Let’s start off my new year of blogging here at W&T with a friendly little post that everyone will enjoy and no one will get upset about: What books did you get for Christmas? Which ones did you want but not get (and now you have to go buy for yourself)? Mormon-themed is good, but if all Santa brought you was a book on home plumbing or how to sell a house in 30 days, then so be it. I suppose we could do with only one book per category, unless you are really excited about your literary haul. I’ll start.
The one I wanted and got (thank you, Amazon wish list) was America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (OUP, 2002) by Mark Noll, a noted Christian scholar and historian. You may be more familiar with his earlier book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), always a good book to have around in case there’s an Evangelical in your life that ribs you about Mormons not being Christian or whatever. You can reply, “Well, at least we’re not ignorant blockheads,” and lend him your copy to read.
I wanted America’s God because it is one of two very good books about theology and doctrine in antebellum America. (The other is Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War (Yale Univ. Press, 2005) by E. Brooks Holifield.) And knowing something about theology in 19th-century America turns out to be very helpful for understanding the doctrinal and theological issues raised in the Book of Mormon. It’s a little puzzling why 19th-century theology turns up so frequently in an ancient book, but it is what it is, and since this is a Book of Mormon Year (happens once every four years), that’s where I’m at. Even when the curriculum studies OT, NT, or Church History, there is still a lot of LDS discussion about the Book of Mormon. When it’s Book of Mormon Year, that’s all you get, 365 days of Nephites, Nephites, and more Nephites.
The book I didn’t get was Don Bradley’s new The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Book of Mormon’s Missing Stories (Greg Kofford Books, 2019). I’ve heard lots of good things about this book, which has been in the works for several years. Based on the table of contents, the first third of the book is straight history, reconstructing the history of the manuscript that was created, then lost; and the rest of the book pieces together all that is known about the content of the missing manuscript. This one will go on my list for my next Amazon order.
So what was under or not under your Christmas tree?