Brennen Ricks, a guy from my ward, had the interesting idea of putting together a ~20K word cut of the Book of Mormon. I usually prefer to read complete works, and particularly with the Book of Mormon I wish other people would too. But at the same time I recognize there are readers who don’t share my preference, and this type of cut can have value. Here’s my review of the result, as posted on Amazon with the headline “Good stuff, if not 100% representative of the Book of Mormon as a whole:”
This is a pretty well-done attempt at selecting a short set of Book of Mormon readings. There’s a bit of intro and context for each of the selections, but it mostly lets the text speak for itself. It consists primarily of complete verses, generally in less-than-chapter-length sequences, often with digressing or amplifying verses removed. Verse numbers are provided, so it is clear when this has occurred, and it’s generally done in a way that keeps the reading experience relatively smooth. The result is a reasonable introduction to the Book of Mormon. I would love for thousands of people to read it.
However, there are a lot of possible cuts of the Book of Mormon where the above statements are true. So what type of cut is this?
The Book of Mormon contains some accessible material that would strengthen whatever faith contemporary readers already have, and also contains material that would challenge many contemporary readers’ assumptions. This set of selections consists primarily of what I’d consider to be accessible material. This cut also focuses primarily on doctrine, much of it the relatively straightforward doctrine of Christ. It isn’t a random sample or a fully representative sample.
This is both good and bad.
A casual reader with vaguely Protestant beliefs might get the incorrect impression that there isn’t much to distinguish the Book of Mormon from what they already know. Specifically, the Book of Mormon identifies some contemporary sins and false doctrines that many new readers of the book are likely to share in, despite their avowed Christianity, but those passages were not selected for this book (e.g. 2 Nephi 25-30 discussion of apostasy).
The cut also preserves little plot material (as distinct from doctrinal material) or dialogue. Few of the significant miracles make it. None of the anti-Christ figures (Sherem, Nehor, Korihor) or related doctrinal discussion make it in. Nothing of military or political interest makes it: no Captain Moroni, no Anti-Nephi-Lehi pacifism, no rejection of monarchy by King Mosiah, etc. Nephi’s experiences are trimmed; for example, Laban and the related moral dilemma do not appear. Chastisement and calls to repentance are possibly under-represented relative to the Book of Mormon as a whole.
So it’s sort of like a cut of the Gospels that gets part of the sermon on the mount, excerpts from John’s account of the last supper and intercessory prayer, and trimmed-down nativity and crucifixion stories. That would not be an unreasonable approach to take, and it would be an extremely valuable thing for people to read. But no one ought to read it and feel they truly got the full experience of reading the work of scripture.
So by all means, read this for a sampling of Book of Mormon doctrine; there is great stuff here. And then go read the full book, which is available for free in a variety of formats (audiobook, ebook, hard copy, etc.). “The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text” is a great reading edition (and a beautifully bound hardcover), or the standard issue version is heavily footnoted for study.
Disclosure – I received a $5 Amazon gift card from the author, to buy myself a copy with.