Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World

In a talk given at BYU in 1955, Elder Hugh B. Brown (1883 - 1975, his middle name was also Brown), then an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, laid the foundation for what would later be called
Elder, then Pres. Hugh B. Brown in His Later Years
"The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World." This is a list of 30 or more characteristics (multiple versions exist as people have tweaked and shared it over the years) a work must have to be like the Book of Mormon. The challenge is for you or anyone to write a comparable book:
  • You will be in your early 20's with limited formal education.
  • You can do no research of any kind.
  • You must dictate 269,000 words to a scribe in about 65 working days.
  • Your cannot go back and edit your first draft.
  • You must get hundreds of historical and cultural details right that science will confirm over time.
  • Your book will remain in print continuously and be translated into more than 100 languages.
  • Over 1 million people will donate years of their lives to publicize your book worldwide.
  • and 23 other stringent requirements... The full list is here.
This long list of 30+ features is impressive because the Book of Mormon is beautiful, miraculous, and true. Historical forgery is impossible. The Book of Mormon continues to resonate with many people on multiple levels. The primary institution resulting from the Book of Mormon odyssey, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is world-class in dozens of ways.

Hugh Nibley (1910 - 2005) issued a version of this challenge to his BYU students year after year.
Hugh W. Nibley Who Taught at BYU from 1946 until 1994
"Write a history of ancient Tibet. Why Tibet? Because you likely know as much or more about ancient Tibet than Joseph Smith or anyone else in 1829 knew about ancient America." No one ever took Nibley up on his challenge. Of course no mere author could produce an equivalent book. The Book of Mormon is the most divine object most of us will ever hold in our mortal hands.

In 1966, Grace Guymon Jones first read a copy of "The Challenge" and decided she would do something with it someday. In 1990, her professor husband, Milt, was on Sabbatical in New Zealand. Her children were adults and she had time on her hands. She began collecting source materials and writing.
Grace Guymon Jones Received a BYU Emeritus Award in 2001
27 years later, when she was 88, she had a manuscript in circulation that was nearing publication quality. I worked with her for a few months, heavily editing and ghost-writing some sections. Her son, Milt Jr., did the same. By early 2018 she was sourcing images and working with a layout artist. In December, 2018, her website went live and her book was selling on Amazon. Grace was 90 years old.
Important New Book
This 340 page book has an introduction by Milt Jones, Jr. and 30 chapters, one for each of the 30 requirements on Grace's list. Her writing style is more folksy than scholarly, although her sources are well-documented with 926 end notes. Her text is enlivened with dozens of photos and illustrations from very good artists. In these pages you will find a faithful retelling of the Joseph Smith story, some of the best current Book of Mormon scholarship, an insightful look at many aspects of the contemporary Church, and above all lots of stories. Sister Jones has been collecting stories for decades from the Church News, Ensign, published books, and her own contacts in the places she and her husband have lived around the world. The result is a compilation of Book of Mormon human interest stories at their finest. I highly recommend this book.

Here is a video of Grace talking about the process she went through to compile material for her book:

Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world. Book of Mormon Central currently publishes in English and Spanish.