What is the Book of Mormon?
Yet another strictly religious (well maybe philosophical or epistemological as well) post:
Lately I have wanted to learn precisely from the Book of Mormon what the Book of Mormon is. There are several new approaches taken by critics of the Book and/or the LDS Church that attack some of the beliefs that are derived (accurately or not) from the Book of Mormon. One of the more publicized in this genre is the "Lamanite DNA" argument, that claims A. Book of Mormon (BoM) says the Lamanites are American Indians, B. the Lamanites are descendants from Jerusalem and are of the tribes of Israel (Ephraim and Mannasseh), C. American Indians (or some of them) appear by DNA evidence to not be descended of Jerusalem, therefore D. the BoM's claim to historicity is largely shot since its people are not from where they claim to be from. That's merely a shell outline.
But I wonder what the Book says about itself, and if the claims that are associated with the BoM are textual claims, or inferences made by readers and even church leaders as to its nature.
For example, when I talk about what the BoM says about itself, one of the most pervasive descriptors that the Book of Mormon self-applies is that it is true. It is true and it is good, and it is true because it is good, is what I think the message of Moroni (the book, not the man) is.
A related issue is whether we can apply the claims of the part to the claims of the whole. Can Nephi's declaration, for example, that he "will show you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen" be applied to that which was written by Brother of Jared, and redacted by Moroni, or is it valid precedent for the recording preachings of Amulek the convert?
More generally, what are the claims of the BoM textually? What claims seem to have been stacked on the BoM over time, by its friends or enemies, that seem without textual foundation?