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[Intro] Skipping ahead, or not

So there’s this book that exists. And that is the conundrum. It sits there minding its own business. Actually, not even that, it is just a bleached dead tree, or electrified blob of sand.

But what to do about it? Why can’t we leave it alone?

The first problem, technically, is we don’t have an original text. Legit linguists with far too much time on their hands have stated in their opinion there’s clearly multiple narratives embedded within the present textus receptus. We have the original draft, but not any precursor notes. Well that’s a clever problem in that it means we can’t short-circuit the present text with what we’ve got now. We must make do with what we have.

So what do we have? Denominationally and culturally the text is held as a sacred work. Thus, matters of provenance can to a degree be set aside for the moment to begin with the applied narrative.

To wit, “to bring souls unto Christ.”

The gotcha though that pops back up almost immediately is that unlike most other theological texts that are purely narrative, this instead claims to be a functional Oracle, mandating revelatory transmission. One can read the Gospels or letters of Paul with little or no compulsory breaking of the fourth wall. Not so with Mormon’s work. It’s narrative is to command the recipient to engage interactively with the Original Source, which is an entirely different ball game.

Scholarly folk can find curious things to elaborate on, such as the commentary that the text conforms to pre-KJV Early Modern English, or that it mitigates the Tyndale-More ecclesiastical terminology debates and such, but the book explicitly declares itself to be revelatory material, not intellectual, historical, legendary, or mystical. That’s a heavy claim few if any other canon materials in any denomination dare to claim, and one the reader is obligated to resolve independently.

Incidentally, an enormous amount of data and material about the Witnesses, their families who often were additional witnesses, has only become accessible of late thanks to the labors of the Joseph Smith Papers project meticulously digesting EVERYTHING. Mirroring Martin and Oliver’s showing up out of the blue asking what they could do, Larry Miller bummed a ride with an acquaintance to be in the right place at the right time to learn about an obscure nerd project that was going nowhere. It kept him up at nights, so much so that he took the initiative to open up his wallet “You need staff, and they need to be paid. How much do you need?” It didn’t hurt him any, and has done a world of good for a great many others.