Book of Mormon Sleuth

Back Cover Text

I spun around to see what he was looking at. About a half mile upstream and coming straight for us was a huge boat. There was no chance that whoever was steering the thing would see our tiny raft before it smashed us to smithereens.

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Jeff said flatly.

“The Book of Mormon has an answer for every situation,” I said, reaching for my backpack.

“What! Are you crazy?” Jeff said, throwing his hands in the air. “I hate to break it to you, but this is no time to be reading the Book of Mormon!”

Oh, but it is. If there’s anything twelve-year-old Brandon has learned, it’s how to find answers to any need in the Book of Mormon. Whether it’s how to solve everyday problems, escape the clutches of a demented thief, or solve the mystery of Aunt Ella’s cellar, Brandon’s scriptures never fail him.

This entertaining and fast-paced novel will provide a greater appreciation for the book that the Prophet Joseph Smith called “the keystone of our religion” and help young readers learn how to apply its teachings in their lives.

Book Review

Reviewed by Jeff Needle
Published by Association for Mormon Letters

Let me begin with what usually ends a review — I loved this book! It was a pure delight to read.

The Book of Mormon Sleuth is the story of young Brandon Andrews, a typical, mischievous Mormon youth, a budding soccer star. The Andrews household is considerable — Mom and Dad, six children, and Granny, all living under one roof, and constantly getting in each others’ way.

One day Dad announces that the family will be spending their summer vacation months with Aunt Ella, a kindly relative who lives in Iowa on a dairy farm. This isn’t exactly how the children had planned to spend their summer, and they all wished that Mom and Dad had made other plans. This wouldn’t be their first visit to the dairy farm, and two of the children have big plans for the summer.

But Aunt Ella phones Brandon to tell him she has a big surprise for him, and will only hint at the surprise by making him look up certain scriptures in the Book of Mormon.

Turns out that Aunt Ella has an original Book of Mormon, with a “bookmark” — a piece of paper with some writing on it — that ostensibly leads to a “treasure.” Suddenly the trip to Aunt Ella’s is exciting!

But there’s trouble afoot. A man by the name of Dr. Anthony is after the “treasure map” in the Book, and he will stop at nothing to get that map. He presents himself as a scholar interested in this printing of the Book of Mormon, but he is actually a vicious, greedy man wanting nothing but material gain.

There are really two story lines in this book. The action mostly takes place as this Dr. Anthony pursues the family in their vacation travels. Several times he manages to corner Brandon and some of his siblings. The action scenes are written with rich detail and, to a young person, will be truly harrowing. And at each turn, the children follow the Scriptures and go to God in prayer. Of course, they are delivered from their situations.

The second story line is, I suspect, the main focus of the book — the value of the Scriptures in everyday life. Andersen goes to great lengths to invent situations where young people reading the book will be compelled to open their Scriptures in order to follow the story. At first, this Scripture study is a burden to Brandon, but as the story progresses, he begins to learn that it can be fun.

What a great lesson for children! Reading the Book of Mormon can be fun. Children can be taught to make Scripture study an adventure. But it takes time, and effort, on the part of adults to make it so.

Aunt Ella is a perfect example. Brandon, while exploring one of the underground storage areas on her farm, finds food items labeled, not with the name of the item, but with a Scripture reference. Sure enough, each reference refers to the food being stored — bread, honey, etc. What a great idea!

Part of the story takes the family to several Mormon historical sites, including Nauvoo. In the process, Dad teaches the children the highlights of Church history. In fact, one of the most exciting portions of the book has the evil Dr. Anthony pursuing two of the children through the underground tunnels beneath the old city. And the children are only able to escape by following Scripture-related clues engraven on the planks covering the tunnels!

This is Andersen’s first book. He’s a very good writer. I hope he continues his writings. He manages to tell the story from the standpoint of a young boy, with all the charm and innocence of youth. At one point, Aunt Ella instructs Brandon to look up every reference to the Liahona:

We read every reference I could find about the Liahona, and I learned several things that I hadn’t known before. First of all, it was made of brass, not gold. And it said that the writing on the ball gave them understanding about the Lord’s ways. I had always sort of thought it said things like “turn right at the second big rock” or something like that. (p. 119) I must admit Dad had tried to make traveling a little easier. The van is pretty big, and a couple of years ago he bought one of those little TV/VCR combos that he hooks up so everybody on the back two seats can watch videotapes as we travel.

The only problem is that our family’s pretty big, too. I haven’t mentioned Chelsea and Daniel before now. Chelsea’s five and Danny is three. That makes six kids and three adults, counting Granny. Even with one of those luggage bins on top of the van, by the time we got everybody’s junk in with all the people, there wasn’t much room left in our 12-seater MAV. (That’s what we call it — the Mormon Assault Vehicle.) And the rule with the TV in the van is this: If either Chelsea or Danny is unhappy in any way, then we have to watch something that they like to watch. I think it’s also part of the rule that if they happen to like a certain video, then we have to watch it as least twelve times before we can go to another tape. (p. 22)

Glimpses of everyday Mormon life are offered with humor and great sympathy. Here is how young Brandon depicts the process of packing their van for the long trip to Aunt Ella’s: Young people will certainly identify with this view of family life!

Andersen manages to tell the story from a first-person perspective, and that of a young boy, without resorting to peppering the text with easy code words like “cool” and “radical” and all the other stereotypical terms used by grown-ups when they’re trying to sound like kids.

I highly recommend this book for all ages. Children will love it — it’s an adventure sure to excite the imaginations of young people. And adults will benefit from this book. It will open their eyes to the possibilities of making Scripture study fun for their children.

And last, but certainly not least, when was the last time you were able to purchase a great book the whole family could enjoy for only $9.95?
Reviewed: 3 July 2000      Copyright © 2000 Jeff Needle
Reprinted by permission