How Many Mormons Have Actually Read the Book of Mormon?
NOT SOME OF IT, BUT ALL OF IT?
Starting on a humorous note, an old friend in Idaho cheekily said, "If you were to take all the Mormons who have fallen asleep reading the Book of Mormon and lay them down, head to toe — they'd be more comfortable." Another saying I grew up with suggested that many a true word was said in jest. Mark Twain wrote, "All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the "elect" have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so "slow," so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print (my emphasis). If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle — keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate."
Mr. Twain further described the Book of Mormon after reading it, "The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James's translation of the Scriptures (sic); and the result is a mongrel — half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern — which was about every sentence or two — he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as "exceeding sore," "and it came to pass," etc., and made things satisfactory again. "And it came to pass" was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet."
Nevertheless, for many believers, the existence of the Book of Mormon matters much more than what is inside it. Just as with the Jewish Torah, the physical presence is as essential as the contents. After all, the Book of Mormon was an American divine discovery! A very American idea, we are unique and chosen, and we have a book to prove it! Well, so they say.
Interestingly though, since the 1980s, the Mormon prophets have continuously and heavily urged their members to read and study the Book of Mormon. International, regional, and local pressure or "encouragement" was, and is, necessary as not every member willingly…