If, by their fruits ye shall know them, then this is Satan's Book of Mormon commentary

Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1- First and Second Nephi.

In this episode of Rejected Books, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon Volume 1 --- First and Second Nephi by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet.

Now, as a bit of full disclosure, I've always felt a bit of a connection to Robert Millet as he was once my stake president. I can't remember if I ever actually spoke with him or not, but still. He's my guy.

Or was.

Until I read this book.

Lady Steed and I, since the beginning of our marriage, have read scriptures together nearly every night, usually the Book of Mormon. We've been through it so many times now and in so many ways (once we read it, for instance, in the order it was originally translated) (some chapters we read, switching turns when we hit commas) that we were getting desperate for ways to keep it fresh. So I decided we needed a thoughtful and thought-provoking and conversation-starting commentary. After asking around and looking around I discovered that the field of Book of Mormon commentaries was rather lacking in excellence. The best seemed to be the Millet/McConkie books so I bought volume one used on Amazon and we started in on it early 2009.

Fast forward to June. We are painting our bedroom and in the process of moving things out, our scriptures and the commentary get stuck in a box. We are so relieved to no longer be suffering through that awful awful soul-sucking book that we don't bother to find our scriptures for a couple months. We, who read nearly every night our entire marriage, stopped reading scriptures because of Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon.

To quote Moroni of Book of Mormon fame:

Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil [and] whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

This book is evil.

There. I said it. And I mean it.

This book is hollow and worthless. Perhaps, being generous, 10% of its words are helpful in a study of the book of Mormon. The rest is repetition, bloviation, self-promotion, obviosity, and filler.

The only reason we stuck with it as long as we did is 1) I had paid for it and 2) if we stayed on pace, we would finish it in one year and then I could slam it online, and we would never have to think about it again. (At that point, I did not have the Rejected Books series to slam books I would not finished.)

So what sin exactly does this book commit?

Well, there are many as I hinted above, but mostly it comes down to this: Having very little to say and hiding that lack in complex syntax, $64 words, repeating the obvious, and making extradoctrinal arguments treated as gospel truth. Yes, there were moments where they might quote a bit of Talmadge that was insightful or a line here that was interesting, but for each moment like that, there were twenty entries which just rewrote an elegant phrase of phrase of scripture, turning its ten words into 300 and cutting its message in half. Reading this commentary deflated the beauty and spiritual value into a couple of guys listening to each other talk.

The purpose of this book is not to draw you unto Christ, but to impress you with the brains of Millet and McConkie. And how do they intend to do that? By breaking every rule George Orwell gave us as regards good writing. To riff on his rules, changing them into rules M & McC's obviously hold dear:

1. Slip in as many tired metaphor as you possibly can.
2. Never use a short word if you can fit in six or seven long ones.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, hide that fact by building a new paragraph around it.
4. Never use the passive unless it'll make you sound like a pompous blowhard.
5. Assume that scientific words and jargon will make your audience think you are smarter than them.

Any book that claims to offer insight into doctrine but instead offers smoke, any book that claims to deepen your understanding of scripture but instead drives you away from scripture, any book that serves more to aggrandize its author's reputations than what it allegedly celebrates, any such book is a bad book.

Having finally written this rejection of Doctrinal Commentary, I can now get rid of it and my life will improve. I hope our scripture-study habit eventually recover fully from this attack upon them.

One last note before we go. I apologize for not transcribing some examples from the book for you that you might judge for yourself, but every time I opened the book with that intend I was flooded with anger and irritation and I felt sick to my stomach. So feel free to investigate my claims on your own, but be cautious about actually inviting this thing into your home.

The end.


  1. HI-Larious.

    I often grab books of this sort when I can find them cheap-but they have to really grab me to grant more than a simple perusing. Thanks for the heads up to save myself the buck or two when I see it at the DI next.

  2. Wow. Strong words.

    If you're looking for new ways to do scripture study, one thing I've been doing is reading conference talks, then reading the Book of Mormon chapters referenced in the talk. It tends to make for a more thematic approach.

  3. Goodness gracious. Um. Wow.

    You're hard to agitate, especially to this respect, so--


  4. Dude. Now THERE's a review that doesn't mince words. Good luck getting back in the BoM study groove.

  5. So I suppose that you'd be less than thrilled to learn that this multi-volume work is cited quite a number of times in the official CES Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Resource Manual.

    On Monday I chose not to use an unnecessary quotation about Mormon taken from volume IV. In contrast, this morning having the kids read the words of George A. Smith, James E. Talmage, and Spencer W. Kimball served to expound on and enlighten the scriptural discussion we were having.

  6. I'd never really considered that it was this book that killed our good habit. But you are right. This book managed to take all the enjoyment out of reading scripture. Stupid book.

  7. .

    What to do with it? I'm not in the habit of disposing of books. Any suggestions?

  8. That was the most awesome book review I have ever read.

  9. Cut it up and burn it?

    Let the kids color pictures in it, then cut it up and burn it?

    Cut the center of the pages out and use it to hide something? I'd suggest pot, but I guess that doesn't really work.

    Ooh, how about giving it to the Jehovah Witnesses next time they come around? Actually, never mind...that wouldn't be charitable and might even count as anti-missionary work.

    Wrap it in brown paper and mail it back to the publishers (or authors)?

    Just a few thoughts...

  10. What to do with it? I'm not in the habit of disposing of books. Any suggestions?


  11. .

    Sure. I think I'll just sell my monkey's paw at the same time. Bundle 'em up for greater value.

  12. See, now you're thinking like a marketer!

  13. BYU Studies 29:2
    Review by J. Frederic Voros, Jr.

    (I have selected a few sections from a longer review of the Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the series. He had some positive things to say as well, but generally it is a negative review. I copied these bits from a PDF, and all the punctuation fell out, so it might look a little funny.)

    . . . The entire work is suffused
    with the McConkie style grandiose rhetorical and cast in the
    cadences of finality . . .

    (After quoting a section) Note that in keeping with the authors' view of the proper role of a scriptural commentary, neither of these passages communicates any new content about the Book of Mormon; they are in that respect typical of the entire work the authors don't speculate, they don't
    explicate, they don't ramify: they preach.
    You could do much worse for a pair of preachers the authors frequent attempts to turn the stirring and pointed phrase often succeed: "It is in the flames of difficulty that the tempered steel of faith is forged ease does not call forth greatness." . . . But in driving home scriptural truths McConkie and Millet often try too hard to turn the intensity of a verse up a notch . . . (a few quotes) . . . This approach may be valuable for those who find scriptural truths too quietly expressed but the contemplative reader may after several pages at this volume begin to feel that brothers McConkie and Millet have produced a commentary for the spiritually deaf.

    Another danger of their hortatory approach is the resultant tendency to reduce all matters of belief faith love and hope the inner mystical questions to mere prescriptive formulations. . . .

    Other passages are more troubling than puzzling. A frequent theme of the work is the foolishness and wickedness of the unrighteous those who reject the glad tidings of the restored gospel.

    "Little imagination is necessary to determine the source of that spirit which is offended by the desire of God's children to become like their eternal father."
    "It is a simple matter to discern the source of that spirit which protests the announcement that more of the word of the lord has been restored to us."
    The unidentified source of these nonmembers spirits is evidently the devil. Assigning diabolical motives to all who disagree is the ultimate act of ecclesiastical chauvinism. It is repugnant to the character of Joseph Smith and to the teachings of Jesus. It is false and wrong to imply that God’s love or approval are reserved for Mormons and that those who reject Mormon doctrine are Satan inspired. How can it be a "simple matter" to penetrate the heart of a fellow human and judge his or her motivation? Is this the judgment with which we would be judged?

    It is uncharitable at best to revile and accuse any who lack or reject the greater knowledge we have been given. But it is worse to issue a condemnation so sweeping that it might well include
    Christians such as G K Chesterton, C S Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge and many others who have defended the doctrine of Christ's vicarious sacrifice for human sin. . . .

    Doctrinal Commentary of the Book of Mormon will be read and appreciated by many Latter Day Saints, but I would not expect it to be popular among those whose minds and spirits are challenged by the Book of Mormon. If you enjoy novel insights, scriptural exegesis, or attention to implication skip this one. But if you value categorical assertions of ultimate truths, if you see mostly darkness without the walls of Zion and light within, if you believe grace is for Mormons who keep all the commandments, then this is your set.


  14. .

    Wow. They nailed it. That's exactly right. Perhaps if I didn't wait six months since last opening it to rail on it I might have been as coherent as well. Thank you.

    I particularly liked this line:

    ".... brothers McConkie and Millet have produced a commentary for the spiritually deaf."

  15. .

    Reading the whole thing was a good use of my time. It lays out their sins pretty clearly.

  16. Maybe I should write my own doctrinal commentary on The Book of Mormon, it could be a good way to qualitatively measure what I understand and believe, and maybe even learn some of what I don't.

  17. .

    You might check out this cool wiki. It's still young but the idea has much potential.


  18. This post is pretty old, but I just barely discovered it, so I'm commenting.

    So--did you think of a way to dispose of it?

    We got a similar book as a wedding present. I wasn't terribly excited to receive it, but I pulled it out to give it a good-faith reading. I sat on the couch flipping through it with my wife until she couldn't restrain her opinion ("This is rubbish!" is probably pretty close) and it's been hiding in a corner ever since.

    Our current plan is to us an X-acto knife to hollow it out and make it a safe, but we've never gotten around to that. It's hard to be motivated because we don't really have any valuables to stash.

  19. .

    It's out in a box in the garage waiting to be disposed of. That's a pretty dang good idea though, hollowing out. Not the sort of thing any crook's apt to grab.

    What book is yours?