Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon Vol 1 First Nephi



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Brant A. Gardner, Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007, 7.25x10.25" hardbound, 512 pages.

Commentaries on scriptural texts attempt to deepen the experience of the reader with the text they are reading. Different commentaries take very different approaches to the same text. There is so much that may be said about the Book of Mormon that no single commentary can hope to be exhaustive. In this commentary, the attempt is to bring to bear the insights of multiple disciplines and multiple scholars into a single location where the concentration of information at the point of the text may assist us in understanding a particular passage, and from the individual passages, the greater message of this most marvelous book.

The commentary is laid out with the comments interwoven with the text of the Book of Mormon. In all cases, the intermixing of scripture and commentary is intended to focus attention on the text itself. Even with such a focus on specific texts, there is an overall view of the real people and their times that develop through the text. This cultural background becomes more and more important as the scriptural text moves from the somewhat familiar Old World and into the more exotic New World.

From Title Comment
02/19/2010 Blair H. This series is the most comprehensive commentary on the Book of Mormon to date. True, there are many commentaries and articles on the BoM already available, so what justified another commentary?

Gardner has taken the best aspects of nearly all previous commentary attempts into account, incorporating an impressive amount of former studies with his own insights as a scholar of early Mesoamerica and believer in the Book of Mormon. The tone is a little more academic than more homiletic approaches, but working through it pays dividends.

By focusing more in a New World setting (especially after the book of Mosiah), Gardner is able to illuminate cultural aspects previously unseen in print. Rather than finding the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, he sought to discover Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon, and isn't afraid to challenge long-held opinions on various issues. Remarkably, he is able to do this with what Jeff Needle from the Association For Mormon Letters rightly called "generosity." Needle pinpointed Gardner's charitable tone:

"...his commentary offers the reader something that other commentaries may not: a wide generosity in how one can understand the message of the Book of Mormon. Such generosity is rare on both sides of the debate -- either you're for it, or you're against it. Gardner stands in the gap and offers both sides a way approach the book in a constructive manner."

I strongly recommend this series.

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