"Historical silence surrounding the Book of Mormon has been deafening," Ph.D. Grant Shreve explains. "English departments, especially, have simply pretended it doesn’t exist, quietly building a wall of separation between literary studies and the Book of Mormon."
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?