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.)
The hardcover is now available for purchase from Amazon at $24.99
For more information: https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/sacred-time-sacred-space-sacred-meaning/

Tracing Ancient Threads of the Book of Moses

Due to the COVID-19 situation, this will be a live-streaming-only conference. For updates on conference details, see https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/2020-book-of-moses-conference/.
The program schedule and abstracts are available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/2020-book-of-moses-conference/program-abstracts/ and presenter biographies at https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/2020-book-of-moses-conference/presenters/.

https://witnessesfilm.com/

Lehi’s Dream and the Plan of Salvation

Abstract: Lehi’s dream symbolically teaches us about many aspects of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. The central message of Lehi’s dream is that all must come unto Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Each of us has the choice to pursue the path that leads to eternal joy and salvation or to choose a different way and experience undesirable outcomes. In this paper, elements of Lehi’s dream and supporting scriptures are analyzed to see how they relate to key aspects of the plan of salvation and our journey through life.

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The Tabernacle:
Mountain of God in the Cultus of Israel

Abstract: In this article, Michael Morales considers how the building of the Tabernacle had been pre-figured from the earliest narratives of Genesis onward. It describes some of the parallels between the creation, deluge, and Sinai narratives and the tabernacle account; examines how the high priest’s office functions as something of a new Adam; and considers how the completed tabernacle resolves the storyline of Genesis and Exodus, via the biblical theme of “to dwell in the divine Presence.”

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Table Rules:
A Response to Americanist Approaches to the Book of Mormon

Review of Elizabeth Fenton and Jared Hickman, Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). 456 pages. $99 (hardback), $35 (paperback).

Abstract: Americanist Approaches to The Book of Mormon is an ambitious collection of essays published by Oxford University Press. By “Americanist” the editors refer to their preferred mode of contextualization: to situate the Book of Mormon as a response to various currents of nineteenth- century American thought. The “table rules” in this case determine who gets invited to the table and what topics can be discussed, using what types of evidence. The approach is legitimate, and the contributors offer a range of interesting perspectives and observations. Several essays base their arguments on the notion that the Book of Mormon adapts itself to a series of racist tropes common in the nineteenth century. In 2015, Ethan Sproat wrote an important essay that undercuts the arguments of those authors, but none of them address his case or evidence. This raises the issue of the existence of other tables operating under different assumptions, confronting the same text, and reaching very different conclusions. How are we to judge which table’s rules produce the best readings?

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Cube, Gate, and Measuring Tools:
A Biblical Pattern

Abstract: This article explores the biblical pattern that relates the temple-related symbols of the cube, the gate, and measuring tools. The tools of architecture and measurement were associated with the kingship motifs of creation and conquering chaos, and on the day when a person was initiated as a king in ancient Israel, all of these concepts were applied to him.

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How Not to Read Isaiah

Abstract: In the Book of Mormon, Nephi draws upon his own knowledge of the Jewish people, their culture and language, and the surrounding area to add to his understanding of Isaiah’s words, and commends that approach to his reader. In his book The Vision of All, it is clear that Joseph Spencer lacks knowledge in these topics, and it negatively affects his interpretation of Isaiah. Specifically, this lack of knowledge causes him to misinterpret the role of the Messiah in Isaiah’s teachings, something that was clear to Isaiah’s ancient readers.

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An Other Approach to Isaiah Studies

Abstract: A recent review of Joseph M. Spencer’s book The Vision of All: Twenty-Five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record made the case that the book contains several challenges and problems, in particular that it advocates a theologically deficient interpretation of Isaiah that denies Isaiah’s witness of Jesus Christ. This response provides an alternative reading of Spencer’s work and suggests these assertions are often based on misunderstanding. At stake in this conversation is the question of whether or not there is more than one valid way to read Isaiah that draws upon a faithful, Restoration perspective. While Spencer may interpret and frame some things differently than some other Latter-day Saint scholars, the prophecies of Isaiah provide enough richness and possibility to accommodate a chorus of faithful approaches.

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A Democratic Salvation

Abstract: Over the centuries, many religious thinkers — precisely because they are religious thinkers — have put a premium on intellectual attainment as a prerequisite for salvation. This has sometimes yielded an elitism or snobbishness that is utterly foreign to the teachings of the Savior. The Gospel as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints values education and knowledge, certainly. But not unduly. Intellectuals, while heartily welcome among the Saints and, when faithful, much appreciated for their potential contributions to the Church, have no claim on any special status in the Kingdom simply because of their (real or pretended) intellectuality, whether here or in the hereafter.

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Death to Seducers!
Examples of Latter-day Saint-led Extralegal Justice in Historical Context

Abstract: Some people have suggested a strain of violence within nineteenth- century Latter-day Saint culture as violent as and perhaps more so than that of most Americans around them. Critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints point to a few well-known acts of extralegal violence as evidence of a culture of violence that permeated the early Church. But were these examples of violence really out of the norm of nineteenth-century American society? This article looks at examples of extralegal punishment for certain crimes, placing them and the examples of extralegal punishment in Utah within a greater historical and cultural context.

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Becoming Men and Women of Understanding:
Wordplay on Benjamin
— An Addendum

Abstract: Royal and divine sonship/daughterhood (bānîm = “children”/“sons,” bānôt = “daughters”) is a prevalent theme throughout the Book of Mosiah. “Understanding” (Hebrew noun, bînâ or tĕbûnâ; verb, bîn) is also a key theme in that book. The initial juxtaposition of “sons” and “understanding” with the name “Benjamin” (binyāmîn, “son of the right hand”) in Mosiah 1:2–7 suggests the narrator’s association of the underlying terms with the name Benjamin likely on the basis of homophony. King Benjamin repeatedly invokes “understand” in his speech (forms of “understand” were derived from the root *byn in Hebrew; Mosiah 2:9, 40; 4:4; cf. 3:15) — a speech that culminates in a rhetorical wordplay on his own name in terms of “sons”/“children,” “daughters,” and “right hand” (Mosiah 5:7, 9). “Understand,” moreover, recurs as a paronomasia on the name Benjamin at key points later in the Book of Mosiah (Mosiah 8:3, 20; 26:1–3), which bring together the themes of sonship and/or “understanding” (or lack of thereof) with King Benjamin’s name. Later statements in the Book of Mosiah about “becoming” the “children of God” or “becoming his sons and daughters” (Mosiah 18:22; 27:25) through divine rebirth allude to King Benjamin’s sermon and the wordplay on “Benjamin” there. Taken as a literary whole, the book of Mosiah constitutes a treatise on “becoming” — i.e., divine transformation through Christ’s atonement (cf. Mosiah 3:18–19). Mormon’s statement in Alma 17:2 about the sons of Mosiah having become “men of a sound understanding” thus serves as a fitting epilogue to a narrative arc begun as early as Mosiah 1:2.

[Page 240]My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding” (Proverbs 5:1)

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“Feast upon the Words of Christ”

Review of Book of Mormon Central, “ScripturePlus” (https://www.scriptureplus.org/); The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Gospel Library” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/pages/mobileapps/gospellibrary); and Living Tree Software, “ScriptureNotes” (https://scripturenotes.com/).

 

Abstract: ScriptureNotes is a valuable tool for serious, in-depth scripture study, and it definitely has the best search functionality. ScripturePlus, in its current state, is good for daily reading of the Book of Mormon, thanks to its helpful linked resources. But if you often mark or underline as you read, you’ll need to use Gospel Library, which is also the only app that includes the Church’s vast resources beyond the scriptures.

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Christ and the Work of Suffering

Abstract: Christ’s voluntary subjection to the horrible realities of this world transformed him forever. His vulnerability became his capacity to save and heal all humankind. Our own suffering develops our capacity for love, which is the power that makes us useful to others, and humility, which is the root of wisdom.

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Now If This Is Boasting,
Even So Will I Boast!

Abstract: When the sons of Mosiah were returning from their preaching among the Lamanites, Ammon was accused by his brother Aaron of boasting. This article demonstrates how Ammon’s response to this charge employed wordplay involving the Hebrew roots ה-ל-ל (h-l-l) and ש-מ-ח (s-m-ch). Identifying and understanding Ammon’s use of wordplay helps us to appreciate the complexity and conceptual richness of his message.

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Pitfalls of the Ngram Viewer

Abstract: Google’s Ngram Viewer often gives a distorted view of the popularity of cultural/religious phrases during the early 19th century and before. Other larger textual sources can provide a truer picture of relevant usage patterns of various content-rich phrases that occur in the Book of Mormon. Such an approach suggests that almost all of its phraseology fits comfortably within its syntactic framework, which is mostly early modern in character.

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The Lost Prologue:
Reading Moses Chapter One as an Ancient Text

Abstract: The character and complexion of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible (JST) is often a puzzle to students and scholars. One text in particular, the first chapter of the Book of Moses, claims that its very words would be lost and later restored to the believing. As this bold claim has not yet been verified by the discovery of an ancient copy of this text, clues to the antiquity of this document will need to be discovered within the text itself. This study investigates Moses 1 with the tools of biblical and literary criticism to discover if the text has the characteristics and content of an ancient religious document.

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Was the Denarius a Daily Wage?
A Note on the Parable of the Two Debtors in Luke 7:40–43

Abstract: This note provides a brief overview of Roman economic history and currency in order to throw light on the value and significance of the two debts illustratively used by Jesus in his parable to Simon the Pharisee. Though we cannot with accuracy make the claim that a Roman denarius was always the daily wage, we can determine that the debtors of Jesus’s parable owed something on the order of a year’s worth of wages and ten years’ worth of wages.

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The Character and Knowledge of Mary, the Mother of Christ

Abstract: The Virgin Mary is arguably the archetype of the virtuous woman and even the divine feminine on earth, but we know very little about her. She is remembered in Christianity in a variety of ways including with cathedrals built in her honor. Though many seek her intercession when they pray, that does not seem to accord with Luke’s account of her self- effacing and private character. This article considers what Latter-day Saints know about Mary from the scriptures, distinct from others of Christian faith who seek to honor her in different ways. That discussion also includes surmise as to what she may have learned from the wise men on their visit of homage shortly after the nativity and what she may have passed on to John in accordance with the two-way charge Jesus gave to both of them from the cross recorded in John 19. There is also consideration of the commonality of the teachings of her two most famous sons.

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Scriptures through the Jeweler’s Lens

Review of Terryl Givens with Brian Hauglid, The Pearl of Greatest Price: Mormonism’s Most Controversial Scripture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). 285 pages. $34.95 (hardback).

 

Abstract: Among the many revelatory works of Joseph Smith, members and scholars alike seem to give lesser attention to what is found in the Pearl of Great Price. In The Pearl of Greatest Price, Terryl Givens and Brian Hauglid attempt to provide some of the attention that has been lacking. The result is a book that, while spotty in places, provides a good resource that should receive wide exposure in academic circles. Believing members, on the other hand, may find the book lacking or downright questionable because of the secular approach it takes to dealing with scripture understood to have a divine provenance.

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First Visions and Last Sermons:
Affirming Divine Sociality,
Rejecting the Greater Apostasy

Abstract: There is a kinship between Lehi and Joseph Smith. They are linked to each other by similar first visions, and they faced roughly the same theological problem. Resisted by elites who believe God is a Solitary Sovereign, both prophets affirm the pluralistic religion of Abraham, which features a sôd ’ĕlôhim (Council of Gods) in which the divine Father, Mother, and Son sit. These prophets are likewise linked by their last sermons: Lehi’s parting sermon/blessings of his sons and Joseph’s King Follett discourse. Along with the first visions and last sermons, the article closely reads Lehi’s dream, Nephi’s experience of Lehi’s dream, and parts of the Allegory of the Olive Tree, John’s Revelation, and Genesis, all of which touch on the theology of the Sôd (Council).

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Discipleship of Yesterday for Today

Review of Eric D. Huntsman, Becoming the Beloved Disciple: Coming unto Christ through the Gospel of John (Springville, UT: CFI, an imprint of Cedar Fort, 2018). 176 pages. $19.99.

Abstract: What does the Gospel of John say about discipleship? Does early Christian discipleship matter today? Can coming unto Christ be different for each person? Eric Huntsman offers answers to these questions through his excellent scholarly background in Greek, which lends to crisp exegetic interpretations on the fourth gospel. Even more, Huntsman provides valuable hermeneutic applications for a growing diversified membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, this book delivers a better understanding of how each child of God uniquely comes to know Jesus Christ.

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