A Letter from Daniel C. Peterson

Dear Friends:

We’re approaching Christmas and the end of 2014.  It seems appropriate, therefore, to thank all those whose generous donations of time, energy, and money have made the accomplishments of The Interpreter Foundation possible.  We’re deeply and humbly grateful.  We know that you owe us and the Foundation nothing whatever, and we’re genuinely moved by the support that our work has received.

I also wish to report on the current status of The Interpreter Foundation, and, candidly, to encourage further support, in whatever form, from those able to give it.  Some of you, I expect, will be thinking about year-end charitable deductions this month.  There are many extremely worthy causes for you to support; we hope that you’ll keep Interpreter in mind. Continue reading

Abraham and Jehovah

When reading the LDS Book of Abraham, readers’ attention is often drawn to the “Facsimiles” that accompany that book, which are a frequent source of wonder and awe to many.  While perhaps not as mesmerizing and mystifying as Facs. 2, the first facsimile has one figure in particular that begs for some analysis.

Larsen 1


In the narrative of the Abraham 1, we are told that this image is included by Abraham to illustrate the situation in which he found himself — about to be sacrificed by the priest of Elkanah/Pharaoh on the “bedstead” altar, which was like the one depicted.  His “fathers,” whom he had tried to convince to give up their idol worship, have turned him over to the idolatrous priest.  However, just before he is sacrificed (in a scene reminiscent of the sacrifice of Isaac), Abraham tells us that the Angel of the Lord’s presence comes to save him, unlooses his bands and (after an extended dialogue) smites the priest of Elkanah. What is particularly significant in this story is that the Angel of the Presence announces himself to be Jehovah – whom most Bible readers would not consider to be the oft-mentioned “Angel of the Presence” of the Old Testament.1 Continue reading

  1. However, Margaret Barker provides abundant evidence that this indeed was the ancient understanding, see her The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God (Louisville: W/JKP, 1992). 

The Passing Parade: Observations on People and Culture

(These sketches, written in my tenth decade, portray aspects of people and culture I have encountered in my life that may be instructive, or at least diverting, to my extensive clan and friends.)

Not long ago (2014) I happened to read an article by Michael A. Goodman, an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU, entitled “Correlation: The Turning Point (1960s)” (pp. 258-284 in Scott C. Esplin and Kenneth L. Alford, eds., Salt Lake City: The Place Which God Prepared {Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, and Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011}). It is an interesting history of repeated efforts at “correlation” of LDS Church activities and concerns by authorities of the Church throughout most of the 20th century. It’s based on minutes of meetings of various concerned committees and some correspondence of relevant Church officers and employees. What struck me about this history was its failure to identify clearly, let alone to document, the activities of the bureaucratic entity that the Church public knows as “Correlation.” That unit is the apparatus of actual control through which most correlation efforts have been carried out. My own experience with that apparatus may provide supplementary insight into the practice of “Correlation” in the 1970s and 1980s. Continue reading

A Perspective on the Church and the Gospel

An often misunderstood idea among some Latter-day Saints is that the Church has made changes for the worse in its positions since some time in the “good old days” –the early years, or the pioneer period, or any other time one chooses as a reference point. It may be worthwhile taking a short historical excursion in order to gain a more rational and enlightened perspective.

The Gospel

We may be sure that the universe operates strictly according to principles of truth—“the way things (really) are.” There is no other way it could operate. Our problem as less-than-perfect instruments for grasping truth is to align ourselves as far as possible with those truths in the conduct of our lives. God lives exclusively by truth, and he is anxiously concerned to facilitate our attempts at reaching that hoped for alignment. Left largely to ourselves in thinking about important matters, every person fumbles
around a good deal and makes many errors in interpreting how God operates His universe. He knows this is inevitable in us, given our mortal limitations in thinking/grasping. He told the prophet Joseph Smith that “every man [and woman] walketh in his[/her] own way, and after the image of his[/her] own god” (D. & C 1:16). Unaided by a universe-wide perspective, we cannot escape our own random subjectivities. Continue reading

Musings on the Making of Mormon’s Book: 1 Nephi 19:1-21

Chapter 19 is not a separate chapter in the 1830 edition. However, in the 1830 edition, the chapter V in which it is included ends where we have verse 21. Because that was an original chapter break, I am looking at chapter 19 only up to verse 21 to have the opportunity of looking at why Nephi would make the decision to break the chapter at that point.

1 Ne. 18:25 And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.

1 Ne. 19:1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.

I have added the last verse of our chapter 18 to the beginning of 19 to restore the sense in which Nephi intended us to see those two ideas. Nephi brought his narrative to the New World and gave an almost formulaic account of their arrival. They came, the found what they needed to survive, and they found “all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.” Finding the gold, silver and copper should not be of the same survival importance of finding animals “for the use of men.” Nevertheless, it does fit into the context of exploring their new land and finding things that would be important to them. Continue reading