Abstract: Some have seen evidence of anti-Masonic rhetoric in the Book of Mormon and cite 2 Nephi 26:22 in support of this theory, since Satan leads sinners “by the neck with a flaxen cord.” It is claimed that this is a reference to Masonic initiation rituals, which feature a thick noose called a cable-tow or tow-rope. Examining the broader rhetorical context of 2 Nephi demonstrates that the “flaxen cord” more likely refers to something slight and almost undetectable. To test this hypothesis, I undertake a survey of the use of the phrase flaxen cord in 19th century publications. I also examine analogous phrases from the Bible. I examine fifty examples, seven of which are excluded because they do not contain enough information to support either claim. Of the remaining 43 examples, a full two-thirds (67%) describe a cord that is trivial or easily snapped. Only 7% denote a thick, strong rope, and 17% describe a thin rope that is strong. Given (1) the rhetorical context of 2 Nephi, (2) an expression that usually refers to a cord of trivial thickness and strength, and (3) virtually all poetic, scriptural, or allegorical uses imply fragility, the evidence overwhelmingly contradicts the anti-Masonic thesis.
The Nature of the Original Language of the Book of Mormon
The video of the recent presentation by Royal Skousen at BYU on The Nature of the Original Language of the Book of Mormon is now available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/presentation-on-the-nature-of-the-original-language-of-the-book-of-mormon/.
Abstract: The drought recorded in Helaman 11 is probably the only dated, climate-related event in the entire Book of Mormon that could have left a “signature” detectable over 2,000 years after it occurred. Typical methods to detect this kind of event using dendrochronology (the study of tree rings) or sediment cores from lake beds either do not go back far enough in time or are not of high enough resolution to detect the event described in Helaman 11. However, over the last 15 to 20 years, various researchers have turned to analyzing stalagmites collected from caves to reproduce the precipitation history of a given area. These analysis methods are now producing results approaching the 1–year resolution of dendrochronology, with 2 sigma (95%) dating accuracies on the order of a decade. There is an ongoing debate with regard to where the events in the Book of Mormon took place. One of the proposed areas is Mesoamerica, specifically in southern Mexico and Guatemala. This paper will test the hypothesis that the drought described in the Book of Helaman took place in Mesoamerica using the results of precipitation histories derived from the analysis of three stalagmites compared to determine if there is evidence that a drought took place in the expected time frame and with the expected duration.
Abstract: When Orson Scott Card wrote “The Book of Mormon: Artifact or Artifice?” in 1993, he applied keen skills as an author of fiction to help readers understand how to detect the many hidden assumptions an author brings into a text. Subtle details such as the choice of what to explain or what not to explain to readers can quickly reveal the era and environment of the author. The value of Card’s analysis is reconsidered in light of extensive Book of Mormon studies since 1993 and has been found, for the most part, to have withstood the test of time well, like the Book of Mormon itself.
Abstract: The story of Joseph Smith retrieving gold plates from a stone box on a hillside in upstate New York and translating them into the foundational text of the Restoration is well known among Latter-day Saints. While countless retellings have examined these events in considerable detail, very few have explored the geological aspects involved in this story. In particular, none have discussed in detail the geological materials that would have been required by the Nephite prophet Moroni ca. ad 421 to construct a sealed container able to protect the gold plates from the elements and from premature discovery for some fourteen centuries. This paper reports the outcomes from a field investigation into what resources would have been available to Moroni in the Palmyra area. It was conducted by the authors in New York state in October 2017.
Abstract: The Liahona’s faith-based functionality and miraculous appearance have often been viewed as incongruous with natural law. This paper attempts to reconcile the Liahona to scientific law by displaying similarities between its apparent mechanisms and ancient navigation instruments called astrolabes. It further suggests the Liahona may have been a wedding dowry Ishmael provided to Lehi’s family. The paper displays the integral connection Nephi had to the Liahona’s functionality and how this connection more clearly explains the lack of faith displayed by Nephi’s band during the journey than traditional conceptions of its faith-based functionality.
Abstract: Marjorie Newton’s Mormon and Maori is a version of her 1998 thesis in which she rejects key elements of the Māori Latter-day Saint historical narrative. This contrasts with her earlier, faith-affirming Tiki and Temple. In Mormon and Maori Newton targets what she sees as Māori/missionary mythology. She has written for different audiences; one was for secular religious studies scholars, while the other was for faithful Saints. Midgley rejects Newton’s claim that a Mormon American cultural imperialism requires Māori to abandon noble elements of their culture. Faithful Saints are liberated from the soul destroying behavior that results from the loss of traditional Māori moral restraints. Midgley insists that Newton has little understanding of the deeper structures of Māori culture.
Review of Marjorie Newton, Mormon and Maori (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014). 248 pp. $24.95 (paperback).
Abstract: This article is centered on possible causes for the fall of Israel and, secondarily, Judah. The topic is not new. The very destruction of these ancient kingdoms may be the cause for the production of much of the Biblical literature that drives our interpretive enterprise. My proposal is that Max Weber’s socio-political theories of power and domination, sometimes called the tripartite classification of authority, may provide a fruitful lens by which to understand some of the reasons Judah persisted for more than a century after the fall of Israel. Specifically, I wish to investigate whether the lack of routinization of charismatic authority was a contributing factor in Israel’s fall.1
Abstract: Some have come to insist that the Book of Mormon should be read as inspired fiction, which is to say that readers, including Latter-day Saints, should abandon any belief in the Book of Mormon as an authentic ancient text and instead should see it as an inspired frontier novel written by Joseph Smith that may act as scripture for those who follow his teachings. This paper provides reasoning to reject this proposition as not only logically incoherent but also theologically impotent.1 It raises the objection that this position fundamentally undercuts the credibility of Joseph Smith. The Prophet’s direct claims concerning the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as well as how the Book of Mormon presents itself to the world do not easily permit any leeway for a “middle ground” on this matter.
Abstract: The works of Tolkien and the Book of Mormon have been compared in a variety of ways by multiple authors and researchers, but none have looked specifically at the unusual names found within both. Wordprint studies are one tool used in author attribution research, but do authors use specific sounds more than others — consciously or subconsciously — when selecting or inventing names? Some research suggests they may and that their patterns could create a “sound print” or phonoprint. This constitutes a fresh and unusual path of research that deserves more attention. The purpose of this exploratory study was to see if phonoprints surfaced when examining Dwarf, Elf, Hobbit, Man, and other names created by Tolkien and Jaredite, Nephite, Mulekite, and Lamanite names found in the Book of Mormon. Results suggest that Tolkien had a phonoprint he was unable to entirely escape when creating character names, even when he claimed he based them on distinct languages. In contrast, in Book of Mormon names, a single author’s phonoprint did not emerge. Names varied by group in the way one would expect authentic names from different cultures to vary. Although much more research needs to be done to establish the validity and reliability of using phonoprints for author identification, this study opens a door for future research.
Abstract: In two related prophecies, Moroni employs an apparent wordplay on the name Joseph in terms of the Hebrew idiom (lōʾ) yôsîp … ʿôd (+ verbal component), as preserved in the phrases “they shall no more be confounded” (Ether 13:8) and “that thou mayest no more be confounded” (Moroni 10:31). That phraseology enjoyed a long currency within Nephite prophecy (e.g., 1 Nephi 14:2, 15:20), ultimately having its source in Isaiah’s prophecies regarding Jerusalem/Zion (see, for example, Isaiah 51:22; 52:1– 2; 54:2–4). Ether and Moroni’s prophecy in Ether 13 that the Old Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem would “no more be confounded” further affirms the gathering of Israel in general and the gathering of the seed of Joseph in particular.
Abstract: This review essay looks at certain problematical issues in the recently published collection of essays honoring Latter-day Saint historian Richard Lyman Bushman. Problems emerge from the title itself, “To Be Learned is Good,” as a result of the failure to note that the Book of Mormon passage “To be learned is good” is a conditional statement. In addition, since these essays are billed as “Essays on Faith and Scholarship,” it is odd most of them do not touch on this subject at all. I examine four essays in depth, including Adam Miller’s “Christo-Fiction, Mormon Philosophy, and the Virtual Body of Christ,” which is offered as a form of clarifying Mormon philosophy but provides more confusion than clarification. Jared Hickman’s essay, “The Perverse Core of Mormonism: The Book of Mormon, Genetic Secularity, and Messianic Decoloniality,” presents Mormonism as a religion that has much in common with Marxism, Frantz Fanon, and Sean Coulhard. While not as bold as Hickman, Patrick Mason looks at Mormonism as a modern religion and suggests that premodern thinkers are largely irrelevant to Mormonism and the modern world. Mason argues that “Mormonism is a religion that could meaningfully converse with modern philosophies and ideologies from transcendentalism, liberalism, and Marxism.” I discuss the weaknesses of this view. Attention is also given to the distinction between apologetics and “Mormon Studies” that arise from essays by Grant Wacker, Armand Mauss, Terryl Givens, and Brian D. Birch, who suggests “‘a methodological pluralism'” in approaching Mormon studies. I note that several of the essays in this volume are worthy of positive note, particularly those by Bushman himself, Mauss (who does address the presumed theme of the book), Givens, Mauro Properzi, and Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye (who also addresses the titled theme of the book in a most engaging manner).
[Page 78]Review of J. Spencer Fluhman, Kathleen Flake, and Jed Woodworth, eds., To Be Learned is Good: Essays on Faith and Scholarship in Honor of Richard Lyman Bushman (Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2017). 368 pp. $24.56 (hardcover).
Abstract: In 2nd Nephi, it is suggested that the Lord answers prayers but that requests made in prayer should not violate some kind of standard that would make them “amiss.” This undefined standard most likely excludes many prayers requesting immunity from those conditions of mortality which all mortals accepted and embraced with great enthusiasm in the great Council in Heaven. However, except for limited latter-day explanations of that great conference, our eager acceptance of all details of the conditions of mortality did not carry over into mortal memory. Consequently, when we request exemption from those conditions joyfully endorsed in premortal time, perhaps many qualify for the “prayers amiss” category. Exceptions from mortal conditions are granted only for divine and sometimes incomprehensible purposes.
Abstract: Latter-day Saints are often aware that the Apocrypha contains valuable sacred material along with some “interpolations of men,” but few know how to approach those ancient texts and what they could learn from them. A new book by Jared W. Ludlow provides a helpful tool to guide LDS readers in appreciating the Apocrypha and exploring the material in these highly diverse sacred documents.
Review of Jared W. Ludlow, Exploring the Apocrypha from a Latter-day Saint Perspective (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2018). 234 pp. $16.99.
Abstract: This informative and very readable volume, targeted to a Latter day Saint audience, serves as an introduction to the Apocrypha and an exploration of Latter-day Saint views of the books. Even those already familiar with the Apocrypha will find this book insightful in the Latter-day Saint approaches it brings to bear. Even so, the book touches too lightly on some issues, including the extent of the Apocrypha, the phenomenon of pseudonymity, and the reasons for the current exclusion of the Apocrypha from the Latter-day Saint canon.
Review of Jared W. Ludlow, Exploring the Apocrypha from a Latter-day Saint Perspective (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2018). 234 pp. $16.99.
Abstract: What is theosis? Why does the doctrine of theosis matter? Why did God become man so that man might become God? In his book To Become Like God, Andrew C. Skinner answers these questions with compelling clarity. He provides ample convincing evidence that, far from being a deviation from original Christian beliefs, the doctrine of theosis, or the belief that human beings have the potential to become like God, is central to the Christian faith.
Review of Andrew C. Skinner, To Become Like God: Witnesses of Our Divine Potential (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016). 164 pp. $18.99 (hardback).
Abstract: Beyond his autobiographic use of Joseph’s name and biography, Nephi also considered the name Joseph to have long-term prophetic value. As a Semitic/Hebrew name, Joseph derives from the verb yāsap (to “add,” “increase,” “proceed to do something,” “do something again,” and to “do something more”), thus meaning “may he [God] add,” “may he increase,” or “may he do more/again.” Several of the prophecies of Isaiah, in which Nephi’s soul delighted and for which he offers extensive interpretation, prominently employ forms of yāsap in describing iterative and restorative divine action (e.g., Isaiah 11:11; 26:15; 29:14; cf. 52:1). The prophecy of the coming forth of the sealed book in Isaiah 29 employs the latter verb three times (Isaiah 29:1, 14, and 19). Nephi’s extensive midrash of Isaiah 29 in 2 Nephi 25–30 (especially 2 Nephi 27) interpretively expands Isaiah’s use of the yāsap idiom(s). Time and again, Nephi returns to the language of Isaiah 29:14 (“I will proceed [yôsīp] to do a marvelous work”), along with a similar yāsap-idiom from Isaiah 11:11 (“the Lord shall set his hand again [yôsîp] … to recover the remnant of his people”) to foretell the Latter-day forthcoming of the sealed book to fulfill the Lord’s ancient promises to the patriarch. Given Nephi’s earlier preservation of Joseph’s prophecies regarding a future seer named “Joseph,” we can reasonably see Nephi’s emphasis on iterative divine action in his appropriation of the Isaianic use of yāsap as a direct and thematic allusion to this latter-day “Joseph” and his role in bringing forth additional scripture. This additional scripture would enable the meek to “increase,” just as Isaiah and Nephi had prophesied.
Abstract: Moroni’s years of wandering alone after the battle of Cumorah have been often discussed, but not in the context of how they impacted his writing and editorial work. John Bytheway’s latest offering provides us insight into the man Moroni and how his isolation impacted the material that he left for his latter-day readers.
Abstract: In this article I argue that faith is not only rationally justifiable but also inescapable simply because our decisions regarding ultimate questions must necessarily be made under conditions of objective uncertainty. I review remarks by several prominent thinkers on the subject — both avowed atheists and several writers who have addressed the challenge implicit in issues related to faith and reason. I end my discussion by citing William James, who articulated clearly the choices we must make in addressing these “ultimate questions.”
Abstract: This is the second of two articles discussing Missouri’s requisitions to extradite Joseph Smith to face criminal charges and the Prophet’s recourse to English habeas corpus practice to defend himself. In the first article, the author discussed the English nature of pre-Civil War habeas corpus practice in America and the anachronistic modern idea that the Nauvoo Municipal Court did not have jurisdiction to consider interstate habeas corpus matters. In this article, he analyzes the conduct of Governor Thomas Reynolds in the matter of Missouri’s requisitions for the extradition of Joseph Smith in light of 1840s legal ethics in America. That analysis follows the discovery that Governor Reynolds had dismissed the underlying 1838 charges against Joseph Smith when he was a Missouri Supreme Court judge. It also responds to the revelation that Missouri reissued indictments based on the same underlying facts in June 1843 despite the existence of a double-jeopardy provision in the Missouri Constitution of 1820.
Abstract: This is the first of two articles discussing Missouri’s requisitions to extradite Joseph Smith to face criminal charges and the Prophet’s recourse to English habeas corpus practice to defend himself. In this article, the author presents research rejecting the suggestion that the habeas corpus powers of the Nauvoo City Council were irregular and explains why the idea that the Nauvoo Municipal Court lacked jurisdiction to consider interstate habeas corpus matters is anachronistic. In the second article, the author analyzes the conduct of Missouri Governor Thomas Reynolds in relation to the requisitions for Joseph Smith’s extradition. Even by the standards of the day, given what he knew, his conduct was unethical.
Abstract: Name as Key-Word brings together a collection of essays, many of them previously published, whose consistent theme is exploring examples of onomastic wordplay or puns in Mormon scripture in general and the Book of Mormon in particular. Without a knowledge of the meaning of these names, the punning in the scriptural accounts would not be recognized by modern English readers. Exploring the (probable) meanings of these names helps to open our eyes to how the scriptural authors used punning and other forms of wordplay to convey their messages in a memorable way.
Review of Matthew L. Bowen, Name as Key-Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and the Temple in Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2018). 408 pp., $24.95.
Abstract: Matthew L. Bowen’s book compels readers to consider both the Book of Mormon’s construction and the significance of names in the text. Bowen and his coauthors invite readers to contemplate not only scripture but its stages of construction to completion, be they first draft, editing, final abridgement, or translation. Bowen’s work reveals how, in the endeavor to sacralize the act of scripture reading, specific details like names and their meanings can invigorate one’s understanding of the narrative and its theology, preventing such reading from becoming a rote endeavor.
Review of Matthew L. Bowen, Name as Key-Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and the Temple in Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2018). 408 pp., $24.95.
Abstract: In the days of the first Israelite temple, only certain individuals were allowed into the temple and sacrificial services; foreigners and eunuchs were excluded. However, in Isaiah 56:1–8, formerly excluded individuals are invited into the presence of God at the temple. This paper will explore how metaphorically connecting Isaiah’s words with Abraham, the eponymous father of the covenant faithful, may demonstrate that even the most unlikely candidates for the presence of God are like Abraham; they too will inherit the ancient covenants according to their faithfulness.
Abstract: Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation is a textual study of Section 132. It offers some interesting information as the author attempts to understand and place within context the revelation, which is, as the heading for this section in the scriptures reads, “relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage.” The book has its strengths but is also hampered by some weaknesses, as discussed in this review.
Review of William Victor Smith. Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2018), 273 pp. $26.95.
Abstract:The first published commentary on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 is a lengthy volume with much material that deals directly with the revelation as well as extended discussions that go well beyond Joseph Smith’s dictated text. Much of the included material has been previously published, although several new historical items are presented, including a detailed examination of the provenance of the revelation. An apparent weakness of the book involves key themes mentioned in the revelation but minimized or otherwise ignored in this extended commentary. Examples include the possible meanings of the “law” (v. 6), importance of sealing authority (vv. 7‒20), possible polyandry (v. 41), Emma’s offer (v. 51), and others.
Abstract: The concept that race has evolved rather than remaining static is not well understood, both outside and within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In Religion of a Different Color, W. Paul Reeve shows how the concept of race evolved from painting Mormons as nonwhite in the 19th century to “too white” by the beginning of the 21st century.
Abstract: Some sources have described Mormonism as the faith most friendly to the intellectual movement known as Transhumanism. This paper reviews an introductory paper by the past President of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. A syllogism that purports to show that Mormonism is compatible with — or even requires — Transhumanism is analyzed. The syllogism’s premises are shown to misunderstand or misrepresent LDS scripture and doctrine. The proffered Transhumanist conception of “human nature” and the perspective offered by LDS scripture are compared and found to be incompatible. Additional discrepancies between the Transhumanist article’s representation of LDS doctrine and the actual teachings of LDS scripture and leaders on doctrinal matters (the Premortal Council in Heaven, the relationship between substance dualism and LDS thought, and the possibility of engineering or controlling spiritual experiences) are examined. The article does not accurately reflect LDS teachings, and thus has not demonstrated that Transhumanism is congenial to LDS scripture or doctrine.1
Abstract: Living in the Holy Land as a Palestinian Latter-day Saint has created unique challenges and perspective for Sahar Qumsiyeh. In order to attend church meetings in Jerusalem from her home near Bethlehem, Sahar was required to travel under unsafe and stressful circumstances for hours through military checkpoints to cover the few miles’ distance (as the crow flies). Sahar’s story, Peace for a Palestinian, varies dramatically from our own and reminds us that true discipleship requires sacrifice, which in turn brings blessings.
Personal response to Sahar Qumsiyeh, Peace for a Palestinian: One Woman’s Story of Faith amidst War in the Holy Land (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018). 176 pp. $15.99.
Abstract: Those who follow world events are painfully aware that peace in the Middle East — and particularly in the Holy Land — seems eternally elusive. From a distance we watch events unfold which we are not able to fully comprehend because of that very distance. There are individuals who are burdened with the devastating reality of living with war and perpetual turmoil in the Holy Land. One of those is Sahar Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian Arab Latter-day Saint who grew up in the West Bank near Bethlehem. Her story of how she converted to Mormonism and learned how to find peace in a troubled world is recommended reading for every Latter-day Saint.
Review of Sahar Qumsiyeh, Peace for a Palestinian: One Woman’s Story of Faith Amidst War in the Holy Land (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018). 176 pp. $15.99.
Abstract: Chinese science fiction works recently have received increasing attention and acclaim, most notably Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem. Liu’s epic trilogy, available in Chinese and English, has received international honors and recognition for its vision, its daring application of advanced physics in a novel, and its highly original ideas about our life in the cosmos. Another Chinese physicist and science fiction author, Jiang Bo, also explores related issues but in a much more distant and wide-ranging trilogy, The Heart of the Milky Way series. Both works have interesting treatments of concepts relevant to Gospel perspectives, particularly the cosmic implications and teachings in the revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the end, the questions they raise and the possibilities they present raise cosmic questions worthy of consideration by seekers of truth and urge us to consider what this cosmos is and where it is going. There are two ultimate possibilities: “Darkness, everything darkness” from the tragic “dark forest” model of Liu Cixin or the model of a benign universe crafted by a loving Heavenly Father. The latter, the cosmos of light, eternal progress, and endless joy is the universe of Joseph Smith and is profound enough to be seriously pitted against the alternative offered by China’s brilliant physicists. Their writings treat the physics and metaphysics of the cosmos from a materialist perspective; if materialism rules, then it is tooth and claw, “everything darkness” in the end (though Jiang Bo offers hope of renewal and progress for some after his chaos and final grand calamity at the heart of the galaxy). Joseph Smith’s cosmology gives us compelling reasons to see it otherwise and rejoice in the miracle of the actual universe we are in. Along the way, he offers some profound insights that should at least raise eyebrows and stimulate thinking among the physicists and philosophers of our age. These insights, contrary to claims of some critics, are not simply plagiarism or [Page 106]crude reworkings of common ideas from his day, but represent profound and original breakthroughs in thought, solving significant problems in the world’s views on life and the cosmos.
Abstract: Although scholarly investigation of the Book of Mormon has increased significantly over the last three decades, only a tiny portion of that effort has been focused on the theological or doctrinal content of this central volume of LDS scripture. This paper identifies three inclusios that promise definitions of the doctrine or gospel of Jesus Christ and proposes a cumulative methodology to explain how these definitions work. This approach reveals a consistently presented, six-part formula defining “the way” by which mankind can qualify for eternal life. In this way the paper provides a starting point for scholarly examinations of the theological content of this increasingly influential religious text. While the names of the six elements featured in Mormon’s gospel will sound familiar to students of the New Testament, the meanings he assigns to these may differ substantially from traditional Christian discourse in ways that make Mormon’s characterization of the gospel or doctrine of Christ unique. The overall pattern suggested is a dialog between man and God, who initially invites all people to trust in Christ and repent. Those who respond by repenting and seeking baptism will be visited by fire and by the Holy Ghost, which initiates a lifelong interaction, leading the convert day by day in preparation for the judgment, at which she may finally be invited to enter the kingdom of God.
Abstract: Walking for 500 miles in a foreign country through heat, arduous terrain, and many inconveniences is difficult enough. Add to the equation a man in a wheelchair, and the task appears impossible. The solution? Determination, humility, humor, faith, love, and someone, or many, who give you a push. I’ll Push You is a true story and parable for life that will give readers hope and encouragement.
Review of Patrick Gray & Justin Skeesuck, I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017). 296 pp. $24.99 (hardback); $15.99 (paperback).
Abstract: The word baptize appears 119 times in the Book of Mormon; three speakers (Jesus Christ, Mormon, and Nephi) account for 87% of all of these usages. Each of these individuals have distinctive patterns in how they use the word baptize, indicating that each speaker has his own unique voice. When one accounts for the fact that Christ says relatively fewer words than Mormon, it is evident that per 1,000 words spoken, Jesus Christ uses the word baptize more than any other speaker in the Book of Mormon. This finding holds true for Christ’s words both in and outside of 3 Nephi. Among other patterns, we demonstrate that Jesus Christ associates his name with baptism more than any other Book of Mormon speaker and that Christ is responsible for 58% of the Book of Mormon’s invitations to be baptized. Additional patterns and their implications are discussed.
Abstract: A recent graduate thesis proposes an intriguing new means for discerning if the Book of Mormon is historic or not. By looking at Book of Mormon references to David and the Psalms, the author concludes that it cannot be the product of an ancient Jewish people and that it is, instead, the result of Joseph Smith’s “plagiarism” from the Bible and other sources. This paper examines the author’s claims, how they are applied to the Book of Mormon, and proposes points the author does not take into consideration. While the author is to be congratulated for taking a fresh perspective on the Book of Mormon, ultimately his methodology fails and his conclusions fall flat.
Abstract:1 The story of believers being nearly put to death before the appearance of the sign at Christ’s birth is both inspiring and a little confusing. According to the Book of Mormon, the sign comes in the 92nd year, which was actually the sixth year after the prophecy had been made. There is little wonder why even some believers began to doubt. The setting of a final date by which the prophecy must be fulfilled, however, suggests that until that day, there must have been reason for even the nonbelievers to concede that fulfillment was still possible; yet after that deadline it was definitively too late. An understanding of Mesoamerican timekeeping practices and terminology provides one possible explanation.
Abstract: Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants contains what is commonly known by Latter-day Saints as the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Priesthood leaders in the church are expected to teach and explain this Oath and Covenant to prospective Melchizedek Priesthood holders. However, the meanings of phrases within the Oath and Covenant are not well understood. For example: What does it mean to become the sons of Moses and Aaron? In what sense are bodies renewed? Are the promised blessings just for holders of the priesthood or for others as well? This paper discusses several ways that phrases in the Oath and Covenant have been interpreted. To identify differing interpretations, I conducted an extensive review of references to the Oath and Covenant in LDS conference addresses and the words of Joseph Smith using the LDS Scripture Citation Index1. After considering these interpretations, I explore other ways the phrases could be interpreted to provide greater understanding of what it means to hold the priesthood and “magnify” it.
Abstract: Members of the Church have been charged since ancient times with the covenant need to share the Gospel message with those around them. In more recent times, this has been described as a need for “every member” to be a missionary. There are many ways that we can do so through the use of modern technology and the dedication of our talents. The “ministry of the word” beckons each of us onward.
Abstract: As the Church expands among the many nations, peoples, and tongues of the earth, new challenges arise that require the organization and the members of the Church to better meet the needs of the peoples in various nations and to cope with the specific challenges that may exist there. In this article I review a valuable book that can help in that expanding effort.
Review of Reid L. Neilson and Wayne D. Crosby, eds., Lengthening Our Stride: Globalization of the Church (Provo and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2018), 400 pp. $27.99.
Abstract: The Book of Abraham continues to attract scholarly attention. New findings in the fields of Egyptology, Near Eastern archaeology, and Mormon history have highlighted the complexity surrounding the origins of the Book of Abraham and its relationship to the Egyptian papyri that came into the possession of Joseph Smith in 1835. A new introductory volume on the Book of Abraham by John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, is an excellent resource that may help laypersons and scholars alike navigate this rapidly developing area of study.
Abstract: To the ancient Israelite ear, the name Ephraim sounded like or connoted “doubly fruitful.” Joseph explains the naming of his son Ephraim in terms of the Lord’s having “caused [him] to be fruitful” (Genesis 41:52). The “fruitfulness” motif in the Joseph narrative cycle (Genesis 37–50) constitutes the culmination of a larger, overarching theme that begins in the creation narrative and is reiterated in the patriarchal narratives. “Fruitfulness,” especially as expressed in the collocation “fruit of [one’s] loins” dominates in the fuller version of Genesis 48 and 50 contained in the Joseph Smith Translation, a version of which Lehi and his successors had upon the brass plates. “Fruit” and “fruitfulness” as a play on the name Ephraim further serve to extend the symbolism and meaning of the name Joseph (“may he [God] add,” “may he increase”) and the etiological meanings given to his name in Genesis 30:23–24). The importance of the interrelated symbolism and meanings of the names Joseph and Ephraim for Book of Mormon writers, who themselves sought the blessings of divine fruitfulness (e.g., Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob), is evident in their use of the fuller version of the Joseph cycle (e.g., in Lehi’s parenesis to his son Joseph in 2 Nephi 3). It is further evident in their use of the prophecies of Isaiah and Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree, both of which utilize (divine) “fruitfulness” imagery in describing the apostasy and restoration of Israel (including the Northern Kingdom or “Ephraim”).
Abstract: The recently released Abinadi: He Came Among Them in Disguise, a new book from Brigham Young University’s Book of Mormon Academy, offers readers multidisciplinary approaches to Mosiah 11–17 that highlight the literary, historical, and doctrinal richness of the story of Abinadi. Students and scholars of the Book of Mormon are sure to benefit greatly from this new volume.
Review of Shon D. Hopkin, ed. Abinadi: He Came Among Them in Disguise (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2018), 404 pp. $27.99.
Abstract: The new edited volume Abinadi: He Came Among Them in Disguise, from the Book of Mormon Academy, is a valuable contribution to Book of Mormon studies. It should find a wide audience and stimulate greater and deeper thinking about the pivotal contributions of Abinadi to the Book of Mormon. It should, however, not be considered the end of the conversation. This review discusses the volume’s importance within Book of Mormon scholarship generally. It also highlights certain valuable contributions from each of the authors, and points out places where more can be said and deeper analysis is needed.
Review of Shon D. Hopkin, ed. Abinadi: He Came Among Them in Disguise (Provo and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2018), 404 pp. $27.99.
Abstract: Easters come year after year, reminding us of new life brought to the children of men by the eternal atoning sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He grants us peace, forgiveness, grace, mercy, contentment, and joy in our hearts, and thus we gratefully testify of our everlasting redeeming Savior. All things bear witness of Jesus Christ. The Lord spoke thus face-to-face with Moses upon a high mountain: “And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.”1 The intent of this article is to discuss scriptures that bear testimony of the reality of the Lord’s infinite atonement, to express deep gratitude for our Savior, and to praise Him for His grace, mercy, wisdom, power, and holiness.
Review of Gordon Paul Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant: A Study of Biblical Law and Ethics Governing Marriage Developed from the Perspective of Malachi (Supplements to Vetus Testam, Book 52). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1994. Pp. xx + 414. Paperback reprint edition with a modified subtitle published in 2014 by WIPF & STOCK, Eugene, Oregon. 343 pages, plus bibliography and four indices.
Abstract: In his book Marriage as a Covenant, author Gordon Paul Hugenberger begins with the late 20th century Bible-studies insight that in Israel, covenants were devices used to make binding on unrelated persons the same obligations blood relatives owed to each other. So by covenant, marriage partners became one bone and flesh. This thorough study of the Hebrew Bible and related literatures argues that the view of marriage as a covenant in Malachi 2:10‒16 echoes the first marriage in Genesis 2 and is consistent with the other passages in the Bible that have often been mistakenly interpreted to promote a patriarchalist view denigrating the position of wives vis-à-vis their husbands.
Abstract: In recent years the Book of Mormon has been compared to pseudo-biblical texts like Gilbert J. Hunt’s The Late War (1816). Some have found strong linguistic correspondence and declared that there is an authorial relationship. However, comparative linguistic studies performed to date have focused on data with low probative value vis-à-vis the question of authorship. What has been lacking is non-trivial descriptive linguistic analysis that focuses on less contextual and more complex types of data, such as syntax and morphosyntax (grammatical features such as verb agreement and inflection), as well as data less obviously biblical and/or less susceptible to conscious manipulation. Those are the kinds of linguistic studies that have greater probative value in relation to authorship, and that can determine whether Joseph Smith might have been able to produce Book of Mormon grammar. In order to determine whether it is a good match with the form and structure of pseudo-biblical writings, I investigate nearly 10 kinds of syntax and morphosyntax that occur in the Book of Mormon and the King James Bible, comparing their usage with each other and with that of four pseudo-biblical texts. Findings are summarized toward the end of the article, along with some observations on biblical hypercorrection and alternative LDS views on Book of Mormon language.
Abstract: The institution of the Lord’s Supper is recounted explicitly in four New Testament texts (Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:19–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26). Common to all these texts is the phrase “this is my body,” and in the Lukan and Pauline texts, the command to “do this in remembrance of me.” In this paper, I will examine both the grammatical and theological implications of “this is my body” and the concept of “remembrance” in the theology of the Last Supper — with how Latter-day Saints can appropriate such in their weekly observance of this sacred ordinance.
Abstract: This brief article explores Paanchi and Giddianhi as names evidencing the Egyptian onomastic element –anchi/anhi/ʿnḫ(i) and the potential literary significance of these two names in the context of Mormon’s narrative detailing the formation of the oath-bound secret combinations sworn with oath-formulae upon one’s “life” (cf. Egyptian ʿnḫ, “life”; “live”; “swear an oath [by one’s life]”). It also explores the implications for Mormon’s telling of Nephite history during his own time.
ABSTRACT: The Apostle Paul’s theological explanation for female veil wearing (1 Corinthians 11:2–13) highlights the woman’s head covering as an expression of female empowerment or “authority/exousia.” It appears that the Corinthian saints struggled with this tradition, as Paul preceded the discussion with, “but I would have you know/thelõ de” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Rather than merely restating the dress code for certain prayers, Paul laid out the doctrinal background underlying the imagery. He began with the order of creation from the Garden of Eden. God was the “kephale,” meaning source or origin of Christ, who was the source of man, who was the source of woman. Paul taught that God’s glory (referring to man) should pray unveiled, and by the same token, humanity’s glory (referring to woman) should address God with her head covered (1 Corinthians 11:7). The early church interpreted the relationship between Adam and Eve typologically. The Edenic couple typified Christ and his Church — the Bridegroom and Bride. In this typological scenario, Eve (or the Church) worked through the mediator Adam (or Christ). In either a symbolic or literal interpretation, Paul described this empowering veil as a sign of unique female authority to pray and prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5). By covering her head, female saints received “power on her head” and could interact with angels (1 Corinthians 11:10). Paul concluded by emphasizing that men and women are completely interdependent — woman was created from man, while man is born of woman (1 Corinthians 11:11–12). In this regard we see an equal status between men and women in their relationship with the Lord. Their relationship focuses on their union with each other and God.
Abstract: The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth & Corporate Power is Michael Quinn’s impressive response to a century of books and articles that have often distorted the finances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This third volume in The Mormon Hierarchy series covers Church history from 1830 to 2010, and represents a staggering commitment. For 46 years Quinn has diligently gathered data on Church income, expenditures, taxation, and “living allowances” paid to Church leaders. The results are significant and engrossing, with but one possibly serious error. If you are interested in any aspect of the Church finances, the enormous effort required to bring us Wealth & Corporate Power may well be the final word. In Quinn’s own words, it tells an “American success story without parallel.”
Review of D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth & Corporate Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2017), 597 pp., with appendices and index. $49.95.
Abstract: The toponym Shilom likely derives from the Semitic/Hebrew root š-l-m, whence also the similar-sounding word šālôm, “peace,” derives. The first mention of the toponym Shilom in Zeniff’s record — an older account than the surrounding material and an autobiography — occurs in Mosiah 9:6 in parallel with Zeniff’s mention of his intention to “possess the land in peace” (Mosiah 9:5). The language and text structure of Mosiah 9:5‒6 thus suggest a deliberate wordplay on Shilom in terms of šālôm. Zeniff uses the name Shilom as a point of irony throughout his brief royal record to emphasize a tenuous and often absent peace between his people and the Lamanites.