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

Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses
2021 Interpreter Foundation Conference

April 23-24, 2021
Presented by The Interpreter Foundation, Brigham Young University Department of Ancient Scripture,
Book of Mormon Central, & FairMormon
Due to the COVID-19 situation, this will be a live-streaming-only conference.

For updates on conference details, go to

Remembrance and Return
Essays in Honor of Louis C. Midgley

Edited by Ted Vaggalis and Daniel C. Peterson

Jointly published by The Interpreter Foundation, Orem Utah
and Eborn Books, Salt Lake City, Utah

Expected publication: March, 2021   

For additional information, go to

“All Can Partake, Freely”

Abstract: The Interpreter Foundation welcomes faithful ideas, insights, and manuscripts from people of all backgrounds. In this brief essay, I share some that were recently shared with me regarding Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, as recorded in 1 Nephi 8. Among other things, Lehi seems to have been shown that the divine offer of salvation extends far beyond a small elite. As Peter exclaims in the King James rendering of Acts 10:34, “God is no respecter of persons.” Other translations render the same words as saying that he doesn’t “play favorites” or “show partiality.” The passage in James 1:5 with which the Restoration commenced clearly announces that, if they will simply ask, God “giveth to all men liberally.”

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The Handclasp, the Temple,
and the King

Abstract: In this article Matthew Brown examines the possible meaning behind the imagery of the handclasp between God in heaven and the earthly king. He focuses on this imagery as it is articulated in Psalms 27, 41, 63, 73, and 89. He argues that Psalms 41 and 73 feasibly indicate that when the king of Israel was initiated within the precincts of the temple into the office of kingship he passed through the veil of the Holy of Holies (see Exodus 26:33) and symbolically entered into God’s presence.

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Polygamists and Political Activists:
The Unlikely Marriage in Pioneering the Vote

Review of Neylan McBaine, Pioneering the Vote: The Untold Story of Suffragists in Utah and the West (Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 2020). 240 pages. $19.99 (hardback).

Abstract: Pioneering the Vote by Neylan McBaine provides a cogent and concise history of the role of Latter-day Saint women in the suffrage movement. McBaine interweaves a fictionalized narrative centered on Emmeline Wells with primary source excerpts and summaries of particular events. The book brings to life the women described and succeeds in explicating many of the important barriers that Latter-day Saint women faced while trying to participate in the suffrage movement — namely, polygamy. McBaine accurately portrays the aversion to polygamy, but she could have spent more time describing why and how Latter-day Saint women found polygamy empowering. While the book succeeds in recounting history and begins to analyze Latter-day Saint women’s role in this movement, more interaction with Latter-day Saint theology as a way of showing why women would feel passionately about obtaining suffrage while still maintaining polygamous relationships would create a more complete picture. Nevertheless, McBaine’s historic contribution to this field of study acts as a milestone from which we can advance to more nuanced discussions about the way polygamy empowered women.

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Coming Down and Bringing Down:
Pejorative Onomastic Allusions
to the Jaredites
in Helaman 6:25, 6:38, and Ether 2:11

Abstract: Mormon uses pejorative wordplay on the name Jaredites based on the meaning of the Hebrew verb yārad. The onomastic rhetoric involving the meaning of yārad first surfaces in Helaman 6 where Mormon also employs wordplay on the name Cain in terms of qānâ or “getting gain.” The first wordplay occurs in the negative purpose clause “lest they should be a means of bringing down [cf. lĕhôrîd] the people unto destruction” (Helaman 6:25) and the second in the prepositional phrase “until they had come down [cf. yārĕdû/yordû] to believe in their works” (Helaman 6:38). Mormon uses these pejorative wordplays as a means of emphasizing the genetic link that he sees between Jareditic secret combinations and the derivative Gadianton robbers. Moroni reflects upon his father’s earlier use of this type of pejorative wordplay on “Jaredites” and yārad when he directly informs latter-day Gentiles regarding the “decrees of God” upon the land of promise “that ye may repent and not continue in your iniquities until the fullness be come, that ye may not bring down [cf. *tôrîdû/hôradtem] the fullness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land hath hitherto done” (Ether 2:11). All three of these onomastic allusions constitute an urgent and timely warning to latter-day Gentiles living upon the land of promise. They warn the Gentiles against “coming down” to believe in and partake of the works and spoils of secret combinations like the Jaredites and the Nephites did, and thus “bringing down” their own people to destruction and “bringing down” the “fullness of the wrath of God” upon themselves, as the Jaredites and the Nephites both did.

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The Book of Mormon as a Resurrected Book and a Type of Christ

Abstract: This essay emphasizes the remarkable participation of the Book of Mormon in the gospel symbolism of death and resurrection. It explains how the Book of Mormon itself may be seen as a resurrected book, witnessing Christ’s resurrection in a remarkable way.

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The Inclusive, Anti-Discrimination Message of the Book of Mormon

Abstract: Attitudes of superiority lead to societal conflict. The racial interpretation of a few Book of Mormon verses has contributed to these attitudes and conflicts, yet hundreds of inclusive messages are found in more than half of the book’s verses. God’s message, love, mercy, and justice are for all people. Righteous people did not think themselves above others, nor did they persecute others or start wars. War is tragic and is caused by wickedness. Conspiracies are a great evil. Righteous people were kind in their attitudes and actions, regardless of others’ social status or ethnicity. Some Book of Mormon people even gave their lives or put their lives at risk to act kindly, and some of these went from hating others to giving up their lives on behalf of others. The inclusive messages in the Book of Mormon are consistent with the position advocated by current Latter-day Saint leaders condemning all racism and disavowing racist hypotheses such as those derived from a few Book of Mormon verses (i.e., that skin color is related to righteousness). The inclusive messages also are consistent with the view that skin color in the Book of Mormon is not literal but is metaphorical. The Book of Mormon instructs us that the right way to interact is with love and respect, through examples of people respecting and reaching out to others, promises to all people, condemnation of unkindness and anti-Semitism, calls to all people to repent, and emphasizing the flaws of one’s own group and not those of others.

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Tree of Life, Tree of Healing

Abstract: The late Hebrew scholar John Tvedtnes takes readers on a grand tour of Jewish and Christian stories and traditions that attest to the Tree of Life as not only a means to prolong life, but also to impart a healing power to individuals and to the earth itself. In a future day, it is said that the Saints will eat of its sweet fruit forever.

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Fantasy and Reality in the Translation of the Book of Abraham

Abstract: The volume editors of The Joseph Smith Papers Revelations and Translations: Volume 4 propose a theory of translation of the Book of Abraham that is at odds with the documents they publish and with other documents and editorial comments published in the other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Two key elements of their proposal are the idea of simultaneous dictation of Book of Abraham Manuscripts in the handwritings of Frederick G. Williams and Warren Parrish, and Joseph Smith’s use of the so-called Alphabet and Grammar. An examination of these theories in the light of the documents published in the Joseph Smith Papers shows that neither of these theories is historically tenable. The chronology the volume editors propose for the translation of the Book of Abraham creates more problems than it solves. A different chronology is proposed. Unfortunately, the analysis shows that the theory of translation of the Book of Abraham adopted by the Joseph Smith Papers volume editors is highly flawed.

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Record-Keeping Technology
among God’s People
in Ancient and Modern Times

Abstract: In a fascinating survey of the efforts of ancient and modern Saints to honor the Lord’s commandment to keep reliable records of their doings, the authors take us on a colorful tour of the past, present, and future of technology for records preservation. These efforts are not only awe-inspiring, but have had and will have important consequences for the faith and memory of the goodness of God and the fulfillment of His purposes in history.

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Prolegomena to a Study
of the Egyptian Alphabet Documents
in the Joseph Smith Papers

Abstract: For many theories about the Book of Abraham, the Egyptian Alphabet documents are seen as the key to understanding the translation process. While the original publication of those documents allows many researchers access to the documents for the first time, careful attention to the Joseph Smith Papers as a whole and the practices of Joseph Smith’s scribes in particular allows for improvements in the date, labeling, and understanding of the historical context of the Egyptian Alphabet documents.This essay supports the understanding of these documents found in the other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers that the Egyptian Alphabet documents are an incidental by-product of the translation process rather than an essential step in that process.

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Poesy and Prosody in the
Book of Mormon

Abstract: Robert Smith makes the case that “poetic art in the Book of Mormon is highly developed” — you just need to have the eye to recognize it. Though many readers are aware of the stunning examples of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, thanks to the pioneering work by John W. Welch, fewer are acquainted with the other important forms of parallelism that pervade the text, often placed strategically to highlight the importance of a particular passage. Smith also shows why apocalpytic texts, sometimes thought to originate at a later period, can be found, for example, in the first chapter of the Book of Mormon.

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Subtle Hebraic Features in the
Book of Mormon

Review of Donald W. Parry, Preserved in Translation: Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2020). 171 pages. Hardback, $19.99.

Abstract: Donald W. Parry combines a lifetime of insights about the Old Testament and Book of Mormon into one volume. Written for a non- academic audience, this book will provide a glimpse into some of the Book of Mormon’s literary complexities that originate from Hebrew grammar and style.

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The Pleading Bar of God

Abstract: Royal Skousen’s essay shed light on enigmatic references in Jacob 6:13 and Moroni 10:34 to “the pleasing bar of God.” After establishing that the term “pleading bar” is an appropriate legal term, he cites both internal evidence and the likelihood of scribal errors as explanations for why “pleasing bar,” instead of the more likely “pleading bar,” appears in current editions of the Book of Mormon.

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Working out Salvation History in the Book of Mormon Politeia with Fear and Trembling

Review of James E. Faulconer, Mosiah: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 135 pages. $9.95 (paperback).

Abstract: The Maxwell Institute for the Study of Religion has released another book in its series The Book of Mormon: Brief Theological Introductions. This book by James E. Faulconer more than ably engages five core elements of the book of Mosiah, exploring their theological implications. Faulconer puzzles through confusing passages and elements: why is the book rearranged so that it isn’t in chronological order? What might King Benjamin mean when he refers to the nothingness of humans? And what might Abinadi mean when he declares that Christ is both the Father and the Son? The most interesting parts of the introduction to Mosiah are those chapters that sort through the discussion of politics as both Alma1 and Mosiah2 sort out divine preferences in constitutional arrangements as the Nephites pass through a political revolution that shifts from rule by kings to rule by judges. Faulconer asserts that no particular political structure is preferred by God; in the chapter about economic arrangements, Faulconer (as in his analysis of political constitutions) asserts that deity doesn’t endorse any particular economic relationship.

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Two Essays on Sustaining and Enlarging the Doctrine

Abstract: In a pair of recent books, Patrick Mason and Terryl and Fiona Givens seek to revitalize, reinvigorate, and deepen our understanding of basic terms and concepts of the Restoration. I welcome such efforts, convinced (even where I sometimes quibble) that the conversations they will engender among faithful and committed believers can be very healthy. Now that “the times of refreshing [have] come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:18), it is imperative, both for ourselves and for a world that needs to hear the news, that we not lose sight of the radical freshness of the divine gift and of its comprehensively transforming power. My hope for The Interpreter Foundation is that — while joyfully recognizing, indeed celebrating, the fact that prophets and apostles lead the Kingdom, not academics and intellectuals — it will contribute not only to the defense of the Restoration but to the explication of Restoration doctrines and enhanced understanding and appreciation of their riches.

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Medieval Christian Views of Hebrew
as the Language of Magic

Abstract: The view of Hebrew as a language of magic, for which precedents can be discerned in the Bible and in rabbinic tradition, spilled over into early and medieval Christianity. Andrew Skinner adroitly explores the material and theological history of this trajectory, showing how this contributed to the emergence of Christian Kabbalah in the sixteenth century.

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Christmas as Devotional:
A Time of Commitment

Abstract: Christmas is more than a time for celebrations and traditions — it is an occasion to remember the blessings and miracles in our lives. From the joy of friends and family to the peace inspired by devotion and dedication Christmas offers us a time to marvel at the mercies of God; let us remember the holier anthems of the season.

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“A Prophet Like Moses”
(Deuteronomy 18:15–18)
in the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Abstract: David Seely provides a wide-ranging survey of interpretations of the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15–18 concerning “a prophet like unto Moses.” He examines relevant passages in the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the Dead Sea Scrolls and shows how the prophecy has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ and others, continuing with Joseph Smith’s role in the Restoration and onward to the present day.

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Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects under a Microscope

Review of Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, edited by Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020). 544 pages with index. Hardback, $70. Paperback $45, eBook $40.[Page 257]

Abstract: Producing Ancient Scripture is a collection of sixteen detailed essays with an introduction by the editors. This is the first such collection that examines the greater range of Joseph Smith’s translation projects. As such, it is uniquely positioned to begin more sophisticated answers about the relationship between Joseph Smith and both the concept of translation and the specific translation works he produced.

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“I Will Deliver Thy Sons”:
An Onomastic Approach to Three Iterations of an Oracle to Mosiah II
(Mosiah 28:7; Alma 17:35, 19:23)

Abstract: Three times in his narrative Mormon recounts the Lord’s oracle (revelation) to Mosiah II regarding his sons undertaking a mission among the Lamanites (Mosiah 28:7, Alma 17:35, and Alma 19:23). In all three instances, the Lord’s promises of deliverance revolve around the meaning of the name Mosiah (“Yahweh is Deliverer” or “Yahweh is Savior”), emphasizing that the Lord (Hebrew yhwh) himself would act in his covenant role as môšîaʿ in delivering Mosiah’s sons, and sparing Ammon in particular. In two of the iterations of the oracle, Mosiah 28:7 and Alma 19:23, we find additional wordplay on the name Ammon (“faithful”) in terms of “many shall believe” (Hebrew yaʾămînû) in the first instance and ʾĕmûnâ (“faith,” “faithfulness”) in the latter. In Alma 19:23 the Lord also employs an additional wordplay on his own name, Yahweh (Jehovah), to emphasize his ability to bring to pass his promises to Mosiah regarding Ammon.

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