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

Sacred Time, Sacred Space, & Sacred Meaning

Proceedings of the Third Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference “The Temple on Mount Zion,” 5 November 2016
Temple on Mount Zion Series 4
Stephen D. Ricks and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (eds.)
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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 (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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Proper Names from the Small Plates:
Some Notes on the Personal Names Zoram, Jarom, Omni, and Mosiah

Abstract: With a selection of a few notable examples (Zoram, Jarom, Omni, and Mosiah) that have been analyzed by the ongoing Book of Mormon names project, Stephen Ricks argues that “proper names in the Book of Mormon are demonstrably ancient.”

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Itty Bitty Books with Big Lessons:
Enos, Jarom, Omni

[Page 219]Review of Sharon J. Harris, Enos, Jarom, Omni: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 144 pages. $9.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Sharon Harris, a professor of English at Brigham Young University, offers an analysis of the theology of the “small books” of Enos, Jarom, and Omni in this next installment of The Book of Mormon: Brief Theological Introductions by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Harris argues that the theology of these small books focuses on the covenant with the Nephites and Lamanites, the importance of genealogy, and the role kenosis plays in several of these Book of Mormon prophets. Harris presents both new and familiar readings of these compact books, providing a fair contribution to their study.

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Jacob — The Prophet of Social Justice

[Page 211]Review of Deidre Nicole Green, Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 148 pages. $9.99 (paperback).

Abstract: Deidre Nicole Green, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, offers an analysis of the theology of the book of Jacob with her new contribution to the Institute’s brief theological introduction series to the Book of Mormon. Green focuses on the theology of social justice in Jacob’s teachings, centering much of her book on how the Nephite prophet framed issues of atonement and salvation on both personal and societal levels. Her volume offers some intriguing new readings of otherwise familiar Book of Mormon passages.

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Chiastic Structuring of Large Texts:
Second Nephi as a Case Study

[Page 193]Abstract: In this important paper, Noel Reynolds extends his 1980 argument for the chiastic structure of 1 Nephi to demonstrate that 2 Nephi can be seen as a matching structure with a similar nature. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that chiasmus is not a phenomenon that confines itself to the details of words and phrases at the level of scriptural verses but can extend to much larger units of meaning, allowing the rhetorical beauty and emphasis of their overall messages to shine more brilliantly when they are considered as purposefully crafted wholes.

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“We Are a Remnant of the Seed of Joseph”:
Moroni’s Interpretive Use of Joseph’s Coat and the Martial nēs-Imagery
of Isaiah 11:11–12

[Page 169]Abstract: Genesis 30:23–24 offers a double etiology for Joseph in terms of “taking away”/“gathering” (ʾāsap) and “adding” (yāsap). In addition to its later narratological use of the foregoing, the Joseph cycle (Genesis 37–50) evidences a third dimension of onomastic wordplay involving Joseph’s kĕtōnet passîm, an uncertain phrase traditionally translated “coat of many colours” (from LXX), but perhaps better translated, “coat of manifold pieces.” Moroni1, quoting from a longer version of the Joseph story from the brass plates, refers to “Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces” (Alma 46:23). As a military and spiritual leader, Moroni1 twice uses Joseph’s torn coat and the remnant doctrine from Jacob’s prophecy regarding Joseph’s coat as a model for his covenant use of his own coat to “gather” (cf. ʾāsap) and rally faithful Nephites as “a remnant of the seed of Joseph” (Alma 46:12–28, 31; 62:4–6). In putting that coat on a “pole” or “standard” (Hebrew nēs — i.e., “ensign”) to “gather” a “remnant of the seed of Joseph” appears to make use of the Isaianic nēs-imagery of Isaiah 11:11–12 (and elsewhere), where the Joseph-connected verbs yāsap and ʾāsap serve as key terms. Moroni’s written-upon “standard” or “ensign” for “gathering” the “remnant of the seed of Joseph” constituted an important prophetic antetype for how Mormon and his son, Moroni2, perceived the function of their written record in the latter-days (see, e.g., 3 Nephi 5:23–26; Ether 13:1–13).

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Formed in and Called from the Womb

[Page 153]Abstract: Drawing on his deep knowledge of biblical Hebrew, Dana Pike gives us a close reading of Jeremiah 1:5, the most important Old Testament verse relating to the Latter-day Saint understanding of premortal existence of human spirits and the foreordination of prophets to their appointed callings. He shows that the plain sense of this verse cannot be easily dismissed: first, and consistent with Latter-day Saint understanding, God knew Jeremiah before he was conceived and that afterward, in a second phase that transpired in the womb, he was, “according to the Israelite perspective preserved in the Bible,” appointed to become a prophet.

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An Intelligent, Thoughtful Work on One of the Richest Portions of the Book of Mormon

[Page 145]Review of Terryl Givens, 2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 124 pages. $9.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Terryl Givens’s well-written and enjoyable book does much to equip readers of the Book of Mormon with new tools to appreciate the riches of a text often viewed as the most difficult part of the Book of Mormon. Givens helps us recognize Nephi’s sorrow over Jerusalem and his passionate hope and joy centered in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He helps us understand the weightier matters that Nephi focuses on to encourage us to accept the covenants of the Lord and to be part of Zion. Readers will better respect 2 Nephi as a vital part of the Restoration with content critically important for our day.

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Nephi’s Obsession, Or,
How to Talk with Nephi about God

[Page 131]Review of Joseph M. Spencer, 1 Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 146 pages. $9.99 (paperback).

Abstract: Joseph Spencer’s intimate familiarity with the Book of Mormon text, based upon years of close textual study and informed by a well- developed theological sensibility, is in full evidence in this lead-off volume in Neal A. Maxwell Institute’s new series of books on the various books of the Book of Mormon. Leaving to prophets and apostles the responsibility for “declaring official doctrine,” this new series approaches the book with the tools of the “scholarly practice” of theology. In Spencer’s case at least, his practice is understood to be (1) informed by an emphasis on grace that is skeptical of claims of personal righteousness and (2) very much engaged with contemporary moral and social issues grounded in a fundamental concern for “equality.” Accordingly, Spencer’s reading is much more interested in “what God is doing in history with what we call the Abrahamic covenant” than with the more popular (non-scholarly) concerns of “everyday faithful living;” it is also more interested in Nephi’s “realistic” and “mature” regret over his youthful over-boldness than in his confident statements of righteous faith. In the end, Spencer’s extremely careful but theologically tendentious reading alerts us very skillfully to certain features of Nephi’s imperfect humanity but reveals a consistent preoccupation with any possible faults in the prophet that might be extracted from an ingenious reading of the text. Finally, concerning women in the Book of Mormon, Spencer again expertly raises provocative questions about barely heard female voices but is too eager to frame these questions from the standpoint of the “modern sensibility” of “sexual egalitarianism.”

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Notes on Mormonism and the Trinity

[Page 87]Abstract: With “awe, humility, and circumspection,” Daniel C. Peterson provides a useful summary and discussion of Latter-day Saint beliefs as they relate to traditional Christian conceptions of the Trinity. In particular, his discussions reveals the many nuances of the questions raised, including the precise nature of the unity of the three persons of the Godhead and how the overall conception relates to doctrines of salvation and practical discipleship, which continued to be a controversial issue in both the Eastern and Western Churches for centuries. Peterson argues that the Latter-day Saint doctrine affirms both biblical precedents and, to a degree, some modern theological trends such as social theories of the Trinity.

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Count Your Many Mormons:
Mormon’s Personalized and Personal Messages in Mosiah 18 and 3 Nephi 5

[Page 75]Abstract: The present work analyzes the narrative art Mormon employs, specifically Mormon’s unique strategies for personalized and personal messaging, which can be seen in how Mormon connects the narration of the baptism at the waters of Mormon in Mosiah chapter 18 with his self- introductory material in 3 Nephi chapter 5. In these narratives, Mormon seems to simultaneously present an overt personalized message about Christ and a covert personal connection to Alma1 through the almost excessive repetition of his own name. Mormon discreetly plants evidence to suggest his intention for the careful re-reader to discover that Mormon was a 12th generation descendant of the first Alma. Mormon’s use of personalizing and personal messages lends emotive power to his narratives and shines a light on Mormon’s love for Christ’s church.

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The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaA)—
Catalogue of Textual Variants

[Page 55]Abstract: In this erudite survey of textual variants in the “Great Isaiah Scroll” from Qumran, Donald W. Parry lays out the major categories of these differences with illustrative examples. This significant description of the most significant book of Old Testament prophecy provides ample evidence of Parry’s conclusion that the “Great Isaiah Scroll” “sets forth such a wide diversity and assortment of textual variants that [it] is indeed a catalogue, as it were, for textual criticism.”

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