Times & Seasons has posted a 12 Questions interview with Grant Hardy. He gives serious and detailed responses, a real treat for anyone who has read Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide (OUP, 2010) and incentive for anyone who hasn't read it yet to go out and find a copy. Here are a few one-liner highlights from the interview responses, with my brief comments in italics following the bolded quotation.
From Part 1:
- In many ways, I wish that outsiders would take the Book of Mormon more seriously as fiction, and that Latter-day Saints would take it more seriously as history. [From Q1] But everyone should take it more seriously.
- I have felt surprise that my work hasn’t attracted more attention, particularly from Latter-day Saint sources. [From Q3] Maybe if President Monson referred to the book in General Conference it would get more attention and more LDS readers.
- How interested are you in other religions and philosophies? Have you ever read the Qur’an? Why? Can you name half a dozen books from the Apocrypha? ... If not, then you have no business asking people to care about your book, unless you are targeting them as potential converts. [From Q5] Time to broaden the LDS curriculum to include a religions of the world sequence. And maybe require every Deseret Book outlet to have an "other religions" table.
From Part 2:
- As believers, we should read [the Book of Mormon] as carefully as possible, and we should bring to our study the best biblical and historical scholarship available, but there is enough theological flexibility to accommodate whatever we might find. This was from Q7, responding to whether some of the difficult issues discussed in Understanding are a reason for mainstream LDS readers to avoid the book. His confidence in the LDS reader is impressive.
- We can’t expect outsiders to read our scripture more closely than we ourselves have done (and if you want to see what close reading looks like, you can start with the mainstream biblical scholarship that Mormons have avoided for so long). [From Q9] Again, a plea for members of the Church to read more widely. Seems like a good suggestion.
- [T]he Bible is a strange book, which makes unusual demands on its readers, and this is also true of the Book of Mormon. [From Q11] It seems that understanding, interpreting, or applying narrative as we find it in the Bible and the Book of Mormon is not a straightforward exercise. Maybe that's why the D&C is so popular.