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

Tracing Ancient Threads of the Book of Moses

After reflection and consultation with the organizing committee, we have decided to postpone the Book of Moses conference that was scheduled for May 1-2 until September 18-19.

The program schedule, abstracts and presenter biographies are now available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/2020-book-of-moses-conference/

https://witnessesfilm.com/

Rethinking Alma 36

Abstract: While Alma 36 has long been one of the most admired examples of classical Hebrew chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, critiques in the last two decades have questioned whether, in fact, it really meets the requirements of classical biblical chiasms. The principal objections have pointed to the large sections of the chapter that are not easily included in the chiasm as outlined by John W. Welch and other proponents. Until now, this debate has not taken note of dramatic new developments in the analysis of Hebrew rhetoric over the last fifty years. The following essay turns to the discoveries made in this new approach to Hebrew rhetoric and shows that when the new “levels analysis” is incorporated into a study of Alma 36, the entire text does have a role to play in the extended chiastic structure of the chapter.

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“Somebody Wrote It:”
The Book of Mormon’s Missionary Message to a 21st-Century World

Abstract: Nathan Oman’s “Welding Another Link in Wonder’s Chain: The Task of Latter-day Saint Intellectuals in the Church’s Third Century” wisely called for “new language in which to celebrate the Restoration.” That new language can be found in understanding the power of the Book of Mormon, which is the tangible miracle at the heart of the Restoration that defies the critics. My father, Senator Robert F. Bennett, devoted his final years to arguing that the Book of Mormon’s existence is a stumbling block to those who try to dismiss it as an obvious fraud. Those who scoff at the Book of Mormon have yet to come up with a plausible secular account of its existence, and this allows the Book of Mormon to endure as the centerpiece of our missionary efforts. But rather than simply use the Book of Mormon to attempt to answer questions people are no longer asking, we need to create a missionary message that uses this sacred scripture to connect people, directly and personally, to Jesus Christ.

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An Approach to Isaiah Studies

Review of Joseph M. Spencer, The Vision of All: Twenty-Five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016). 318 pages. $59.95 (hardback); $29.95 paperback.

 

Abstract: This review makes a case, briefly, for the unmistakable presence of Jesus Christ in Isaiah’s text, which case is based on a corpus linguistic-based description of the Hebrew Bible, equivalent designations of deific names, self-identification declarations by the Lord, and more. And, importantly, one can never set aside the multiple teachings and testimonies of our modern prophets and apostles regarding Isaiah’s prophecies of Jesus Christ. Moreover, in my view, a knowledge of biblical Hebrew helps us to penetrate the very depths and heights of Isaiah’s text.

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

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present the eighth (and final) 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 final installment is the Preface for the book. This is a new approach for Interpreter, and we hope you find it helpful.]

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The Prophets Who Wrote the Book of Omni

Abstract: The brief accounts written by Omni, Amaron, Chemish, Abinadom, and Amaleki, taken alone, don’t always inspire confidence in their righteousness. Nevertheless, when the specific words used by these men and all relevant context are taken into consideration, it’s reasonable to conclude that each of these authors of the book of Omni was a prophet of God.

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Labor Diligently to Write:
The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture
Chapters 16 - 18

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present the seventh 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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He Knows My Affliction:
The Hill Onidah as Narrative Counterpart to the Rameumptom

Abstract: The toponym Onidah, attested as the name of a hill in Alma 32:4, most plausibly derives from Hebrew ʿŏnî /ʿōnî/ʿônî (ʿonyî, “my affliction”) + yādaʿ/yēdaʿ (“he knew,” “he knows”) — i.e., “he has acknowledged my affliction” or “he knows my affliction.” This etymology finds support in the context of the Zoramite narrative in which it occurs. In view of the pejorative lexical associations of the Rameumptom, the “high” and “holy stand,” with Hebrew rām (< rwm, “high”) and haughtiness, arrogance, and pride, we see Mormon using the Rameumptom, the “high” platform for Zoramite self-exalting worship, with Onidah, the hill from which Alma and Amulek taught the Zoramite poor and humble. The latter name and Alma’s teaching from that location constituted a sign that the Lord “knew” their “affliction.” Alma devotes a significant part of his message not only extolling the spiritual value of their state of “affliction” and humiliation or compelled “humility” (ʿŏnî Exodus 3:7, 17), but teaching them how to “plant” the “word” (even Jesus Christ himself) in their hearts through prayer — the word that would grow up into a “perfect knowledge” of God — experientially “knowing” God (Alma 32:16‒36) and being known by him (cf. Alma 7:12).

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Labor Diligently to Write:
The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture
Chapters 14 & 15

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present the sixth 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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Musings on the Birth of the Savior Jesus Christ

Abstract: In this essay, Kristine Wardle Frederickson muses about “the babe born in Bethlehem,” and who he was — and is — in consideration of those who nurtured, loved, and welcomed the infant Jehovah to Earth. Certain women played critical roles in preparing him for his infinite and eternal Atonement, and that preparation began long before Jesus came to Earth. Four women stand out as devoted mentors, disciples, and witnesses of Jesus Christ’s mission, and of his sublime perfection even on that first Christmas day: Heavenly Mother, Mary, Elisabeth, and Anna. At Christmastime, their witnesses are worthy of deep contemplation as they reinforce the majesty and glory of Jesus Christ, who condescended to enter mortality as an innocent baby, under humble circumstances. Carefully nurtured and loved, he lived a perfect life, pointed the way to salvation, and sacrificed his life that all might live.

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Labor Diligently to Write:
The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture
Chapters 12 & 13

[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present the fifth 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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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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