Printed Journal Welcome to Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, the peer-reviewed journal of The Interpreter Foundation, a nonprofit, independent, educational organization focused on the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Non-print versions of our journal are available free of charge, with our goal to increase understanding of scripture. Our latest papers can be found below.

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Steadfast in Defense of Faith

Essays in Honor of Daniel C. Peterson

Edited by Shirley Ricks, Stephen D. Ricks, and Louis Midgley

Published by
The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books

For more information, go to
https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/steadfast-in-defense-of-faith/

Temples of the Imagination

AI-generated Temples, Human-Generated Insights

By Jeffrey Thayne and Nathan Richardson

Published by
The Interpreter Foundation, Verdant Press and Eborn Books

For more information, go to
https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/temples-of-the-imagination-ai-generated-temples-human-generated-insights/

2022 Temple on Mount Zion Conference

The Sixth Interpreter
Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference

Videos of the conference talks are now available at
https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/2022-temple-on-mount-zion-conference/
 

Mormon’s Narrative Strategies to Provide Literary Justice for Gideon

Abstract: Although unable to write more than a hundredth part of his people’s history, Mormon seemingly found the time and plate-space to deliver literary justice on behalf of Gideon, who suffered a martyr’s death at the hand of the wicked Nehor. This article applies a literary approach buttressed by evidence from the Book of Mormon to suggest that Mormon intentionally supplied tightly-controlled repetitive elements, like the repetition of names, to point the reader to discover multiple literary sub-narratives connected by a carefully crafted network of themes running under the main narratives of the scriptures. The theories espoused in this work may have begun with the recognition of the reader-arresting repetition of Gideon’s name in Alma 6:7-8, but driven by scriptural data points soon connected Gideon with Abinadi, the Ammonites, and others. The repetitive and referential use of the moniker Nehor, Gideon’s murderer, on various peoples by Mormon seemed to connect thematically and organically to a justice prophesied by Abinadi. In parallel with the theme of justice laid upon the Nehor-populations, evidence is marshaled to also suggest that Mormon referenced the place-name of Gideon to intentionally hearken back to the man Gideon. Following the role of Gideon, as a place, we propose Mormon constructed a path for the martyr Gideon via proxy to meet the resurrected Lord in Bountiful. Mormon’s concern for the individual and his technique for rewriting Gideon’s story through proxy ultimately symbolizes the role Christ’s atoning power can take in each of our lives to save us.

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Witness of the Covenant

Abstract: Although much has been taught about covenants in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, little attention has been given to the witnesses of those covenants. In this paper I focus on the importance of witnessing the covenants that we make with God — especially the gospel covenant — rather than on the process of making them. Instead of emphasizing the teachings of Latter-day Saint leaders and authors, I prioritize the standard works of the Church in my analysis of this topic. I begin with a discussion of covenants and witnesses in the Hebrew Bible, and then proceed with an examination of the same from the Book of Mormon. I identify the ordinances of baptism and the sacrament as witnesses of the gospel covenant and clarify that it is through the blood of Christ that we are cleansed from sin rather than through the waters of baptism. I conclude by observing the importance of faithfully witnessing the gospel covenant to serve God and keep his commandments.

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Turning Type into Pi:
The Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in Historical Context

Abstract: The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor has been portrayed as an event that stands out as a unique act where Joseph Smith and the Nauvoo City Council suppressed free speech. However, rather than being an anomaly, the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was historically and socially reflective of society in a volatile period in American history during which time several presses were destroyed and even editors attacked and killed.

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Joseph Smith at the Veil:
Significant Ritual, Symbolism, and Temple Influence at Latter-day Saint Beginnings

Abstract: The prophet Joseph Smith was paced through a life steeped in ritual and symbolism. Notable things Joseph did or experienced under angelic guidance may be seen as ritual procedures that may require careful consideration to discern their meaning, what they symbolize, their purpose, and their importance to the restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Failure to recognize the function of ritual has resulted in much misunderstanding and criticism of Joseph. Many of his early actions and procedures were closely related to the ancient temple. They amount to an anticipation and witness of the temple and its coming restoration through him. This will be illustrated in several ways, including the manner in which Joseph received and translated the plates of the Book of Mormon, a witness of Jesus Christ.

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“A Mystery to the World”:
A New Proposal for Isaiah 22:20-25

Abstract: Isaiah’s oracle in Isaiah 22 regarding a man named Eliakim employs significant and unique language regarding a “nail in a sure place.” This language is accompanied by clear connections to the ancient temple, including the bestowal of sacred clothing and authority, offering additional significant context through which to understand this phrase. Additionally, according to early leaders of the Church, this oracle may not be translated correctly into English, which has caused some confusion regarding the true meaning of the oracle’s conclusion. As such, I offer a new translation of this oracle based on intertextual clues that resolves some of the apparent issues regarding this text and further highlights the temple themes employed by Isaiah.

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Sacred Imaginings: Using AI to Construct Temples

Review of Jeffrey Thayne and Nathan Richardson, Temples of the Imagination: AI-Generated Temples, Human-Generated Insights (Provo, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, Verdant Press, and Eborn Books, 2023). 140 pages, $24.99 (softcover).

Abstract: We’re commanded to seek out of the best books words of wisdom, but how exactly do we seek? What are the best books? Temples of the Imagination uses cutting-edge technology to show its readers one futuristic way to incorporate this spiritual practice into their lives.

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“Upon the Wings of His Spirit”:
A Note on Hebrew RÛAḤ and 2 Nephi 4:25

Abstract: Nephi, in composing his psalm (2 Nephi 4:15–35), incorporates a poetic idiom from Psalm 18:10 (2 Samuel 22:11) and Psalm 104:3 to describe his participation in a form of divine travel. This experience constituted a part of the vision in which he saw “the things which [his] father saw” in the latter’s dream of the tree of life (see 1 Nephi 11:1–3; 14:29–30). Nephi’s use of this idiom becomes readily apparent when the range of meaning for the Hebrew word rûaḥ is considered. Nephi’s experience helps our understanding of other scriptural scenes where similar divine travel is described.

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Withstanding Satan’s Siege through Christ’s Iron Rod: The Vision of the Tree of Life in Context of Ancient Siege Warfare

Abstract: Nothing was more terrifying in the ancient world than a siege. Besiegers disregarded normal conventions of war and either utterly slaughtered or enslaved a city’s residents. Nephi used siege warfare imagery — including fire arrows, blinding, and being led away into captivity — to teach his brothers the importance of holding fast to Christ’s iron rod (see 1 Nephi 15:24). By analyzing this scripture and the vision of the Tree of Life in context of ancient siege warfare, we learn how Satan besieges God’s people, cuts off their access to the Tree of Life, draws them away through scorn, blinds them, and yokes them with a yoke of iron. Christ, in contrast, extends his iron rod through Satan’s siege, inviting us to hold fast to his word, accept him as our covenant family head, and join him in his work by speaking his word. Those who act on Christ’s invitation will find safety and joy in Christ’s kingdom.

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Credo

Abstract: The Restoration began with the stunning divine declaration to the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Christian sects of his day were “all wrong,” that “all their creeds were an abomination in [God’s] sight.” It’s a powerful condemnation, but what, exactly, does it mean? Later in his life, Joseph reflected that he felt that creeds set limits “and say ‘hitherto shalt thou come & no further’ — which I cannot subscribe to.” Certainly, as I realized during a wonderful musical experience many years ago, there is little if anything in one of the great ecumenical creeds with which a believing Latter-day Saint must, or even should, disagree.

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Nephi’s Eight Years in the “Wilderness”:
Reconsidering Definitions and Details

Abstract: A traditional reading of Nephi’s chronicle of the trek through Arabia relies heavily on two verses in 1 Nephi 17. In verse 4, Nephi states that they “did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness.” In verse 5, he reports that “we did come to the land which we called Bountiful.” The almost universal interpretation of these verses is that of sequential events: eight years traversing the arid desert of Western Arabia following which the Lehites entered the lush Bountiful for an unspecified time to build the ship. A question with the traditional reading is why a trip that could have taken eight months ostensibly took eight years. It may be that Nephi gave us that information. His “eight years” could be read as a general statement about one large context: the “wilderness” of all of Arabia. In other words, the “eight years in the wilderness” may have included both the time in the desert and the time in Bountiful. In this paper I examine the basis for such an alternative reading.

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The Nephite Metaphor of Life as a Probation: Rethinking Nephi’s Portrayal of Laman and Lemuel

Abstract: Commentaries on Nephi’s first book tend to interpret the fraternal struggles it reports as historical facts that are meant primarily to invite readers’ evaluative responses. While recognizing the historical character of the facts marshalled by Nephi, this paper will argue that the author transposes that history into an allegory meant to inspire his readers in all times and places to abandon prevailing metaphors of life that are focused on the attainment of worldly goods and pleasures. In their place, Nephi offers the revealed metaphor of life as a day of probation taught to him and his father in their great visions. God’s plan of salvation revealed to them made it clear that the welfare of each human being for eternity would be determined by a divine judgment on how effectively their lives had been transformed by their adherence to the gospel of Jesus Christ in mortality. The message of 1 Nephi is that all men and women are invited to let the Spirit of the Lord soften their hearts and lead them into his covenant path wherein he can prepare them to enter into his presence at the end.

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A Truly Remarkable Book

Review of John Gee, Saving Faith: How Families Protect, Sustain, And Encourage Faith (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2020). 313 pages.

Abstract: Saving Faith is a truly excellent book, designed especially for families concerned about their children. It is also a book appropriate for those getting ready to serve as missionaries, or for newly married couples, young couples about to be married, or even for those about to bring children into this world to undergo their mortal probation.

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A Prophet, a Candidate, and a Just Cause

Review of Spencer W. McBride, Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassins, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021). 269 pages, $29.95 (hardcover).

Abstract: Spencer McBride’s book is the deepest look yet into Joseph Smith’s 1844 campaign for president of the United States. In smooth-paced and readable detail, McBride’s work expertly demonstrates the unique Latter-day Saint genesis for the campaign and how it fit into the wider American social-political environment. Its message regarding religious liberty is as applicable today as it was nearly two centuries ago.

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Moses as Midwife:
What the Exodus Birth Story Teaches about Motherhood and Christ

Abstract: This work explores an alternative interpretation of the Exodus narrative as a metaphor for childbirth. Gleaning from Old Testament and Judaic sources, we find rich female birth and salvific imagery in the saga of the migration of the children of Israel and the Passover itself. This perspective of sacred childbirth, when coupled with traditional Christian interpretations of the first Passover, ultimately paints an enhanced picture of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

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Verbal Punctuation in the
Book of Mormon II — nevertheless

Abstract: One example of verbal punctuation that has a very clear pattern of usage in the Book of Mormon is the term nevertheless. It is used to draw a marked contrast between what the previous text would lead one to expect and what follows it. It is not clear what the ancient antecedent to the term might be and the English term and usage might be an artefact of the translation process. The frequency and usage of nevertheless in the Book of Mormon contrasts with the way that Joseph Smith’s writings use it.

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“I Will Come to You”:
An Investigation of Early Christian Beliefs about Post-Ascension Visitations of the Risen Jesus

Abstract: While later Creedal Christians have come to view “the Ascension” recorded in the first chapter of Acts as a conclusive corporeal appearance of the Resurrected Lord, earliest Christians do not appear to have conceived of this appearance as “final” in any temporal or experiential sense. A careful investigation of canonical resurrection literature displays a widespread Christian belief in continued and varied interaction with the risen Lord relatively late into the movements’ development. Stringent readings of Luke’s account of the Ascension in Acts suggesting that Christ will not return until his second coming fail to consider the theological rhetoric with which Luke conveys the resurrection traditions he relied on in composing his account. Analysis of Luke’s narrative displays that his presentation of these traditions is shaped in a way to stress the primacy of the apostolic Easter experiences in establishing the apostles as authoritative “witnesses” in the early church over and against possible competing authoritative claims stemming from purported experiences with the risen Lord.

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“They Shall Be Scattered Again”:
Some Notes on JST Genesis 50:24–25, 33–35

Abstract: This article examines the extension of the etiological wordplay on the name Joseph (in terms of the Hebrew verbs ʾāsap and yāsap), recurrent in the canonical text of Genesis, into the JST Genesis 50 text, where Joseph learns about and prophesies of a future “Joseph” who would help gather Israel after they had been “scattered again” by the Lord. This article also analyzes the pairing of the prophetic and seeric roles of Moses and the latter-day “Joseph” at the beginning and ending of JST Genesis and explores the significance of this framing. The importance of Moses and Joseph Smith writing the word of the Lord in order to fulfill their prophetic responsibility to “gather” Israel emerges.

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Doctrine and Covenants 21:
Metanarrative of the Restoration

Abstract: Joseph Smith dictated Doctrine and Covenants 21 at the inaugural meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ on April 6, 1830. The present study examines the literary craftsmanship of the revelation to plumb the depths of its role in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The analysis explores the meaning of patterns of usage in the text from the most specific (diction, syntax, figures of speech) to the most general (tone, rhetoric, and structural logic). The hypothesis of this study is that Doctrine and Covenants 21 provides a metanarrative of the Restoration — that is, a set of governing principles and guidelines for keeping the official record of the gospel’s final dispensation.

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The Holy Ghost in the Book of Moroni: Possessed of Charity

Abstract: The role played by the Holy Ghost is an especially important connecting thread that runs through the Book of Moroni. The book illuminates the various ways in which the Holy Ghost transforms fallen human beings into redeemed members of the kingdom of God. Three phrases — “cleave unto charity,” “possessed of it,” and “that ye may be filled with this love” — are particularly revelatory of the role the Holy Ghost plays in our exaltation. But the positive process illuminated by these phrases has an obverse. Those who reject the Holy Ghost cleave to and are possessed of Satan. They are filled with his hatred. Though his message is primarily positive, Moroni has witnessed and describes what happens to those who reject the influence of the Holy Ghost.

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The Dance of Reader and Text:
Salomé, the Daughter of Jared, and the Regal Dance of Death

Abstract: Modern readers too often and easily misread modern assumptions into ancient texts. One such notion is that when the reader encounters repeated stories in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Herodotus, or numerous other texts, the obvious explanation that requires no supporting argument is that one text is plagiarizing or copying from the other. Ancient readers and writers viewed such repetitions differently. In this article, I examine the narratives of a young woman or girl dancing for a king with the promise from the ruler that whatever the dancer wants, she can request and receive; the request often entails a beheading. Some readers argue that a story in Ether 8 and 9, which has such a dance followed by a decapitation, is plagiarized from the gospels of Mark and Matthew: the narrative of the incarceration and death of John the Baptist. The reader of such repeated stories must study with a mindset more sympathetic to the conceptual world of antiquity in which such stories claim to be written. Biblical and Book of Mormon writers viewed such repetitions as the way God works in history, for Nephi asserts that “the course of the Lord is one eternal round” (1 Nephi 10:19), a claim he makes barely after summarizing his father’s vision of the tree of life, a dream he will repeat, expand upon, and make his own in 1 Nephi chapters 11–15 (and just because it is developed as derivative from his father’s dream in some way, no reader suggests it be taken as a plagiaristic borrowing). Nephi’s worldview is part of the shared mental system illustrated by his eponymous ancestor — Joseph, who gave his name to the two tribes of Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh, the latter through which Lehi traced his descent (Alma 10:3) — for youthful Joseph boasts two dreams of his ascendance over his family members, interprets the two dreams of his fellow inmates, and articulates the meaning of Pharaoh’s two dreams, followed by his statement of meaning regarding such [Page 2]repetitions: “And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” (Genesis 41:32).

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