Cover image for The lost Book of Mormon : a journey through the mythic lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri
The lost Book of Mormon : a journey through the mythic lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri
Steinberg, Avi, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York ; London ; Toronto ; Sydney ; Auckland : Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, [2014].

Physical Description:
265 pages : map 22 cm
A witty and probing travelogue through the landscapes associated with The Book of Mormon, it argues for taking The Book of Mormon seriously as work of American storytelling.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX8627 .S779 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BX8627 .S779 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Is the Book of Mormon the Great American Novel? Decades before Melville and Twain composed their great works, a farmhand and child seer named Joseph Smith unearthed a long-buried book from a haunted hill in western New York State that told of an epic history of ancient America, a story about a family that fled biblical Jerusalem and took a boat to the New World. Using his prophetic gift, Joseph translated the mysterious book into English and published it under the title The Book of Mormon . The book caused an immediate sensation, sparking anger and violence, boycotts and jealousy, curiosity and wonder, and launched Joseph on a wild, decades-long adventure across the American West.

Today The Book of Mormon , one of the most widely circulating works of American literature, continues to cause controversy--which is why most of us know very little about the story it tells.

Avi Steinberg wants to change that. A fascinated nonbeliever, Steinberg spent a year and a half on a personal quest, traveling the path laid out by Joseph's epic. Starting in Jerusalem, where The Book of Mormon opens with a bloody murder, Steinberg continued to the ruined Maya cities of Central America--the setting for most of the The Book of Mormon 's ancient story--where he gallivanted with a boisterous bus tour of believers exploring Maya archaeological sites for evidence. From there the journey took him to upstate New York, where he participated in the true Book of Mormon musical, the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant. And finally Steinberg arrived at the center of the American continent, Jackson County, Missouri, the spot Smith identified as none other than the site of the Garden of Eden.

Threaded through this quirky travelogue is an argument for taking The Book of Mormon seriously as a work of American imagination. Literate and funny, personal and provocative, the genre-bending The Lost Book of Mormon boldly explores our deeply human impulse to write bibles and discovers the abiding power of story.

Author Notes

Avi Steinberg is the author of Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian , which was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. He is a regular contributor to  The New Yorker 's Culture Desk blog. His essays have appeared in the Boston Globe , the New York Times Magazine , Salon , and other publications.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The Book of Mormon, the sacred text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is one of the biggest-selling books in American history, with about 150-million copies in more than 80 languages. And yet, as Steinberg points out in this very personal journey, it's surprisingly difficult to find people who have read the book. Steinberg's goal here is to understand the difference between prophecy and fabrication, angels and inspiration, delusion and fact, to explore and analyze the famous story of how Joseph Smith was told by the angel Moroni where to find the buried golden plates on which the sacred text was engraved, and to determine, if possible, whether Smith was truly a blessed prophet or whether his talents for self-creation led him to, well . . . create a religion. Steinberg's mixture of memoir and analysis is sure to incite some fervor among LDS followers the same kind of fervor, perhaps, that followed the debut of the Broadway smash, The Book of Mormon, with which this book is not affiliated but it should also spark plenty of discussion about the nature of religion, belief, and self-delusion.--Pitt, David Copyright 2014 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Straddling the line between literary commentary and personal memoir, Steinberg's (Running the Books) new book considers Joseph Smith-the American religious leader who founded Mormonism and wrote The Book of Mormon-as an author rather than a prophet. Steinberg explains how his fascination with the religious text, in which Smith traced a path to several spiritual areas throughout the world, led him on a journey from the streets of Jerusalem, where the work is extremely difficult to obtain, to Central America, where a Utah-based company offers historical tours to spiritual seekers. (Steinberg is an ardent nonbeliever.) This sojourn became an odyssey of sorts as the author's quest began to teach him as much about himself as about the book he was researching. VERDICT Steinberg's sardonic writing style is a delight; his descriptions of the varied cities he visited throughout his travelog point out the ridiculousness of situations without truly mocking them. Using Smith as a backdrop, this enjoyable read raises questions about what it means to be an author and what type of person becomes one. It will appeal to a variety of readers, particularly those that appreciate a biting wit.-Keri Youngstrand, Dickinson State Univ. Lib., ND (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.