The Hilt Thereof Was of Pure Gold

Finding Laban drunk in the streets of Jerusalem, Nephi “beheld his sword, and [he] I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and . . . the blade thereof was of the most precious steel” (1 Nephi 4:9).1 This description is so precise that one is tempted to look for similar weapons from the ancient world in which Laban lived. Comparisons have been made with a long dagger found in the tomb of the fourteenth-century BC Egyptian king Tutankhamun, with its iron blade and hilt of gold, uncovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter (see Fig. A).2 This comparison is valid insofar as the workmanship is concerned, for Laban’s sword had a steel blade and a gold hilt. But the Egyptian weapon would not have been long enough for Nephi to strike off Laban’s head (1 Nephi 4:18).3 Continue reading

  1. The golden hilt of Laban’s sword has led a number of people to suggest that this was a special sword, a symbol of office. 

  2. Note also the discovery of a Canaanite dagger with a silver-plated handle (Fig. B). 

  3. See the discussion in William J. Adams, Jr., “Nephi’s Jerusalem and Laban’s Sword,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993), 194-95, reprinted in Pressing Forward With the Book of Mormon, eds. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo: FARMS, 1999), 11-13. 

Saved by Charis: A Review of “Relational Grace: The Reciprocal and Binding Covenant of Charis”

Paul Writing His Epistles attr. Valentin de Boulogne (17th century).
Paul had a thing or two to say about salvation.
The Book of Mormon famously teaches, “For we labor diligently to
write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). This teaching has prompted a number of explorations into Mormon soteriology (the theology of salvation) and has left not a few Evangelical critics of Mormon doctrine peeved at what is perceived to be a “works based” theology of salvation. I myself, I confess, have paid little attention to the debates surrounding Mormon teachings on grace beyond some of the popularized work of Stephen Robinson and Brad Wilcox and a quip by C. S. Lewis.[i] Of course, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a moving General Conference sermon on the topic of grace not too long ago that I appreciated,[ii] but beyond this handful of material and a 2010 article by John Gee,[iii] my interest in grace has been limited. There’s the treatment of grace by Latter-day Saint thinker Adam Miller,  which has been recommended to me by a number of my friends and acquaintances, but frankly I haven’t, at this point, mustered enough interest to pursue this work.[iv] (This admission, I hope, is not misconstrued as an indictment against Miller, but rather as an example of my own laziness.)

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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:


Examining the Heartland Hypothesis as Geography

The Heartland hypothesis really doesn’t care much about geography. In fact, it is literally the last kind of analysis it cares about. Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum lay out their methodology in an important book that provides an excellent overview of the Heartland hypothesis: “The proposed methodology presented in this book utilizes four highly corroborative resources that assist in coming to an understanding of the lands described in the Book of Mormon text. These resources are 1) the prophetic evidence found in scriptures; 2) the prophetic statements of the inspired translator, Joseph Smith; 3) the physical evidences; and 4) the geographical passages.”1 I realize that by examining the Heartland hypothesis on the basis of geography I am inverting their order of evidence. However, regardless of the analytical approach, if the resulting geography fits with the Book of Mormon, and a good case has been made. If it does not, then the hypothesis must be revised. Continue reading

  1. Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum, Prophecies & Promises: The Book of Mormon and the United States of America, (New York: Digital Legend, 2009), 1. 

What You Will Read About in the New Institute Manual on Early Church History

Some time ago I blogged about a new seminary manual on the Doctrine and Covenants released by the Church. The manual is significant because it includes discussions of sensitive topics related to Church history, such as the multiple accounts of the First Vision, the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Utah War, the history of plural marriage, and the history of the priesthood ban. It appears that by including these topics the Church is taking steps towards more transparency when it comes to its history and “inoculating” its young members who are likely to encounter antagonistic websites that can easily blindside them with these issues if they aren’t prepared. Continue reading