This book challenged me a lot, and I really like it for that. The first half was basically what I was expecting: archaeological and textual evidences of the Book of Mormon. It was the second half that really pushed me. Nibley argues for some radical interpretations of Book of Mormon teachings, and he has quite a bit of evidence to back it up. Particularly, his essay "Freemen and King-men in the Book of Mormon" argues for a quite unorthodox view of Book of Mormon teachings regarding money and authority.
The first part that really spoke to me was when he writes, "This is an extremely important lesson driven home repeatedly in the Book of Mormon, that righteousness does not consist in being identified with this or that nation, party, church, or group" (337). This argues against the point of view often heard in Sunday School lesson comments, that want to take a lesson about, say, repentance, and talk about how much "the world" needs to repent, instead of how much we as individuals need to repent. Church isn't supposed to be a pep rally where we come away feeling superior to the rest of the world. This is my problem with "mainstream Christianity," which thinks because they like Jesus everything's cool.
In light of the War on Terror, the rest of the essay is really provocative. "If the 'bad people' more often provoke war, the 'good people' have equal responsibility, since they have the greater light" (337). In response to the question, "How do you distinguish the righteous from the wicked, then?" Nibley responds, "You don't; that is not your prerogative" (340).
Who is free to do as he will in a state of war? Once the shooting starts the options vanish. That is why people rush into war--because they think it will put an end to their problems. (356)
Nibley councils that we build up a secret combination "by playing the game its way."
Once you have been warned ... that things are being run by such elements, then you know very well that if you aspire to power and gain, influence, status, and prestige; in other words, if you aspire to success by present-day standards, you can only achieve it by doing everything their way. One ceases to uphold those elements only by rejecting a whole way of life, regardless of the risk or inconvenience involved. (368-9)Quite the tall order, but very intuitive.
Three months after finishing this book, I still think about this essay regularly. Do I have the mettle to reject a whole way of life? How would I go about getting that?
Rating: seven out of seven giant inflatable monkeys.