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This week
in history

Read about the new website for Witnesses, the film project on which we’ve been working, on Dan Peterson's blog at

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2019/02/witnesses.html

See the new website at

https://witnessesfilm.com/

On behalf of the board of trustees of The Interpreter Foundation and consistent with the counsel of President Russell M. Nelson, I’m pleased to announce that we are renaming the Foundation’s principal regular publication. It will now be known as

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship

Not only will the journal be renamed but, over the relatively near short-term, we will be reworking our websites in order to reflect that new name. This will be done, of course, with the least possible disruption to our thousands of subscribers and readers.

We thank you for your interest and for your support, and we wish for you a happy, healthy, and satisfying 2019.

Daniel C. Peterson
President, The Interpreter Foundation

The Māori Latter-day Saint
Historical Narrative:
Additions and Amendments

Abstract: Selwyn Kātene has again assembled twelve essays written by the descendants of famous Māori Latter-day Saints. This volume flows from a revival of interest in the ground and content of the faith of early Māori Saints that began in the late 1990s. In various ways the essays in this volume add to and amend what has previously been known about what began unexpectedly on Christmas Day in 1882, when the first group of Māori joined the Church of Jesus Christ. Not only did the Māori have Seers who opened the way, some of those elite Māori men, who had been initiated into Māori esoteric knowledge of divine things, also found that their temple endowment fit rather snugly with their previous initiation ceremonies. Unlike other Christian missionaries, Latter-day Saint missionaries did not see the Māori as primitive heathens, and Māori saw in the restored gospel crucial elements of their own deeper understanding of divine things. Latter-day Saint missionaries were seeking to liberate Māori from the soul-destroying vices brought to them or enhanced by British colonization, while relishing the most noble elements in the Māori world.

Review of Selwyn Kātene, ed., By Their Fruits You Will Know Them: Early Maori Leaders in the Mormon Church, vol. 2 (Wellington, New Zealand: Steele Roberts Publishers, 2017). 295 pp. N.Z. $39.99 (hardback).

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Joseph Knew First:
Moses, the Egyptian Son

Abstract: After about 1500 years of slumber, ancient Egyptian was brought back to life in the early 19th century, when scholars deciphered hieroglyphs. This revolutionary success opened the door to a reevaluation of history from the viewpoint of ancient Egypt. In the wake of this new knowledge, the first scholar posited the idea in 1849 that the name of Moses stemmed from the Egyptian word for child. Subsequently, this idea was refined, and currently the majority of scholars believe Moses’s name comes from the Egyptian verb “to beget,” which is also the root for the Egyptian word for child, or in the case of a male child, a “son.” Before this discovery and certainly before a scholarly consensus formed on the Egyptian etymology of the name of Moses, Joseph Smith restored a prophecy from the patriarch Joseph that played upon the name of Moses and its yet to be discovered Egyptian meaning of “son.” This article explores the implications of this overt Egyptian pun and its role as a key thematic element in the restored narratives in the Book of Moses.

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Joseph Smith:
The World’s Greatest Guesser
(A Bayesian Statistical Analysis of Positive and Negative Correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya)

Abstract: Dr. Michael Coe is a prominent Mesoamerican scholar and author of a synthesis and review of ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures entitled The Maya.1 Dr. Coe is also a prominent skeptic of the Book of Mormon. However, there is in his book strong evidence that favors the Book of Mormon, which Dr. Coe has not taken into account. This article analyzes that evidence, using Bayesian statistics. We apply a strongly skeptical prior assumption that the Book of Mormon “has little to do with early Indian cultures,” as Dr. Coe claims. We then compare 131 separate positive correspondences or points of evidence between the Book of Mormon and Dr. Coe’s book. We also analyze negative points of evidence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya, between the Book of Mormon and a 1973 Dialogue article written by Dr. Coe, and between the Book of Mormon and a series of Mormon Stories podcast interviews given by Dr. Coe to Dr. John Dehlin. After using the Bayesian methodology to analyze both positive and negative correspondences, we reach an enormously stronger and very positive conclusion. There is overwhelming evidence that the Book of Mormon has physical, political, geographical, religious, military, technological, and cultural roots in ancient Mesoamerica. As a control, we have also analyzed two other books dealing with ancient American Indians: View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found. We compare both books with The Maya using the same statistical methodology and demonstrate that this methodology [Page 78]leads to rational conclusions about whether or not such books describe peoples and places similar to those described in The Maya.

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Procedural Violations in the Trial of the Woman Taken in Adultery

Abstract: The story in John 8 of the woman taken in adultery is sometimes used to argue that Jesus was lenient toward sin and that we should be too. However, when placed in its broader context, we can see the story is not one in which Christ shows indifference or contempt for the law, but rather utmost respect for it.

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The Crucifixion as a Mockery, Witness, and Warning of the Judgment

Abstract: In its action, setting, and arrangement, the crucifixion may be viewed as a stark mockery of the final judgment scene. This article provides a brief review of the relevant scriptures, considered together with some related apocryphal and other early Christian writings of interest in regard to the crucifixion. These sources point to the interpretation that the gospel writers saw in the crucifixion a striking symbolism that can provide a strong reminder, witness, and warning of the coming judgment. The Lord is seen in the crucifixion as at once representing His humility in submitting Himself to be judged and, conversely, His authority and power to be the judge of all. The crucifixion signifies the concept of a reciprocal or two-way judgment, as emphasized in the Book of Mormon, where mankind first judges the Lord, and later are to be judged accordingly by Him in return.

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The Record of My Father

Abstract: In 1 Nephi 1:16–17, Nephi tells us he is abridging “the record of my father.” The specific words Nephi uses in his writings form several basic but important patterns and features used repeatedly by Nephi and also by other Book of Mormon writers. These patterns and features provide context that appears to indicate that Nephi’s abridgment of Lehi’s record is the third-person account found in 1 Nephi 1:4 through 2:15 and that Nephi’s first-person account of his own ministry begins in 1 Nephi 2:16.

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Revisiting “Sariah” at Elephantine

Abstract: Jeffrey R. Chadwick has previously called attention to the name ŚRYH (Seraiah/Sariah) as a Hebrew woman’s name in the Jewish community at Elephantine. Paul Y. Hoskisson, however, felt this evidence was not definitive because part of the text was missing and had to be restored. Now a more recently published ostracon from Elephantine, which contains a sure attestation of the name ŚRYH as a woman’s name without the need of restoration, satisfies Hoskisson’s call for more definitive evidence and makes it more likely that the name is correctly restored on the papyrus first noticed by Chadwick. The appearance of the name Seraiah/Sariah as a woman’s name exclusively in the Book of Mormon and at Elephantine is made even more interesting since both communities have their roots in northern Israel, ca. the eighth–seventh centuries BCE.

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Research and More Research

Abstract: Young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have grown up with a plethora of information available to answer the questions they may have about the Gospel. This, in turn, has allowed discordant information to cause concern in many members, ultimately drawing some away from the Gospel. In a recent address to young, married members of the Church in Chicago, President Dallin H. Oaks advised that more research is often not the way to approach these concerns, but rather that members should rely on their faith in Jesus Christ. While many may not agree with this advice, when it comes to questions that will never have a provable answer, particularly of a religious nature, President Oaks’s words are correct. Research can never completely replace true faith, only supplement it.

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I Don’t Have a Testimony of the History of the Church

Abstract: In this masterful presentation, accomplished historian Davis Bitton addresses the role of history and belief. Testimonies, he asserts, are born of belief and spiritual witnesses, not from historical events. It is quite possible to know all about Church history and still remain a believing member.

[Editor’s Note: This essay was presented at the 2004 FAIR Conference.1 In preparation for publication it has been lightly copy edited and some citations and annotations added.]

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An Approach to History

Abstract: When researching and evaluating historical information, it is easy to come across things that may lead to a crisis of faith. Some of those crises may lead individuals to leave the Church and actively proselytize against it. It is much better when dealing with historical issues to approach them from a standpoint of charity, treating historical figures as we would like to be treated.

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Seeing Psalms as the Libretti of a Holy Drama

Abstract: Psalms was the favorite Old Testament book at Qumran and in the New Testament; the Book of Mormon contains more than three dozen allusions to Psalms. While Psalms contains both powerful, poetic words of comfort and doctrinal gems, many psalms also seem to careen between praise, warning, comfort, military braggadocio, and humility, sometimes addressing the Lord, sometimes speaking in the voice of the Lord or his prophets. The texts that most strongly exhibit such abrupt shifts may yield greater meaning if they are read as scripts or libretti of a sacred, temple- based drama.

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Was Adam a Monotheist?
A Reflection on Why We Call Abraham Father and Not Adam

Abstract: The three great monotheistic religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) all claim Abraham as father and prototypical monotheist. Though Adam is the putative first father in all of these traditions, he is seldom remembered in Judeo-Christian scriptural, apocryphal, or pseudepigraphic texts as an exemplary monotheist. This essay briefly reviews why Abraham retains the lofty title “Father of Monotheism” while exploring how Latter-day restoration scripture adds to and challenges this ancient tradition vis-à-vis enhanced understanding of Adam’s covenantal and monotheistic fidelity to God.

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Campbellites and Mormonites: Competing Restoration Movements

Abstract: In October 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, and Ziba Peterson were the first missionaries sent to travel through the western states to the Indian territory at the far reaches of the United States. Pratt, a former resident of northeastern Ohio, suggested they stop in the Kirtland, Ohio, area and visit his preacher friend, Sidney Rigdon. It was Rigdon who had earlier convinced Pratt that the restoration of the ancient order that included faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit could be found in Alexander Campbell’s restoration movement. Within a few weeks, the four missionaries baptized Rigdon and more than 100 new converts into Joseph Smith’s restoration movement — many of whom had been members of Campbell’s restoration movement. Although both Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith called their movements restorations, the foundation upon which each was built was very different.

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Assessing the Criticisms of Early-Age Latter-Day Saint Marriages

Abstract: Critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have accused Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saint men of pedophilia because they married teenaged women. Indeed, they have emphatically declared that such marriages were against 19th-century societal norms. However, historians and other experts have repeatedly stated that young people married throughout the 19th-century, and such marriages have been relatively common throughout all of US history. This article examines some of the accusations of early Latter-day Saint pedophilia and places such marriages within the greater historical and social context, illustrating that such marriages were normal and acceptable for their time and place.

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Curiously Unique:
Joseph Smith as Author
of the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The advent of the computer and the internet allows Joseph Smith as the “author” of the Book of Mormon to be compared to other authors and their books in ways essentially impossible even a couple of decades ago. Six criteria can demonstrate the presence of similarity or distinctiveness among writers and their literary creations: author education and experience, the book’s size and complexity, and the composition process and timeline. By comparing these characteristics, this essay investigates potentially unique characteristics of Joseph Smith and the creation of the Book of Mormon.

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Feasting on the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship has recently published a new study edition of the Book of Mormon. Edited by Grant Hardy, the Maxwell Institute Study Edition (MISE) incorporates important advances in Book of Mormon scholarship from the past few decades while grounding the reader’s experience in the text of the Book of Mormon. The reformatted text presented in the MISE improves the readability of the Book of Mormon, while footnotes, charts, bibliographies, and short explanatory essays highlight the strides made in recent years related to Book of Mormon scholarship. The MISE is a phenomenal edition of the Book of Mormon that is representative of the sort of close attention and care Latter-day Saints should be giving the text.

Review of Grant Hardy, ed. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Maxwell Institute Study Edition (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University / Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018). 648 pp. $35.00 (paperback).

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Read This Book:
A Review of the Maxwell Institute
Study Edition of the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The Maxwell Institute Study Edition of the Book of Mormon is an important tool for personal and class study of the Book of Mormon. Not only does it provide a better reading experience, it has important features that enhance study.

Review of Grant Hardy, ed. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Maxwell Institute Study Edition (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University / Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018). 648 pp. $35.00 (paperback).

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Messengers of the Covenant:
Mormon’s Doctrinal Use of
Malachi 3:1 in Moroni 7:29–32

Abstract: Although not evident at first glance, shared terminology and phraseology in Malachi 3:1 (3 Nephi 24:1) and Moroni 7:29–32 suggest textual dependency of the latter on the former. Jesus’s dictation of Malachi 3–4 to the Lamanites and Nephites at the temple in Bountiful, as recorded and preserved on the plates of Nephi, helped provide Mormon a partial scriptural and doctrinal basis for his teachings on the ministering of angels, angels/messengers of the covenant, the “work” of “the covenants of the Father,” and “prepar[ing] the way” in his sermon as preserved in Moroni 7. This article explores the implications of Mormon’s use of Malachi 3:1. It further explores the meaning of the name Malachi (“[Yahweh is] my messenger,” “my angel”) in its ancient Israelite scriptural context and the temple context within which Jesus uses it in 3 Nephi 24:1.

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Translating the New Testament
for Latter‑day Saints

Abstract: A new translation of the New Testament by Thomas A. Wayment, a professor of Classics at Brigham Young University, offers Latter-day Saints a fresh look at this volume of scripture. Accompanying the translation are study notes that touch on historical, textual, and other items of importance in any critical reading of the New Testament. Wayment’s new edition should prove a helpful aid to Latter day Saint readers wishing to get more out of their study of the New Testament.

 

Review of Thomas A. Wayment, trans., The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints: A Study Bible (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University / Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018). 491 pp. $29.99 (paperback).

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