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 https://notbybreadalonefilm.com/en/
For more information in French, go to https://notbybreadalonefilm.com/fr/
To see all of the Interpreter posts about The Church in Africa, go to https://interpreterfoundation.org/category/africa/

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
https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/the-temple-symbols-sermons-and-settings/

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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Glory to God in the Highest

Abstract: What would it have been like to be among the shepherds who heard the angelic announcement of Jesus’s birth? Their story has special meaning for many of us because we feel a kinship with those shepherds through shared anonymity and shared hope and witness. By means of two favorite hymns, “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains,” Kent Jackson invites us to place ourselves in the role of those shepherds and join in singing: “Lord, with the angels we too would rejoice,” and “Come to Bethlehem and see.”

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Pixelated Prophets: A History and Analysis of Book-of-Mormon-Themed Video Games

Abstract: Video games represent an innovative medium for entertainment and artistic expression with potential for fostering deeper engagement with religious texts such as the Book of Mormon. Over the past three decades, developers have produced dozens of video games based on the Book of Mormon. This paper provides a comprehensive history of these video games. We examine how these games use different genres, styles, and levels of scriptural fidelity to creative immersive and interactive experiences based on ancient stories and teachings. We also discuss the challenges and opportunities for developing and distributing Book-of-Mormon–themed video games in a competitive and changing market and discuss the future potential of religious-themed video games in fostering unique spiritual experiences.

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Marvelous Ripples through Time and Mind

Review of Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Cultural History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2023). 264 pages, $34.95 (hardback).

Abstract: The gold plates were only a physically present artifact for a brief time and only for a select few people. Then they were gone, but the effect of their original presence echoes and reverberates through the history of how people have reacted to the reports of the plates. Bushman’s cultural history examines a wide range of responses, covering not just the familiar apologetic and critical responses, but also the way literature and art have represented them.

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A New Look at the Miracles of the Resurrection and the Book of Mormon

Review of Joshua Gehly, Witnessing Miracles: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection and the Book of Mormon (Monongahela, PA: The Church of Jesus Christ, 2022). 172 pages. $14.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Joshua Gehly, an ordained Evangelist of the Church of Jesus Christ, offers a compelling case for the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Gehly uses the historical methods used by William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and Michael Licona to demonstrate the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and applies them to the Book of Mormon, concluding there to be greater evidence for the Book of Mormon using these methods than the Resurrection. He likewise concludes that the Book of Mormon serves to strengthen the reality of the Resurrection, bearing testimony of a historical people’s interactions with a historical and risen Jesus. While Gehly comes from a faith tradition outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his is a tradition that believes the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, and he shows his deep appreciation and love for both Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon throughout this book. Ultimately, it is a book that I can recommend to those interested in the line of historical analysis presented by many Christian apologists and the Book of Mormon.

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Nephi Wanted to Be a Prophet Like Moses, Not a King Like David

Abstract: While David is frequently held up as the standard for great kings in the Old Testament, examination of Nephi’s writings shows that he sought to imitate Moses the prophet rather than David the king. In fact, he never even mentions David. Relative to two major theological movements in Jerusalem in his day, “Zion theology,” in which David was the great hero, and “Deuteronomistic theology,” in which Moses was the hero, we see that Nephi was more aligned with Deuteronomistic theology, which was also more consistent with views in the Northern Kingdom, where Nephi’s ancestry originated.

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Asymmetry in Chiasms, With a Note About Deuteronomy 8 and Alma 36

Abstract: Some students of the Book of Mormon have claimed that chapter 36 of the book of Alma is structured as a chiasm. Some of the proposals depart from perfect symmetry, presenting elements of the suggested chiasm seemingly out of sequence. This has often been pointed to as a weakness in the proposed chiasm or as a problem arising from translation or editorial work, or even as evidence that no real chiasm exists over the text of the chapter. Perhaps, however, asymmetry may be a deliberate feature of ancient chiasmus. Understanding the presence and role of occasional asymmetry or skews, as they are called, may help us better appreciate the rhetorical tools employed in crafting chiastic texts anciently. In particular, we can see that the structure of Alma 36 may well be a beautifully crafted chiasmus featuring what may be an intentional skew similar to those that scholars have identified elsewhere in scripture. One such other chiastic text with a skew in it appears to be Deuteronomy 8. Indeed, one skew proposed in Alma 36, together with conceptual and other structural characteristics of the text, including the proposed chiasm of the text, perhaps suggests that some of the message and structure of Deuteronomy 8 may have served as a model for part of the message and structure of Alma 36.

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An Analysis of Mormon’s Narrative Strategies Employed on the Zeniffite Narrative and Their Effect on Limhi

Abstract: The prophet Mormon’s editorial skill brings the narrative of the Zeniffites alive with a complex tumble of viewpoints, commentary, and timelines. Mormon seems to apply similar narrative strategies as those used in the Bible in his approach to abridging the history of his people. A comparative reading of the various accounts in the Zeniffite story provides the close reader with a deep picture of Limhi, the tragic grandson of the founding king, Zeniff, and the son of the iniquitous King Noah. Noah’s wicked rule brought his people into bondage. His conflicted son Limhi’s efforts to free the people, although well meaning, often imperiled his people. Fortunately, Limhi’s proclivity for making poor judgments did not extend to his acceptance of the gospel. In fact, coexistent with the repeated errors Limhi makes in the narrative lies one of his greatest strengths, his willingness to accept correction. This is a vital characteristic necessary for the repentance required by the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what redeemed Limhi from his comedy of errors. It is this quality that can also redeem us all. Limhi’s love for his father, in the end, did not doom him to make the same mistakes Noah did. When the messengers from God came, Limhi listened and accepted their message. Mormon’s characterization strategies described here are a credit to his art and support the hypothesis that he is an inheritor of the poetics of biblical narrative. His narrative strategies not only characterize the cast in his narrative, but also characterize him. The care Mormon took in crafting his abridgment reveal his observational prowess. He saw God’s hand in his people’s history, and he went to great lengths to teach his readers how to see it too. His characterization of Limhi is a personal message about how wickedness and tyranny affect individuals.

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Largely Shadow, Short of Reality

Review of Ronald V. Huggins, Lighthouse: Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Despised and Beloved Critics of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2022). 392 pages. $39.95 (hardback), $24.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Jerald and Sandra Tanner have had a long ministerial career trying to convince people that the truth claims of the Church are wrong. Even though their ministry has closed its doors, Sandra Tanner still gives interviews recounting their adventures in fighting the good fight. This image is burnished by a biography of the Tanners and their ministry written by Ronald V. Huggins. In this review I examine the way in which Huggins approaches his subjects in his book.

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“Encircled About Eternally in the Arms of His Love”: The Divine Embrace as a Thematic Symbol of Jesus Christ and His Atonement in the Book of Mormon

Abstract: This study builds upon Hugh Nibley’s insightful observation that several Book of Mormon passages reflect “the ritual embrace that consummates the final escape from death in the Egyptian funerary texts and reliefs” as expressing the meaning of Christ’s Atonement. This study further extends Nibley’s observations on Jacob’s “wrestle” as a divine “embrace” to show that Lehi’s, Nephi’s, and their successors’ understanding of the divine embrace is informed by their ancestor’s “wrestle” with a “man” (Genesis 32:24–30) and reconciliation with his brother (Genesis 33:4–10). Examples of the divine embrace language and imagery throughout the Book of Mormon go well beyond what Nibley noted, evoking the Psalms’ depictions of Jehovah whose “wings” offered protection in the ritual place of atonement. Book of Mormon “divine embrace” texts have much to teach us about Jesus Christ, his love, the nature of his Atonement, and the temple.

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