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Bennett says take a 'leap of faith'

The biggest problem with the Book of Mormon is that it exists, says Sen. Bob Bennett.

"You can't dismiss it, because it exists," he said. "That means that somebody wrote it."

The Republican senator from Utah is the author of "Leap of Faith,"

which was recently released by Deseret Book. It examines the origins of

the Book of Mormon and confronts accusations by detractors that the

text was forged while also encouraging members to analyze and better

found their own understanding of it.

Bennett didn't like the way the Book of Mormon was represented in

media coverage leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake

City. He began penning letters to the editor of newspapers and the

project soon "took hold" of him, and he expanded them into a book in

the years afterward.

"The tenor of the articles that kind of started me on this was that

no one of any intelligence could believe the incredibly outlandish

story about angels and gold plates, that any person with the slightest

bit of education would reject this out of hand," he said. "And of

course, that is not true."

Bennett approaches the subject of forgery as a debater, which he was

in college, and analyzes both sides. He said he tried to be as

objective as possible and attempted to "look at all the arguments, for

and against, and test them for validity." He writes to someone who has

had no exposure to the Book of Mormon.

Bennett studied forgeries before he was a senator when he worked as

Howard Hughes' public relations director. A supposed authorized

biography and will surfaced after the billionaire's death, and Bennett

helped to disprove the documents. He applies forgery tests to the Book

of Mormon in "Leap of Faith," namely seeing if the work is consistent,

if there's a motive or reason why someone would want to forge it, if

it's relevant and there's need for it in contemporary times, and if

there are statements in the book that fit with facts that have come to

light since its publication.

Because every work of writing reveals something about the author,

Bennett said it's possible to learn a lot from applying these tests to

different texts.

"Any book tells you something about its author. If you read 'Harry

Potter,' you get to know the mindset of J.K. Rowling. If you read the

biographies of Lyndon Johnson, you get to know the mindset and the

research methods of Robert Caro. If you read 'Joseph Smith: Rough Stone

Rolling,' you get acquainted with Richard Bushman," he said.

So it follows that studying the Book of Mormon would reveal something about its author, whether he was a forger or not.

"If it's a forgery the book itself will give you clues as to who the

forger is," he said. "Nephi and Jacob and Mormon and Moroni wrote the

book of Mormon. If they're all the same, there was a single forger. Do

the four authors sound different? Yes. They clearly do."

So if it was forged, Joseph Smith couldn't have done it on his own,

Bennett said. He would have needed help, and the likelihood of his

meeting someone with a knowledge of ancient cultures, military

strategies and Middle Eastern geography isn't likely.

"When I get through drawing the picture of the possible forger, I

point out that believing that such an individual actually existed

requires a huge leap of faith," he said.

Hence, the title of the book. Regardless of the knowledge or biases

readers have before they read the book, when they finish they'll have

to choose whether to ignore the consistencies and facts in the Book of

Mormon, making a leap of faith in believing it's forged, or they'll

have to take a leap of faith in believing the miraculous event and

angels in believing it is what it says it is — written by prophets of

God.

"Which leap the reader wants to make is, of course, up to the reader," Bennett said.

A byproduct of his research and analysis was Bennett's new

understanding of the chronology of the Book of Mormon, which he details

in the book. It can be hard to get a grasp on the basic story of the

scriptures as there are many tangents and retelling of events.

"The Book of Mormon is a history where the historian is constantly

interrupting the plot to burst into vision and sermon," he said. "So

when the sermon is over, you're 14 pages away from where the story

stopped, and you can't remember where you were."

When he separated the story from the doctrine, he said it was easier to comprehend the events.

"I think it will find an audience among members of the church who find the Book of Mormon kind of confusing."


E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com