We had the Sister Missionaries over for dinner last night, and as part of their message to us, they had prepared an activity. They’d taken random pages from the Book of Mormon and printed them out. They then asked us to each take a page and highlight anywhere it mentioned God or Jesus Christ. This reminded me of an exercise I’d read about last year, where a BYU professor and some of his students set up displays in London, Sydney, Chicago, Cape Town and Las Vegas. At the displays, they handed strangers who came by a random page from the Book of Mormon (though all 531 pages were used over the course of the activity) and asked them to read it and say what they thought about it.
It’s an interesting experiment (though from my experience as a missionary, I have to wonder just how many of those readings went poorly. It would be fun to see a “blooper” real of the people who didn’t like the study at all . . .)
The Sisters told us they had heard only 5 or so pages of the Book of Mormon don’t have a reference to Christ or God on them. They’re thinking of approaching it systematically to see if that’s true. I think it’s a neat idea, and it wouldn’t take long to get it done, assuming 531 people each feel like reading a page. So part of me felt like linking to a pdf scan of the whole book and crowdsourcing the question, but I thought that was kind of restricting. Why not play to my strengths. We’ve got the internet available, and I’m a librarian . . . I was pretty sure I’d be able to answer the question by citing someone else.
A bit of digging later, and I found BYU Professor Charles Tate’s analysis of the Book of Mormon:
“Only 30 of the 531 pages contain no specific name reference to Deity. Furthermore, many of those 30 pages make references to God without using names.”
So there you go. I’m not sure which pages don’t reference God or Christ, but there are 30 of them. (Still a fun activity, Sisters!) (On a side note, my searching also led me to this resource, which seems to be a pretty comprehensive study guide for the book, though it’s not an official church resource.)
I would have to say that the most impactful experience I’ve ever had with the Book of Mormon was on my mission. It was probably around . . . May of 1997. My mission president challenged all the missionaries to read the entire Book of Mormon in one day. Not collectively (as in, each of you read three different pages on the same day or something like that), but individually. I woke up at 6:30am and immediately began reading. I picked a fresh copy, and I circled the verses that stood out to me for any reason, though I didn’t take time to make detailed notes or anything like that. (Reading 531 pages of anything in a single day takes time, you know.) As I recall, I finished around 8:00pm. It took something like 14 hours for me to finish.
It’s an experience that has stayed with me ever since. I can’t say I’ve ever approached the Book of Mormon from a fresh perspective. I’ve been raised to view it as scripture, and it’s inevitable that will have colored my perception of it. At the same time, I’ve also done a fair bit of study of literature, both in my English Masters program and as an author. One way or the other, the Book of Mormon came from somewhere. Somebody wrote it. Speaking as an author, the thought of trying to write it in around 65 days of actual writing (85 calendar days total from start to finish) makes me want to run some place and hide. When I read the whole thing at once and thought about all the information that’s packed in there, and the need for internal consistency, calendar systems, money systems, political systems, religious teachings, etc . . . it boggles the mind.
The Book has brought a lot of comfort and guidance to my life, and it’s one of the cornerstones of my testimony in Christ and God.
So thanks, Sisters, for a fun activity, and I’ll just say for anyone local, if you’re at all interested in talking to missionaries about any of this, the two we have at the moment (Sister Strohl and Sister Shields) are top notch. (Speaking as someone who’s been around my fair share of missionaries.)