Reading the Book of Mormon as literature as rendered some insights that I did not expect when I started the process. I am a very calculated reader in most cases. For example, I always read SparkNotes alongside any novel I am reading because I want to make sure nothing is going over my head that I wouldn't have caught otherwise. Pertaining to the Book of Mormon, I have always read it with a specific purpose in mind. Sometimes, I read through looking for examples of faith. Other times, patience. Other times, how to build a relationship with God. But this read through has been interesting because my approach has been open and unscripted.
I have made a conscious effort to simply do a close reading and see what comes of each chapter. As a result, i have learned things I did not foresee myself learning which have strengthened my testimony of the Book of Mormon. Here are just two short examples:
1. Strange Details
The Book of Mormon was not written by perfect people, and it certainly wasn't written by perfect authors with respects to story development and conventional literary knowledge. However, some of the red herring details have actually strengthened my testimony.
For example, in 1 Nephi 2:6, Nephi describes himself as being "exceedingly young, nevertheless being of large stature" before diving into his anxiety to know the truth from God. Why would Nephi mention his size in relation to his age and its connection to his spiritual disposition? I had a friend once who read Nephi's writings as if Nephi had an unrestrained ego, but that is not what I read here. I see a man giving a simple detail of interest to better allow the reader to picture and understand him. It would be similar to me saying, "I, Nick, being exceedingly young and a little less coordinated than your average teenager." These little details, for me, are glimpses into a man who actually lived, and an author who (perhaps without much thought or literary foresight) simply described a cardinal attribute about himself that he considered indistinguishable from a full depiction of himself.
2. Appreciation for Imperfect Characters
More than appreciation for the characters themselves, I have come to appreciate the imperfect assumptions they make when faced with new situations. For instance, when the brother of Jared sees the finger of God, he has many options to react. Surely, anyone would feel humbled. One could feel overjoyed, disbelieve the sight, or at peace at first glance. But this is not his reaction. Instead, the brother of Jared states, “I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.” What does this tell us about the brother of Jared’s assumptions about God? Did he perhaps misunderstand the rebukes of God in earlier occurrences as signs of a temperamental and harsh personality? Surely not everyone would immediately conclude that God would smite them upon seeing him. It is insights like these that have me looking deeper into a text I felt I knew so well, but keep learning from.