For those of us who love the feel of fine words and exquisite language on our tongues and inspiring, thought provoking stories in our heads, literature is of great value. Literature is the cozy, plush armchair we snuggle into for comfort, solitude, and a quest for higher places. We search for it, we devour it, we create it. And at times, we are even taken by surprise by it, taken aback by its unforeseen and unexpected appearance in places we thought we knew.
For those of us who love perusing through the words of Nephi and the account of Alma, and wondrous, though provoking stories in our heads, the Book of Mormon is of great worth and precious to the heart. It is sacred scripture, the word of God. Yet, just as literature, it is also the cozy armchair we snuggle into for comfort, solitude, and a quest for higher places. And we are surprised and awed by its content as well.I love both literature and the Book of Mormon, and as I have come in contact with both, I have realized that the Book of Mormon, though scripture, is great literature. Think about it. Everyone familiar with good literature knows that in order for a story to work, to come to life, to connect with one and offer to us something great and valuable, there needs to be certain things present. One of those things is imagery. Detail and description is what draws us into the story, what make it real for us. And if it is real, then we connect with a story, a person, on a much deeper level.
The Book of Mormon is filled with imagery and description and details that suck me in as if I was there, experiencing and witnessing the same thing our ancestors did. I am there alongside Nephi, bound by his brothers on the ship through the frightening storm as he describes it in the following words, “there arose a great storm, yea, a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days…And on the fourth day, which we had been driven back, the tempest began to be exceedingly sore. And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea.” (1 Nephi 18: 13-15)
I can feel and picture the devastated state of Nephi’s parents due his brothers’ abuse because he describes it: “Because of their grief and much sorrow, and the iniquity of my brethren, they were brought near even to be carried out of this time to meet their God; yea, their grey hairs were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust; yea, even they were near to be cast with sorrow into a watery grave” (1 Nephi 18: 18).
I stand amongst the crowd getting ready to listen to King Benjamin as I picture the scene being unfolded and described: “And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about…every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them” (Mosiah 2: 5-7).
There are so many more instances such as this and the Book of Mormon is a magnificent old world you can get sucked into if you let yourself be enveloped by the imagery and description in it. Read in this manner, as literature, through imagery and description, I have gained more empathy towards those people of old. They’re sufferings, their joys, have become mine and I have a better understanding of their world. And because I do, I have a greater craving to read this book, to read the word of God, to be sucked into its teachings, into its action, into its peace and gain something of value and worth, just like any great literature should impart on us.