Review of Matthew J. Grow et al., eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846 (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2016). 525 pp. + introduction, appendixes, reference material, index, etc. $59.95.
Abstract: The publication of the Council of Fifty minutes is a momentous occasion in modern studies of Mormon history. The minutes are invaluable in helping historians understand the last days of Joseph Smith and his project to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. They offer an important glimpse into the religious and political mindset of early Latter-day Saint leaders and shed much light on events once obscured by lack of access to the minutes. The Joseph Smith Papers Project has outdone itself in its presentation of the minutes in the latest volume of the series. The minutes are essential reading for anyone interested in early Mormon history. Continue reading
Abstract: Joseph Smith made various refining changes to the Book of Mormon text, most of them minor and grammatical in nature. However, one type of textual change has been virtually unstudied in Book of Mormon scholarship: extemporaneous change that was present the moment Smith dictated the original text to his scribes. This type of change appears to have been improvisational, a fix or repair made in the middle of a thought or expression. I study these improvisations in depth — where they might appear historically, their purpose, and their authorship — in two articles. The evidence points to ancient authors and editor-engravers whose extemporaneous changes appeared during the early layers of the Book of Mormon’s construction. In this paper, Article One, we study the improvisations found in the quoted ancient texts of ancient prophets, then in the embedded texts of authors who improvise, and finally in the improvisational narratives of the major editor-engravers — Mormon, Nephi, and Moroni. The findings tell us much about the Book of Mormon as scripture, and about the construction and compilation of scripture by ancient editors and authors. Continue reading
Abstract: Revelation comes in various forms, some of them spectacular and some of them extremely subtle. The scriptures and the history of the Restoration offer numerous examples across the entire spectrum. Whatever its form, however, divine revelation remains divine revelation, and it is the avowed mission of the Interpreter Foundation to thoughtfully ponder such revelation, to try to explicate its meaning, and to illustrate its richness. In turn, such examination can itself provide an opportunity for personal revelation—both for the examiners and, we hope, for those who read or hear the results of their work. Continue reading
Abstract: In light of Noel Reynolds’ hypothesis that some material in the Book of Moses may have been present on the brass plates that Nephi used, exploration of concepts related to chains in the Book of Moses led to several insights involving a group of related motifs in the Book of Mormon where shaking off Satan’s chains and rising from the dust are linked, as discussed in Parts 1 and 2. Here we argue that an appeal to the Book of Mormon’s use of dust may fill in some gaps in the complex chiastic structure of Alma 36 and strengthen the case that it is a carefully crafted example of ancient Semitic poetry. Continue reading
Abstract: Nephi is the prototypical wise son of the Wisdom tradition. As Proverbs advocates that a wise man cherishes the word of God, so Nephi cherishes the words of the wise. Nephi’s record begins with a declaration of his upbringing in the Wisdom tradition and his authenticity and reliability as a wise son and scribe (1 Nephi 1:1–3). His is a record of the learning of the Jews — a record of wisdom. If the Wisdom tradition is a foundation for Nephi’s scribal capabilities and outlook, perhaps the principles and literary skills represented by the scribal Wisdom tradition constitute the “learning of the Jews” that Nephi references so early in his account. Thus, if Nephi’s is a record of the learning of the Jews — a record of wisdom — we would be wise to read it with Wisdom — that is, through the lens of ancient Israelite and Middle Eastern Wisdom traditions. Continue reading