Washington » Sen. Bob Bennett knows The Book of Mormon is true, and in a new book he tells others how he came to that conclusion.
The book, published by LDS Church-owned Deseret Book, comes as the Utah Republican faces a tough re-election challenge from within his own party ranks. In fact, Deseret Book's news release was issued the same day the conservative group Club for Growth launched a blistering attack on Bennett's bipartisan health-care-reform bill co-sponsored by Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden.
Bennett's campaign says the timing of the book's release has nothing to do with politics, resting entirely in the hands of the publisher.
In the book, Leap of Faith , Bennett applies four forgery tests to determine whether the book is a fake, according to the news release.
Deseret Book said Bennett decided to write the book after becoming upset with the "shallow" media coverage of The Book of Mormon leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
"Most of it was evenhanded, but publications that discussed The Book of Mormon in any degree of detail almost universally treated it as a fabrication," Bennett said in a release, "one whose claims and history were so bizarre that no one with any common sense could believe it to be authentic."
The Book of Mormon, according to the LDS Church, was translated from ancient gold plates revealed by an angel to church founder Joseph Smith. It is held out as the documented history of God's interactions with Israelites who came to America before the birth of Jesus Christ.
Bennett acknowledges that the book "requires a leap of faith" to believe.
"I offer it in the hope it will convince all who have an interest in The Book of Mormon, be they believers or skeptics, that any decision with respect to its origins requires a leap of faith," Bennett wrote in the preface to his 318-page book.
The three-term senator faces three GOP competitors in his 2010 re-election bid, all of them portraying themselves as more conservative alternatives to the incumbent.
The timing of the book's release immediately raised questions about political motives.
"Certainly, it's hard to believe it is purely a coincidence that the same time he's running for re-election he's also working on this book and releasing it in advance of the [potential] primary," said University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank.
Under Utah's system, the top two vote-getters in a state Republican convention face off in a primary unless one secures 60 percent of the delegate vote -- and thus the nomination -- at the convention.
Burbank, though, said Bennett might be trying to answer a question that voters don't have: They already know he is Mormon. But he says it likely will give him a buzz in LDS circles.
"It may remind some people that they like him," Burbank said, "but I doubt it will change anybody's mind."
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who is soon to release his own book on the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scott ruling, said he doesn't believe Bennett's book has anything to do with the election.
But another GOP challenger, Tim Bridgewater, wasn't so sure.
"The timing seems strange, but other than that I'll reserve judgment until having read the book," he said.
The campaign denied any political motive in the book's publication.
The senator's son and campaign manager, Jim Bennett, said the campaign has no involvement in the book and Deseret Book was responsible for the timing of its release.
"This book is in the works for something around seven years," Jim Bennett said. "This has been going through the editing process at Deseret Book for quite some time. No one anticipated one way or another what the political climate would be when this was released."
Bennett, according to the news release, honed his skills in applying forgery tests while working as public-relations director for the late billionaire Howard Hughes. Bennett previously applied similar tests to disprove Clifford Irving's supposedly authorized Hughes biography, which infamously turned out to be a hoax, and later the fake Hughes' will purporting to leave a big part of his fortune to Utah gas-station owner Melvin Dummar.
Bennett's book applies four approaches: Is the book consistent within itself? Is there evidence to back up the book's claims? Would someone have a motive to fake the book? Is there a revelation in the book that someone faking the text would not have known at the time?
His findings? Bennett says that there are legitimate issues with the book and that he fairly addresses those rather than hide them. Deseret Book calls it a "remarkably balanced approach."
In the end, the book's conclusion is that it takes faith to believe the origins of The Book of Mormon.
"No one should make that leap without having heard all sides of the argument," Bennett writes in the preface.
Leap of Faith: Confronting the Origins of the Book of Mormon
Deseret Book, hardcover, $29.95