Conclusions in Search of Evidence

Review of Jana Riess, The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). 312 pages. $29.95.

Abstract: Riess’s book surveying the beliefs and behaviors of younger members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was supposed to compare the attitudes of younger generations with those of older generations. Unfortunately, flaws in the design, execution, and analysis of the survey prevent it from being what it was supposed to be. Instead the book is Riess’s musings on how she would like the Church to change, supported by cherry-picked interviews and an occasional result from the survey. The book demonstrates confusion about basic sampling methods, a failure to understand the relevant literature pertaining to the sociology of religion, and potential breaches of professional ethics. Neither the survey results nor the interpretations can be used uncritically.

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Labor Diligently to Write:
The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture
Chapters 9 - 11

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present the fourth installment from a book entitled Labor Diligently to Write: The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture. It is being presented in serialized form as an aid to help readers prepare for the 2020 Come Follow Me course of study. This is a new approach for Interpreter, and we hope you find it helpful.]

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Hugh B. Brown’s Program for Latter-Day Saint Servicemen During WWII

Abstract: Prior to U.S. involvement in WWII, the First Presidency asked Hugh B. Brown to initiate and serve as coordinator of a program that would reinforce the spiritual welfare of the increasing number of Latter-day Saint men entering the military. Brown initially answered the challenge by organizing religious services at training camps along the West Coast because of the large number of Church-member men training there. However, following Pearl Harbor, he expanded the program to 65 training camps in many parts of the country. He also created USO-type facilities in Salt Lake City and San Diego, distributed pocket-size scriptures, wrote faith-strengthening articles, and answered requests for spiritual support from Latter-day Saint servicemen. In 1943, Brown’s program enlarged with the addition of assistant coordinators and became part of the newly formed Servicemen’s Committee chaired by Elder Harold B. Lee. In 1944, Brown was recalled as the British Mission president and left 13 assistants to manage his program through the conclusion of the war. Interviews with veterans who experienced Brown’s program suggest that the pocket-size copies of the Book of Mormon carried everywhere, even in battle, may have been Brown’s most significant contribution to their war-time spiritual maintenance.

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Labor Diligently to Write:
The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture
Chapters 6 - 8

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present the third installment from a book entitled Labor Diligently to Write: The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture. It is being presented in serialized form as an aid to help readers prepare for the 2020 Come Follow Me course of study. This is a new approach for Interpreter, and we hope you find it helpful.]

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A Passover Setting for Lehi’s Exodus

Abstract: Later in his life, former Palmyra resident Fayette Lapham recounted with sharp detail an 1830 interview he conducted with Joseph Smith Sr. about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Among the details he reports that Lehi’s exodus from Jerusalem occurred during a “great feast.” This detail, not found in the published Book of Mormon, may reveal some of what Joseph Sr. knew from the lost 116 pages. By examining the small plates account of this narrative in 1 Nephi 1−5, we see not only that such a feast was possible, but that Lehi’s exodus and Nephi’s quest for the brass plates occurred at Passover. This Passover setting helps explain why Nephi killed Laban and other distinctive features of Lehi’s exodus. Read in its Passover context, the story of Lehi is not just the story of one man’s deliverance, but of the deliverance of humankind by the Lamb of God. The Passover setting in which it begins illuminates the meaning of the Book of Mormon as a whole.

 

[Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of the author’s new book, The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Book of Mormon’s Lost Stories (Salt Lake City: Kofford Books, 2019).]

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Labor Diligently to Write:
The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture
Chapters 4 & 5

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present the second installment from a book entitled Labor Diligently to Write: The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture. It is being presented in serialized form as an aid to help readers prepare for the 2020 Come Follow Me course of study. This is a new approach for Interpreter, and we hope you find it helpful.]

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A Welcome Response,
but Flaws Remain

Abstract: After Interpreter published my lengthy paper that discussed apparent bias and flaws in scholarship in the Joseph Smith Papers volume on the Book of Abraham, two members of the JSP Project team have responded with a defense of their volume. Their reply is welcome and points to some of the strengths in the methodology behind much of the volume. However, the specific evidence for bias and flawed scholarship seems to stand and merits further attention.

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The Joseph Smith Papers and the Book of Abraham:
A Response to Recent Reviews

Abstract: The Joseph Smith Papers welcomes engagement with its work and gratefully acknowledges the important work of various scholars on the Book of Abraham. Recent reviews in the Interpreter of Revelations and Translations, Volume 4, however, significantly misunderstand the purposes and conventions of the project. This response corrects some of those misconceptions, including the idea that the transcript is riddled with errors and the idea that personal agendas drive the analysis in the volume. The complex history of the Book of Abraham can be understood through multiple faithful perspectives, and the Joseph Smith Papers Project affirms the value of robust, respectful, and professional dialogue about our shared history.

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Labor Diligently to Write:
The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present the first installment from a book entitled Labor Diligently to Write: The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture. It is being presented in serialized form as an aid to help readers prepare for the 2020 Come Follow Me course of study. This is a new approach for Interpreter, and we hope you find it helpful.]

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The Brass Plates Version of Genesis

Abstract: The Book of Mormon peoples repeatedly indicated that they were descendants of Joseph, the son of Jacob who was sold into Egypt by his brothers. The plates of brass that they took with them from Jerusalem c. 600 bce provided them with a version of many Old Testament books and others not included in our Hebrew Bible. Sometime after publishing his translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith undertook an inspired revision of the Bible. The opening chapters of his version of Genesis contain a lot of material not included in the Hebrew Bible. But intriguingly, distinctive phraseology in those chapters, as now published in Joseph Smith’s Book of Moses, also show up in the Book of Mormon text. This paper presents a systematic examination of those repeated phrases and finds strong evidence for the conclusion that the version of Genesis used by the Nephite prophets must have been closely similar to Joseph Smith’s Book of Moses.

[Editor’s Note: This paper appeared first in the 1990 festschrift published to honor Hugh W. Nibley.1 It is reprinted here as a convenience for current scholars who are interested in intertextual issues regarding the Book of Mormon. It should be noted that Interpreter has published another paper that picks up this same insight and develops considerable additional evidence supporting the conclusions of the original paper.2 [Page 64]This reprint uses footnotes instead of endnotes, and there are two more footnotes in this reprint than there are endnotes in the original paper.]

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Memory and Millennials:
A Review of First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins

Abstract: The multiple historical accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision have been an area of intense study, debate, and discussion for several decades. The newest addition to the discussion is a specialized monograph engaging the various accounts of the First Vision through the lens of psychology and, particularly, memory studies. This book, authored by Steven C. Harper, proves to be a valuable resource in answering some pressing questions about the integrity of the First Vision accounts, even though that was not the book’s explicitly stated purpose. This review highlights these contributions as interpreted through the lens of a Millennial reviewer — a demographic widely assumed to be facing challenges today in recontextualizing, repurposing, and appreciating the First Vision, with which this new book can help.

 
Review of Steven C. Harper, First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). 271 pages with index. $35.

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The Role and Purpose of Synagogues
in the Days of Jesus and Paul

Abstract: This article explores why Jesus so often healed in synagogues. By comparing the uses and purposes of Diaspora and Palestinian synagogues, this article argues that synagogues functioned as a hostel or community center of sorts in ancient Jewish society. That is, those needing healing would seek out such services and resources at the synagogue.

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Ministering across Fault Lines of Belief and Community

Review of David B. Ostler, Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2019), 206 pp. $32.95 (hardback), $20.95 (paperback).

Abstract: David Ostler’s book Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question addresses the daunting task of ministering to people who have grown disillusioned with the core doctrines and the community of believers they encounter in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is perhaps the most challenging ministering effort a leader or member of the Church can undertake, and Bridges provides valuable insight into the process of disaffection as well as specific things that Church leaders and members can do to create a healthy environment for members to work through challenges to their faith. This review discusses those strengths of Bridges as a resource and also explores areas where the well-intentioned approaches discussed in the book can backfire, causing more harm than healing in a community of believing Latter-day Saints.

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An American Indian Language Family with Middle Eastern Loanwords:
Responding to A Recent Critique

Abstract: In 2015 Brian Stubbs published a landmark book, demonstrating that Uto-Aztecan, an American Indian language family, contains a vast number of Northwest Semitic and Egyptian loanwords spoken in the first millennium bc. Unlike other similar claims — absurd, eccentric, and without substance — Stubbs’s book is a serious, linguistically based study that deserves serious consideration. In the scholarly world, any claim of Old World influence in the New World languages is met with critical, often hostile skepticism. This essay is written in response to one such criticism.

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Recent Reflections While
Partaking of the Sacrament

Abstract: Sometimes, obedience to the principles of the Gospel and tending faithfully to our stewardships can seem — and can be — a burden. Moreover, we mortal humans are fallible and weak, and we’re free. Accordingly, I’m convinced that the Father (a supremely masterful strategist and tactician) builds in redundancies so as to ensure that his purposes will be achieved even when his mortal servants falter. At the very heart of his plan, though, there could be no redundancy. Only one person could do what absolutely, desperately, needed to be done.

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Could Joseph Smith Have Drawn on Ancient Manuscripts When He Translated the Story of Enoch?:
Recent Updates on a Persistent Question

Abstract: In this article, we offer a general critique of scholarship that has argued for Joseph Smith’s reliance on 1 Enoch or other ancient pseudepigrapha for the Enoch chapters in the Book of Moses. Our findings highlight the continued difficulties of scholars to sustain such arguments credibly. Following this general critique, we describe the current state of research relating to what Salvatore Cirillo took to be the strongest similarity between Joseph Smith’s chapters on Enoch and the Qumran Book of Giants — namely the resemblance between the name Mahawai in the Book of Giants and Mahujah/Mahijah in Joseph Smith’s Enoch account. We conclude this section with summaries of conversations of Gordon C. Thomasson and Hugh Nibley with Book of Giants scholar Matthew Black about these names. Next, we explain why even late and seemingly derivative sources may provide valuable new evidence for the antiquity of Moses 6–7 or may corroborate details from previously known Enoch sources. By way of example, we summarize preliminary research that compares passages in Moses 6–7 to newly available ancient Enoch texts from lesser known sources. We conclude with a discussion of the significance of findings that situate Joseph Smith’s Enoch account in an ancient milieu. Additional work is underway to provide a systematic and detailed analysis of ancient literary affinities in Moses 6–7, including an effort sponsored by Book of Mormon Central in collaboration with The Interpreter Foundation.
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Lehi, Joseph, and
the Kingdom of Israel

Abstract: I present evidence of two priesthoods in the Jewish Bible: an Aaronite priesthood, held by Aaron and passed down through his descendants; and a higher Mushite priesthood, held not only by Moses and his descendants but also by other worthy individuals, such as Joshua, an Ephraimite. The Mushite priests were centered in Shiloh, where Joshua settled the Ark of the Covenant, while the Aaronites became dominant in the Jerusalem temple. Like Joshua, the prophet Lehi, a descendant of the northern tribe of Manasseh, held the higher priesthood. His ministry, as recounted in the Book of Mormon, demonstrates four characteristics that show a clear connection to his ancestors’ origins in the northern Kingdom of Israel: (1) revelation through prophetic dreams, (2) the ministry of angels, (3) imagery of the Tree of Life, and (4) a positive attitude toward the Nehushtan tradition. These traits are precisely those which scholarship, based on the Documentary Hypothesis, attributes to texts in the Hebrew Bible that originated in the northern Kingdom of Israel rather than in Judah.

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Gentiles in the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The word Gentiles appears 141 times in the Book of Mormon (the singular Gentile appears only five times.) It appears more frequently than key words such as baptize, resurrection, Zion, and truth. The word Gentiles does not appear with equal frequency throughout the Book of Mormon; in fact, it appears in only five of its fifteen books: 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, 3 Nephi, Mormon, and Ether. Additionally, Book of Mormon speakers did not say Gentiles evenly. Some speakers said the word much less often than we might expect while others used it much more. Nephi1 used Gentiles the most (43 times), and Christ Himself used it 38 times. In addition to analyzing which speakers used the word, this study shows distinctive ways in which Book of Mormon speakers used this word.

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Never Static, Never Simple:
One Woman’s Conversations Within the Marginalia of
If Truth Were a Child

Review of George B. Handley, If Truth Were A Child: Essays, (Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2019), 253 pp. $19.99 (paperback).

Abstract: George B. Handley challenges his readers to reevaluate conventional definitions of truth and the approaches they employ to define their own truths. He argues that the individual quest for truth should include as many available resources as possible, whether those resources are secular or religious. His framework of intellectual and religious experience allows him to discuss truth in the context of literary theory and of the events that shaped his own faith. My review focuses on four themes: balancing experience and learning, balancing the individual and the community, balancing answers and faith, and balancing individual readings of holy texts. Ultimately, Handley’s discussion of those themes gives readers the tools to navigate the current public discourse more effectively, empowering them to look beyond their own perspectives to discover the good in everyone and find balance in their lives.

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