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:

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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

Five Misunderstandings Of The Book of Mormon Text That Veils Discovery Of Its Geography

Administrator’s Note: The following post is intended to generate discussion and should only be seen as representing the beliefs of the author. While many individuals have settled on their own ideas about the geography of the Book of Mormon, there is certain a wide range of those ideas. Discussion and clarifications are always beneficial, and this post and subsequent discussions may lead to both.

By J. Theodore Brandley

I believe there are five common misunderstandings of the text of the Book of Mormon that have kept the truth of its geography hidden for the past 185 years. These misconceptions are:

  1. The River Sidon flows to the north.
  2. The city of Lehi-Nephi is the original city of Nephi
  3. Alma’s party travelled only about 250 miles from the city of Lehi-Nephi to Zarahemla.
  4. Directional geographical names in the Book of Mormon are absolute and always refer to the same location.
  5. The land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were divided by a narrow neck of land.

Continue reading

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