Understanding Nephi with the Help of Noah Webster

Abstract: Dictionaries, especially Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, can be useful and informative resources to help us better understand the language of the Book of Mormon. This article compares definitions of words and phrases found in the book of 1 Nephi, using Webster’s 1828 dictionary and the New Oxford American Dictionary as references. By comparing these two dictionaries, we can see how word usage and meanings have changed since the original publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. We can also gain a greater appreciation of the text of the Book of Mormon in a way that its first readers probably understood it. Continue reading

Getting into the Meat of the Word of Wisdom

Abstract: In verse 13 of the Word of Wisdom, the Lord tells us, “it is pleasing unto me that they [flesh of beasts and fowls of the air] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine” (D&C 89:13). Judging from the variety of interpretations this single verse has inspired, it would appear to be deeply enigmatic. Interestingly, most interpretations have been put forward with little supporting evidence. This article is the first comprehensive analysis of the diverse explanations for D&C 89:13 that have been suggested since 1833. In this article, I attempt to analyze these various interpretations in light of the available evidence. Continue reading

Reading the Scriptures Geographically: Some Tools and Insights

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to provide several examples of how meaning, understanding, and interpretation of scriptures may be enhanced when scriptures are read in their geographical context.  Many scholarly articles seek exclusively to break new ground in meaning and meaning-making, to essentially produce new knowledge.  This article hopes to break new ground both in terms of new knowledge (insights) as well as in the pragmatics of giving readers additional tools and opportunities for exploring the scriptures in fresh ways.  In particular, this article will also highlight several free geographical tools that can improve one’s learning with the scriptures, with particular focus on Google Earth and the BYU scriptures.byu.edu/mapscrip tool (hereafter referred to as Google Earth Bible or GEB).  The hope is that this article will, through the tools discussed, create opportunities for others to create new knowledge for themselves through scripture study. Continue reading

Restoration: A Theological Poem in the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The distinctive Mormon conception of God makes possible a logically coherent reconciliation of the facially incompatible laws of justice and mercy. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma clearly explains how these two great laws may be reconciled through the atonement and repentance that the atonement makes possible. Alma artfully illustrates the relationship between justice and mercy in a carefully crafted theological poem. Continue reading

Questioning the Comma in Verse 13 of the Word of Wisdom

Abstract: The 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants included an additional comma, which was inserted after the word “used” in D&C 89:13: “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Later authors have speculated that the addition of the comma was a mistake that fundamentally changed the meaning of the verse. This article examines this “errant comma theory” and demonstrates why this particular interpretation of D&C 89:13 is without merit. Continue reading