It has been printed 150 million times in many languages, fought over, filmed a couple of times and even served as the inspiration for a popular, if wildly irreverent Broadway musical.
Yes, the Book of Mormon has seen a lot since its release in 1830 with the subtitle “An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nelphi” — so it can probably handle being included by UW Information School professor Joe Janes in his ongoing podcast series, “Documents that Changed the World.”
Janes used the podcasts to explore the origin and often evolving meaning of historical documents both famous and less known. UW Today presents these periodically, and all of the podcasts are available online at the Information School website.
Documents that Changed the World podcasts:
In this podcast, Janes reminds listeners of the famous book’s origin story: Joseph Smith Jr., 17, is visited by the Angel Moroni, who leads him to discover golden plates buried nearby, “revealing a forgotten history of people who traveled to the Americas centuries before, their religious struggles and conflicts, and their visitation by Jesus just after his crucifixion and resurrection.”
After a few years and various adventures and misfortunes, Smith completed what he called a translation of the plates, and the resulting book is now published worldwide in more than 100 languages.
Janes said he chose the topic because he wanted to explore the founding document of a faith, all of which are world-changing in their way.
“Most faiths start with words and holy books, but this was one I knew next to nothing about and what little I did know wasn’t quite right,” he said. “The story of its publication is fascinating and raises the very real question of whether or not, and in what way, revelations are still being sent and received.”
Janes added, “If it’s a fake, nobody seems yet to have figured out how he did it. And if it’s not — well, that’s quite a story, too.”
The Documents that Changed the World podcast series is also available on iTunes, with more than 60,000 downloads there so far.
Previous stories in the “Documents that Changed the World” series
- Series introduction/President Obama’s Birth Certificate
- The Nineteenth Amendment
- John Snow’s cholera map, 1854
- Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’
- The Internet Protocol, 1981
- The AIDS Memorial Quilt
- An 18 1/2-minute presidential mystery
- Gutenberg indulgence, 1454
- ‘Robert’s Rules of Order’
- The fraudulent ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’
- A papal resignation
- The ‘Casablanca’ letters of transit
- ‘What is the Third Estate?’ 1789
- Alfred Binet’s IQ test, 1905
- Einstein’s letter to FDR, 1939
- The Riot Act, 1714
- The Rosetta Stone
- The Zapruder film, Nov. 22, 1963