Abstract: A traditional reading of Nephi’s chronicle of the trek through Arabia relies heavily on two verses in 1 Nephi 17. In verse 4, Nephi states that they “did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness.” In verse 5, he reports that “we did come to the land which we called Bountiful.” The almost universal interpretation of these verses is that of sequential events: eight years traversing the arid desert of Western Arabia following which the Lehites entered the lush Bountiful for an unspecified time to build the ship. A question with the traditional reading is why a trip that could have taken eight months ostensibly took eight years. It may be that Nephi gave us that information. His “eight years” could be read as a general statement about one large context: the “wilderness” of all of Arabia. In other words, the “eight years in the wilderness” may have included both the time in the desert and the time in Bountiful. In this paper I examine the basis for such an alternative reading.
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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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 https://notbybreadalonefilm.com/en/
Toward a Deeper Understanding of a Witness of Christ
By Matthew L. Bowen
For more information, go to
Finding and Following Jesus in the Book of Revelation
By Breck England
For more information, go to
Abstract: Commentaries on Nephi’s first book tend to interpret the fraternal struggles it reports as historical facts that are meant primarily to invite readers’ evaluative responses. While recognizing the historical character of the facts marshalled by Nephi, this paper will argue that the author transposes that history into an allegory meant to inspire his readers in all times and places to abandon prevailing metaphors of life that are focused on the attainment of worldly goods and pleasures. In their place, Nephi offers the revealed metaphor of life as a day of probation taught to him and his father in their great visions. God’s plan of salvation revealed to them made it clear that the welfare of each human being for eternity would be determined by a divine judgment on how effectively their lives had been transformed by their adherence to the gospel of Jesus Christ in mortality. The message of 1 Nephi is that all men and women are invited to let the Spirit of the Lord soften their hearts and lead them into his covenant path wherein he can prepare them to enter into his presence at the end.
Review of John Gee, Saving Faith: How Families Protect, Sustain, And Encourage Faith (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2020). 313 pages.
Abstract: Saving Faith is a truly excellent book, designed especially for families concerned about their children. It is also a book appropriate for those getting ready to serve as missionaries, or for newly married couples, young couples about to be married, or even for those about to bring children into this world to undergo their mortal probation.
Review of Spencer W. McBride, Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassins, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021). 269 pages, $29.95 (hardcover).
Abstract: Spencer McBride’s book is the deepest look yet into Joseph Smith’s 1844 campaign for president of the United States. In smooth-paced and readable detail, McBride’s work expertly demonstrates the unique Latter-day Saint genesis for the campaign and how it fit into the wider American social-political environment. Its message regarding religious liberty is as applicable today as it was nearly two centuries ago.
Abstract: This work explores an alternative interpretation of the Exodus narrative as a metaphor for childbirth. Gleaning from Old Testament and Judaic sources, we find rich female birth and salvific imagery in the saga of the migration of the children of Israel and the Passover itself. This perspective of sacred childbirth, when coupled with traditional Christian interpretations of the first Passover, ultimately paints an enhanced picture of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Abstract: One example of verbal punctuation that has a very clear pattern of usage in the Book of Mormon is the term nevertheless. It is used to draw a marked contrast between what the previous text would lead one to expect and what follows it. It is not clear what the ancient antecedent to the term might be and the English term and usage might be an artefact of the translation process. The frequency and usage of nevertheless in the Book of Mormon contrasts with the way that Joseph Smith’s writings use it.
Abstract: While later Creedal Christians have come to view “the Ascension” recorded in the first chapter of Acts as a conclusive corporeal appearance of the Resurrected Lord, earliest Christians do not appear to have conceived of this appearance as “final” in any temporal or experiential sense. A careful investigation of canonical resurrection literature displays a widespread Christian belief in continued and varied interaction with the risen Lord relatively late into the movements’ development. Stringent readings of Luke’s account of the Ascension in Acts suggesting that Christ will not return until his second coming fail to consider the theological rhetoric with which Luke conveys the resurrection traditions he relied on in composing his account. Analysis of Luke’s narrative displays that his presentation of these traditions is shaped in a way to stress the primacy of the apostolic Easter experiences in establishing the apostles as authoritative “witnesses” in the early church over and against possible competing authoritative claims stemming from purported experiences with the risen Lord.
Abstract: This article examines the extension of the etiological wordplay on the name Joseph (in terms of the Hebrew verbs ʾāsap and yāsap), recurrent in the canonical text of Genesis, into the JST Genesis 50 text, where Joseph learns about and prophesies of a future “Joseph” who would help gather Israel after they had been “scattered again” by the Lord. This article also analyzes the pairing of the prophetic and seeric roles of Moses and the latter-day “Joseph” at the beginning and ending of JST Genesis and explores the significance of this framing. The importance of Moses and Joseph Smith writing the word of the Lord in order to fulfill their prophetic responsibility to “gather” Israel emerges.
Abstract: Joseph Smith dictated Doctrine and Covenants 21 at the inaugural meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ on April 6, 1830. The present study examines the literary craftsmanship of the revelation to plumb the depths of its role in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The analysis explores the meaning of patterns of usage in the text from the most specific (diction, syntax, figures of speech) to the most general (tone, rhetoric, and structural logic). The hypothesis of this study is that Doctrine and Covenants 21 provides a metanarrative of the Restoration — that is, a set of governing principles and guidelines for keeping the official record of the gospel’s final dispensation.
Abstract: The role played by the Holy Ghost is an especially important connecting thread that runs through the Book of Moroni. The book illuminates the various ways in which the Holy Ghost transforms fallen human beings into redeemed members of the kingdom of God. Three phrases — “cleave unto charity,” “possessed of it,” and “that ye may be filled with this love” — are particularly revelatory of the role the Holy Ghost plays in our exaltation. But the positive process illuminated by these phrases has an obverse. Those who reject the Holy Ghost cleave to and are possessed of Satan. They are filled with his hatred. Though his message is primarily positive, Moroni has witnessed and describes what happens to those who reject the influence of the Holy Ghost.
Abstract: Modern readers too often and easily misread modern assumptions into ancient texts. One such notion is that when the reader encounters repeated stories in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Herodotus, or numerous other texts, the obvious explanation that requires no supporting argument is that one text is plagiarizing or copying from the other. Ancient readers and writers viewed such repetitions differently. In this article, I examine the narratives of a young woman or girl dancing for a king with the promise from the ruler that whatever the dancer wants, she can request and receive; the request often entails a beheading. Some readers argue that a story in Ether 8 and 9, which has such a dance followed by a decapitation, is plagiarized from the gospels of Mark and Matthew: the narrative of the incarceration and death of John the Baptist. The reader of such repeated stories must study with a mindset more sympathetic to the conceptual world of antiquity in which such stories claim to be written. Biblical and Book of Mormon writers viewed such repetitions as the way God works in history, for Nephi asserts that “the course of the Lord is one eternal round” (1 Nephi 10:19), a claim he makes barely after summarizing his father’s vision of the tree of life, a dream he will repeat, expand upon, and make his own in 1 Nephi chapters 11–15 (and just because it is developed as derivative from his father’s dream in some way, no reader suggests it be taken as a plagiaristic borrowing). Nephi’s worldview is part of the shared mental system illustrated by his eponymous ancestor — Joseph, who gave his name to the two tribes of Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh, the latter through which Lehi traced his descent (Alma 10:3) — for youthful Joseph boasts two dreams of his ascendance over his family members, interprets the two dreams of his fellow inmates, and articulates the meaning of Pharaoh’s two dreams, followed by his statement of meaning regarding such [Page 2]repetitions: “And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” (Genesis 41:32).
Abstract: In the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, based upon verses composed by an eleventh-century Persian mathematician and astronomer, the English Victorian poet Edward FitzGerald eloquently portrays human life in an indifferent, deterministic universe that lacks any evident purpose and is bereft of divine Providence. The poem’s suggested response to such a universe is an unambitious life of hedonism, distraction, and gentle despair. It is curiously modern, and those considering the adoption of anything like its worldview might want to read it, and to think about its implications, very carefully.
Abstract: While some scholars have suggested that the doctrine of theosis — the transformation of human beings into divine beings — emerged only in Nauvoo, the essence of the doctrine was already present in the Book of Mormon, both in precept and example. The doctrine is especially well developed in 1 Nephi, Alma 19, and Helaman 5. The focus in 1 Nephi is on Lehi and Nephi’s rejection of Deuteronomist reforms that erased the divine Mother and Son, who, that book shows, are closely coupled as they, the Father, and Holy Ghost work to transform human beings into divine beings. The article shows that theosis is evident in the lives of Lehi, Sariah, Sam, Nephi, Alma, Alma2, Ammon2, Lamoni, Lamoni’s wife, Abish, and especially Nephi2. The divine Mother’s participation in the salvation of her children is especially evident in Lehi’s dream, Nephi’s vision, and the stories of Abish and the Lamanite Queen.
Review of Brent J. Schmidt, Relational Faith: The Transformation and Restoration of Pistis as Knowledge, Trust, Confidence, and Covenantal Faithfulness (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2022). 356 pages, $21.95 (softcover).
Abstract: Brent Schmidt builds on his earlier book on relational grace by tackling the topic of relational faith. For those interested in historical trends in religious thought, this book provides intimate details of Greek and Latin terms and the gradual corruption of the original Pauline concept of faith by Augustine and other early and influential thinkers and theologians. Leading the reader through the conceptual reworking of the idea of faith by examining both well-known and lesser-known reformers, but somewhat skirting the faith-works debate, Schmidt ends up nevertheless convincingly demonstrating two facts. First, that faith as concrete action, not just as abstract belief, is a distinguishing doctrinal foundation that is consistently preached by leaders of the Church today. Second, Joseph Smith’s concept of faith as a covenantal relationship built on mutual trust was not a latter-day invention. Instead, it is a restoration of the concept of faith as originally understood by members of the church at the time of Paul.
Review of Stephen O. Smoot, John Gee, Kerry Muhlestein, and John S. Thompson, “A Guide to the Book of Abraham,” BYU Studies Quarterly 61, no. 4 (2022). 302 pages.
Abstract: The new and special issue of BYU Studies containing “A Guide to the Book of Abraham” provides a welcome and easy-to-read approach to the historicity and issues surrounding the Book of Abraham in a way that will engage those beginning their studies in the Book of Abraham just as equally as those who have already become familiar with the subject.
Abstract: The Book of Mormon describes a dark mark on the skin that distinguished people who rebelled against God and his laws from those who obeyed God. The Old Testament refers to a mark that fits this description and has nothing to do with natural skin color. The law of Moses prohibited the Lord’s covenant people from cutting sacrilegious marks (ancient tattoos) into their skin. The Bible simply calls these prohibited tattoos “marks” (Leviticus 19:28). This biblical meaning of the word mark, together with biblical meanings of other related words, helps us understand all Book of Mormon passages associated with the Lamanite mark.
Abstract: A recent effort to think about war concludes that the Book of Mormon displays two righteous approaches to conflict: a violent approach that is justified and therefore “blessed;” and a nonviolent approach that is higher than this and therefore “more blessed” (an approach that is also said to be effective in ending conflict). This effort, however, turns out to be unsuccessful for multiple reasons. Attending to these reasons can be valuable, since doing so can help clarify several important issues about the Book of Mormon and a gospel view of war.
Abstract: This paper is composed of three parts connected consecutively because their conclusions build upon each other. The first part investigates the transportation methods used in the Book of Mormon, concluding that horse and river travel contributed little and that foot travel dominated all journeying. The second part uses that conclusion to estimate the overall dimensions of the Promised Land by examining Alma the Elder’s journey from Nephi to Zarahemla. This exercise reaffirms the 200-by-500-mile size promoted by John L. Sorenson decades ago. The third part looks at four ramifications of this 100,000 square-mile Promised Land footprint when stamped upon a map of the Western Hemisphere. (1) It allows for more than one Promised Land (occupied by other God-led immigrants) to exist simultaneously in the Americas. (2) It predicts that no matter where the Book of Mormon Promised Land was originally located, most Native Americans today would have few or no direct ties to the Jaredites-Lehites-Mulekites. (3) It demonstrates that research efforts to identify evidence of the Book of Mormon peoples could be exploring locations thousands of miles away from their original settlements. And (4) If any of the post-400 ce localized population losses in the Americas due to disease, war, or unknown causes involved the original Promised Land location, then the primary locus of organic evidence of the existence of the Jaredite-Lehite-Mulekite populations might have been largely destroyed.
Abstract: Scholars have recently suggested that The Teachings of Silvanus, a text from Nag Hammadi Codex VII, is the product of several authors with the earliest portion dating to the late first or early second century and the latest portion to the third or early fourth century. Silvanus’ provenance, therefore, allows this single document to serve as a potential microcosm evidencing the change and alteration of early Christian thought and doctrine. Latter-day Saints have long contended that the Restored Gospel is more closely aligned with the earliest strains of Christianity vis-à-vis the creedal form. Through the lens of Silvanus, Latter-day Saint and Calvinist positions are evaluated relative to the early and late Silvanus authors and are found to be most compatible with the early and late portions of the text, respectively.
Abstract: It is natural to wonder how the day on which Jesus was crucified could come to be known as Good Friday. In this exploration of the topic, John Welch examines the many events which occurred on that fateful day and the meaning they have for us today.