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

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