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.

Interpreter's Mission Statement
Read the journal
Learn more about the Board
Find out how you can donate
Contact the Editorial Board

This week
in history

“A Life Lived in Crescendo”:
Selected Punctuation Marks of Joseph Smith’s Final Years

A “Come, Follow Me” Virtual Fireside Series

Sponsored by
The Interpreter Foundation, Book of Mormon Central, FAIR, & Meridian Magazine

Next Fireside: Sunday, October 17 at 6:00 PM

Freemasonry and the Origins of Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances
with Jeff Bradshaw

For more information, including schedule, presenters and live-stream links, go to https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/a-life-lived-in-crescendo-firesides/

Videos Available

Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses
The 2021 Book of Moses Conference

Presented by
The Interpreter Foundation, Brigham Young University Department of Ancient Scripture,
Book of Mormon Central and FAIR

To watch, go to https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/2021-book-of-moses-conference/videos/

Ancient Temple Imagery
in the Sermons of Jacob

Abstract: This essay makes a compelling argument for Jacob, the brother of Nephi, having deep knowledge of ancient Israelite temple ritual, concepts, and imagery, based on two of Jacob’s sermons in 2 Nephi 9 and Jacob 1-3. For instance, he discusses the duty of the priest to expiate sin and make atonement before the Lord and of entering God’s presence. Jacob quotes temple-related verses from the Old Testament, like Psalm 95. The allusions to the temple are not forced, but very subtle. Of course, Jacob’s central topic, the atonement, is a temple topic itself, and its opposite, impurity, is also expressed by Jacob in terms familiar and central to an ancient temple priest. The temple is also shown as a gate to heaven.

Continue reading

The Implications of Some Standard Assumptions of New Testament Scholars:
Responding to a Modern Anti-Christ

Review of Raphael Lataster, Questioning the Historicity of Jesus: Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2019). 508 pages. Hardback, $210.

Abstract: In a recent book, Raphael Lataster correctly argues that the acceptance of the general premises of New Testament scholarship, exemplified in the writings of Bart Ehrman, brings into question whether Jesus ever existed. Latter-day Saints who are serious about their witness of Jesus Christ need to be aware that acceptance of these presuppositions undermines their witness of the reality of Jesus Christ and his atonement and makes their faith vain.

Continue reading

Nephi’s Gethsemane:
Seventeen Comparisons from the Literary Record

Abstract: This note explores a literary comparison between Nephi’s confronting of Laban and shrinking from the act of shedding blood, to Jesus’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane of shrinking from the act of shedding blood. Comparing these two stories suggests that we can profitably read Nephi’s experience with Laban as Nephi’s personal Gethsemane.

Continue reading

De Profundis

Abstract: Is the Gospel profound? Yes, it is. And one of the goals of the Interpreter Foundation is to call attention to that sometimes-overlooked profundity. In one sense, though, the question is a peripheral one. If we were drowning — which, figuratively and from the vantage point of eternity, we absolutely are — we wouldn’t complain at a life preserver thrown to us if it were chipped, poorly painted, or unattractive, let alone if it were defective as a work of great art. We would simply be grateful to be saved. In another sense, the Gospel is clearly profound because it answers the deepest and most basic of human questions.

Continue reading

Psalm 105:
Chiasmus, Credo, Covenant, and Temple

Abstract: In this essay Stephen Ricks takes a close look at the literary structure of a psalm, reintroducing us to chiasmus both in modern and ancient texts, including the Book of Mormon, then uses this literary structure to show how the psalm contains the basic historic credo of the Israelites, as seen in Deuteronomy and mirrored in 1 Nephi 17. Ricks then goes on to show how an essential part of the psalm is a covenant (“a binding agreement between man and God, with sanctions in the event of the violation of the agreement”), which ties it back to the temple. Ricks shows this by pointing out the points of covenant: Preamble, review of God’s relations with Israel, terms of the covenant, formal witnesses, blessings and curses, and reciting the covenant and depositing the text. This form is maintained in Exodus 19, 20, 23, and 24, and in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 1-6. Psalm 105 follows this form, too. In the sacrament prayers, which in Mormon understanding is a covenant, points 1 to 5 are also present.

Continue reading

Understanding the Year 1820

Book Note: Richard E. Bennett, 1820: Dawning of the Restoration (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University / Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2020). 380 pages. Hardcover, $31.99.

Abstract: Richard E. Bennett’s 1820: Dawning of the Restoration takes a look at this significant year in a global historical context. He has produced a fascinating book for both members of the Church and non-members.

Continue reading

Seeking a Global Context for the First Vision

Review of Richard E. Bennett, 1820: Dawning of the Restoration (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University / Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2020). 380 pages. Hardcover, $31.99.

Abstract: Richard E. Bennett’s latest volume, 1820: Dawning of the Restoration, is not a book about the First Vision. Instead, it describes the world in 1820 through thirteen biographies that provide useful context to the seminal event. Included are Napoleon Bonaparte, Jean Francois Champollion, Alexander I, Ludwig van Beethoven, Theodore Gericault, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George IV/Queen Caroline, John Wesley/William Wilberforce/Hannah More, Simon Bolivar, John Williams, Henry Clay, Alexander Von Humboldt, and Joseph Smith. Topics of military conquest, music, science, literature, art, linguistics, religion, politics, and the industrial revolution receive extensive coverage for 1820 and the surrounding decades. Even if readers are not seeking an expanded understanding of the world that launched the Restoration, this well-written and highly researched compilation would be an interesting and rewarding read.

Continue reading

Jesus’ First Visit to the Temple

Abstract: In this rich and detailed description, S. Kent Brown paints an evocative, historically contextualized account of Jesus Christ’s first visit to the Jerusalem Temple since his infancy, when at age twelve he traveled with his family to attend Passover.

Continue reading

Discipleship As the World Collapses Around You

Review of Adam S. Miller, Mormon: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 162 pages. $9.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Adam Miller has created a thoughtful and enlightening theological study of the book of Mormon. It is obvious from his textual commentary that Miller has given a significant amount of thought and effort into teasing out practical insights from the book’s original authors. Except for some clumsy distractions that occasionally appear in his text, I would highly recommend Miller’s analysis of Mormon’s and Moroni’s apocalyptic narratives.

Continue reading

Types of Repetition and Shadows of History in Hebraic Narrative

Abstract: Modern readers too often misunderstand ancient narrative. Typical of this incomprehension has been the inclination of modern biblical critics to view repetitions as narrative failures. Whether you call such repetitions types, narrative analogies, type scenes, midrashic recurrences, or numerous other names, this view of repeated elements has dominated modern readings of Hebraic narratives for at least 200 years. Robert Alter, who introduced a new yet antique understanding of repetitions in the Hebrew Bible in the 1980s, began to reverse this trend. Such repeated elements aren’t failures or shortcomings but are themselves artistic clues to narrative meaning that call readers to appreciate the depth of the story understood against the background of allusion and tradition. Richard Hays has brought similar insights to Christian scripture. The Book of Mormon incorporates the same narrative features as are present in other Hebraic narrative. The ancient rabbis highlighted the repeating elements in biblical narrative, noting that “what happens to the fathers, happens to the sons.” The story of Moroni’s raising the standard of liberty in Alma 46 illustrates the repetitive expectation by seeing the events of the biblical Joseph’s life repeated in the lives of these Nephite descendants of Joseph. Such recurrence in narratives can, considering the insights of Alter and Hays, reveal richness and depth in the narrative without detracting from the historical qualities of the text.

Continue reading

From Dust to Exalted Crown:
Royal and Temple Themes Common to the Psalms and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Abstract: David J. Larsen, after showing how many of the Qumran texts rely on the “Royal Psalms” in the Bible—which have a vital connection to the temple drama—then goes on to exaltation in the views of the Qumran community. He indicates how Adam and Eve are archetypal for Israelite temple ritual, which makes humans kings and priests, bringing the participant into the presence of God by a journey accompanied with covenants, making him part of the Divine Council. Bestowed with knowledge of the divine mysteries, one then becomes a teacher helping others on the way through divine mysteries, who then, as a group are raised to the same end. It is, Larsen shows, a journey where one is dressed in royal and priestly robes and receives a crown of righteousness, in a ritual setting.

Continue reading

Remembering Hugh Nibley
as a Scholar and,
More Importantly, as a Man:
Observing the Faith of the Observer

Review of Hugh Nibley Observed, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Shirley Ricks, and Stephen Whitlock (Orem, UT: Interpreter Foundation, 2021). 820 pages. $45.00 (hardback), $35.00 (paperback).

Abstract: Those who knew Brother Nibley best knew he was a remarkable man of both depth and breadth. This new volume plumbs both that depth and breadth in the recounting of personal stories and colorful history. This volume is a welcome addition to any library.

Continue reading

Did Captain Moroni Lack the Typical Religious Virtues?

Abstract: In his well-known volume about the Book of Mormon, Grant Hardy focuses primarily on the book’s main narrators. However, he also makes a number of observations about other figures in the book that are of particular interest, including some about Captain Moroni. In addition to those I address elsewhere, these observations include the claim that Moroni lacked the typical religious virtues — which Hardy identifies as “humility, self-sacrifice, kindness, and relying upon the Lord.” They also include the assertion that Helaman, in his manifest reliance upon God, serves as a counterexample to Moroni’s military leadership. A close look at the text, however, indicates that both these claims are mistaken.

Continue reading

“Put Off Thy Shoes from Off Thy Feet”: Sandals and Sacred Space

Abstract: While many have written on ancient temples looking at the big picture, John Gee discusses one small detail on a single Egyptian temple from the New Kingdom. He focuses on depictions of Ramses III in and out of the temple of Medinet Habu. Outside the temple and when entering and leaving there are depictions of him wearing sandals. Inside the temple proper the king is always shown barefoot. Ramses III built Medinet Habu only slightly after the time of Moses and as Gee further notes, while not wearing footwear was a clear practice among the Egyptians it is far more explicit in Moses’ encounter with Deity when he is told to remove his “shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Gee observes that contemporary Egyptian temple practice “reflects the commands of God recorded in the Pentateuch,” as well as reflects Moses’ Egyptian background.

Continue reading

“Beloved by All the People”:
A Fresh Look at Captain Moroni

Abstract: In his well-known volume about the Book of Mormon, Grant Hardy focuses primarily on the book’s main narrators. However, he also makes a number of observations about other figures in the book that are of particular interest, including some about Captain Moroni. In addition to those I address elsewhere, these observations range from the assertion that Captain Moroni slaughtered his political opponents in one instance, to his claim that Moroni is not depicted as “particularly religious,” to his claim that Moroni had a “quick temper.” The question is: Are such observations supported in the text? Carefully examining this question both shows the answer to be “no” and allows a deeper look into Captain Moroni.

Continue reading

Job: An LDS Reading

Abstract: Mack C. Stirling examines the well-known story of Job, one of the literary books of the Bible and part of the Wisdom literature (which is heavy in temple mysticism and symbols), and proposes the story follows the temple endowment to the T. Following Hugh Nibley’s lead in The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, the temple endowment is not discussed. Stirling focuses only on Job’s story, drawing on analysis of literary genres and literary tools, like chiasms, focusing on the existential questions asked by the ancient author. Doing this, he concludes that Job’s is a story about a spiritual journey, in which two main questions are answered: “(1) Is it worthwhile to worship God for His own sake apart from material gain? (2) Can man, by coming to earth and worshipping God, enter into a process of becoming that allows him to participate in God’s life and being?” What follows is an easy to read exegesis of the Book of Job with these questions in mind, culminating with Job at the veil, speaking with God. Stirling then discusses Job’s journey in terms of Adam’s journey — beginning in a situation of security, going through tribulations, finding the way to God and being admitted into His presence — and shows how this journey is paralleled in Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon (which journey ends at a tree of life). This journey also is what each of us faces, from out premortal home with God, to the tribulations of this telestial world, and back to the eternal bliss of Celestial Kingdom, the presence of God, through Christ. In this way, the stories of Adam and Eve, of Job, and of Lehi’s dream provide a framework for every human’s existence.

Continue reading

An Ingenious and Inspiring Literary Analysis of Alma 30–42

Review of Mark A. Wrathall, Alma 30–63: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 176 pages. $9.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Mark A. Wrathall’s analytic treatment of Alma 30–42 is a sheer gift that inspires insight into the theological depth of Alma’s thought. His reading of Alma teases out insights not previously recognized and not easily discovered regarding belief and knowledge and their relation to faith and committed action. This extremely rewarding introduction provides a glimpse at the best any writer in the Latter-day Saint tradition has written on Alma’s thoughts and goals.

Continue reading

The Brass Plates: Can Modern Scholarship Help Identify Their Contents?

Abstract: The Book of Mormon contains little information about what the Brass Plates contain. Nephi said it was a larger record than the Hebrew Bible brought to America by the Gentiles. But it could not have contained the records of Old Testament prophets who wrote after Lehi’s party left Jerusalem or the New Testament. We know it contained some writings from Zenos, Zenock, Neum, and Ezias, but what else could it have contained? Though the proposal from modern biblical source criticism that the Christian Bible is the product of redactors sometimes working with multiple sources is distasteful to many Christians, this article suggests this scholarship should not trouble Latter-day Saints, who celebrate Mormon’s scriptural abridgement of ancient American scripture. This article also revisits the insights of some Latter-day Saint scholars who have suggested the Brass Plates are a record of the tribe of Joseph, and this may explain its scriptural content. The eight verses from Micah 5, which Christ quoted three times during His visit to the Nephites and which did not previously appear in Mormon’s abridgment, receive close analysis.

Continue reading

Matthew Black and Mircea Eliade Meet Hugh Nibley

Abstract: As a graduate student, Gordon Thomasson had the opportunity to introduce two internationally renowned scholars to the publications and scholarship of Hugh Nibley: Matthew Black, an eminent scholar of ancient Enoch writings; and Mircea Eliade, famed chair of the History of Religions program at the University of Chicago. Upon hearing of Nibley’s Enoch discoveries, Black made an immediate, impromptu visit to BYU to meet him. Upon reading one of Nibley’s studies, Eliade proposed hiring him on the spot, exclaiming, “He knows my field better than I do, and his translations are elegant!”

Continue reading

Honoring Hugh Nibley — Again

Review of Hugh Nibley Observed, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Shirley Ricks, and Stephen Whitlock (Orem, UT: Interpreter Foundation, 2021). 820 pages. $45.00 (hardback), $35.00 (paperback).

Abstract: Hugh Nibley Observed is the third assembly of essays honoring Nibley by his friends and admirers. It differs from the other two in many ways. It is packed with photographs, observations by his children about their father, and many other similar and related items that are often deeply personal reflections on Nibley as well as the influence he has had on Latter- day Saint intellectual life and also the faith of the Saints. Its contents are far more accessible than the strictly scholarly works written by the academic friends and colleagues of Nibley. There is some of that in this book, but it contains information and reflections on a host of different aspects of the first Latter-day Saint scholar who could and did provide a competent defense of the faith and the Saints. This book is very much about Nibley and not merely for him, as were the two previous efforts to honor him.

Continue reading