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

Beginning Sunday, June 27, at 6:00 PM
(Anniversary of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom)

True to the End: The Martyrdom
Presented by
R. Jean Addams

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

April 23-24, 2021

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/

https://witnessesfilm.com/

The Ark and the Tent:
Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah

Abstract: Jeffrey M. Bradshaw compares Moses’ tabernacle and Noah’s ark, and then identifies the story of Noah as a temple related drama, drawing of temple mysticism and symbols. After examining structural similarities between ark and tabernacle and bringing into the discussion further information about the Mesopotamian flood story, he shows how Noah’s ark is a beginning of a new creation, pointing out the central point of Day One in the Noah story. When Noah leaves the ark, they find themselves in a garden, not unlike the Garden of Eden in the way the Bible speaks about it. A covenant is established in signs and tokens. Noah is the new Adam. This is then followed by a fall/Judgement scene story, even though it is Ham who is judged, not Noah. In accordance with mostly non-Mormon sources quoted, Bradshaw points out how Noah was not in “his” tent, but in the tent of the Shekhina, the presence of God, how being drunk was seen by the ancients as a synonym to “being caught up in a vision of God,” and how his “nakedness” was rather referring to garments God had made for Adam and Eve.

Continue reading

“Strong Like unto Moses”:
The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Related Content Apparently from the Brass Plates

Abstract: Over 30 years ago, Noel Reynolds compared matching non-Biblical phrases in the Book of Moses and Book of Mormon. Based on this analysis, Reynolds proposed a possible connection between the Book of Moses and hypothetical material on the brass plates that may have influenced some Book of Mormon authors. Reynolds’s work, “The Brass Plates Version of Genesis,” provided potentially plausible explanations for additional relationships between the Book of Moses and Book of Mormon that arose in two later Jeff Lindsay studies: one on the Book of Mormon account of Lehi1’s trail and another on the Book of Mormon’s intriguing use of the ancient theme of rising from the dust. The additional findings and connections presented here strengthen the original case Reynolds made for the ancient roots of the Book of Moses, roots that could have extended to the brass plates and then on to the Book of Mormon. Critics might dismiss such connections by asserting that Joseph merely drew from the Book of Mormon when drafting the Book of Moses; however, this view overlooks significant evidence indicating that the direction of dependence is the other way around. In light of the combined evidence now available, it is time to reconsider Reynolds’s original proposal and recognize the possibility that the Book of Moses is more deeply rooted in antiquity that many have recognized in the past.

Continue reading

Variety and Complexity in the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon

Abstract: This paper examines the testimonies of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon— not only the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses, but many others who experienced and testified of the reality of the Book of Mormon plates. Together, these testimonies offer impressive support for the claims of Joseph Smith regarding the Book of Mormon and, thus, the Restoration. The variety and complexity of their collective testimony makes finding a single, alternative, non-divine explanation for the witness experiences challenging, indeed.

Continue reading

Women and the Priesthood in the Contemporary Church

Abstract: During the last century there has been a prophetic emphasis on the understanding of women and their priesthood power and authority that has been unprecedented since the days of Joseph Smith. Through the use of scripture and teachings of our prophets and leaders of the restoration, this paper seeks to clarify the contemporary role of women in relation to their priesthood power and authority. By integrating the patriarchal priesthood—that priesthood entered into by Eve and Adam, lost during the time of Moses, and again revealed in our day in the Kirtland Temple—with the administrative priesthood found in the public Church and spoken of more traditionally, we can better understand the privileges, powers, and authorities associated with the temple that are critical for our day.

Continue reading

“Wherefore, for This Cause”:
The Book of Mormon as Anti-type of the Brass Serpent

Abstract: Nephi1 represents the sacred record that becomes the Book of Mormon as a new brass serpent to heal the nations. Nephi’s typological project is reasonable given that he self-identifies with Moses, his family’s scriptures and compass are made of brass, and he consistently describes reading as an act of seeing, looking, or believing. Nephi understands from Isaiah that the book he (Nephi) prepares — and that he has so much to say about — will become an ensign, or sign, that will be lifted up and heal the nations that have stumbled in blindness. Nephi’s project emerges most fully in 2 Nephi 25, the introductory material to an extended prophecy wherein he points the Jewish people to their Messiah, a figure he equates with Moses’s raised serpent and Jesus Christ.

Continue reading

The Crown of Creation

Abstract: The Seelys discuss the well-known concept of the universe as a temple, and link the creation story to the temple drama. They explore how God, in creating the universe, had the same roles the temple drama gives to Adam and Eve as archetypes of each man and woman (that of king, priest, and artisan), and how man, by participating in the temple drama, is raised to be the image of God, thus becoming the real crown of creation, participating in God’s creation by procreation.

Continue reading

Feet of Clay: Queer Theory
and the Church of Jesus Christ

Review of Taylor G. Petrey, Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism (Chapel Hill, NC The University of North Carolina Press, 2020). 288 pages. $29.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Tabernacles of Clay examines the discourse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through a “queer theory” lens. This review examines its first two chapters’ use of sources regarding Church teachings about eternal biological sex and homosexual behavior. These chapters claim that the Church treated homosexual sin leniently and said little about such acts until the more “homophobic” 1950s. There are, in fact, many examples of homosexual behavior being condemned by Church leaders in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Tabernacles further claims that in the 1950s–1970s, some in the Church saw biological sex as “created and contingent” — rather than eternal and unchanging — thus permitting a view of theological “gender fluidity.” The authors used to support these claims have been misrepresented and important information omitted. Tabernacles also fails to properly contextualize the sources and language of the 1950–1970s, and it thereby misrepresents Church discourse on homosexual sin. A thorough review of the Church’s official documents from this period reveals an almost exclusive focus on homosexual behavior, not homosexual temptation or identity. Aspects of present-day Church teaching or policy which are said to be novel are shown to be otherwise. The above errors lead to mischaracterization of Spencer W. Kimball’s book, The Miracle of Forgiveness. Tabernacles has not adequately or fairly characterized its sources, rendering its conclusions suspect.

Continue reading

The Lord Will Not Forget Them!
Māori Seers and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand

Abstract: This essay demonstrates that the key prophetic matakite dreams and visions of at least the nine nineteenth-century East Coast Māori seers appear to have been (and should continue to be) fulfilled surprisingly by the coming of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to New Zealand. There are lessons for current and future Latter-day Saint leaders and missionaries to reflect on this little-known history on the nineteenth-century Māori conversions to the restored Church.

Continue reading

That Which You Have Translated,
Which You Have Retained

Abstract: I propose that our current Words of Mormon in the Book of Mormon was originally a second chapter of the book of Mosiah following an initial chapter that was part of the lost 116 pages. When Joseph Smith gave the first 116 pages to Martin Harris, he may have retained a segment of the original manuscript that contained our Words of Mormon, consistent with the Lord’s reference “that which you have translated, which you have retained” (D&C 10:41). A comprehensive review of contextual information indicates that the chapter we call Words of Mormon may actually be the first part of this retained segment.

Continue reading

“All Can Partake, Freely”

Abstract: The Interpreter Foundation welcomes faithful ideas, insights, and manuscripts from people of all backgrounds. In this brief essay, I share some that were recently shared with me regarding Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, as recorded in 1 Nephi 8. Among other things, Lehi seems to have been shown that the divine offer of salvation extends far beyond a small elite. As Peter exclaims in the King James rendering of Acts 10:34, “God is no respecter of persons.” Other translations render the same words as saying that he doesn’t “play favorites” or “show partiality.” The passage in James 1:5 with which the Restoration commenced clearly announces that, if they will simply ask, God “giveth to all men liberally.”

Continue reading

The Handclasp, the Temple,
and the King

Abstract: In this article Matthew Brown examines the possible meaning behind the imagery of the handclasp between God in heaven and the earthly king. He focuses on this imagery as it is articulated in Psalms 27, 41, 63, 73, and 89. He argues that Psalms 41 and 73 feasibly indicate that when the king of Israel was initiated within the precincts of the temple into the office of kingship he passed through the veil of the Holy of Holies (see Exodus 26:33) and symbolically entered into God’s presence.

Continue reading

Polygamists and Political Activists:
The Unlikely Marriage in Pioneering the Vote

Review of Neylan McBaine, Pioneering the Vote: The Untold Story of Suffragists in Utah and the West (Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 2020). 240 pages. $19.99 (hardback).

Abstract: Pioneering the Vote by Neylan McBaine provides a cogent and concise history of the role of Latter-day Saint women in the suffrage movement. McBaine interweaves a fictionalized narrative centered on Emmeline Wells with primary source excerpts and summaries of particular events. The book brings to life the women described and succeeds in explicating many of the important barriers that Latter-day Saint women faced while trying to participate in the suffrage movement — namely, polygamy. McBaine accurately portrays the aversion to polygamy, but she could have spent more time describing why and how Latter-day Saint women found polygamy empowering. While the book succeeds in recounting history and begins to analyze Latter-day Saint women’s role in this movement, more interaction with Latter-day Saint theology as a way of showing why women would feel passionately about obtaining suffrage while still maintaining polygamous relationships would create a more complete picture. Nevertheless, McBaine’s historic contribution to this field of study acts as a milestone from which we can advance to more nuanced discussions about the way polygamy empowered women.

Continue reading

Coming Down and Bringing Down:
Pejorative Onomastic Allusions
to the Jaredites
in Helaman 6:25, 6:38, and Ether 2:11

Abstract: Mormon uses pejorative wordplay on the name Jaredites based on the meaning of the Hebrew verb yārad. The onomastic rhetoric involving the meaning of yārad first surfaces in Helaman 6 where Mormon also employs wordplay on the name Cain in terms of qānâ or “getting gain.” The first wordplay occurs in the negative purpose clause “lest they should be a means of bringing down [cf. lĕhôrîd] the people unto destruction” (Helaman 6:25) and the second in the prepositional phrase “until they had come down [cf. yārĕdû/yordû] to believe in their works” (Helaman 6:38). Mormon uses these pejorative wordplays as a means of emphasizing the genetic link that he sees between Jareditic secret combinations and the derivative Gadianton robbers. Moroni reflects upon his father’s earlier use of this type of pejorative wordplay on “Jaredites” and yārad when he directly informs latter-day Gentiles regarding the “decrees of God” upon the land of promise “that ye may repent and not continue in your iniquities until the fullness be come, that ye may not bring down [cf. *tôrîdû/hôradtem] the fullness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land hath hitherto done” (Ether 2:11). All three of these onomastic allusions constitute an urgent and timely warning to latter-day Gentiles living upon the land of promise. They warn the Gentiles against “coming down” to believe in and partake of the works and spoils of secret combinations like the Jaredites and the Nephites did, and thus “bringing down” their own people to destruction and “bringing down” the “fullness of the wrath of God” upon themselves, as the Jaredites and the Nephites both did.

Continue reading

The Book of Mormon as a Resurrected Book and a Type of Christ

Abstract: This essay emphasizes the remarkable participation of the Book of Mormon in the gospel symbolism of death and resurrection. It explains how the Book of Mormon itself may be seen as a resurrected book, witnessing Christ’s resurrection in a remarkable way.

Continue reading

The Inclusive, Anti-Discrimination Message of the Book of Mormon

Abstract: Attitudes of superiority lead to societal conflict. The racial interpretation of a few Book of Mormon verses has contributed to these attitudes and conflicts, yet hundreds of inclusive messages are found in more than half of the book’s verses. God’s message, love, mercy, and justice are for all people. Righteous people did not think themselves above others, nor did they persecute others or start wars. War is tragic and is caused by wickedness. Conspiracies are a great evil. Righteous people were kind in their attitudes and actions, regardless of others’ social status or ethnicity. Some Book of Mormon people even gave their lives or put their lives at risk to act kindly, and some of these went from hating others to giving up their lives on behalf of others. The inclusive messages in the Book of Mormon are consistent with the position advocated by current Latter-day Saint leaders condemning all racism and disavowing racist hypotheses such as those derived from a few Book of Mormon verses (i.e., that skin color is related to righteousness). The inclusive messages also are consistent with the view that skin color in the Book of Mormon is not literal but is metaphorical. The Book of Mormon instructs us that the right way to interact is with love and respect, through examples of people respecting and reaching out to others, promises to all people, condemnation of unkindness and anti-Semitism, calls to all people to repent, and emphasizing the flaws of one’s own group and not those of others.

Continue reading

Tree of Life, Tree of Healing

Abstract: The late Hebrew scholar John Tvedtnes takes readers on a grand tour of Jewish and Christian stories and traditions that attest to the Tree of Life as not only a means to prolong life, but also to impart a healing power to individuals and to the earth itself. In a future day, it is said that the Saints will eat of its sweet fruit forever.

Continue reading

Fantasy and Reality in the Translation of the Book of Abraham

Abstract: The volume editors of The Joseph Smith Papers Revelations and Translations: Volume 4 propose a theory of translation of the Book of Abraham that is at odds with the documents they publish and with other documents and editorial comments published in the other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Two key elements of their proposal are the idea of simultaneous dictation of Book of Abraham Manuscripts in the handwritings of Frederick G. Williams and Warren Parrish, and Joseph Smith’s use of the so-called Alphabet and Grammar. An examination of these theories in the light of the documents published in the Joseph Smith Papers shows that neither of these theories is historically tenable. The chronology the volume editors propose for the translation of the Book of Abraham creates more problems than it solves. A different chronology is proposed. Unfortunately, the analysis shows that the theory of translation of the Book of Abraham adopted by the Joseph Smith Papers volume editors is highly flawed.

Continue reading

Record-Keeping Technology
among God’s People
in Ancient and Modern Times

Abstract: In a fascinating survey of the efforts of ancient and modern Saints to honor the Lord’s commandment to keep reliable records of their doings, the authors take us on a colorful tour of the past, present, and future of technology for records preservation. These efforts are not only awe-inspiring, but have had and will have important consequences for the faith and memory of the goodness of God and the fulfillment of His purposes in history.

Continue reading

Prolegomena to a Study
of the Egyptian Alphabet Documents
in the Joseph Smith Papers

Abstract: For many theories about the Book of Abraham, the Egyptian Alphabet documents are seen as the key to understanding the translation process. While the original publication of those documents allows many researchers access to the documents for the first time, careful attention to the Joseph Smith Papers as a whole and the practices of Joseph Smith’s scribes in particular allows for improvements in the date, labeling, and understanding of the historical context of the Egyptian Alphabet documents.This essay supports the understanding of these documents found in the other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers that the Egyptian Alphabet documents are an incidental by-product of the translation process rather than an essential step in that process.

Continue reading

Poesy and Prosody in the
Book of Mormon

Abstract: Robert Smith makes the case that “poetic art in the Book of Mormon is highly developed” — you just need to have the eye to recognize it. Though many readers are aware of the stunning examples of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, thanks to the pioneering work by John W. Welch, fewer are acquainted with the other important forms of parallelism that pervade the text, often placed strategically to highlight the importance of a particular passage. Smith also shows why apocalpytic texts, sometimes thought to originate at a later period, can be found, for example, in the first chapter of the Book of Mormon.

Continue reading