Open Canons : Sacred History and American History in The Book of Mormon
J19 : The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
University of Pennsylvania Press
This essay examines Joseph Smith's 1830 publication, The Book of Mormon, within the context of early nineteenth-century efforts to produce and preserve documents relating to the history of the United States. The essay argues that Smith's book poses a challenge to contemporary notions of history by destabilizing the idea of an ur-text through its manipulations of biblical stories and depictions of its own, fraught manuscript history. Ultimately, the essay concludes the Book of Mormon's presentation of textual inadequacy, redundancy, and confusion serve its larger goal of revising Anglo-Protestant accounts of American history. Smith's work presents readers with an image of Puritan settlers as destroyers rather than builders of "a city on a hill," complicating nineteenth-century understandings of providential history and subsuming Protestantism into an alternate story of American Christianity.