A battle of biblical proportions is brewing on the Amazon page for The Book of Mormon, with hundreds of believers and non-believers weighing in to praise or rubbish the Latter Day Saints’ sacred text.
Almost 300 reviews have been written in less than a week for a 1981 edition of The Book of Mormon on Amazon.com. The ratings are split almost evenly between one-star (the lowest possible score) and five-star write-ups for a text that Mormons believe was revealed to Joseph Smith in 1827, engraved on gold plates in ancient Egyptian, and translated by Smith with God’s assistance.
“WARNING: May cause drowsiness and occasional eye-rolling. Go watch the musical instead,” said one reviewer. A five-star fan, however, said that “it was translated by the Gift and Power of God, and is the record of a people who are a branch of the tribe of Israel who had Prophets in their day who preached about Christ. Read it and pray about its contents.”
The Book of Mormon records how an ancient prophet, Lehi, who lived in Jerusalem around 600BC, led a group of people to America, where “they became a great civilisation”. “God continued to call prophets among these people,” says the Church of Latter Day Saints . “These prophets knew about Heavenly Father’s plan for His children and the mission of Jesus Christ. They recorded that Christ appeared, after His Resurrection, to the people in America, taught them His gospel, and formed His Church among them.”
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.
Related: Amazon sues 1,000 ‘fake reviewers’
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.”
None, however, was quite as bitingly dismissive as Mark Twain, who in 1872 called The Book of Mormon “chloroform in print”. “The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so ‘slow’, so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration,” wrote Twain. “If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle – keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate.”
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