Richard Turley and William Slaughter Talk About Their New Book, “How We Got the Book of Mormon.”
August 27, 2011 1 Comment
Assistant Church Historian and Recorder Richard E. Turley and coauthor William Slaughter of the LDS Church Historical Department were kind enough to answer a few questions about their new book, How We Got the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book, 2011. Cloth, ISBN13: 978-1-60908-062-4. $34.99. We’ll be posting a review of the book shortly.
Can you speak to the reasons for writing the book, what its target audience may be and what you hope it will accomplish?
RET: As I have studied the history of the Book of Mormon over the past decades, I have realized that there is a fascinating and uplifting story that is little-known to most Latter-day Saints. I wanted to share that story and invited my friend Bill Slaughter to coauthor the book with me. Bill is a photo archivist par excellence, and I knew that the story needed high-quality photos in order to communicate effectively to our target audience: general Latter-day Saint readers.
The size format of the book is a little unusual. Can you talk about why this format was selected and the higher quality production value reminiscent of the Joseph Smith Papers volumes?
RET: The photographs were key to making the book communicate our story effectively. We knew most people would never have a chance to see the artifacts we feature in person because they live far away from the Church History Library. By providing good photographs of the artifacts, we hoped to give these people a good feel for what it would be like to see and handle them in the library. Our readers have commented to us on how the photographs just “pop,” giving them the sense of experiencing the artifacts in real life. “All that’s missing,” Bill says, “is the smell of the leather.”
Readers would not have the same experience if the photographs were much smaller. We deliberately chose the larger format so the photographs would be at a scale that made them pop.
As far as the production values, I have a love for books and the book arts. I have spent time at the Rare Book School, first at Columbia University and now the University of Virginia, and have learned how good books are produced. For both the Joseph Smith Papers and How We Got the Book of Mormon, I requested high-quality materials because the subject matter is important, and the high-quality materials help convey a sense of respect for the subject matter.
In writing the book, how important was Royal Skousen’s critical edition of the Book of Mormon?
It was essential. Readers who turn to the endnotes will notice the heavy reliance on Royal’s meticulous work.
In your discussion of the major editions of the Book of Mormon you mention the work of various editors in modernizing grammar, punctuation and so on. Is there a single edition (beyond the first) that is most significant in terms of textual changes and/or presentation changes?
The 1981 edition is the standard text for translation and has been for three decades. Given the many translations that have occurred since its publication, it has clearly been the most influential in presenting the Book of Mormon to readers around the world.