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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Approaching the Year’s End

We are approaching Giving Tuesday and the month of December, when the hearts of many (in the United States, at least) turn to charity or, anyway, to tax deductions. We know that there are thousands of worthy causes out there, and we hope that none of them is neglected. Still, among all of their competing claims and amidst the wonders and the pressures of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day, we ask that you please remember the Interpreter Foundation as you plan your year-end giving. Happy holidays!

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We wish you the best and hope that you enjoy the holiday season that is upon us.


The Interpreter Foundation

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
For more information in French, go to
To see all of the Interpreter posts about The Church in Africa, go to

Ancient Names in the Book of Mormon

Toward a Deeper Understanding of a Witness of Christ

By Matthew L. Bowen

Published by
The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books

For more information, go to

The Bright and Morning Star

Finding and Following Jesus in the Book of Revelation

By Breck England

Published by
The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books

For more information, go to

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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Degrees of Glory: A Brief History of Heaven and Graded Salvation

Abstract: While references to heaven in the Old Testament are sparse, non-explicit, and predominantly cosmological, the New Testament reveals a more complex concept of the afterlife that reflects a rapidly evolving understanding of Heaven. The Jewish apocalyptic literature of the late Second Temple period describes a heaven of multiple degrees that is populated with angels and the righteous dead of varying glories. Those glories also tangibly reflect astral qualities of light and glory comparable to the sun, moon, and stars. Within this worldview of Heaven, several of the Apostle Paul’s writings to Corinth can be read with added insight, including his ascent to the “third heaven.” Paul’s teachings of resurrected bodies assuming astral qualities may reflect the native Corinthians’ metaphysical views of the body and soul, which Paul may have shared himself. While Western Christianity would embrace degrees of glory through the Middle Ages, Reform Theology of the Protestant Reformation would affirm a concept of Heaven that supported only a single habitation. It would take a Restoration-era vision to Joseph Smith to restore the doctrine of degrees of glory original to the Jews and early Christians but lost to those of the modern era.

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Exploring the Complex
Book of Mormon

Review of Avram R. Shannon and Kerry Hull, eds., A Hundredth Part: Exploring the History and Teachings of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2023). 374 pages, $29.99 (hardback).

Abstract: This volume collects papers published in multiple venues over a wide time span. A diligent researcher might find all of them, but that difficult search has been done. The included papers represent multiple ways of approaching the Book of Mormon and therefore provide the reader with a rounded perspective on how and why a careful reading should be done.

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The Hamites: The Pre-Restoration Monotheism of the Children of Ham in the Book of Abraham

Abstract: This article examines the treatment of several personages identified as Hamites in the Book of Abraham. It proposes that, in contrast to traditional readings of the text, Hamites are featured positively in the Book of Abraham. This is particularly true of the daughters of Onitah and of Pharaoh himself, both of whom are presented as righteous people practicing an early form of monotheism. While I do not claim that the Book of Abraham is completely free of elements possibly deemed to be racially problematic, until now, the positive depiction of the Hamites in the text has largely been overlooked.

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Joseph Smith’s Education and Intellect as Described in Documentary Sources

Abstract: Although Joseph Smith has been credited with “approximately seven full school years” of district schooling, further research supports that his education consisted of basic instruction in “reading, writing and the ground rules of arithmetic” comprising “less than two years of formal schooling.” The actual number of terms he experienced in common schools in upstate New York is probably less critical since the curricula in district schools did not then teach creative writing, composition, or extemporaneous speaking. If Joseph Smith learned how to compose and dictate a book, extracurricular activities would likely have been the training source. Six of those can be identified: (1) private Bible studies, (2) Hyrum Smith’s possible tutoring in 1813, (3) participation in local religious activities, (4) involvement with the local juvenile debate club, (5) occasional family storytelling gatherings, and (6) brief participation as an exhorter at Methodist meetings. Three of his teachers in Kirtland in 1834–1836 recalled his impressive learning ability, but none described him as an accomplished scholar. A review of all available documentation shows that no acquaintance at that time or later called him highly educated or as capable of authoring the Book of Mormon. Despite its current popularity, the theory that Joseph Smith possessed the skills needed to create the Book of Mormon in 1829 is contradicted by dozens of eyewitness accounts and supported only by minimal historical data.

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“Signals of Transcendence”1

Abstract: Hints of a different and better world — sometimes dimly remembered, often intuited, and commonly hoped for — and of a glorious, mighty power behind the world in which we currently live, are all around us. They are not so powerful that they cannot be missed or even ignored, but they have been and remain present for those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel. As he always does, God has not left us without witnesses but he does not seek to compel. He loves us, but he also respects our agency.

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Centered on Christ: The Book of Enos Possibly Structured Chiastically

Abstract: The book of Enos is considered to be a short, one-chapter treatise on prayer, yet it is more. Close examination of its text reveals it to be a text structurally centered on Christ and the divine covenant. Enos seeks and obtains from Him a covenant to preserve the records of the Nephites for the salvation of the Lamanites. Enos prays not only for his own remission of sins but also for the salvation both of his own people, the Nephites, and also of the Lamanites. He yearns in faith that the Lord will preserve the records of his people for the benefit of the Lamanites. This article outlines a possible overall chiastic structure of vv. 3–27 as well as a centrally situated smaller chiasm of vv. 15–16a, which focus on Christ and His covenant with Enos. The voice of the Lord speaks to the mind of Enos seven times, and the proposed chiastic structure of the text is meaningfully related to those seven divine communications. We have the Book of Mormon in our day because of the faithful prayers and faithful labors of prophets like Enos and because of the promises they received from Christ, whose covenant to preserve the records is made the focal point at the center of the Enos text.

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“Behold, He Was a Man Like unto Ammon”: Mormon’s Use of ʾmn-related Terminology in Praise of Moroni in Alma 48

Abstract: This article examines Mormon’s comparison of Moroni, the Nephite military leader, to Ammon, the son of Mosiah, in Alma 48:18 and how Mormon’s use and repetition of ʾmn-related terminology (“faithful,” “firm,” “faith,” “verily [surely]”) in Alma 48:7–17 lays a foundation for this comparison. Ammon’s name, phonologically and perhaps etymologically, suggests the meaning “faithful.” Mormon goes to extraordinary lengths in the Lamanite conversion narratives to show that Ammon is not only worthy of this name, but that his faithfulness is the catalyst for the transition of many Lamanites from unbelief to covenant faithfulness. Thus, in comparing Moroni directly to Ammon, Mormon makes a most emphatic statement regarding Moroni’s covenant faithfulness. Moreover, this comparison reveals his admiration for both men.

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Mormon’s Narrative Strategies to Provide Literary Justice for Gideon

Abstract: Although unable to write more than a hundredth part of his people’s history, Mormon seemingly found the time and plate-space to deliver literary justice on behalf of Gideon, who suffered a martyr’s death at the hand of the wicked Nehor. This article applies a literary approach buttressed by evidence from the Book of Mormon to suggest that Mormon intentionally supplied tightly-controlled repetitive elements, like the repetition of names, to point the reader to discover multiple literary sub-narratives connected by a carefully crafted network of themes running under the main narratives of the scriptures. The theories espoused in this work may have begun with the recognition of the reader-arresting repetition of Gideon’s name in Alma 6:7-8, but driven by scriptural data points soon connected Gideon with Abinadi, the Ammonites, and others. The repetitive and referential use of the moniker Nehor, Gideon’s murderer, on various peoples by Mormon seemed to connect thematically and organically to a justice prophesied by Abinadi. In parallel with the theme of justice laid upon the Nehor-populations, evidence is marshaled to also suggest that Mormon referenced the place-name of Gideon to intentionally hearken back to the man Gideon. Following the role of Gideon, as a place, we propose Mormon constructed a path for the martyr Gideon via proxy to meet the resurrected Lord in Bountiful. Mormon’s concern for the individual and his technique for rewriting Gideon’s story through proxy ultimately symbolizes the role Christ’s atoning power can take in each of our lives to save us.

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Witness of the Covenant

Abstract: Although much has been taught about covenants in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, little attention has been given to the witnesses of those covenants. In this paper I focus on the importance of witnessing the covenants that we make with God — especially the gospel covenant — rather than on the process of making them. Instead of emphasizing the teachings of Latter-day Saint leaders and authors, I prioritize the standard works of the Church in my analysis of this topic. I begin with a discussion of covenants and witnesses in the Hebrew Bible, and then proceed with an examination of the same from the Book of Mormon. I identify the ordinances of baptism and the sacrament as witnesses of the gospel covenant and clarify that it is through the blood of Christ that we are cleansed from sin rather than through the waters of baptism. I conclude by observing the importance of faithfully witnessing the gospel covenant to serve God and keep his commandments.

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Turning Type into Pi:
The Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in Historical Context

Abstract: The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor has been portrayed as an event that stands out as a unique act where Joseph Smith and the Nauvoo City Council suppressed free speech. However, rather than being an anomaly, the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was historically and socially reflective of society in a volatile period in American history during which time several presses were destroyed and even editors attacked and killed.

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Joseph Smith at the Veil:
Significant Ritual, Symbolism, and Temple Influence at Latter-day Saint Beginnings

Abstract: The prophet Joseph Smith was paced through a life steeped in ritual and symbolism. Notable things Joseph did or experienced under angelic guidance may be seen as ritual procedures that may require careful consideration to discern their meaning, what they symbolize, their purpose, and their importance to the restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Failure to recognize the function of ritual has resulted in much misunderstanding and criticism of Joseph. Many of his early actions and procedures were closely related to the ancient temple. They amount to an anticipation and witness of the temple and its coming restoration through him. This will be illustrated in several ways, including the manner in which Joseph received and translated the plates of the Book of Mormon, a witness of Jesus Christ.

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“A Mystery to the World”:
A New Proposal for Isaiah 22:20-25

Abstract: Isaiah’s oracle in Isaiah 22 regarding a man named Eliakim employs significant and unique language regarding a “nail in a sure place.” This language is accompanied by clear connections to the ancient temple, including the bestowal of sacred clothing and authority, offering additional significant context through which to understand this phrase. Additionally, according to early leaders of the Church, this oracle may not be translated correctly into English, which has caused some confusion regarding the true meaning of the oracle’s conclusion. As such, I offer a new translation of this oracle based on intertextual clues that resolves some of the apparent issues regarding this text and further highlights the temple themes employed by Isaiah.

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Sacred Imaginings: Using AI to Construct Temples

Review of Jeffrey Thayne and Nathan Richardson, Temples of the Imagination: AI-Generated Temples, Human-Generated Insights (Provo, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, Verdant Press, and Eborn Books, 2023). 140 pages, $24.99 (softcover).

Abstract: We’re commanded to seek out of the best books words of wisdom, but how exactly do we seek? What are the best books? Temples of the Imagination uses cutting-edge technology to show its readers one futuristic way to incorporate this spiritual practice into their lives.

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“Upon the Wings of His Spirit”:
A Note on Hebrew RÛAḤ and 2 Nephi 4:25

Abstract: Nephi, in composing his psalm (2 Nephi 4:15–35), incorporates a poetic idiom from Psalm 18:10 (2 Samuel 22:11) and Psalm 104:3 to describe his participation in a form of divine travel. This experience constituted a part of the vision in which he saw “the things which [his] father saw” in the latter’s dream of the tree of life (see 1 Nephi 11:1–3; 14:29–30). Nephi’s use of this idiom becomes readily apparent when the range of meaning for the Hebrew word rûaḥ is considered. Nephi’s experience helps our understanding of other scriptural scenes where similar divine travel is described.

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Withstanding Satan’s Siege through Christ’s Iron Rod: The Vision of the Tree of Life in Context of Ancient Siege Warfare

Abstract: Nothing was more terrifying in the ancient world than a siege. Besiegers disregarded normal conventions of war and either utterly slaughtered or enslaved a city’s residents. Nephi used siege warfare imagery — including fire arrows, blinding, and being led away into captivity — to teach his brothers the importance of holding fast to Christ’s iron rod (see 1 Nephi 15:24). By analyzing this scripture and the vision of the Tree of Life in context of ancient siege warfare, we learn how Satan besieges God’s people, cuts off their access to the Tree of Life, draws them away through scorn, blinds them, and yokes them with a yoke of iron. Christ, in contrast, extends his iron rod through Satan’s siege, inviting us to hold fast to his word, accept him as our covenant family head, and join him in his work by speaking his word. Those who act on Christ’s invitation will find safety and joy in Christ’s kingdom.

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Abstract: The Restoration began with the stunning divine declaration to the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Christian sects of his day were “all wrong,” that “all their creeds were an abomination in [God’s] sight.” It’s a powerful condemnation, but what, exactly, does it mean? Later in his life, Joseph reflected that he felt that creeds set limits “and say ‘hitherto shalt thou come & no further’ — which I cannot subscribe to.” Certainly, as I realized during a wonderful musical experience many years ago, there is little if anything in one of the great ecumenical creeds with which a believing Latter-day Saint must, or even should, disagree.

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