There are at least two distinct reasons to examine the literary structure of the Book of Mormon. For those who recognize the Book of Mormon as sacred scripture, such a study can enhance their appreciation of its teachings. For others, a literary analysis provides a subtle test of the skeptical hypothesis that this book is a unique product of early nineteenth-century American folk culture. Although the Book of Mormon has been of central importance to both of these groups for a century and a half, it is surprising to discover that very few members of either group have examined it from literary or cultural perspectives.
Analysis of Nephi’s writings reveals that they are episodic in character. Renewed analysis also reveals that 1 Nephi is part of an extended argument based on a thesis which the author announces near the beginning of his narrative and repeats in many forms throughout the book: “Behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20).