Newly posted on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:
Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article originally appeared in In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel (2014) by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen.
Abstract: In this chapter, the authors review what some have called the “most remarkable religious document published in the nineteenth century,” giving the first part of a two-part account of the life and ministry of Enoch. The chapter begins with a description of Enoch’s prophetic commission, which has strong affinities with ancient texts inside and outside the Bible. This is followed by a description of Enoch’s preaching mission, whose accounts of wickedness, battles, and the taking up of Enoch’s people to heaven has remarkable resonances with the Book of Giants, an Enoch account found in Qumran in 1948.
Two or three years ago, an article appeared in Time about New Zealand’s then-new and quite young ex-Mormon prime minister, the politically progressive Jacinda Ardern:
The article was plainly very admiring of Ms. Ardern and correspondingly contemptuous of the unfashionable and regressive Latter-day Saints. Among other things, it described the Hamilton New Zealand Temple as looking “like a Parthenon reimagined by Stalinist architects.”
I’m fascinated by such things. So that you yourself can compare it to the photograph of the Parthenon, above, here’s a photograph of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple:
As my New Zealand friend Kiwi57, who first brought the article to my attention, observed, “I suppose that apart from the fact that the Parthenon is made of stone, has gable ends, columns, no spire and no windows, while the Hamilton NZ Temple is made of concrete, has no gables and no columns, a spire and windows, the two might look exactly alike.”
I’ve contemplated such silliness over the years. Why is it, I’ve wondered, that certain authors seem to feel absolutely no obligation to get even basic facts correct when writing about the Latter-day Saints?
Multiple times, for instance, I’ve read the flat declaration that nobody else was ever able to see the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated; Joseph Smith, you see, refused to show the plates to anybody. But shouldn’t there be at least some slight nod in the direction of the testimonies of the Three and Eight Witnesses, which have appeared in every edition of the Book of Mormon, in every language, since its first publication in 1830?
One of my favorite examples of the gross carelessness that often characterizes journalistic and other writing about the Mormons comes from a mystery, set in Utah, that I once thumbed through in an airport bookstore. (I may be mistaken, but I think it may have been Bone Hunter, a novel published in 2000 by Sarah Andrews.)
In it, the heroine of the novel is trying to figure out what it is about the Salt Lake Temple that she finds so horribly creepy. And then it hits her: It’s the fact that the temple has absolutely no windows!
And there’s also Peter Bart’s excruciatingly awful 1981 novel Thy Kingdom Come. A friend and I had dinner with Bart one night; he could not understand why Latter-day Saints hadn’t warmed up to his portrayal of them.
The classic Mormon-related mystery, though, is certainly Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, which deals, among other things, with the Church’s presiding Council of Four.
Honestly, I just don’t understand why people write such things, or how such things survive the editorial process and reach publication.