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This week
in history

Hugh Nibley Observed

Edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Shirley S. Ricks, and Stephen T. Whitlock
Foreword by John W. Welch

Published by The Interpreter Foundation, Orem Utah in cooperation with Eborn Books, Salt Lake City, Utah
and in collaboration with Book of Mormon Central and FAIR

Softcover, PDF, Kindle and Audio Book editions available now, hardbound available soon

For additional information, go to

An Ingenious and Inspiring Literary Analysis of Alma 30–42

Review of Mark A. Wrathall, Alma 30–63: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 176 pages. $9.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Mark A. Wrathall’s analytic treatment of Alma 30–42 is a sheer gift that inspires insight into the theological depth of Alma’s thought. His reading of Alma teases out insights not previously recognized and not easily discovered regarding belief and knowledge and their relation to faith and committed action. This extremely rewarding introduction provides a glimpse at the best any writer in the Latter-day Saint tradition has written on Alma’s thoughts and goals.

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The Brass Plates: Can Modern Scholarship Help Identify Their Contents?

Abstract: The Book of Mormon contains little information about what the Brass Plates contain. Nephi said it was a larger record than the Hebrew Bible brought to America by the Gentiles. But it could not have contained the records of Old Testament prophets who wrote after Lehi’s party left Jerusalem or the New Testament. We know it contained some writings from Zenos, Zenock, Neum, and Ezias, but what else could it have contained? Though the “Documentary Hypothesis” idea that the Christian Bible is the product of redactors is distasteful to many Christians, this article suggests this scholarship should not trouble Latter-day Saints, who celebrate Mormon’s scriptural abridgement of ancient American scripture. This article also revisits the insights of some Latter-day Saint scholars who have suggested the Brass Plates are a record of the tribe of Joseph, and this may explain its scriptural content. The eight verses from Micah 5, which Christ quoted three times during His visit to the Nephites and which did not previously appear in Mormon’s abridgment, receive close analysis.

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Matthew Black and Mircea Eliade Meet Hugh Nibley

Abstract: As a graduate student, Gordon Thomasson had the opportunity to introduce two internationally renowned scholars to the publications and scholarship of Hugh Nibley: Matthew Black, an eminent scholar of ancient Enoch writings; and Mircea Eliade, famed chair of the History of Religions program at the University of Chicago. Upon hearing of Nibley’s Enoch discoveries, Black made an immediate, impromptu visit to BYU to meet him. Upon reading one of Nibley’s studies, Eliade proposed hiring him on the spot, exclaiming, “He knows my field better than I do, and his translations are elegant!”

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Honoring Hugh Nibley — Again

Review of Hugh Nibley Observed, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Shirley Ricks, and Stephen Whitlock (Orem, UT: Interpreter Foundation, 2021). 820 pages. $45.00 (hardback), $35.00 (paperback).

Abstract: Hugh Nibley Observed is the third assembly of essays honoring Nibley by his friends and admirers. It differs from the other two in many ways. It is packed with photographs, observations by his children about their father, and many other similar and related items that are often deeply personal reflections on Nibley as well as the influence he has had on Latter- day Saint intellectual life and also the faith of the Saints. Its contents are far more accessible than the strictly scholarly works written by the academic friends and colleagues of Nibley. There is some of that in this book, but it contains information and reflections on a host of different aspects of the first Latter-day Saint scholar who could and did provide a competent defense of the faith and the Saints. This book is very much about Nibley and not merely for him, as were the two previous efforts to honor him.

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Giving the Book of Ether
its Proper Due

Review of Daniel L. Belnap, ed., Illuminating the Jaredite Records (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University / Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2020). 320 pages. Hardback, $27.95.

Abstract: Illuminating the Jaredite Record collects ten papers by different Book of Mormon scholars. This is the second publication from the Book of Mormon Academy at Brigham Young University, a collection of scholars interested in the Book of Mormon. As with the first volume, the authors approach the text from different perspectives and thereby illuminate different aspects of the text.

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The Divine Handclasp in the Hebrew Bible and in Near Eastern Iconography

Abstract: David Calabro explores what he describes as the “divine handclasp” in the Hebrew Bible. The term refers to a handclasp between God and his human servant that had a place in ancient Israelite temple worship. Calabro indicates it was a ritual gesture that was part of temple rite performance with a priest acting as proxy for God in close interaction with mankind. While other scholars have suggested the gesture was indicative of deity transporting mankind to “glory,” Calabro’s research proposes the clasping of right hands while facing one another was ritually indicative of God granting access to His chosen rather than transporting him.

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And the One Pointed the Way:
Issues of Interpretation and Translation Involving the Liahona

Abstract: In describing the operation of the spindles in the Liahona, Nephi’s statement that “the one pointed the way” in 1 Nephi 16:10 is frequently taken to mean that one of the two spindles indicated the direction to travel. However, Nephi’s apparent use of the Hebrew word האחד (ha’echad)1 may imply a different mechanism in which the direction was being shown when both operated as one. If so, there may be added symbolism of unity and oneness inherent in Nephi’s and Alma’s descriptions of the Liahona. Additionally, I provide a detailed analysis of words and phrases used by Nephi and Alma to describe the Liahona which potentially reveal intriguing Hebrew wordplay in the text.

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Vast Prairies and Trackless Wilds of Snow: A Good Test of Sincerity

Abstract: Embarking roughly six months after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the 1830–1831 “mission to the Lamanites” faced challenges that we pampered moderns can scarcely imagine. Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and, eventually, Frederick G. Williams demonstrated beyond reasonable dispute the depth of their commitment to the Restoration and to the promises extended by the Book of Mormon to the surviving children of Lehi. Given that Cowdery and Whitmer were witnesses of the golden plates, this demonstration of their genuine belief seems significant.

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Nibley’s Early Education

Abstract: In this intimate glimpse of Hugh Nibley’s childhood, written by his daughter Zina, we read of what it was like for Hugh to grow up as a gifted child with Victorian parents and, in turn, what it was like for Zina and her siblings to grow up as a child in the home of Hugh and Phyllis. These poignant, never-before-told stories reveal why, in Zina’s words, “Hugh’s uniqueness lay as much in his inabilities as in his abilities, as much in what he refused to learn as what he refused to allow to remain unexamined.” And though it was obvious that his mind was extraordinarily sharp, we learn why “it was Hugh Nibley’s heart that made the difference. And it was a very good heart.”

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Understanding Covenants Anew:
Using Ancient Thought to Enrich Modern Faith

Review of Jennifer C. Lane, Finding Christ in the Covenant Path: Ancient Insights for Modern Life, (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University / Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2020). 188 pages. Hardcover, $29.99.

Abstract: In the first half of her book, Lane takes us on a tour of ancient worlds by introducing us to ancient words, such as bĕrît (covenant), gā’al (redemption), pānîm (presence of the Lord), and so forth, while deftly weaving linguistic and historical insights with personal narratives that ground these insights in the practical affairs of day-to-day living. In the second half of the book, Lane takes us on a tour of medieval art and images, centering on how art has been used to portray the Savior and His mission. Throughout the entire book, Lane centers the attention of the reader on Christ, inviting us to take upon ourselves His image and likeness and to more fully appreciate the images crafted of Him by artists of prior centuries.

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“The Messiah Will Set Himself Again”:
Jacob’s Use of Isaiah 11:11 in 2 Nephi 6:14 and Jacob 6:2

Abstract: In sermons and writings, Jacob twice quotes the prophecy of Isaiah 11:11 (“the Lord [ʾădōnāy] shall set his hand again [yôsîp] the second time to gather the remnant of his people”). In 2 Nephi 6:14 and Jacob 6:2, Jacob uses Isaiah 11:11 as a lens through which he interprets much lengthier prophetic texts that detail the restoration, redemption, and gathering of Israel: namely, Isaiah 49:22–52:2 and Zenos’s Allegory of the Olive Trees (Jacob 5). In using Isaiah 11:11 in 2 Nephi 6:14, Jacob, consistent with the teaching of his father Lehi (2 Nephi 2:6), identifies ʾădōnāy (“the Lord”) in Isaiah 11:11 as “the Messiah” and the one who will “set himself again the second time to recover” his people (both Israel and the righteous Gentiles who “believe in him”) and “manifest himself unto them in great glory.” This recovery and restoration will be so thoroughgoing as to include the resurrection of the dead (see 2 Nephi 9:1–2, 12–13). In Jacob 6:2, Jacob equates the image of the Lord “set[ting] his hand again [yôsîp] the second time to recover his people” (Isaiah 11:11) to the Lord of the vineyard’s “labor[ing] in” and “nourish[ing] again” the vineyard to “bring forth again” (cf. Hebrew yôsîp) the natural fruit (Jacob 5:29–33, 51–77) into the vineyard. All of this suggests that Jacob saw Isaiah 49:22–52:2 and Zenos’s allegory (Jacob 5) as telling essentially the same story. For Jacob, the prophetic declaration of Isaiah 11:11 concisely summed up this story, describing divine initiative and iterative action to “recover” or gather Israel in terms of the verb yôsîp. Jacob, foresaw this the divine action as being accomplished through the “servant” and “servants” in Isaiah 49–52, “servants” analogous to those described by Zenos in his allegory. For Jacob, the idiomatic use of yôsîp in Isaiah 11:11 as he quotes it in 2 Nephi 6:14 and Jacob 6:2 and as repeated throughout Zenos’s allegory (Jacob 5) reinforces the patriarch Joseph’s statement preserved in 2 Nephi 3 that this figure would be a “Joseph” (yôsēp).

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Edfu and Exodus

Abstract: In this essay John Gee draws a connection between the Egyptian “Book of the Temple” and the book of Exodus, both in structure and topic, describing the temple from the inside out. Gee concludes that both probably go back to a common source older than either of them.

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Much More than a Reader:
The Latest in Chiastic Studies for Interested Scholars and Lay Readers Alike

Review of Chiasmus: The State of the Art, edited by John W. Welch and Donald W. Parry (Provo, UT: BYU Studies and Book of Mormon Central, 2020). 358 pages. $24.68, paperback.

Abstract: This collection of essays represents the latest scholarship on chiasmus. They were selected from papers delivered at an academic conference at Brigham Young University in 2017. Articles reflect both “the state of the art” and the state of the technique in chiastic studies.

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Josiah to Zoram to Sherem to Jarom
and the Big Little Book of Omni

Abstract: The first 450 years of Nephite history are dominated by two main threads: the ethno-political tension between Nephites and Lamanites and religious tension between adherents of rival theologies. These rival Nephite theologies are a Mantic theology that affirms the existence of Christ and a Sophic theology that denies Christ. The origin of both narrative threads lies in the Old World: the first in conflicts between Nephi and Laman, the second in Lehi’s rejection of King Josiah’s theological and political reforms. This article focuses on these interrelated conflicts. It suggests that Zoram, Laman, Lemuel, Sherem, and the Zeniffites were Deuteronomist followers of Josiah. The small plates give an account of how their Deuteronomist theology gradually supplanted the gospel of Christ. As the small plates close, their last author, Amaleki, artfully confronts his readers with a life-defining choice: having read the Book of Mormon thus far, will you remain, metaphorically, with the prophets in Zarahemla and embrace the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, or will you return to the land of Nephi and the theology you believed and the life you lived before you read the Book of Mormon?

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The Past and Future of the Temple Lot in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri

Abstract: Fifteen months after the Church of Christ’s inception in April 1830, Joseph Smith received a revelation indicating that Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, was to be the “center-place” of Zion and a “spot for a temple is lying westward, upon a lot that is not far from the court-house.” Dedication of this spot for the millennial temple soon followed on August 3, 1831, by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. A building sketch was prepared in Kirtland, Ohio, and sent to church leaders in Independence in June 1833. Smith also forwarded his plat for the City of Zion, showing 24 temples at its center and giving an explanation for their use. Tragically, the church was driven en masse out of Jackson County only months later. Reclaiming the original Partridge purchase in December 1831, known as the Temple Lot, became an early driving force for the membership of the church. A physical effort to reclaim the saints’ land and possessions in Jackson County was organized in 1834 by Joseph Smith and became known as “Zion’s Camp.” After traveling 900 miles and poised on the north bank of the Missouri River looking toward Jackson County, Smith’s two hundred armed men were unable to proceed for various reasons. While contemplating what to do, given the reality of their situation, Smith received a revelation to “wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion.” That poignant phrase — “the redemption of Zion” — became a tenet of the church thereafter. In the years following the martyrdom and the subsequent “scattering of the saints,” three independent expressions of the Restoration returned to Independence to reclaim or redeem the Temple Lot in fulfillment of latter-day scripture. This essay examines their historical efforts.

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Resurrection Month

Abstract: We tend to have big events and a full month celebrating Christmas, but here we are in a very Christian church that has come to almost ignore the events of the crucifixion and the resurrection. The Last Supper and the events that followed it are the important events of the season. With some planning and creativity, we can immerse ourselves in a Resurrection Month by thinking about the gift of life and promise for the future that we have been given, reading the old scriptures, and reliving the life and times of our elder brother and great teacher.

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The Ark and the Tent:
Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah

Abstract: Jeffrey M. Bradshaw compares Moses’ tabernacle and Noah’s ark, and then identifies the story of Noah as a temple related drama, drawing of temple mysticism and symbols. After examining structural similarities between ark and tabernacle and bringing into the discussion further information about the Mesopotamian flood story, he shows how Noah’s ark is a beginning of a new creation, pointing out the central point of Day One in the Noah story. When Noah leaves the ark, they find themselves in a garden, not unlike the Garden of Eden in the way the Bible speaks about it. A covenant is established in signs and tokens. Noah is the new Adam. This is then followed by a fall/Judgement scene story, even though it is Ham who is judged, not Noah. In accordance with mostly non-Mormon sources quoted, Bradshaw points out how Noah was not in “his” tent, but in the tent of the Shekhina, the presence of God, how being drunk was seen by the ancients as a synonym to “being caught up in a vision of God,” and how his “nakedness” was rather referring to garments God had made for Adam and Eve.

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“Strong Like unto Moses”:
The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Related Content Apparently from the Brass Plates

Abstract: Over 30 years ago, Noel Reynolds compared matching non-Biblical phrases in the Book of Moses and Book of Mormon. Based on this analysis, Reynolds proposed a possible connection between the Book of Moses and hypothetical material on the brass plates that may have influenced some Book of Mormon authors. Reynolds’s work, “The Brass Plates Version of Genesis,” provided potentially plausible explanations for additional relationships between the Book of Moses and Book of Mormon that arose in two later Jeff Lindsay studies: one on the Book of Mormon account of Lehi1’s trail and another on the Book of Mormon’s intriguing use of the ancient theme of rising from the dust. The additional findings and connections presented here strengthen the original case Reynolds made for the ancient roots of the Book of Moses, roots that could have extended to the brass plates and then on to the Book of Mormon. Critics might dismiss such connections by asserting that Joseph merely drew from the Book of Mormon when drafting the Book of Moses; however, this view overlooks significant evidence indicating that the direction of dependence is the other way around. In light of the combined evidence now available, it is time to reconsider Reynolds’s original proposal and recognize the possibility that the Book of Moses is more deeply rooted in antiquity that many have recognized in the past.

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Variety and Complexity in the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon

Abstract: This paper examines the testimonies of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon— not only the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses, but many others who experienced and testified of the reality of the Book of Mormon plates. Together, these testimonies offer impressive support for the claims of Joseph Smith regarding the Book of Mormon and, thus, the Restoration. The variety and complexity of their collective testimony makes finding a single, alternative, non-divine explanation for the witness experiences challenging, indeed.

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Women and the Priesthood in the Contemporary Church

Abstract: During the last century there has been a prophetic emphasis on the understanding of women and their priesthood power and authority that has been unprecedented since the days of Joseph Smith. Through the use of scripture and teachings of our prophets and leaders of the restoration, this paper seeks to clarify the contemporary role of women in relation to their priesthood power and authority. By integrating the patriarchal priesthood—that priesthood entered into by Eve and Adam, lost during the time of Moses, and again revealed in our day in the Kirtland Temple—with the administrative priesthood found in the public Church and spoken of more traditionally, we can better understand the privileges, powers, and authorities associated with the temple that are critical for our day.

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