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The Voice of the People: Political Rhetoric in the Book of Mormon is the final volume in the Groundwork: Studies in Scripture and Theology series published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU. The book also represents the culmination of twenty years of study and thought by its author, David Charles Gore. Dr. Gore is an associate professor and department head in the Department of Communication at University of Minnesota Duluth. A good portion of his academic career has been spent in study and teaching about the history and theory of rhetoric. 

As he states in a blog post published on the Maxwell Institute blog, “[o]ne of the aims of The Voice of the People is to search for an implicit theory of rhetoric in the Book of Mormon.”[1] He aims to show how figures in the Book of Mormon engaged with their audiences and their ideas, and in what ways they were able to reach them. As he states, “Arguing with another person, making arguments rather than having an argument, appealing to their reason and emotion as well as to their historical situation, is a sign of great respect.”[2]

In the pursuit of this endeavor, the author focuses in on three chapters of the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 29, Alma 1, and Alma 2. These cover an incredibly tumultuous period in Nephite history including Mosiah2’s dissolution of the Nephite monarchy, the establishment of the Reign of the Judges, the brief career of the antichrist Nehor, and concluding in the Amlicite Civil War. There is a great deal of material to work with here.  

One of the fascinating insights which Gore establishes are the similarities between the prophet Samuel of the Old Testament and King Mosiah2. He refers to them, in fact, as precise opposites of each other. “Mosiah is the last in a line of kings who establishes a reign of judges…the mirror image of Samuel—the last in a line of judges who establishes a reign of kings.”[3] They share a number of other similarities, both in their personal histories and their anxieties and concerns for their people. Perhaps most interestingly, they are both encouraged by the Lord to follow “the voice of the people”, a phrase which repeated occurs throughout the Book of Mormon, but only once in the Old Testament in the case of Samuel.[4]

Beyond this, Gore also discusses the powerful effects which Mosiah2’s translation of the Jaredite record had upon him and his decisions on what to do with the Nephite monarchy in the wake of his sons declining the throne. Perhaps witnessing the same weaknesses that had led to the downfall of the ancient Jaredites led Mosiah2 to undertake “to establish a form of government that could endure civil war and avoid the fate of the Jaredites…”[5] After seeking the will of his people and finding that they desired a king, Gore shows how Mosiah2 “employs a didactic rhetorical mode.”[6] He contrasts the behavior of both himself and his righteous father, King Benjamin, with the behavior of the wicked King Noah, and the sufferings that the latter inflicted on his own people. In this way, Gore demonstrates how Mosiah2 teaches the people about the dangers of monarchy, while also offering up a defense of it. As Gore says, the king does this, not to confuse, but “to draw a sharp ethical picture between just and unjust rulers.”[7] The chapter-long breakdown of Mosiah2’s potential thought-process and rhetoric is a rewarding read. 

More can be said about some of Gore’s insights, such as his discussion of the belief systems of Alma the Younger and Nehor. Adapting the work of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, he contrasts the two systems as “being-with-and-for-others” and “being-in-and-for-oneself.”[8] In addition, at the conclusion of his book, he gives short mention to how future works will “seek out the Book of Mormon’s relationship to Egyptian culture and religion, sculpted and cast as it originally was in a reformed Egyptian tongue.”[9] This is an interesting topic that we hope will see additional publication and treatment.

While there are excellent insights within its pages, the book does have some shortcomings. At times, Gore is not always focused in his writing, and his analyses sometimes wanders from topic-to-topic. If a reader is not paying careful attention, they may miss some points which the author is trying to elucidate. Despite the book’s relatively small size – only 201 pages – its chapters are perhaps too long and try to cover too much. The book would have benefited from being divided into additional sections, preventing fatigue on the part of the reader and providing additional focus on the points which Gore was working to make. 

All in all, the book does an excellent job working to expand the reader’s understanding of the fast-paced series of events that take place in Mosiah 29 through Alma 2. It is hopeful that Dr. Gore continues his contributions to the field of Book of Mormon studies and the work that he has begun here. With both its good insights and affordable price, The Voice of the People: Political Rhetoric in the Book of Mormon is recommended both for lay and experienced readers alike.


[1] David Charles Gore, “What Does the Book of Mormon Have to Say About Today’s Political Rhetoric?,” Maxwell Institute Blog, August 5, 2019, https://mi.byu.edu/gore-voice-of-the-people/.

[2] David Charles Gore, The Voice of the People: Political Rhetoric in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2019), 184

[3] Gore, Voice of the People, 36.

[4] Gore, Voice of the People, 36.

[5] Gore, Voice of the People, 95.

[6] Gore, Voice of the People, 99.

[7] Gore, Voice of the People, 99.

[8] Gore, Voice of the People, 134.

[9] Gore, Voice of the People, 196. Gore’s discussion of the topics occurs throughout pages 196 to 201.

Jared Riddick is a graduate student at the University of North Texas, pursuing a Masters in Library Science. He previously graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a Bachelor of Arts in History Education. He is currently the archivist for Book of Mormon Central, based in Springville, UT. His areas of academic interest include the Book of Mormon and the American Civil War.

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