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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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

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2022 Temple on Mount Zion Conference

The Sixth Interpreter
Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference

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Millennial Star Bibliography Collection

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Moving Beyond the Historicity Question, or a Manifesto for Future Book of Mormon Research

Review of Daniel Becerra, Amy Easton-Flake, Nicholas J. Frederick, and Joseph M. Spencer, Book of Mormon Studies: An Introduction and Guide (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2022). 184 pages. $19.99 (hardback), $15.99 (paperback).

Abstract: Book of Mormon Studies: An Introduction and Guide by four Brigham Young University religion professors reviews the field of Book of Mormon studies from the late nineteenth century to the current day. After the historical review of the field, the authors lay out a research agenda for the twenty-first century that, by and large, moves on from the Book of Mormon historicity question that so engaged twentieth-century scholars. This review examines the authors’ claims and demonstrates that the scope of the book is not as broad as it could or should be. Absent perspectives, blind spots, incomplete twenty-first–century research trends, and a discussion of research tools should have been included in the book but were not included. This review ends with a discussion of “the gatekeeper problem” in Book of Mormon studies.

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“That They Might Come Again unto the Remnant of the House of Jacob”:
Onomastic Allusions to Joseph in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49

Abstract: The prophecies in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 are third-generation members of the same family of texts derived from Isaiah 11:11–12 and Isaiah 29:4, all of which ultimately rely on yāsap (yôsîp or yôsip) idioms to describe the gathering of Israel and the concomitant coming forth of additional scripture. Mormon, following Nephi, apparently engages in a specific kind of wordplay on the name Joseph in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 that ultimately harks back to the divine promises made to Joseph in Egypt (2 Nephi 25:21; see also especially 2 Nephi 3:4–16, Genesis 50:24–34 JST) and to his descendants. This wordplay looks forward to the name and role of the prophetic translator through whom additional scripture “[would] be brought again” and “[would] come again” in the last days.

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In New Zealand: Even More Faithful Latter-day Saints

Review of Selwyn Kātene, ed., Let Their Light So Shine: Mormon Leaders in New Zealand (Wellington, NZ: Huia Publishers, 2021). “Foreword” by Charles A. Rudd (pp. vii–viii); “Preface” by Peter Lineham (p. ix–x); “Introduction” by Selwyn Kātene (pp. 1–3); “Contributors” (pp. 215–18); “Glossary” (and “Mormon Terms”) (pp. 219–21); “Index” (pp. 222–30). NZ $30.00 Hardbound.

Abstract: This is a review of the third in the series of books of essays on what Selwyn Kātene again calls “Mormon Leaders in New Zealand.” This volume as at least as excellent, if not even better, than the other two volumes, which received very favorable reviews. Every effort must be made to preserve and publish an accurate history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand/Aotearoa. Such effort is to be praised, especially when it is set out in such a handsome and exceptionally well-edited and published version as one finds in this entire valuable series. Despite this and the two other previous volumes in this series, there are yet more Latter-day Saints whose stories of faith and dedicated service in building the Kingdom of God in this beautiful land must be told in future volumes of this truly remarkable series.

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Nephi’s “Bountiful”: Contrasting Both Candidates

Readers should be aware that both Khor Kharfot and Wadi Sayq are now protected sites under Omani law. Neither area can be visited without a permit issued by the government of Oman. They are not accessible by road at any point. Please contact the author if further clarification is needed.

Abstract: In May 2022, George Potter published an article that makes the most comprehensive case to date that Khor Rori in southern Oman is the most likely location for the place “Bountiful” described by Nephi. However, despite its many positives, there are a number of reasons to question the suitability of Khor Rori and to favor the other major candidate for Bountiful, Khor Kharfot. I propose that a careful reading of Nephi’s account coupled with recent discoveries based on field work show Khor Kharfot to be a superior candidate meeting all criteria we can extract from the text. To support a thorough comparison, aspects of both candidates are weighed, including pictorial comparisons of key features. I am in full agreement with Potter that with the entire eastern coast of Arabia now explored, only two candidates for Bountiful remain in contention — Khor Rori and Khor Kharfot. No other location still merits serious consideration.

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Elias: Prophet of the Restoration

Abstract: The Prophet Elias is a puzzle, with a handful of pieces scattered through the standard works and the teachings of Joseph Smith. Rather than proving a point conclusively, this paper will put the pieces together to show a new picture of this important figure. The interpretation in this article weaves together the scriptures regarding Elias into a cohesive narrative, with the prophet Noah at the center. The pieces of the puzzle investigated here are Elias’s role as the angel Gabriel in the New Testament, on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Kirtland Temple, in the Book of Revelation, and in D&C 27. These few visitations occur during significant transfers of priesthood power. Elias — the keyholder — is identified as holding “the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days” (D&C 27:6). This vast calling of restoring all things in the last days requires the original Elias (Noah) at the heavenly helm and various agents of Elias (John the Baptist and John the Beloved, among others) working on the earth during different phases of the restoration.

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Toward a Greater Appreciation of the Word Adieu in Jacob 7:27

Abstract: The phrase “Brethren, adieu” (Jacob 7:27) has been criticized over the years as an obvious anachronism in the Book of Mormon. That criticism holds no validity whatsoever, as others have pointed out, since many English words have French origins. It’s worth considering, though, a deeper meaning of the word. In French, it carries a nuance of finality — that the separation will last until a reunion following death (à Dieu, or until God). This deeper meaning of adieu appears to have been known by Shakespeare and frontier Americans although the second meaning is not generally recognized by English speakers today. However, Jacob 7:27 appears to reflect this deeper meaning as do certain uses of another valediction in the Book of Mormon — that of farewell. With the deeper meaning of adieu in mind, the parallel structure in Jacob 7:27 — “down to the grave,” reflecting the finality of adieu — becomes more apparent. The question of whether Joseph Smith was aware of the deeper meaning of adieu is taken up by looking at how the word was used in the Joseph Smith Papers. The take-away is that rather than reflecting an error on the part of Joseph Smith, the word adieu, with its deeper nuance of finality until God, is not only an appropriate term, it appears to strengthen rather than undermine the case for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

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“According to the Spirit of Revelation and Prophecy”:
Alma2’s Prophetic Warning of Christ’s Coming to the Lehites (and Others)

Abstract: Some students of the Book of Mormon have felt that while the coming of the Lord to the Lehites was clearly revealed to and taught by Nephi1, those prophecies having to do with the subject may not have been widely circulated or continuously preserved among the Nephites, while others have argued for continuity of knowledge about Nephi1’s prophecies among writers and their contemporary audiences. Reexamination of the Book of Mormon in light of these issues reveals that the teaching that Christ would appear among the Lehites was actually taught with some consistency by Alma2 and was, it would seem, common knowledge among the Nephites. It appears that the predicted coming was well established, even if the nature of it was not. Specifically, I argue that Alma2 often taught of the coming of Christ to the Lehites but in context with other events such as Jesus’s coming to the Jews and to others not of the known fold. To make this case, I concentrate on Alma2’s writings, especially those in Alma 5 (borrowing liberally also from Alma 7, 13, 16, 39, Helaman 16:4–5, 13–14, and 3 Nephi 8–10). Alma 5 houses many prophetic statements that urgently point to the coming of the Lord to the Nephite church. The value of this approach is to attempt to demonstrate that Alma 5 contains more than has been supposed and, in effect, challenges claims for discontinuity in the middle portion of the Nephite record. This approach should tend to renew our interest in the other nuanced teachings of the prophet Alma2 and others.

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Twenty Years After “Paradigms Regained,” Part 2: Responding to Margaret Barker’s Critics and Why Her Work Should Matter to Latter‑day Saints

Abstract: Here I address specific criticisms of Margaret Barker’s work. First, I set the stage by discussing Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as a map and compass for navigating this kind of controversy. I show how his observations cast light on debates about Jesus in the Gospel of John, which in turn resemble present debates. In this context, I then consider some notable criticisms of Barker’s work as “not mainstream” and consider an instructive appreciation of Barker by Father John McDade in his “Life of Jesus Research.” I then respond in detail to a recent BYU Studies essay that was critical of Barker’s work.

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Assyria and the “Great Church” of Nephi’s Vision

Abstract: The Book of Mormon begins at a pivotal point in Israelite history and in the history of the ancient Near East more broadly. With the fall of Assyria and the power vacuum that grew out of Assyria’s demise, questions of sovereignty were of paramount concern. It was at that time that Lehi led his family into the wilderness after witnessing the impending destruction of Jerusalem in vision. Nephi, “desir[ing] to know the things that his father had seen” (1 Nephi 11:1), describes his own vision, where he saw the coming of the “Son of God” (1 Nephi 11:7), the destruction of his own people, and the “formation of a great church” (1 Nephi 13:4) that would “destroy the saints of God” (1 Nephi 13:9). These elements, along with others in Nephi’s vision, seem to reflect the underlying insecurity of the time concerning divinely appointed sovereignty and the right to rule. Because of the deeply personal nature of Nephi’s vision and its pressing relevance, we might expect it to contain elements that represent the cultural and social realities of his time. When we approach Nephi’s vision in this way, surprising parallels can be found between the “great church” of his vision and the Assyrian Empire. These parallels help provide a new context for viewing Nephi’s vision that can heighten our awareness of the loving kindness the “Son of God” displays as the universal sovereign.

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Beautiful Patience

Abstract: Believers in the God of Abraham — who include not only Jews and Christians but also Muslims — are exhorted to call upon him every day, as well as in times of need. We are promised that he will respond to petitionary prayers. Moreover, we are assured that, in the end, believers will prosper, that their faith or trust in him will prove justified. But we are not promised that rewards, compensation, or justice will come to us on our mortal timetable — and this raises sometimes burningly acute questions about Providence and even, for more than a few, about either God’s benevolence, his care, or his sheer existence. So we are also exhorted to be patient. And that sets us up for many of mortality’s greatest tests. In the meantime, while faithfully waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled, we ourselves are to work toward their fulfillment “with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23, NIV).

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An Important New Study of Freemasonry
and the Latter-day Saints:
What’s Good, What’s Questionable, and What’s Missing in Method Infinite

Review of Cheryl L. Bruno, Joe Steve Swick III, and Nicholas S. Literski, Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2022). 544 pages. $44.95 (hardback); $34.95 (softcover).

Abstract: There is much to celebrate in this important new study of Freemasonry and the Latter-day Saints. To their credit, the authors have succeeded in creating a work that is richer than earlier studies of the subject, probing many previously unexplored hints of Masonic influence on Latter-day Saint life and thought from the beginning of the Restoration through the end of the nineteenth century. That said, the book’s dauntingly broad survey suffers from uneven quality on some of the many topics it ambitiously tackles. While recognizing the study’s considerable merits, its shortcomings must also be considered. For this reason, I’ve divided this review into three parts: What’s Good, What’s Questionable, and What’s Missing. I conclude with methodological observations about best practices in the use of the comparative analysis in studies of important and challenging subjects such as this one.

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“We Don’t Know, So We Might as Well”: A Flimsy Philosophy for Same-Sex Sealings

Review of Nate Oman, “A Welding Link of Some Kind,” Thoughts from a Tamed Cynic (Substack, September 27, 2022).

Abstract: Nate Oman claims to demonstrate a theological path that allows for same-sex sealings within existing Latter-day Saint doctrine. In fact, he claims that such an adjustment would be not only compatible with most Church doctrine but more scripturally sound than current teachings and policies regarding same-sex relationships. However, he falls short of his declared objective. His essay sets up an exaggerated pattern of dramatic theological overhauls in Latter-day Saint theology, downplays existing revelation on the subject of sealings and exaltation, and proposes a new theology to justify his policy conclusions. In the end, his essay completely ignores the root cause of the contention surrounding the issue: the nature of doctrine and the truth claims of the restored Church.

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Puritans, Pagans, and Imperfect Christmas Gifts

Abstract: Early American campaigns against Christmas illustrate both the irrepressibility of the impulse to celebrate Christ and what is lost when we reject the good that comes from suspect sources. Both lessons point us toward the Savior’s gracious acceptance of our own imperfect offerings.

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We Live in the Olden Days:
Reflections on the Importance of Scientific and Theological Humility

Abstract: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a unique perspective on truth. Our knowledge that Salvation likely involves participation in complex eternal activities requiring significantly more understanding than we currently possess naturally leads us to seek truth and, in addition, to seek an understanding of that truth. Under these circumstances, our inability to fully understand many truths, both revealed and discovered, can lead to confusion. A lack of complete understanding of accepted scientific truth generally leads the serious truth-seeker to enhanced investigative and educational efforts without doubting the ultimate veracity of the concept under investigation; we all believe in gravity, but no one completely understands it. In a similar manner, the fact that an individual is bothered by such an incompletely understood truth is rarely seen as reason to reject it; gravity bothers me a lot — were it not for gravity, I could fly. Unfortunately, an inability to fully understand some revealed truths all too often leads to rejection of that truth rather than an acceptance of one’s conceptual limitations and an enhanced effort at understanding the concept in question. Such an approach can be as disastrous (although often not as immediately disastrous) as disregard of the reality of gravity. Consideration of examples of both scientific and spiritual experience may lead to a more rational reaction to truths that we do not, and sometimes at our present level of understanding, simply cannot, completely comprehend.

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The Words of Gad the Seer: An Apparently Ancient Text With Intriguing Origins and Content

Review of Meir Bar-Ilan, Words of Gad the Seer (Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Publishing, 2016); Christian Israel, The Words of Gad the Seer: Bible Cross-Reference Edition (self-published, 2020); and Ken Johnson, Ancient Book of Gad the Seer: Referenced in 1 Chronicles 29:29 and Alluded to in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and Galatians 4:26 (self-published, 2016).

Abstract: A long-overlooked Hebrew document from an ancient Jewish colony in Cochin, India, purports to contain the words of Gad the Seer. Professor Meir Bar-Ilan has translated the text into English and has stirred interest in the fascinating document. At least two other English translations are also now available. Here we examine the story of the coming forth of the text and some issues of possible interest to Latter-day Saints, including some of Bar-Ilan’s insights in evaluating the antiquity of disputed texts. Bar-Ilan’s translation of this intriguing document and his related publications may be valuable for anyone with an interest in the Hebrew scriptures and ancient Judaism.

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“Being of that Lineage”:
Generational Curses and Inheritance in the Book of Abraham

Abstract: The seeming appearance of a lineal or generational curse in the Book of Abraham has been used erroneously to marginalize people and justify racist ideas in Latter-day Saint history. To avoid any further misinterpretation of scripture in ways that are hurtful to others, the following attempts to elucidate the meaning of lineal curses within the Book of Abraham’s claimed ancient provenance. “Cursed” often reflected a simple legalistic concept, applicable to any person regardless of race, that meant one was currently in a state of disinheritance. An individual might be in a state of disinheritance if they violated any requirement necessary to receive their inheritance, and any descendant who remained an heir of a person who no longer had an inheritance to give was also considered disinherited or “cursed,” even though they may have personally done nothing wrong. This ancient understanding of cursing as disinheritance provides better context and clarity to many of Joseph Smith’s revelations and translations, including the Book of Abraham. Arguably, the scriptures and revelations of the Latter-day Saint tradition, including the Bible, indicate that the eternal blessings of a kingdom (land) and priestly kingship/queenship (priesthood) originate from God but must be inherited through an unbroken ancestral chain forged via covenant. Indeed, the express purpose of sealing children to parents in modern Latter-day Saint temples is to make them “heirs.” Consequently, moving towards a better understanding of the roles inheritance and disinheritance play in receiving the divine blessings of the covenant might be beneficial generally and help readers avoid racist interpretations of the Book of Abraham and other scripture. This is especially the case when it is understood that being disinherited, in a gospel context, does not need to be a permanent status when one relies on the grace of the Holy Messiah and [Page 98]submits to those divine laws and covenant rites whereby one can literally inherit the promised blessings.

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Rethinking the Encounter between Jacob and Sherem

Abstract: The Book of Mormon story of Jacob and Sherem has been evaluated and interpreted from many different viewpoints over the years. In his retelling of the story, Jacob crafted a cautionary tale of religious hubris and self-importance that can serve as an important lesson for members of the church today. In this paper I use various methodologies to examine the interaction between Jacob and Sherem — including comparative scriptural analysis, semantics, and Hebraic syntax and structural elements — in an attempt to increase our understanding of the relationship between Jacob and Sherem.

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Twenty Years After “Paradigms Regained,” Part 1: The Ongoing, Plain, and Precious Significance of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship for Latter-day Saint Studies

Abstract: Twenty years ago, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies published “Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies” as its second FARMS Occasional Paper. The first part of this essay provides an overview of Doctor Barker’s scholarship and its wider reception through early 2022, and then includes a broad survey of Latter-day Saint interaction with her work to the present. Part 2 of this essay (forthcoming) will address specific criticisms and appreciations of Barker’s work.

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When an Evident Fact
Cannot Be Allowed to Be True

Abstract: Miracles occur relatively often in scripture, as do people who, for various reasons, want or even need to deny their occurrence. The arguments that are deployed to justify such denial haven’t changed all that much over the centuries. In fact, they’re still around today.

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