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Book review: 'Schooling the Prophet' looks at influence of the Book of Mormon on Joseph Smith

"SCHOOLING THE PROPHET: How the Book of Mormon Influenced Joseph Smith and the Early Restoration," by Gerald E. Smith, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, $19.95, 304 pages (nf)

Gerald E. Smith has published an interesting and thought-provoking volume in which he suggests that the Book of Mormon had a much greater influence on Joseph Smith and the organization of the LDS Church than is commonly thought.

Gerald Smith argues that the Book of Mormon is largely seen as derivative and that it is proof of Joseph Smith's prophetic calling but did not have much influence on his preaching and teaching. Gerald Smith argues what he sees as an opposing view: that the Book of Mormon was a formative influence on the early church and Joseph in particular.

A large bulk of "Schooling the Prophet" is devoted to making links between the teachings and establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the Book of Mormon. These links are very interesting and in some areas open up new topics such as suggesting temple work as having its roots in the Book of Mormon.

The book is highly readable and very interesting, but its central thesis is not the only possible interpretation of the Book of Mormon's influence. In some ways, Gerald Smith has created an artificial separation to highlight his thesis. The formative and derivative influences are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, there are others such as Thomas Alexander who do not sacrifice the influence of the Book of Mormon while not having to trace every doctrine directly to it.

Gerald Smith provides the reader with pause for thought and helps reorient a focus onto the Book of Mormon when studying every principle of the gospel.

James is a Senior Lecturer in Religious Education at the University of Chester, UK. He occasionally blogs at www.jamesdholt.com and can be contacted at james.holt@chester.ac.uk