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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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

To watch all of the Fireside videos, 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/

Just in time for Christmas and the beginning of the 2022 Old Testament Come Follow Me curriculum, two new books by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw:

The First Days and the Last Days: A Verse-By-Verse Commentary on the Book of Moses and JS—Matthew in Light of the Temple

Enoch and the Gathering of Zion: The Witness of Ancient Texts for Modern Scripture

These two books, in digital or softcover format, are available at a substantial discount when purchased together.

Also, the latest volume of the Temple on Mount Zion series The Temple: Past, Present, and Future is now available for purchase.

See https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/ for details of all three books.

“The Lord God Will Proceed”:
Nephi’s Wordplay in 1 Nephi 22:8–12 and the Abrahamic Covenant

Abstract: Nephi quotes or alludes to four distinct Old Testament passages — Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 29:14; Isaiah 49:22–23; and Isaiah 52:10 — twice each in 1 Nephi 22:6, 8–12. These four texts form the basis of his description of how the Lord would bring to pass the complete fulfillment of the promises in the Abrahamic covenant for the salvation of the human family. These texts’ shared use of the Hebrew word gôyim (“nations” [> kindreds], “Gentiles”) provides the lexical basis for Nephi’s quotation and interpretation of these texts in light of each other. Nephi uses these texts to prophesy that the Lord would act in the latter-days for the salvation of the human family. However, Nephi uses Isaiah 29:14 with its key-word yôsīp (yôsip) to assert that iterative divine action to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant — taking the form of “a marvelous work and a wonder” — would be accomplished through a “Joseph.” Onomastic wordplay involving the names Abram⁄Abraham and Joseph constitute key elements in 1 Nephi 22:8–12.

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Verbal Punctuation in the
Book of Mormon I: (And) Now

Abstract: The Book of Mormon, being an ancient book, was originally written without typographic punctuation and employs verbal punctuation instead. This article looks at the use of “and now” as verbal punctuation in the Book of Mormon. The phrase is used to mark major breaks in the text, not only for chapters but also within chapters of the text. The Book of Mormon usage is borrowed from Classical Biblical Hebrew (the Hebrew used before the exile) and follows the pattern set by pre-exilic Hebrew scribes. While this usage dropped in the Old World after the Babylonian exile as Aramaic replaced Hebrew as the major language spoken, the Book of Mormon preserved the usage until the end of Nephite civilization.

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A Comparison of the Book of Mormon’s Subordinate That Usage

Abstract: This paper compares the Book of Mormon’s subordinate that usage with what is found in the King James Bible, pseudo-archaic writings, and the greater textual record. In this linguistic domain, the Book of Mormon manifests as thoroughly archaic, and it surpasses all known pseudo-archaic writings in breadth and depth of archaism. The implications of this set of linguistic data indicate that the translation as originally dictated by Joseph Smith cannot plausibly be explained as the result of Joseph’s own word choices, but it is consistent with the hypothesis that the wording was somehow provided to him.

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If God Does Not Exist,
Is Everything Permitted?

Abstract: Can people be good without believing in God? Obviously, yes. They can. Is atheistic naturalism capable of supplying a foundation for morality? That is a separate question, to which more than a few theists have answered No. However, a relatively new book by a very prominent student of religion and society suggests otherwise. A rational morality can, it argues, be founded upon atheistic naturalism — but it will necessarily be a modest and quite limited one, lacking universal scope and without a belief in human rights as objective “moral facts.”

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Christmas and a Condescending God

Abstract: As religious holidays go, Christmas has been domesticated unusually well — and effectively commercialized — among people and even whole cultures that don’t accept (or even care about) the central theological claim that Christmas asserts. After all, who doesn’t like cute little babies, at least when they’re not crying? But that theological claim is stunning. Radical. It’s radical in the strictest sense of that word, because it goes down deep, to the very root (Latin radix). Beyond the pleasant and comfortable sentimentality of favorite holiday foods, scenes of carolers in snowy villages, and warm family gatherings, Christmas dramatically distinguishes Christianity from every other major world religion.

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A Masterpiece on Resisting Our Impulses to Leave

Review of S. Michael Wilcox, Holding On: Impulses to Leave and Strategies to Stay (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2021). 128 pages. $11.99 (paperback).

Abstract: In his latest book, S. Michael Wilcox has written a masterpiece on grappling with doubts and overcoming our impulses to leave the Church. Wilcox displays a refreshing degree of personal vulnerability and openness, deep empathy and compassion for the struggling; and concrete and memorable suggestions for successfully dealing with faith crises. These traits give this book a power that no other work published by Deseret Book on this topic can match.

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Beyond Calculation: A Review
of Robert J. Sawyer’s Calculating God

Review of Robert J. Sawyer, Calculating God (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2000). 336 pp. $23.99 (paperback).

Abstract: In an entertaining and provocative science fiction novel, Calculating God, Robert J. Sawyer presents us with a likable alien scientist visiting earth to obtain more data about God’s ongoing work of creation. The alien is astounded that a human scientist does not believe in God despite the obvious evidence. Sawyer’s work introduces a variety of reasonable scientific arguments for the existence of God in a series of cleverly conceived dialogs and uses dramatic events to develop some perspectives on God. Sawyer’s purpose is not to evangelize, and the troubling concept of an utterly impersonal God who emerges in Sawyer’s interplay between multiple worlds is quite alien to Christianity and especially to the revelations from Joseph Smith, which offer a much more hopeful perspective. Calculating God is a delightful read that raises some questions that need to be discussed more often, but to obtain meaningful answers, a different calculus is needed.

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Demythicizing the Lamanites’
“Skin of Blackness”

Abstract: Racial bias is antithetical to the Book of Mormon’s cardinal purpose: to proclaim the infinite grandeur of the atonement of Jesus Christ. The book teaches that the Lord welcomes and redeems the entire human family, “black and white, bond and free” — people of all hues from ebony to ivory. Critical thinkers have struggled to reconcile this leitmotif with the book’s mention of a “skin of blackness” that was “set upon” some of Lehi’s descendants. Earlier apologetics for that “mark” have been rooted in Old World texts and traditions. However, within the last twenty years, Mesoamerican archaeologists, anthropologists, and ethnohistorians have curated and interpreted artifacts that reveal an ancient Maya body paint tradition, chiefly for warfare, hunting, and nocturnal raiding. This discovery shifts possible explanations from the Old World to the New and suggests that any “mark” upon Book of Mormon people may have been self-applied. It also challenges arguments that the book demonstrates racism in either 600 bce or the early nineteenth-century.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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