Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Response to Adam Gopnik's "I, Nephi": Introduction to the Series

The August 13 & 20, 2012, issue of The New Yorker magazine (cover pictured) features an article by a leading cultural critic, Adam Gopnik, titled “I, Nephi: Mormonism and Its Meanings.” The New Yorker has long been renowned for the thoughtfulness and depth of its analysis of social and cultural issues. Having heard in advance that the magazine was soon to feature a piece on Mormonism by staff writer Gopnik, I was eager to open my issue of the magazine, which arrived in my mailbox on Monday, August 6th.

I could not have been more disappointed. Gopnik calls the LDS Church a “cult” and a “strange faith,” without ever defining his terms. His article is full of inaccuracies about the Book of Mormon and its place within today’s LDS faith. Gopnik seems to have bought into the ‘it’s-all-about-the-money’ approach to Mormonism promoted by a recent article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and he furthers that approach as a way to interpret the inner meanings of Mormonism. Just to list everything inaccurate and objectionable about Gopnik’s article would take up a long blog post. The magazine’s online audio podcast of Gopnik discussing his article with two other New Yorker staffers (Avi Steinberg and Sasha Weiss) did nothing to improve Gopnik’s accuracy or the depth of his analysis.

I have composed a response to Gopnik’s article in the form of a letter to the editor, a response which already has been submitted to the magazine. (If it is not published, I shall make it available as part of this blog series.) However, the size limitations on letters to the editor are quite constricting. Gopnik’s article, because of the stature of The New Yorker (and its one-million-plus paid circulation), and because of Gopnik’s stature as a writer and cultural critic, will carry a lot of weight with educated opinion makers throughout the United States; consequently, the many inaccuracies of fact and miscarriages of interpretation contained in Gopnik’s article will be widely spread throughout American culture, and should be addressed in detail.

For these reasons, I will be running a series of posts in response to Gopnik’s article on this blog, over the next few weeks. For convenience, I will treat this post as an anchor and a sort of table of contents for the entire series; below, you will find links to the various posts in this series. I invite you, the reader, to be a part of this conversation, through the Comment feature on each post.

Posts in this Series: Response to Adam Gopnik’s “I, Nephi”

Part 1: Introduction to the Series (this post)

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Copyright © 2012 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

[The image of the cover of The New Yorker issue of August 13 & 20, 2012, was obtained from the website of the magazine.]


  1. Thanks for critique, I hadn't gotten to his article. Not sure I need to now.

  2. Thanks for dropping in, Anonymous. Not that you're asking my opinion, but I would recommend that people do read his article. I'd be curious as to what you think of my critique after you do so. Be well.


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