Currently accepting submissions for the Ruth M. Stephens Article Prize until 1 August 2015. Click here for more information.

Printed JournalWelcome to Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, a nonprofit, independent, peer-reviewed educational journal focused on the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its publications 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

An Evening with Margaret Barker & Stephen Webb

An introductory note from Daniel C. Peterson

On Saturday, 8 August 2015, about ninety Interpreter Foundation officers, editors, writers, donors, and friends gathered in Orem, Utah, to celebrate the Foundation’s third birthday.

Among those in attendance were the British Methodist biblical scholar Dr. Margaret L. Barker, prolific author of books and articles that have found great resonance among Latter-day Saint readers, and the Catholic philosopher and theologian Dr. Stephen H. Webb, author of many articles and books, including Mormon Christianity: What Non-Mormon Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints (Oxford, 2013) and, with Alonzo L. Gaskill, Catholic and Mormon: A Theological Conversation (Oxford, 2015).

After dinner, it was my privilege to moderate a brief question-and-answer session with Drs. Barker and Webb.  At the last minute, regretting that so many who might be interested couldn’t be there for what promised to be a very enjoyable conversation, we decided to record it for posting on the website of the Interpreter Foundation. Accordingly, thanks to the efforts of Bryce Haymond, Tom Pittman, and Russell Richins, and with the kind permission of Margaret Barker and Stephen Webb, who didn’t know in advance that we would be recording them and who hadn’t seen the questions beforehand, here is that discussion.

This is also available as an audio podcast, and will be included in the podcast feed. You can listen by pressing the play button or download the podcast below:

Play

John Bernhisel’s Gift to a Prophet: Incidents of Travel in Central America and the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The claim that God revealed the details of Book of Mormon geography is not new, but the recent argument that there was a conspiracy while the Prophet was still alive to oppose a revealed geography is a novel innovation. A recent theory argues that the “Mesoamerican theory” or “limited Mesoamerican geography” originated in 1841 with Benjamin Winchester, an early Mormon missionary, writer, and dissident, who rejected the leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve after 1844. This theory also claims that three unsigned editorials on Central America and the Book of Mormon published in the Times and Seasons on September 15 and October 1, 1842, were written by Benjamin Winchester, who successfully conspired with other dissidents to publish them against the will of the Prophet. Three articles address these claims. The first article addressed two questions: Did Joseph Smith, as some have claimed, know the details of and put forth a revealed Book of Mormon geography? Second, what is a Mesoamerican geography and does it constitute a believable motive for a proposed Winchester conspiracy? This second article provides additional historical background on the question of Joseph Smith’s thinking on the Book of Mormon by examining the influence of John L. Stephen’s 1841 work, Incidents of Travel in Central America, upon early Latter-day Saints, including Joseph Smith. Continue reading

The Treason of the Geographers: Mythical “Mesoamerican” Conspiracy and the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The claim that God revealed the details of Book of Mormon geography is not new, but the recent argument that there was a conspiracy while the Prophet was still alive to oppose a revealed geography is a novel innovation. A recent theory argues that the “Mesoamerican theory” or “limited Mesoamerican geography” originated in 1841 with Benjamin Winchester, an early Mormon missionary, writer, and dissident, who rejected the leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve after 1844. This theory also claims that three unsigned editorials on Central America and the Book of Mormon published in the Times and Seasons on September 15 and October 1, 1842 were written by Benjamin Winchester, who successfully conspired with other dissidents to publish them against the will of the Prophet. Three articles address these claims. This first article addresses two questions: Did Joseph Smith, as some have claimed, know the details of and put forth a revealed Book of Mormon geography? Second, what is a Mesoamerican geography and does it constitute a believable motive for a proposed Winchester conspiracy? Continue reading

Learning Nephi’s Language: Creating a Context for 1 Nephi 1:2

Nephi’s Language Without Context: An Enigma

It was not long after the Book of Mormon was published before Nephi’s statement that he wrote using “the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2) started raising eyebrows.1 It has continued to perplex even the best LDS scholars, who have put forward no fewer than five different interpretations of the passage.2 Some have even pointed out that there seems to be no logical reason for Nephi’s statement, since anyone who could read the text would know what language it was written in.3 Continue reading

Not Leaving and Going On to Perfection

A Review of Samuel M. Brown’s First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple, Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2014. 167 pp., index. $16.95.

In his most recent book, First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple (hereafter First Principles), Samuel M. Brown observes that “the Plan of Salvation [is] fundamentally about relationships.”1 This recognition drove the prophet Joseph Smith and early Church members to “forge communities [of saints] that could endure beyond the veil of death” (151). Today, the importance of the temple and its ordinances to family relationships, eternal in their design, are clear to most Latter-day Saints. However, our collective view of the meaning of the principles and ordinances that precede the temple — and lead us to it — is somewhat murkier. Brown demonstrates that what Latter-day Saints sometimes perfunctorily regard merely as “the first principles and ordinances of the gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:4) are — every bit as much as the temple itself is — about relationships. In fact, one cannot fully contextualize the temple and its ordinances unless one understands this aspect of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Continue reading