Lots of people would like outsiders to look at the Book of Mormon in serious ways. I’m excited to introduce Dr. Christopher Thomas. He teaches at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee, and is a New Testament scholar. We’ll get acquainted with him and his book, “A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon,” and find out why he decided to read the book in the first place.
Chris: I decided I wanted to kind of hear the story from the LDS side of the fence, not just my old mentor, John L. Smith, accurately named. So, I wound up taking what they used to call a home study course through BYU on Joseph Smith and the restoration. Ivan K. Barrett wrote the textbook and so it began with Smith’s early years–his birth, I think, and it went through the exodus across the Mississippi. I sometimes tell people, “You can see the taillights on the back of the wagons as they were crossing the Mississippi.” My seminary Professor, church history professor, used it as the basis of a directed study. So, I actually got three hours of graduate credit on LDS history through that experience. After that, I read various things that would come along. I read most Smith biographies. I read a biography of Brigham Young by Leonard Arrington. I wasn’t terribly impressed with it. He didn’t ask the questions that I had as I was reading along. Years later, I would repent for any bad feelings I had toward Arrington, because I learned that he was quite the historian and worked under duress, as it were.
Chris: But, I’d kind of put it on the shelf and John Turner, from George Mason [University,] he’s at George Mason now. He wrote what I consider a magnificent biography of Brigham Young. I managed to meet John and talk with him some. I had a sabbatic coming, I think it was when I was turning 60. I had a sabbatic coming and, I thought, “You know, I’m going to close the loop on this. I think I’m going to try to do a graduate level reading course on the Book of Mormon.” So, BYU wasn’t quite set up for that. I wound up doing it at Community of Christ, with a guy named Dale Luffman, who was an apostle, but had just written a book on the Book of Mormon. Somewhere between setting up the course, and making my way to Independence for a week, I knew what I what I was supposed to do, and that was to write a book. It started out as like 150-page short introduction and grew. I’m not very good at short things. But the trip to Independence was amazing. The printer’s manuscript was still there in those days. I had access to that.
GT: I think your book is actually longer than the Book of Mormon. Is that about right?
Chris: Well, I would like to say it’s more interesting.
Chris: It’s sort of a Reader’s Digest version in that section. I had a great experience there. They brought out various artifacts, Emma’s wedding band, Joseph’s Bible, a seer stone, which there were lots of fights over who’s got the real seer stone.
Are you excited to hear an outsider’s perspective of the Book of Mormon? Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous discussion of the Book of Mormon with Dr. Brian Hales.