Read the parent request to remove the Book of Mormon from some Utah schools

The requester says the text for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “very violent.”

(Associated Press | Rick Bowmer) The Book of Mormon is shown Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Salt Lake City. The religious text for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being challenged in Davis School District after a request for review was submitted on June 2, 2023.

The person asking for the Book of Mormon to be removed from a Utah school district claims in their challenge that the text is “very violent” — containing “murder, rape, and torture” that they suggest is inappropriate for children.

The exact wording of that complaint was released for the first time Friday by Davis School District after The Salt Lake Tribune filed a public records request for it. Previously, the district had declined to comment on exactly why the book was being challenged, which came shortly after Davis moved to ban the Bible from elementary and middle schools last week.

The Book of Mormon is the foundational text of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the faith believe it was translated from golden plates by church founder Joseph Smith.

The patron who submitted the request for the book to be reviewed — which came on June 2 — said the stories inside are filled with battles, beheadings and kidnappings.

“Nephi cuts off Laban’s head,” and his brothers are “constantly beating him up,” the request states. “There are also the war chapters of Alma that describes dead bodies littered across the land. The Nephites and Lamanites torture and murder each other. There is also burning people at the stake (Abinadi) and forced cannibalism (Moroni 9).”

The request adds that the Book of Mormon also contains sex and prostitution. “While this is framed as a sin, it is still mentioned,” the patron notes. “Further, the Lamanite women are kidnapped and raped in Mosiah 20.”

The reviewer then links to an online version of the scripture, pointing to a chapter with a heading describing torture and murder.

“I don’t want my child reading about murder, rape, and torture or learning that it is okay to murder somebody if God tells them to (Nephi),” the requester states.

The school district redacted the name of the requester, citing policy that a person asking for a book review “may indicate on the request form a desire for their identity to remain unknown.”

The religious text is the latest to be challenged in Davis, which has become ground zero in the Utah battle to ban books via a process passed into law last year.

The complaint for the Book of Mormon was submitted just one day after the district ruled on a previous request from December to ban the King James version of the Bible. That name of the person who submitted that request was also withheld by the district.

A district spokesperson declined to clarify whether the requests to review the religious texts were submitted by the same person or different people.

Davis School District has moved forward with a review committee’s recommendation to remove the common translation of the Bible from elementary and middle schools, saying it was found to have “vulgarity or violence” too mature for that age group of students.

It has been kept on high school library shelves, though, and other translations of the Bible have not been removed from the lower grades as those were not part of the original challenge.

That decision has already been appealed by a parent who would like the book to be accessible to all students.

A committee made up of three members of the district’s Board of Education will now consider that and make a recommendation on the appeal to the full board to vote on.

In a video shared with parents Thursday, Davis Superintendent Dan Linford asked for patience as that process plays out.

First reported by The Standard-Examiner, Linford said in the video: “Many know that I am a person of faith. And I believe the Bible is a sacred text. But it would be inappropriate for me to use my position as superintendent to project my own beliefs or opinions on the decision-making process, which is still underway.”

That message came in response to a rally at the Utah Capitol this week where several religious leaders and Republican lawmakers called for the Bible to be kept in schools.

Meanwhile, the Book of Mormon challenge is in the early phase and will be assigned to an initial committee of parents for review. It is listed as a challenge for Kaysville Junior High, but district spokesperson Christopher Williams said any decision that comes from review of a book is applied to all schools at that level and those below.

So in this case, any determination on the Book of Mormon would apply to all middle school and elementaries in the district.

Grant Hardy, a Latter-day Saint professor of history and religious studies at the University of North Carolina Asheville, told The Tribune last week that the Book of Mormon is “not particularly graphic, but kids tend to gravitate to the graphic parts that are there.”

Even still, he does not recommend that it be banned. Hardy urged readers to look at the text — and other religious scriptures — in context and with nuance.

Both the Bible and Book of Mormon complaints appear to have arisen out of frustration by parents who say they were tired of seeing the books that were being pulled out of schools at the request of conservative groups. Those organizations, including Utah Parents United, have largely targeted texts about the LGBTQ+ community that they say contain indecent material.

Spurred by those groups, the Utah Legislature passed a law in 2022 making the process to challenge books easier. Parents can now submit a complaint about a book they believe contains “pornographic or indecent material.”

The patron who requested the Bible be reviewed called it “one of the most sex-ridden books around” and said it should be removed if other titles, like “Gender Queer” — a graphic novel about the author’s journey of self-identity — are being removed.

That requester also included a list of citations in the Bible, including incest, bestiality and violence, that they said were inappropriate and should fit the “pornographic or indecent material” standard in the law.

The committee members who reviewed the complaint determined that the book did not violate that part of the law. But another portion of the state code allows them to limit what ages of students can access a text, which is how they came to their decision.

There have not been complaints filed on other religious texts, such as the Quran.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.