This recent imprint by Signature Books contains fifteen essays which critically examine aspects of the standard works of the LDS and RLDS scriptural canon. Each author has paid attention to the cultural and environmental setting for the creation of the “written word of God.” In the words of the editor, the essayists are convinced that “the essential requirement for interpretation for a text is to read it in context” because “the written word of God does not come to us direct but through human intermediaries” (viii). Therefore, each essay employs or exhorts the use of scholarly, historical-critical tools to illuminate “the problem of the human and the divine in scripture” (ix). These convictions accord well with the collection’s explicit program: to “challenge . . . simplistic assumptions about the nature of revelation” in order to arrive at a “more refined . . . definition of revelation and scripture” (ix).
This program of confrontation and refinement fails to succeed fully, however, due to numerous difficulties in the use of historical and literary tools and sources in reasoning and theology. In addition, two principal assumptions woven throughout The Word of God that LDS and RLDS are scriptural literalists and that Joseph Smith was the author of the latter-day scriptural canon are not well served by the collection’s shortcomings (to be discussed below).