On the Dating of Moroni 8-9

Abstract: Students of the Book of Mormon who have attempted to establish a rough (internal) date for the composition of Mormon’s two letters in Moroni 8–9 have come to different and inconsistent conclusions. Nonetheless, there seems to be evidence enough from the text to arrive at reasonably certain conclusions as to when the letters are supposed to have originated. At the same time, the fact that the text never bothers to state the exact circumstances under which the letters were produced is theologically suggestive. What might be the interpretive and especially theological implications that follow from the establishment of rough dates for the letters? This essay argues from textual evidence that the reader should understand the two letters to have been written at rather different times: Moroni 8 in the years 345–50, and Moroni 9 in the years 375–80. It then draws interpretive and theological conclusions about the import of these dates: principally that Moroni’s inclusion of the letters forces readers to recognize that Mormon’s history is inventive and theologically motivated. Continue reading

Reclaiming Jacob

Abstract. A chapter of Adam Miller’s Future Mormon concerns Jacob’s encounter with Sherem in Jacob 7. While novel, Miller’s treatment of Jacob and Sherem appears inadequate. He overlooks features of the text that seem to subvert his unconventional conclusions about them. This essay identifies a number of such matters, falling in four major categories, and shares thoughts on the need for perspective when discussing Jacob’s conduct — or the conduct of any prophet, for that matter. It also highlights the jeopardy we face of being the second group to fall for Sherem’s lies. Continue reading

Nephi’s Use of Inverted Parallels

Abstract: Did Nephi intentionally use chiasmus in his writings? An analysis of fifteen multi-level chiasm candidates in Nephi’s writings demonstrates a high statistical probability (99%+) that the poetic form was used intentionally by Nephi but only during two specific writing periods. This finding is buttressed by further analysis, which reveals a clear and unexpected literary pattern for which Nephi seems to have reserved his usage of chiasmus. The nature of obedience is a major theme in Nephi’s writings, and he regularly employed chiasms to explore the topic early in his writings. After a period during which he discontinued use of the technique, he returned to the poetic device toward the end of his life to signal a significant shift in his thoughts on the topic of obedience. Continue reading

“Creator of the First Day”: The Glossing of Lord of Sabaoth in D&C 95:7

Abstract: The calqued name-title Lord of Sabaoth, echoing James 5:4, occurs four times in the Doctrine and Covenants in revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith from December 25, 1832 to August 6, 1833. Of these occurrences, only D&C 95:7 offers a gloss or interpretation for the name “the Lord of Sabaoth,” which is, by interpretation, “the creator of the first day, the beginning and the end.” Upon close inspection, this explanation makes excellent sense from an ancient Israelite etiological as well as (perhaps) an etymological standpoint. Past criticisms of the gloss in D&C 95:7 have focused on the wrongly assumed incongruity of first day and Sabaoth (hosts), and have neglected function of the divine name Yhwh in titles, most often represented in scripture by the term “Lord, as in the calqued name-title Lord of Hosts. Understanding the connection between Yhwh (the form of which suggests the meaning He creates,” “He brings into existence,” “he brings to pass), the divine council (the hosts), creation (on the first day or Day One), and the underlying grammatical meaning of Lord of Hosts = Yhwh ṣĕbāʾôt (i.e., He creates the [heavenly] hosts or He brings to pass the [heavenly] hosts) is crucial to understanding the calque Lord of Sabaoth and the explanation given in D&C 95:7. When considered in its entirety, this revealed gloss is right on target. The creation/‌begetting of the heavenly hosts was associated with the first day or Day One in ancient Israelite thought. They are described as finished or fully prepared by the end of the six creative periods (days in Genesis 2:1). Additionally, Lord of Sabaoth or Yhwh ṣĕbāʾôt is to be understood in connection with the similarly constructed name-title Yhwh ʾĕlōhîm (He creates gods,” “he causes gods to be, or he brings to pass gods). The meristic appositive title the beginning and the end implies that Yhwh is not only the author/creator of Israel and its salvation but the [Page 52]finisher thereof. Far from evidence of Joseph Smith’s lack of knowledge of Hebrew, the interpretive gloss in D&C 95:7 constitutes evidence of Joseph’s ability to obtain correct translations and interpretations through revelation. Continue reading

Assessing the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Introduction to the Historiography of their Acquisitions, Translations, and Interpretations

Abstract: The Book of Abraham has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention since some of the papyri once owned by Joseph Smith were rediscovered. A focus of this attention has been the source of the Book of Abraham, with some contending that the extant fragments are the source, while others have argued that the source is either other papyri or something else altogether. New investigations suggest that, while the relationship between papyri and text is not clear, it is clear that the fragments are not the source and that the method of translation was not the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. Additionally, further investigations into the source of the Book of Abraham as well as the interpretations of the facsimiles have made it clear that much of the controversy about the Book of Abraham has been based on untested assumptions. Book of Abraham studies have made significant strides forward in the last few decades, while some avenues of research are in need of further pursuit. Continue reading