Big kerfuffle on Amazon over the Book of Mormon

March 5, 2016 • 12:45 pm

Talk about bimodality of opinion! I thought I had it for Faith versus Fact, but if you go over to Amazon and look at the reviews for the Book of Mormon edition published in 1981, you see this:

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That’s right: 631 reviews, with 96% being either five-star or 1-star—the lowest possible ranking. Clearly something strange is going on here. An article in Thursday’s Guardian explains it, pointing out that more than 300 of these reviews were produced within the last week.

What’s happening is a culture war, or rather a war between Mormons and everyone else:

The face-off on Amazon over the book follows an article from Salt Lake City’s KUTV, which claimed that students at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints University Brigham Young had been asked to praise the book online. The news source quoted a Facebook post, which told students that “many people against the Church have, sadly, written negative comments about the Book”, urging them to write a review in response, because it would be “a great opportunity to share your testimony to the world and do online missionary work”.

“Please accomplish this challenge by the end of the week,” said the post. “Thank you for serving the Lord!”

While KUTV pointed out that not all of those asked agreed with the request, reviews started to flood in. “Inspired! Jesus Christ on every page!” said one user on 1 March. “An absolute masterpiece of divine origin!” said another.

But the positivity was soon rebutted by non-believers – and by those who disagreed with the request – and deluged the Amazon page with one-star write-ups. “I was instructed to come here and leave a positive review. That was the last straw … I’m done with this cult, thus the one-star review,” wrote one. “Waste of a good tree,” said another, adding: “Besides the issue of ethics with the Mormon church urging members to post positive reviews, The Book of Mormon has about as much to do with religion as the demented writings of L Ron Hubbard. I actually give it zero stars… It DOES come in handy when you run out of TP.”

Well, it’s hardly a fair fight, or rather an objective one. The five-star reviewers are responding to a call to praise their holy scripture, i.e., proselytizing; and I strongly suspect that hardly any of the one-star reviewers have read the book. But I’ve read quite a bit of it, though not the whole, for the damn thing is the most soporific scripture I’ve ever read—and I’ve read the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Bhagavad Gita.

In fact, the Bhagavad Gita is well worth reading; it’s a real piece of literature, and quite absorbing.

The Bible is overrated: I’ve always taken issue with Dawkins’s claim that it’s “a great work of literature“. Yes, we should read it, at least in the West, because it’s so heavily influenced our culture, but don’t expect unadulterated beauty. There are lovely bits, of course, but I claim that if only a single copy of the Bible existed, and if that it had not been adopted as Holy Writ, and if it were found in a dusty bin in a Bloomsbury bookshop, someone reading it would find it tedious and uninspiring. And of course much of the beauty that is there was due to King James’s translators.

The Qur’an is far worse: it’s not only tedious but contains a lot more acrimony, violence, and hatred. I can’t remember any parts of it that were beautiful.

And the Book of Mormon is not only a ripoff of the Bible (Joseph Smith clearly cribbed its language), but is boring and repetitive: I can’t even begin to tell you how many times it contains the phrase “And so it came to pass. . . ”

You can amuse yourself by reading the reviews. I’ll put up just four: two positive and two negative. The negative ones are much funnier, but note that some of the five-star reviews were actually written by critical nonbelievers making fun of the book.

The Good News first:

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Devine mission!

And the critics:

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Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 12.22.41 PMKnock yourself out. Although website comments are often tedious, I find these dueling Amazon reviews clever and inventive.


h/t: Ginger K.

42 thoughts on “Big kerfuffle on Amazon over the Book of Mormon

  1. “And the Book of Mormon…boring and repetitive”

    You have to read it in the original Reformed Egyptian.

    1. I stacked a bunch of the Reformed Egyptian editions into a pyramid back in ’87 and haven’t had to buy a razor blade or wash my underwear since!

      1. You may not have perceived a need to wash your underwear since, but until now, I had never heard of the power of pyramids to disable the sense of smell before. That’s Matthew Cobb’s speciality, and he might be interested in you as an experimental subject.

        1. Ah, but the power of a *Reformed* Egyptian book pyramid – the very best kind – renders the underwear magical. Just in a different way than the standard issue stuff from Joseph’s Secret.

  2. I loved the top positive review:

    Harry Potter Fans Will Love It

    … From cover to cover, this book offers a rich world of fantasy and magic, with Gods and demons running amok in a medieval setting. …

  3. Knock off, phoney fraud… Mitt talking about Trump. Rightly so, but he hasn’t really considered that the BOM is the same.

    1. That was a great review. I did buy the book given that it’s free and it’s always good to have the literature around to reference. Free is about what it’s worth anyway.

      Review total is up to almost 1200 now. Word must be spreading.

  4. Thanks, CR, that review was well worth a quick glance; and it and the comments will surely repay more detailed reading later in the day.

  5. The Bhagavad Gita is of course part of the Mahabharata, which is a great read. The third or so of the Quran I have read is quite boring too. If Allah spent half as much time being all-forgiving as the book keeps repeating that he is, and if his followers … followed, then we would all be a lot better off.

  6. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times it contains the phrase “And so it came to pass. . . “

    The phrase “it came to pass” occurs 1322 times. (This may be the most useless fact you encounter this year.)

    1. It depends on which edition you consult. Some of the copies of the first edition had 1399 instances. The current french edition has probably less than 50 –having been replaced by asterisks. My 1981 edition has 1299 (perhaps your account is a typo?)

      1. Fair enough. I downloaded a copy from which doesn’t seem to have any identification of the edition. My count of 1322 isn’t a typo, but I can easily believe that other versions have different numbers.

  7. I’m generally pro-open comments anywhere on the internet, but I really think Amazon should just disable the reviews of Holy Books. The vast majority of reviewers are going to believe the book is either literally divine, or nothing but blasphemy. Anyone trying to get a review for the books literary merit isn’t going to get any help.

    On the other hand, the review section for such things can be quite funny, so there is that. But for the purposes of helping a potential buyer to get the book or not, the reviews section for a general purpose store like Amazon is just not going to offer any useful info.

  8. The Book of Mormon was written by one man pretending to translate from “reformed Egyptian” but formatting the work based on the Bible which was written by many people over an extended period of time in a number of languages. A complete fake.

    If only Mormons, and others, would read the history associated with this cult, they would learn much worth knowing.

    Mormons have no respect for anyone outside the Mormon faith and continue to cause havoc in the west, most recently in Oregon.

  9. And of course much of the beauty that is there was due to King James’s translators.

    An aside. Much of the beauty and memorable English in the King James Bible actually came from William Tyndale. The King James translators used much of Tyndale’s Bible, but couldn’t really admit it because Tyndale had been burnt at the stake as a heretic and then written out of history.

    Thus Tyndale probably had a greater influence on the English language than anyone else other than Shakespeare, but is largely unsung and unknown. (Account here: William Tyndale: Hero of atheism)

  10. Wow I didn’t know the Book of Mormon had so much negative reviews. Lets compare them to Amazon reviews of its biblical counterparts. The differences are staggering. I wonder why?

    King James’s Bible:

    Catholic Bible:

  11. I’d say the Book of Mormon has some great songs as an interesting plot. Perhaps, instead of reading the book, you should go straight to the adaptation.

    1. You beat me to it. I haven’t seen the show but I have heard some of the songs. Hasadega Ebowi is the most sweary and blasphemous song that I have ever heard. Not that I recognise the concept of blasphemy you understand, but anyone who did would say that it was quite blasphemous.

  12. I do agree that the Book of Mormon is incredibly boring. I forced myself through the whole thing two years ago and it wasn’t easy. It was mostly just the godly Nephites and the wicked Lamanites fighting bloody wars, again and again and again until the end when the Lamanites finally finish off the Nephites once and for all. Except for the family at the beginning who are the ancestors of everyone that follows, I can’t even remember any of the characters’ names.

      1. I had this idea of reading through the big religions’ founding texts, so that I might learn what they were thinking and be able to discuss them better. I had already been through the Bible years earlier, so I started with the Qur’an, which wasn’t exactly gripping, then when I was finished with that moved on to Mormon. I felt a bit burnt out after that and haven’t gotten around to another one yet.

  13. > the damn thing is the most soporific scripture I’ve ever read

    Google “chloroform in print” and the top matches all refer to Mark Twain’s famous quote regarding the Book of Mormon. It’s a tough decision whether to trust PCC’s and Mark Twain’s opinion or true believers who won’t think for themselves. Oh, wait, no that’s actually an easy decision.

  14. > And of course much of the beauty that is there was due to King James’s translators.

    Well, much of the beauty that is in the King James Bible was due to King James’s translators. But what about the original Hebrew and Old Greek?

    1. I call it, “The Book of Moron”- the “Scientology of the 1800s”.

      A rancher in Wyoming told me a story back in 1970: “The Mormons were comin’ West and were about halfway to Salt Lake when their elders approached Brigham Young, telling them that they were out of coffee- what should they do? Brigham went out into the wilderness for three days fasting and praying, and returned to tell them that God had told him they shouldn’t drink coffee anymore.”

      I’d love to have some of their representatives call on me: I’d say, “The first thing I want to know is all about the archaeological finds your teams of scientists have found that support your book”.

      1. Interesting comment Jeffrey. What makes you think some rancher in Wyoming had an accurate assessment of the Mormon prohibition of coffee? A few minutes on the internet would demonstrate that it was Brigham Young’s predecessor, Joseph Smith, who recommended against the use of coffee. Anyone familiar with the rudiments of Mormon history would immediately see your rancher’s recollection as pure bunk.

  15. This seems patently silly, on all sides. I can’t imagine anyone buying the book of Mormon based on an Amazon review. Like the Bible or Kama Sutra or Dianetics, its the sort of thing you’ve decided you are or are not going to read long before you click on the Amazon site.

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