Is the Book of Mormon the Great American Novel? Decades before Melville and Twain composed their great works, a farmhand and child seer named Joseph Smith unearthed a long-buried book from a haunted hill in western New York State that told of an epic history of ancient America, a story about a family that fled biblical Jerusalem and took a boat to the New World. Using his prophetic gift, Joseph translated the mysterious book into English and published it under the title The Book of Mormon. The book caused an immediate sensation, sparking anger and violence, boycotts and jealousy, curiosity and wonder, and launched Joseph on a wild, decades-long adventure across the American West.

Today The Book of Mormon, one of the most widely circulating works of American literature, continues to cause controversy—which is why most of us know very little about the story it tells.

Avi Steinberg wants to change that. A fascinated nonbeliever, Steinberg spent a year and a half on a personal quest, traveling the path laid out by Joseph’s epic. Starting in Jerusalem, where The Book of Mormon opens with a bloody murder, Steinberg continued to the ruined Maya cities of Central America—the setting for most of the The Book of Mormon’s ancient story—where he gallivanted with a boisterous bus tour of believers exploring Maya archaeological sites for evidence. From there the journey took him to upstate New York, where he participated in the true Book of Mormon musical, the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant. And finally Steinberg arrived at the center of the American continent, Jackson County, Missouri, the spot Smith identified as none other than the site of the Garden of Eden.

Threaded through this quirky travelogue is an argument for taking The Book of Mormon seriously as a work of American imagination. Literate and funny, personal and provocative, the genre-bending The Lost Book of Mormon boldly explores our deeply human impulse to write bibles and discovers the abiding power of story.
"[A] truly weird and beautiful memoir about an insane-sounding guy who retraces the geographical territory of the Book of Mormon in order to prove that it, the Book of Mormon, is the Great American Novel. If you need America to be reënchanted for you this year—and, let’s face it, who doesn’t?—pick this one up; you won’t regret it." —Elif Batuman, The New Yorker

"A multilayered narrative that grapples with some of the most fundamental questions of literature and of life ... [A] book about books, a story about stories, that sets out to explore why we tell them, how we craft them, and what makes some stand the test of time while others are forgotten." —Chicago Tribune

"It is as if [Steinberg] has managed to find a way of telling a Faulkneresque family saga through the form of a perfect sitcom ... [W]ith its vivid, honest and often hilarious prose The Lost Book of Mormon does justice to an electric text." —The Believer

"A wonderfully thoughtful exploration of how The Book of Mormon itself is obsessed with the idea of stories being preserved to be passed on, and what that might tell us about Joseph Smith not just as a prophet, but as a writer. There’s something almost holy about the way Steinberg celebrates the humanity revealed by this book." —Salt Lake City Weekly

"Steinberg’s epic voyage is one born of admiration, and it never loses the thrill of discovery ... Steinberg gracefully navigates the tricky line between fan and voyeur." —The Boston Globe

"[Written] with real humor and honest self-reflection." —Pacific Standard

"[T]he story of a winsome, questing narrator’s search for what it means to be a writer ... Steinberg is a funny and smart guide." —The Salt Lake Tribune

"Avi Steinberg cuts no corners as he ranges from a Mexican military checkpoint to a pageant in upstate New York, to retrace the founding myths of Mormonism. The Lost Book of Mormon isn't just a good cheat sheet for curious non-Mormons (though it is that). It's a funny, humane, surprisingly moving account of a literary pilgrimage. All scripture should have it this good." Kevin Roose, bestselling author of Young Money

"Without a doubt, The Lost Book of Mormon will soon have you buying more books: anything written by Avi Steinberg and, yeah, most likely, the actual Book of Mormon. Steinberg could write about what he did yesterday and it would be glorious." —Jacob Tomsky, New York Times bestselling author of Heads in Beds

"Steinberg's sardonic writing style is a delight ... Using Smith as a backdrop, this enjoyable read raises questions about what it means to be an author and what type of person becomes one. It will appeal to a variety of readers, particularly those that appreciate a biting wit." —Library Journal