" in doing so. So why do it, then?
    5) When the Book of Mormon prophets abridged their document, they did so under commandment of God and with proper priesthood authority. Riess had neither of these in hers, so she is thus likely operating without the guiding light of the Holy Spirit or under the direction of proper priesthood authority. She has even deleted entire books (Ether, for example) within the volume and stories that apparently don't match her personal "gospel of Jana". Ironically, one of the powerful arguments in the Book of Mormon is that some uninspired individuals had deleted some fundamental doctrines of Christ from the Bible. And now, she has done the same with the Book of Mormon. Hubris indeed!
    6) The author has violated the Church's own directive. In 1993, the Church asked that writers NOT change the language from its sacred text into modern language. This inevitably introduces opinion and error. The author has thus placed herself into danger of heresy and is in open rebellion against her own leaders.

    There are some excellent commentaries on the Book of Mormon previously written by those who have authority and without altering the text. Some include those by BH Roberts, Sydney Sperry, Reynolds and Sjodahl, Ludlow, McConkie, Millet, and several others. Their writings are a better selection for seeking to understand the Book of Mormon.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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