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Printed JournalWelcome to Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, a nonprofit, independent, peer-reviewed educational journal focused on the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its publications are available free of charge, with our goal to increase understanding of scripture. Our latest papers can be found below.

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Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Places are made sacred through manifestations of the divine or ritual activity. The occurrence of a theophany or hierophany or the performance of particular rituals can conceptually transform a place into an axis mundi, or the center of the world. A variety of such axes mundi are known from the archaeological record of Mesoamerica and the text of the Book of Mormon. I compare and contrast several distinctive types of such ritual complexes from Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon and argue that they served functionally and ideologically similar purposes. Continue reading

Nephi: A Postmodernist Reading

Authors inevitably make assumptions about their readers as they write. Readers likewise make assumptions about authors and their intentions as they read. Using a postmodern framing, this essay illustrates how a close reading of the text of 1 and 2 Nephi can offer insight into the writing strategies of its author. This reading reveals how Nephi differentiates between his writing as an expression of his own intentions and desires, and the text as the product of divine instruction written for a “purpose I know not.” In order to help his audience understand the text in this context, Nephi as the author interacts with his audience through his rhetorical strategy, pointing towards his own intentions, and offering reading strategies to help them discover God’s purposes in the text. Continue reading

Inattentional Blindness: Seeing and Not Seeing The Book of Mormon

Review of Earl M. Wunderli, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us about Itself (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2013), 328pp + Appendices, Maps, and Index.

Earl Wunderli, an attorney who has made a lifelong study of the Book of Mormon, concludes that the book is a product of Joseph Smith’s mind and imagination. In doing so, Wunderli marshals evidence and presents his argument as if he were an attorney defending a client in court. Unfortunately, Wunderli’s case suffers from the same weaknesses and limitations of other naturalist criticism in that it exaggerates Joseph Smith’s intellectual and cultural background and compositional skills while ignoring the Book of Mormon’s deep structure, narrative complexity, and often intricate rhetorical patterns. Continue reading

The Book with the Unintentionally Self-Referential Title

Review of Earl M. Wunderli, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us about Itself (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2013), 328pp + Appendices, Maps, and Index.

Earl M. Wunderli has written a book that works through the reasons he fell out of belief in the Book of Mormon. These are combined with issues that he has added to his original reasons. His presentation is clearly intended to suggest that what he found compelling will also be compelling to other readers. Should it? This review looks at how his arguments are constructed: his methodology, the logic of the analysis, and the way he uses his sources. Although he argues that it is the Book of Mormon that is the imperfect book, his construction of the arguments makes that designation ironic. Continue reading

The Sibling Scandals of the Resurrection

I’ve recently picked Stephen T. Davis’s Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection up again.1 It’s an impressive book that had a pivotal effect on my thinking when it first appeared. Davis, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College in California, argues that “Christians are within their intellectual rights in believing that Jesus was raised from the dead.”2 “The thesis of the book,” he explains, “is that the two central Christian resurrection claims — namely, that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead and that we will all be raised from the dead — are defensible claims.”3 Continue reading