Please join me as I interview Dr. William L. Davis about his book “Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon.”

In this interdisciplinary work, William L. Davis examines Joseph Smith’s 1829 creation of the Book of Mormon, the foundational text of the Latter Day Saint movement. Positioning the text within the history of early American oratorical techniques, sermon culture, educational practices, and the passion for self-improvement, Davis elucidates both the fascinating cultural contexts for the creation of the Book of Mormon and the central role of oral culture in early nineteenth-century America.

Drawing on performance studies, religious studies, literary culture, and the history of early American education, Davis analyzes Smith’s process of oral composition. How did he produce a history spanning a period of 1,000 years, filled with hundreds of distinct characters and episodes, all cohesively tied together in an overarching narrative? Eyewitnesses claimed that Smith never looked at notes, manuscripts, or books—he simply spoke the words of this American religious epic into existence. Judging the truth of this process is not Davis’s interest. Rather, he reveals a kaleidoscope of practices and styles that converged around Smith’s creation, with an emphasis on the evangelical preaching styles popularized by the renowned George Whitefield and John Wesley.

William L. Davis, an independent scholar, holds a Ph.D. in theater and performance and has published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought; John Bunyan Studies: A Journal of Reformation and Nonconformist Culture; Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies; Style; Text and Performance Quarterly; and Textual Cultures.

Dr. William L. Davis’ book, “Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon” can be purchased in the following ways:

University of North Carolina Press



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  1. Charles Hawksford February 13, 2021 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Where were the plates while Joseph was doing all this stuff? Surely someone would have taken a peek—I would have.

  2. Becky April 2, 2021 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    This is the scholarly approach I’ve sought for decades. All that I once believed about Mormon beginnings has had to change, but the one thing that kept me conflicted was the fact that I found no convincing explanation as to how any young person, a backwoods farmer or a Yale graduate, could dictate a book as complicated, sophisticated, and spiritually compelling as the Book of Mormon – in just 65 days. I’ve known what the story “isn’t” for a very long time. But figuring out what it “is” or “could be” has been elusive. Until now. Thank you, Dr. William Davis. You are a gentleman and scholar of the highest caliber. I loved your interview with John Dehlin. I will be able to share this book with the believers in my family because of your respectful approach. I expect it to help bridge the gap between the believing heart and the truth-seeking mind.

    • William L. Davis August 21, 2021 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Becky, thank you for such a wonderful comment. Researchers love to know that their work is making a difference in someone’s life. I appreciate it very much!
      (Sorry for such a long delay in responding, but I just noticed the comment today!) Best wishes in your journey, William

  3. R Jones October 3, 2023 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Smith knew exactly what he was doing in his 19th Century “translation “ of a purported ancient text. To suggest he did not, is extremely naive or apologetic. Smith made it up as he went along over several years prior to 1830 consistent with various other fabrications he concocted during his lifetime.

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