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
"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
"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."