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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Not by Bread Alone: Stories of the Saints in Africa

A new film series about African Saints who thirsted for tranquility and found peace in the gospel of Jesus Christ

from The Interpreter Foundation

For more information about the “Not by Bread Alone: Stories of the Saints in Africa” series, go to
For more information in French, go to
To see all of the Interpreter posts about The Church in Africa, go to

The Temple: Symbols, Sermons, and Settings

Proceedings of the Fourth Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference
“The Temple on Mount Zion,”
10 November 2018

Temple on Mount Zion Series 5

Edited by Stephen D. Ricks and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw
Published by The Interpreter Foundation, Orem Utah in cooperation with Eborn Books, Salt Lake City, Utah

Available Now

For more information, go to

An Exceptional Example of
the Richness of Church History

Review of Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Emer Harris & Dennison Lott Harris: Owner of the First Copy of the Book of Mormon, Witness of the “Last Charge” of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2023). 235 pages, 67 illustrations, appendix, references, $29.00 (paperback).

Abstract: Jeffrey Bradshaw has, in a single well-researched volume, provided a gift to those interested in the lives of early Church members. In Emer Harris & Dennison Lott Harris, Bradshaw brings out of obscurity the remarkable life of one of Martin Harris’s brothers and illustrates the contribution of that life to the initial decades of the Restoration.

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The Unwritten Debates in Moroni1’s Letter

Abstract: Moroni1’s letter in Alma 60 is not simply an angry and intemperate screed against the government; it also responds to arguments about just tactics (what modern readers would call ethics) taking place among Nephite leaders at this time. Moroni1’s letter argues for his preferred strategies of active defense and ambush, while interpreting defeat as a failure of leaders. His rhetorical strategy is particularly noteworthy for associating his Nephite opponents’ hopeful trust in the Lord with the passive resistance of the king-men, and shifting blame for defeat away from his strategies and onto his political opponents. Overall, Moroni1’s arguments exemplify sophistication and debate within Nephite thought.

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“Our Great God Has in Goodness Sent These”: Notes on the Goodness of God, the Didactic Good of Nephi’s Small Plates, and Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s Renaming

Abstract: Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s speech (Alma 24:7–16) reveals multiple allusions to significant texts in Nephi’s small plates record. Thus, when he declares “I thank my God, my beloved people, that our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren, the Nephites, unto us to preach unto us,” he appears to allude to an inclusio that bookends the two books of Nephi’s small plates record which emphasizes the “goodness” of God as a theme. Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s description of his ancestors as “wicked fathers” appears to deliberately contrast Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael with Nephi’s “goodly parents” in 1 Nephi 1:1. The name Nephi constitutes a key element in Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s own name, a name honorifically bestowed on him as a throne-name by his father. In view of the probable etymological origin of Nephi as Egyptian nfr (“good,” “goodly,” “fair”) and its evident, persistent association with “good” among the Nephites, Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s naming and the introduction to his speech deserve closer examination. This article explores the possible significance of this naming in conjunction with the Lamanites’ reception of divine “goodness” in the contexts of Nephite/Lamanite history and the Lamanite conversion narratives.

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The Plagiary of the Daughters of the Lamanites

Abstract: Repetition is a feature of all ancient Hebraic narrative. Modern readers may misunderstand this quality of biblical and Book of Mormon narrative. Biblical and Book of Mormon writers believed that history repeated, with what happened to the ancestors happening again to their posterity. Fawn Brodie and her acolytes misapprehend Book of Mormon narrative when—instead of at least provisionally granting that God might exist, can intervene in history, and tenaciously reenacts events from the past while the recorders of such repeated stories firmly believed in the historical reality of the narratives they recounted—they attribute such repeated stories to Joseph Smith’s imputed plagiaristic tendencies. The story of the kidnapping of the Lamanite daughters by the priests of Noah (Mosiah 20) is a recurrence of the story of the mass kidnapping of the daughters of Shiloh (Judges 21), but to attribute such similarity to plagiarism by Joseph Smith is a grand and flagrant misreading of Hebraic narrative, its persistent allusive qualities, and its repetitive historiography. Such narratives were widespread in Levantine and classical antiquity, and neither ancient historians nor modern scholars take the relationship among such analogous stories to be one of plagiarism when their antiquity is undisputed. At least one additional construal of the Book of Mormon story’s meaning needs to be explored and considered against the backdrop of Hebraic narrative.

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Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!

Abstract: There is no more important message than that of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s life-transforming and world-transforming. It is also the most joyous news imaginable. What Jesus did on our behalf leaves us forever in his debt and should put him at the center of our lives.

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King Benjamin’s Sermon as a Type of Temple Endowment

Abstract: To more permanently unify the Mulekites and the Nephites as a reunited kingdom of Israel, King Benjamin gathered his people at the temple, and in his role as a king and priest after the order of Melchizedek, imparted teachings that bear resemblance to the Latter-day Saint temple endowment ceremony first introduced in Nauvoo. Several of these similarities are explored in depth. Since the book of Mosiah is one of the earliest extant texts of Joseph Smith’s prophetic ministry, this finding adds to a growing body of literature that suggests that temple themes are apparent in the unfolding Restoration earlier than has been commonly recognized. King Benjamin’s sermon also provides a model for how the latter-day covenant people of the Lord can establish a modern “kingdom of priests” in preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

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Premortal Life and Mortal Life:
A Fearful Symmetry

Abstract: Bodily weakness, along with the varied circumstances into which we were born, provide the essential initial and ongoing conditions that shape the challenges and opportunities of our mortal probation. In life, we are not expected merely to preserve our innocence in defiance of worldly tendencies, nor are we compelled to cede to cynicism in the face of disheartening earthly experience. Rather, we are meant to follow the Savior in uniting the state of innocence with that of experience, thus joyfully fulfilling the unique mission that has been generously given to each of us.

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Recovering the Lost Concept of Truth in the Restoration Scriptures: Another Key to Understanding God’s Word

Abstract: The word “truth” has for practical purposes lost one of its original English-language meanings, and this has significant implications for understanding scriptures. The obvious, well-understood meaning is that which is real or factual. However, the earliest meaning in English is that which is true in an entirely different way, in the sense of fidelity, loyalty, and faithfulness. The King James translators frequently used “truth” in this latter sense. The sense of “truth” as “faithfulness” remained well known in the nineteenth century. Some passages in the Book of Mormon and other Restoration scriptures reveal deeper insights when read with this understanding. Pondering both meanings of “truth” in the scriptures can serve as a source of inspiration and learning.

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Proper Names and Political Claims: Semitic Echoes as Foundations for Claims to the Nephite Throne

Abstract: The Book of Mormon contains examples of phonemes in character names that resemble Semitic root words. The possible meanings of the names and their timing in the Book of Mormon narrative provide a deeper level of context to the Nephite political challenges in the books of Mosiah through 3 Nephi. Specifically, the English phonemes for the Hebrew and Arabic root-word for “king,” M-L-K, appear in character names in the Book of Mormon narrative when the people of Zarahemla, who were descended from Mulek, the last king of Judah, are discovered by the Nephites in the book of Omni. “King” names then appear frequently during the time in the narrative in which there are attempts to reestablish a monarchy during the early reign of the judges. “King” names disappear after “Moroni put an end to those king-men, that there were not any known by the appellation of king-men” (Alma 51:21, 62:9). The presence and timing of these “king” names suggests that the Mulekite claim to the local Israelite throne resonated rhetorically through Nephite politics for over a century and was violently contested in the multiple civil and external wars in the books of Alma through 3 Nephi.

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Prophet or Loss: Mosiah1/Zeniff, Benjamin/Noah, Mosiah2/Limhi and the Emergence of the Almas

Abstract: Mormon’s overwhelmingly dominant rhetorical purpose is to testify of Christ, which he and his protagonists often directly do. But he also communicates his testimony more subtly through carefully crafted historical narratives. His use of frame narratives is especially artful. In the Book of Mosiah, Mormon frames the dispiriting account of Zeniff and Noah’s rule with the story of its aftermath: the suffering of Limhi and his people, which is recounted both before and after the central Zeniff/Noah narrative and which underscores the folly in the narrative it frames. The Limhi story is, in turn, framed by a Mosiah family narrative that features prophet kings Mosiah1, Benjamin, and Mosiah2 and that, likewise, underscores the folly in the Zeniff/Noah/Limhi story through pointed contrasts with Mosiah1/Benjamin/Mosiah2, the antitypes of the Zeniff-family kings. Benjamin’s great discourse on Christ, the most important component of the Mosiah narrative is also set within a frame narrative, a coronation account, which creates a political subtext in that great spiritual sermon and that, likewise, underscores the folly of the Zeniff family’s failure to follow the prophets God sent them. The article concludes by discussing the emergence of the Almas as the first family of Nephite history, the connecting thread that runs through Mormon’s account of the next ten generations of Nephite history.

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Trees and the Love of God

Abstract: Trees play real and metaphorical roles in the beliefs and holy scriptures of many world religions, and believers and non-believers throughout the world are uplifted spiritually by trees. In the Book of Mormon, a tree with delicious, sweet fruit appeared in two visions and one parable. Respectively, the tree represents the love of God as seen through the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and symbolizes spiritual growth as one experimentally nourishes faith from a seed. Trees and fruit in the world around us can remind us of important lessons from these teachings and help keep us focused on the Lord because trees embody godly attributes and illustrate righteous principles. Trees and God’s love are universal, meant to be dispersed, beautiful, long-lasting or eternal, strong, gifts, providers of bounty, givers of joy, and sources of shelter and comfort. From trees, we learn to shun pride, have proper priorities, be patient and persevering, keep growing spiritually, be well-rooted, and pursue spirituality. Trees kindle awe, reverence, and love in us. Whenever we see a tree or eat fruit or nuts from a tree, we can be reminded of God’s love and to choose righteousness. Trees can inspire us to continue nurturing our spiritual growth; by doing so, our lives can be monumental like trees.

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Second Nephi as a Legal Document

Abstract: Considering conventions of the ancient Near East, 2 Nephi can be understood as a legal document or legal archive. Factors supporting this view include 1) Nephi’s allusions to sealing the record and to a bar of judgment, 2) discussion of the law of witnesses and reference to Isaiah and Jacob as witnesses, 3) components and formatting consistent with Neo-Babylonian depositions and plaintiff statements, 4) uncharacteristically formal and conservative (high-fidelity) citations of Isaiah, and 5) rhetoric and vocabulary consistent with the Judean legal genre. Nephi’s inclusion of Jacob’s and Isaiah’s words as a witness and his references to judicial procedure can be readily understood. Further, the structure of 2 Nephi, consistent with legal conventions of the time, can be viewed as collated texts that contain a covenant framing the Nephite’s situation (2 Nephi 1–4), a reaction (2 Nephi 4–5), three supporting witness statements (2 Nephi 6–10, 12–24, 25–28), and finally a plaintiff statement (2 Nephi 33). Recognizing the legal implications of 2 Nephi can help us appreciate Nephi’s agenda as author and editor of his text, as well as the meaning of his document in our day.

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“Rise Up, O Light of the Lord”:
An Appropriate and Defensible Etymology for Cumorah

Abstract: This article explores issues with past suggestions concerning the etymology of the name Cumorah and suggests a slightly updated etymology, “Rise up, O Light of the Lord.” It then suggests that Book of Mormon references to the Hill Cumorah appear to confirm the proposed etymology, thus becoming an apt description of the Restoration.

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Temple Themes in the Book of Abraham

Abstract: The Book of Abraham is replete with temple themes, although not all of them are readily obvious from a surface reading of the text. Temple themes in the book include Abraham seeking to become a high priest, the interplay between theophany and covenant, and Abraham building altars and dedicating sacred space as he sojourns into Canaan. In addition to these, the dramatic opening episode of the Book of Abraham unfolds in a cultic or ritual setting. This paper explores these and other temple elements in the Book of Abraham and discusses how they heighten appreciation for the text’s narrative and teachings, as well as how they ground the text in an ancient context.

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An Important Addition to the Library

Review of Grant Hardy, The Annotated Book of Mormon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2023). 912 pages; $37.95 (hardcover).

Abstract: Oxford University Press has published an annotated edition of the Book of Mormon. This represents a significant event and provides a useful study resource. At the same time, the author’s determination to follow the conclusions of mainstream biblical scholars inevitably generates tensions on issues where the Book of Mormon conflicts with those conclusions. The author also assures readers that the commentary follows “the plain meaning of the text,” which ought to acknowledge Joseph Smith’s foundational observation that different teachers of religion may understand the same passages very differently, depending on their framing context. In this review, I introduce the content and contributions of the volume, and in a future review I’ll address the possibilities for resolving conflicts.

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Joseph Smith and the “Red Sea”
in 2 Nephi 19:1

Abstract: When Nephi quotes Isaiah 9:1 in 2 Nephi 19:1, Isaiah’s the “way of the sea” (KJV translation) becomes “the way of the Red Sea” in the Book of Mormon, a change that is often said to reflect an egregious blunder by Joseph Smith or a scribal error. However, there may be a scenario in which it could reflect a reasonable interpretation of an authentic ancient passage.

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Heavenly Ascent in Jacob’s Writings in Second Nephi: Addressing the Question of What the Plan of Salvation is in the Book of Mormon

Abstract: Heavenly ascent describes the process of an individual (or community) returning to the presence of God. Though various elements exist within heavenly ascent literature, general patterns can be discerned. This project uses one such pattern as a hermeneutical tool to examine what can be learned about how Book of Mormon prophets may have understood the plan of salvation. Specifically, Jacob’s understanding of the plan of salvation will be analyzed by examining his writings in 2 Nephi 9–10. The evidence from this study suggests that some Book of Mormon prophets (at least Jacob and Nephi) viewed the plan of salvation through the lens of heavenly ascent.

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The Literary Structure of Alma 17–20: A 14-Unit Chiasm

Abstract: This article is an analysis of the literary structure of Alma 17–20. These four chapters in the current Book of Mormon were originally a single chapter in the first edition of the Book of Mormon (originally, chapter 12). The current article describes a process and rationale that was used to identify several major literary units whose structure is no longer obvious with the division into four chapters. The original literary structure appears to have been written as a 14-part chiasm in which the matching units share many strong links and parallels. According to this analysis, the central units of this chiasm highlight the turning point of the narrative. Ammon preaches the gospel to King Lamoni, and Lamoni then proceeds to cry unto the Lord for mercy upon himself and his people. Thousands of Lamanites then repent and are converted unto the Lord. This critical episode in the Book of Mormon had far-reaching and long-lasting effects. It now appears that Mormon carefully structured this episode to help readers remember key events that transpired and to highlight its importance as a hinge point in Nephite/Lamanite history.

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The Nahom Convergence Reexamined:
The Eastward Trail, Burial of the Dead, and the Ancient Borders of Nihm

Abstract: For decades, several Latter-day Saint scholars have maintained that there is a convergence between the location of Nahom in the Book of Mormon and the Nihm region of Yemen. To establish whether there really is such a convergence, I set out to reexamine where the narrative details of 1 Nephi 16:33–17:1 best fit within the Arabian Peninsula, independent of where the Nihm region or tribe is located. I then review the historical geography of the Nihm tribe, identifying its earliest known borders and academic interpretations of their location in antiquity. My investigation brings in data on ancient Yemen and Arabia that has not been previously considered in discussions about Nahom or Lehi’s journey more generally, and leads to some surprising conclusions. Nonetheless, after establishing both where we should expect to find Nahom and the most likely location of ancient Nihm independent of one another, the two locations are compared and found to substantially overlap, suggesting that the “Nahom convergence” is real. With the convergent relationship established, I then explore four possible scenarios for Lehi’s stop at Nahom, the burial of Ishmael, and the party’s journey eastward toward Bountiful based on the new data presented in this paper.

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A Long and Winding Road

Abstract: Publishing an article in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Faith and Scholarship involves a process of which many people are not aware. I’m sure it is obvious to all that articles don’t just spring from the mind of an author and onto the printed page. In this essay I draw back the curtain just a bit to give readers a glimpse and, hopefully, an understanding of the process.

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