Typology in the Book of Mormon Narrative

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:20 AM
Indiana Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Joe Spencer, University of New Mexico
Jan Shipps has argued that the Book of Mormon, because it is cast as an ancient historical narrative that prophesies of its own modern emergence through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, effected a "break in history" for early Latter-day Saints. One of the consequences of this break was, according to Shipps, a revitalization, among early Mormons, of robustly typological thinking about history. Shipps's attention to the role the Book of Mormon played---and plays---in the lived experience of Latter-day Saints is exemplary, but the nature of Mormon typological experience is drastically expanded or even radicalized in the actual theological content of the Book of Mormon, and the influence of this theological content on the lived experience of believing Mormons has arguably been longer lasting than that of the book's fulfillment of its own prophecies. In this paper, I will argue that the Book of Mormon makes typology less a question of drawing correlations between two radically separated eras, effectively transcendent to one another, and more a question of saturating the whole of history with an immanent typification that renders all time out of joint. I will further argue that this Book of Mormon notion of typology is profoundly rooted in the book's distinct notion of messianism (ultimately a structure of experienced time), a messianism that has passed over directly into the Mormon experience.