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.

Interpreter's Mission Statement
Read the journal
Learn more about the Board
Find out how you can donate
Contact the Editorial Board

This week
in history

“A Life Lived in Crescendo”:
Selected Punctuation Marks of Joseph Smith’s Final Years

A “Come, Follow Me” Virtual Fireside Series

Sponsored by
The Interpreter Foundation, Book of Mormon Central, FAIR, & Meridian Magazine

Next Fireside: Sunday, December 19, at 6:00 PM MST
Delayed due to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional
Joseph Smith’s Teachings and Practices Relating to Eternal Marriage and the Eternal Family
with Barbara Morgan Gardner

To watch the upcoming Fireside and the final videos of previous Firesides, go to
https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/a-life-lived-in-crescendo-firesides/live-stream/

For more information including schedule, abstracts, and presenters, go to
https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/a-life-lived-in-crescendo-firesides/

The Word of the Lord as a Metonym for Christ

Abstract: The word of the Lord and the word of God are common expressions in the Bible. Frequently, these phrases refer to the written or spoken covenantal words of God to his people as given through the prophets. However, exegetical study of these expressions has revealed that they also serve as metonyms, or substitutions for the name of God himself. In this paper I explore these metonymous usages of the Word of the Lord and the Word of God as stand-ins for Christ in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon.

Continue reading

The Book of Mormon’s
Complex Finite Cause Syntax

Abstract: This paper describes and compares the Book of Mormon’s 12 instances of complex finite cause syntax, the structure exemplified by the language of Ether 9:33: “the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more.” This is not King James language or currently known to be pseudo-archaic language (language used by modern authors seeking to imitate biblical or related archaic language), but it does occur in earlier English, almost entirely before the year 1700. In the Book of Mormon, the syntax is always expressed with the modal auxiliary verbs should and shall. Twenty-five original examples of this specific usage have been identified so far outside of the Book of Mormon (not counting two cases of creative biblical editing — see the appendix). The text’s larger pattern of clausal verb complementation after the verb cause, 58 percent finite in 236 instances, is utterly different from what we encounter in the King James Bible and pseudo-archaic texts, which are 99 to 100 percent infinitival in their clausal complementation. The totality of the evidence indicates that Joseph Smith would not have produced this causative syntax of the Book of Mormon in a pseudo-archaic effort. Therefore, this dataset provides additional strong evidence for a revealed-words view of the 1829 dictation.

Continue reading

The Book of Moses as a Temple Text

Abstract: In this fascinating article, Jeff Bradshaw details how the Book of Moses might be understood as a temple text, including elements of temple architecture, furnishings, and ritual in the story of the Creation and the Fall. Bradshaw shows how the second half of the Book of Moses follows a general pattern of a specific sequence of covenants that will resonate with members of the Church who have received the temple endowment. The story of Enoch and his people provides a vivid demonstration of the final steps on the path that leads back to God and exaltation.

Continue reading

Abraham’s Amen and Believing in Christ: Possible Applications in the Book of Mormon Text

Abstract: Following the discovery of delocutive verbs and their likely usage in the Hebrew Bible, Meredith Kline proposed that the verb האמין (he’emin) in Genesis 15:6 — traditionally interpreted as a denominative verb meaning “he believed” — should be understood as a delocutive verb meaning “he declared ‘amen.’” Rather than reading Genesis 15:6 as a passive statement — Abraham believed in Yahweh — Kline argued that we should interpret this verse in the active sense, that Abraham vocally declared his amen in Yahweh’s covenantal promise. In this light, I have analyzed various passages in the Book of Mormon that utilize similar verbiage — “believe in Christ,” for example — to examine how their meanings might be enhanced by interpreting the verbs as delocutives rather than denominatives.

Continue reading

Personal Relative Pronoun Usage in the Book of Mormon:
An Important Authorship Diagnostic

Abstract: This study compares personal relative pronoun usage in the earliest text of the Book of Mormon with 11 specimens of Joseph Smith’s early writings, 25 pseudo-archaic texts, the King James Bible, and more than 200,000 early modern (1473–1700) and late modern (1701–1800+) texts. The linguistic pattern of the Book of Mormon in this domain — a pattern difficult to consciously manipulate in a sustained manner — uniquely points to a less-common early modern pattern. Because there is no matching of the Book of Mormon’s pattern except with a small percentage of early modern texts, the indications are that Joseph Smith was neither the author nor the English-language translator of this pervasive element of the dictation language of the Book of Mormon. Cross-verification by means of large database comparisons and matching with one of the finest pseudo-archaic texts confirm these findings.

Continue reading

A Sympathetic but Flawed Look at Book of Mormon Historicity

Review of Terrence J. O’Leary, Book of Mormon: A History of Real People in Real Places (Pennsauken, NJ: BookBaby, 2020). 274 pages. Softcover, $20.

Abstract: Terrence O’Leary enters the field of books attempting to describe a geographical and cultural background to the Book of Mormon. Placing the action of the text in Mesoamerica, O’Leary explains the Book of Mormon against his understanding of the geography and therefore culture of the Book of Mormon peoples. He begins with the Jaredites, then moves to the Nephites and Mulekites. Along the way, he uses historical data to back up his ideas. While I agree with much of what he has written in principle, his lack of expertise in the cultures of Mesoamerica leads to times when he incorrectly uses some of his sources.

Continue reading

Oh, That I Were an Angel!

Abstract: Alma’s conversion experience was both unusual and unusually powerful, and yet he fervently wished that he could provide others with the same experience. So much so, in fact, that he actually feared that he might be sinning in his wish by seeming to oppose the will of God. Increasingly, though, I find myself sharing that wish. My involvement with the Interpreter Foundation can correctly be regarded as one manifestation of that fact. I invite others to join us.

Continue reading

Tamid: Zacharias and the Second Temple

Abstract: This essay follows Zacharias’ biography from entering the priesthood till the day the angel Gabriel appeared to him in Herod’s temple. After recounting the procedures to become a priest, Brown focuses on the day when Zacharias prepared to bring one of the two central standing offerings. He points out that likely, a priest would only have a once in a lifetime chance to partake in the core of this ceremony, entering the Holy Room and burning incense on the Inner Altar. Brown paints a very visual picture of this day, immersing us in the ritual of the time, a ritual that became even more significant for Zacharias by seeing an angel in the temple, something that has not happened before nor after in the Second Temple.

Continue reading

Mine House is a House of Zion and not a House of Babylon!

Abstract: In Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 we read: “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” I propose that the words “order” and “confusion” in this passage are literary allusions to the ideals, constructs, and outcomes that embody Zion and Babylon, respectively. In other words, God’s house is a house of Zion and not a house of Babylon.

Continue reading

Moses 6–7 and the Book of Giants:
Remarkable Witnesses of Enoch’s Ministry

Abstract: The Book of Giants (BG), an Enoch text found in 1948 among the Dead Sea Scrolls, includes a priceless trove of stories about the ancient prophet and his contemporaries, including unique elements relevant to the Book of Moses Enoch account. Hugh Nibley was the first to discover in the BG a rare personal name that corresponds to the only named character in the Book of Moses besides Enoch himself, a finding that some non-Latter-day Saint Enoch scholars considered significant. Since Nibley’s passing, the growth of new scholarship on ancient Enoch texts has continued unabated. While Nibley’s pioneering research compared the names and roles of one character in Moses 6–7 and BG, scholars have now been able to examine the names and roles of nearly all of the prominent figures in the two books and analyze their respective accounts in more detail. Not only are the overall storylines of the two independent accounts more similar than could have imagined a few years ago, a series of recent studies have added substance to the claim that the specific resemblances of the Book of Giants to Moses 6–7—resemblances that are rare or absent elsewhere in Jewish tradition—are more numerous and significant than the resemblances of any other single ancient Enoch text—or, for that matter, to all of the most significant extant Enoch texts combined. Of particular note is new evidence in BG that relates to the Book of Moses account of Enoch’s gathering of Zion to divinely prepared cities and the ascent of his people to the presence of God.
Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of Korihor,
a Zoramite: A New Look at the Failed Mission of an Agent of Zoram

Abstract: The accounts of the Anti-Christ, Korihor, and of Alma’s mission to the Zoramites raise a variety of apparently unanswered questions. These involve Korihor’s origins, the reason for the similarity of his beliefs to those of the Zoramites, and why he switched so quickly from an atheistic attack to an agnostic plea. Another intriguing question is whether it was actually the devil himself who taught him what to say and sent him on a mission to the land of Zarahemla — or was it a surrogate of the devil or a human “devil” such as, perhaps, Zoram? Final questions are how Korihor ended up in Antionum, why the Zoramites would kill a disabled beggar, and why nobody seemed to have mourned his violent death or possibly unrighteous execution. There are several hints from the text that suggest possible answers to these intriguing questions. Some are supported by viewing the text from a parallelistic or chiastic perspective.

Continue reading

An Ishmael Buried Near Nahom

Abstract: Latter-day Saint scholars generally agree that “the place called… Nahom,” where Ishmael was buried (1 Nephi 16:34) is identified as the Nihm tribal region in Yemen. Significantly, a funerary stela with the name y s1mʿʾl — the South Arabian equivalent of Ishmael — was found near the Nihm region and dated to ca. 6th century bc. Although it cannot be determined with certainty that this is the Ishmael from the Book of Mormon, circumstantial evidence suggests that such is a possibility worth considering.

Continue reading

Ancient Sacred Vestments:
Scriptural Symbols and Meanings

Abstract: In this essay Parry starts with the symbology of ritual vestments, and then discusses in detail how the ancient clothing worn in Old Testament temples are part of the rituals and religious gestures that are conducted by those who occupy the path that leads from the profane to the sacred. The profane is removed, one is ritually washed, anointed, invested with special clothing, offers sacrifices, is ordained (hands are filled), and offers incense at the altar, before entering the veil. Putting on clothes, in a Christian context, is often seen as symbol of putting on Christ, as witnessed by the apostle Paul using the word “enduo,” when talking about putting on Christ, a word mainly used in the Septuagint for donning sacred vestments (symbols also for salvation, righteousness, glory, strength and resurrection) in order to be prepared to stand before God. Parry then goes on explaining how priestly officiants wearing sacred vestments, emulated celestial persons who wear sacred vestments, making one an image of those celestial persons. He concludes with showing how the ancient garbs of the High Priest point to Christ.

Continue reading

Be Ye Therefore Loyal, Even as Your Father Which is in Heaven is Loyal

Abstract: The scriptures are saturated with covenantal words and terms. Any serious or close reading of the scriptures that misses or ignores the covenantal words, phrases, and literary structure of scripture runs the risk of missing the full purpose of why God preserved the scriptures for us. This is especially true for the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon, which emerged out of an Old Testament cultural context. Research during the past century on ancient Near Eastern covenants has brought clarity to the covenantal meaning and context of a variety of words and literary structures in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. This article builds on that revealing research to show that the English word “perfect” in a covenantal context in scripture can also be represented with the covenantal synonyms of “loyal, loyalty, faithful, and trustworthy.” God has revealed and preserved the scriptures as records of these covenants and of the consequences of covenantal loyalty or disloyalty. The Lord’s injunction to “be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48) is beautifully magnified when we realize that we are not simply asked to be without sin, but, rather, to “be ye therefore covenantally loyal” even as God has been eternally and covenantally loyal to us.

Continue reading

Celebrating Exactitude,
When It’s Appropriate

Abstract: It’s almost always better to be right than to be wrong, to be exact than to be sloppy. In scholarship generally and serious scriptural study specifically, it’s important to work toward precision in both interpretation and explanation. However, the Lord is fully capable of reaching us where we are, despite our imperfect languages and our limited capacities. “These commandments are of me,” he says at D&C 1:24, “and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.”

Continue reading

Framing the Book of Abraham:
Presumptions and Paradigms

Review of Dan Vogel, Book of Abraham Apologetics: A Review and Critique (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2021). 250 pp. $18.95 (softback).

Abstract: The Book of Abraham continues to undergo scrutiny in both academic and polemical publications. The latest offering of substance in the latter category, Dan Vogel’s Book of Abraham Apologetics: A Review and Critique, criticizes the work of those who argue for the antiquity and inspiration of the Book of Abraham and makes a sustained argument that the book is, instead, modern pseudepigrapha written by a pious fraud (Joseph Smith) in the nineteenth century. Book of Abraham Apologetics lays out a particular naturalistic approach to this text that works best only when certain metaphysical and methodological assumptions are taken for granted. This approach, however, as well as most of his arguments against the Book of Abraham’s historicity, are severely undermined both by Vogel’s inability to properly assess the evidence and his metaphysical or ideological commitments. This review critiques Vogel’s critique of Book of Abraham apologetics and offers an alternative to his questionable framing of the text and its interpretation.

Continue reading

An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses

Abstract: This study argues that the Book of Moses was an early Christian text. The book’s language, literary genre, and references to its own production could fit with a date in the late first century ad. Further, the study argues that a possible ritual context of the book was a baptismal ritual, as suggested by the detailed description of Adam’s baptism in Moses 6. A comparison between the content of the Book of Moses and early Christian sources on baptism shows some close resemblances, which may suggest that the Book of Moses was read aloud, and perhaps portrayed as a ritual drama, on sacred space during a baptismal ritual.

Continue reading

The People of Canaan:
A New Reading of Moses 7

Abstract: Moses 7 is one of the most famous passages in all of Restoration scripture. It is also one of the most problematic in regard to its description of the people of Canaan as black (v. 8) and as a people who were not preached to by the patriarch Enoch (v. 12). Later there is also a mention of “the seed of Cain,” who also are said to be black (v. 22). This article examines the history of interpretation of Moses 7 and proposes an alternative understanding based on a close reading of the text. In contrast to traditional views, it argues that the reason for Enoch’s not preaching to the people of Canaan stems not from any sins the people had committed or from divine disfavor but from the racial prejudice of the other sons of Adam, the “residue of the people” (vv. 20, 22) who ironically are the only ones mentioned as “cursed” in the text (v. 20). In looking at the implications of this passage for the present-day Restoration, this article notes parallels between Enoch’s hesitancy and various attitudes toward black priesthood ordination throughout the Restoration traditions, including the Community of Christ where the same type of hesitancy existed. This article argues that, rather than being indicative of divine disfavor toward persons of African descent, this tendency is a response to the racist attitudes of particular eras, whether the period of the Old Testament patriarchs or the post-bellum American South. Nevertheless, God can be seen as working through and within particular contexts and cultures to spread the gospel to all of Adam’s children irrespective of race.

Continue reading

The Good God Hermeneutic:
A Reconsideration of Religious Vocabulary

Review of Fiona Givens and Terryl Givens, All Things New: Rethinking Sin, Salvation, and Everything In Between (Faith Matters Press, 2020). 188 pages. $12.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Fiona and Terryl Givens once again deliver a book worthy of the comparatively wide readership they have gained within Latter- day Saint circles. Their orderly treatment of individual gospel concepts in this book can rightly be seen as a distillation and unification of their previous work, boldly attempting to awaken us from our ignorance of the sheer novelty and vitality contained in the Restoration vision of God and humanity. They convincingly argue that the historically wrought semantic baggage that comes with the most basic religious vocabulary we use must be consciously jettisoned to fully appreciate and articulate the meaning of the Restoration.

Continue reading

Book of Abraham Polemics:
Dan Vogel’s Broad Critique of the Defense of the Book of Abraham

Review of Dan Vogel, Book of Abraham Apologetics: A Review and Critique (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2021). 250 pp. $18.95 (softback).

Abstract: Dan Vogel’s latest book claims to offer clear-cut evidence showing what, when, and how Joseph Smith fraudulently translated the Book of Abraham. While he claims to use an objective approach, he instead weaves a polemical agenda that ignores some of the most important scholarship in favor of the Book of Abraham. He ignores crucial evidence and relies on assumptions and hypotheses as if they were established facts. The arguments of apologists, which he claims to be reviewing and critiquing, are often overlooked or, when treated, attacked without letting readers know the substance of the apologetic argument. He neglects key arguments, and important documents that don’t fit his theory. The work is a valuable tool to explore Book of Abraham polemics, but it is not even-handed scholarship by any means. Vogel’s latest contribution does not overturn the evidence against his paradigm nor overthrow the growing body of insights into the antiquity of the Book of Abraham.

Continue reading