50 episodes

The Interpreter Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization focused on the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Bible, and the Doctrine and Covenants), early LDS history, and related subjects. All publications in its journal, Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, are peer-reviewed and made available as free internet downloads or through at-cost print-on-demand services. Other posts on the website are not necessarily peer-reviewed, but are approved by Interpreter’s Executive Board.



Our goal is to increase understanding of scripture through careful scholarly investigation and analysis of the insights provided by a wide range of ancillary disciplines, including language, history, archaeology, literature, culture, ethnohistory, art, geography, law, politics, philosophy, statistics, etc. Interpreter will also publish articles advocating the authenticity and historicity of LDS scripture and the Restoration, along with scholarly responses to critics of the LDS faith. We hope to illuminate, by study and faith, the eternal spiritual message of the scriptures—that Jesus is the Christ.



Although the Board fully supports the goals and teachings of the Church, The Interpreter Foundation is an independent entity and is not owned, controlled by, or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or with Brigham Young University. All research and opinions provided on this site are the sole responsibility of their respective authors, and should not be interpreted as the opinions of the Board nor as official statements of LDS doctrine, belief, or practice.

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The Interpreter Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization focused on the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Bible, and the Doctrine and Covenants), early LDS history, and related subjects. All publications in its journal, Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, are peer-reviewed and made available as free internet downloads or through at-cost print-on-demand services. Other posts on the website are not necessarily peer-reviewed, but are approved by Interpreter’s Executive Board.



Our goal is to increase understanding of scripture through careful scholarly investigation and analysis of the insights provided by a wide range of ancillary disciplines, including language, history, archaeology, literature, culture, ethnohistory, art, geography, law, politics, philosophy, statistics, etc. Interpreter will also publish articles advocating the authenticity and historicity of LDS scripture and the Restoration, along with scholarly responses to critics of the LDS faith. We hope to illuminate, by study and faith, the eternal spiritual message of the scriptures—that Jesus is the Christ.



Although the Board fully supports the goals and teachings of the Church, The Interpreter Foundation is an independent entity and is not owned, controlled by, or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or with Brigham Young University. All research and opinions provided on this site are the sole responsibility of their respective authors, and should not be interpreted as the opinions of the Board nor as official statements of LDS doctrine, belief, or practice.

    Rethinking the Encounter between Jacob and Sherem

    Rethinking the Encounter between Jacob and Sherem

    Abstract: The Book of Mormon story of Jacob and Sherem has been evaluated and interpreted from many different viewpoints over the years. In his retelling of the story, Jacob crafted a cautionary tale of religious hubris and self-importance that can serve as an important lesson for members of the church today. In this paper I use various methodologies to examine the interaction between Jacob and Sherem — including comparative scriptural analysis, semantics, and Hebraic syntax and structural elements — in an attempt to increase our understanding of the relationship between Jacob and Sherem.



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    In this paper I endeavor to interpret the interaction between Jacob and Sherem in novel ways. I explore various elements of the story through comparative scriptural study, semantic analysis, and examination of Hebraic semantics and parallel structures. I demonstrate that Sherem was probably a resident of Jacob’s Nephite community, that likely the two rivals knew each other well and engaged in repeated conversations with other, and that Jacob employed the use of Hebrew word repetition and parallel structures in his retelling of the story. While Sherem rebuked Jacob by accusing him of leading the people away from “the right way,” we can observe that Sherem was the guilty party and not Jacob. Although Sherem demanded a sign from God, an act that culminated in his own death, I demonstrate that it was Sherem himself who became “a sign and a proverb” to the Nephites (see Ezekiel 14:8).

    There Came a Man

    The final chapter of the book of Jacob describes an encounter between Jacob and a man named Sherem, who came “among the people of Nephi:”

    [Page 66]And now it came to pass that some years had passed away and there came a man among the people of Nephi whose name was Sherem. And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people and to declare unto them that there should be no Christ. (Jacob 7:1–2)1

    Keith Thompson asked: “Who was Sherem, and where did he come from? Was he a Nephite, a Lamanite, or someone else, perhaps a wandering Jaredite or a Mulekite?”2 Some Latter-day Saint scholars have proposed that the wording of this passage — “there came a man among the people of Nephi” —indicates that Sherem possibly came from outside the local Nephite community.a id="footnote3anc" href="#footnote3sym" title="3. John L. Sorenson uses the idea that Sherem came from outside the local populatio...

    Interpreter Radio Show — November 13, 2022

    Interpreter Radio Show — November 13, 2022

     

    In this episode, our hosts Terry Hutchinson, John Gee and Kevin Christensen discussed Kevin’s article in the Interpreter Journal on Margaret Barker. You can listen to or download the November 13th broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show below. It will also be included in our podcast feed (https://interpreterfoundation.org/feeds/podcast). The second portion of the show is a roundtable discussing the upcoming Come Follow Me lesson #52 (Christmas). The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com. Call in to 801-254-1640 with your questions and comments during the live show.

     

    Original air date: November 13, 2022. This recording has been edited to remove commercial breaks.

















    The Interpreter Radio Show is a weekly discussion of matters of interest to the hosts, guests, and callers of the show. The views expressed on the Interpreter Radio Show are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Interpreter Foundation, nor should statements made on the show be construed as official doctrinal statements of the Church.

     

    • 1 hr 51 min
    Twenty Years After “Paradigms Regained,” Part 1: The Ongoing, Plain, and Precious Significance of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship for Latter-day Saint Studies

    Twenty Years After “Paradigms Regained,” Part 1: The Ongoing, Plain, and Precious Significance of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship for Latter-day Saint Studies

    Abstract: Twenty years ago, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies published “Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies” as its second FARMS Occasional Paper. The first part of this essay provides an overview of Doctor Barker’s scholarship and its wider reception through early 2022, and then includes a broad survey of Latter-day Saint interaction with her work to the present. Part 2 of this essay (forthcoming) will address specific criticisms and appreciations of Barker’s work.





    Led by a new paradigm, scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places. Even more important, during revolutions scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before.1

    The new paradigm is that the Enoch tradition is ancient, as it claims, and that it was the original myth of the Jerusalem temple, long before Moses became the key figure and the Exodus the defining history. The world of the first temple was the taproot of Christianity, and that is why the young Church treated Enoch as Scripture. Those who preserved the Enoch traditions were a formative influence on Christianity and its key concepts: the Kingdom and the resurrected Messiah. [Page 2]Since Enoch was a high priest figure, and Jesus was declared to be “a great high priest” (Heb. 4:14), we should also concern ourselves with the high priesthood.2

    Over twenty years ago, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (which became the Maxwell Institute) published my essay “Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies.”3 Doctor Barker is an English biblical scholar and Methodist preacher who had, up to 2001, published seven books, many papers in a range of scholarly journals, and in 1998 had been elected as the President of the Society for Old Testament Study in England. In the wake of “Paradigms Regained,” Barker accepted an invitation to come to BYU for a week-long seminar in 2003, and that led to many interactions and collaborative ventures with Latter-day Saint scholars, including a notable 2005 talk on the Book of Mormon at the Joseph Smith Conference in Washington D.C., the organization of successful Temple Studies groups in London and Logan, and an appearance in the 2020 video Temples Through Time,4 produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.5 To date, she has increased the number of her published books to 17,a id="footnote6anc" href="#footnote6sym" title="6. See discussion of her books and other publications on her website, MargaretBarker.com, http://www.margaretbarker.

    When an Evident Fact Cannot Be Allowed to Be True

    When an Evident Fact Cannot Be Allowed to Be True

    Abstract: Miracles occur relatively often in scripture, as do people who, for various reasons, want or even need to deny their occurrence. The arguments that are deployed to justify such denial haven’t changed all that much over the centuries. In fact, they’re still around today.





    Most if not all present or former missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are quite familiar with the first three verses of the ninth chapter of the gospel of John:

    And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

    And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

    Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:1–3)

    We know these verses because they seem to presuppose at least the possibility of premortal human existence. Thus, and importantly, they are congruent with the Latter-day Saint belief that we all lived in the presence of our Heavenly Parents before we were born. The notion that undergirds the disciples’ question, that the “man which was blind from his birth” might have been born blind because he had sinned, presupposes the idea that the man could have sinned prior to his birth. Obviously, though, that makes no sense if he hadn’t existed before his birth.

    To pursue the typical missionary argument a bit further: Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the disciples’ implicit belief in an antemortal human existence was misguided, the Savior could easily [Page viii]have corrected them. He could simply have informed them that the blind man couldn’t have sinned before his birth because he hadn’t yet existed. That he didn’t do so suggests rather strongly that he didn’t regard belief in human premortal human existence as misguided. He didn’t reject the concept, and the text may even imply that he shared it.

    This is, as I say, all quite familiar and unexceptional. I expect that very few Latter-day Saint missionaries, at least among those who have served in predominantly Christian areas of the world, have never used John 9:1–3 in order to ground the restored doctrine of human existence before mortality. What I would like to do here, though, is to look briefly at some of the rest of the account, which takes up almost the entirety of John 9.

    So, we return to the account of the healing of the blind man. Of course, a life of genuine Christian discipleship isn’t merely one of subscribing to a set of theological propositions — it entails action. The apostle James is unmistakably clear on this point:

    But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves …

    Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:22, 27)

    Accordingly, it’s significant that Jesus doesn’t simply pass on after using the unfortunate blind man as a teaching tool for a doctrinal lesson on the problem of evil. He cures him. Or, anyway, he initiates the process of curing the man:

    When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

    And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (John 9:6–7)

    It may be significant, though it’s quite beyond the scope of this little essay to consider possible explanations or implications, that the Savior doesn’t instantly cure the blind man in this story — as he seems to have done in other cases. Instead, the anointing seems to represent the first stage of a two-stage cure. The man is told that he needs to proceed to the pool of Siloam and wash himself there. Clearly, action on his part,

    The Diachronic Usage of Exclamation Marks across the Major Book of Mormon Editions

    The Diachronic Usage of Exclamation Marks across the Major Book of Mormon Editions

    Abstract: The usage of the exclamation mark has changed over time but continues to serve as an important textual interpretation aid. Punctuation itself has not been a permanent fixture in English, rather it was slowly introduced to English documents with changing standard usages after the invention of the printing press. Here we highlight the use of the exclamation mark across major editions of the Book of Mormon and document the presence of the exclamation mark in a reference table.



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    When the Book of Mormon was first translated and dictated by Joseph Smith to his scribe Oliver Cowdery, it was done without punctuation. The original manuscript was thus a stream of unbroken text. Though Cowdery and another scribe added scattered punctuation to the printer’s manuscript, a compositor for the Grandin Press, John Gilbert, largely disregarded it.1 Instead, Gilbert primarily employed his own punctuation and paragraphing — even with no affiliation to the new Church. John Gilbert commented on the 1830 manuscript some sixty-three years later:

    Every chapter, if I remember correctly, was one solid paragraph, without a punctuation mark, from beginning to end. … I punctuated it to make it read as I supposed the [Page 266]Author intended, and but very little punctuation was altered in proof-reading.2

    From these remarks, it is unclear whether Gilbert was referring to Smith or the ancient authors of various books within the Book of Mormon. Even still, the overwhelming majority of John Gilbert’s edits were deemed acceptable by early Church leaders for the first publication of the Book of Mormon. According to Royal Skousen, compiler of The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, it is estimated “that over 90 percent of Gilbert’s punctuation marks in the printer’s and original manuscripts were carried over without change into the 1830 edition.”3

    Since the first edition in 1830, there have been twenty English editions of the Book of Mormon recognized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter...

    A Research Note: Continuing Exploration and Research in Oman

    A Research Note: Continuing Exploration and Research in Oman

    Abstract: The significance of the ongoing studies into the potential location of the Old World “Bountiful,” which Nephi reminds us was “prepared of the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:5), and is documented in great detail by him, can hardly be overstated. Bountiful’s resources had to be truly substantial and unique to enable the Lehites to recover from years of land travel from Jerusalem and to build a ship capable of reaching the New World. Exploration and scientific studies of the Dhofar region of southern Oman, the only section of the Arabian coast containing the feature Nephi describes, continue to the present. Here I briefly discuss, chronologically, recent developments of special significance to Book of Mormon studies.





    My introduction to the subject of identifying Nephi’s Bountiful came in October 1987 when I made my first visit to Oman. This came at a time when I had just begun exploring neighboring Yemen in connection with historical references to Nahom, the burial place of Ishmael (1 Nephi 16:34). The only known previous visit of Latter-day Saint researchers to southern Oman was in 1976 when Lynn and Hope Hilton spent 24 hours in Dhofar, their movements severely restricted by an ongoing civil war. They had only enough time to establish that many of the features required by Nephi’s text were present.

    With peace restored and after years of applying for a visa, I was eager to simply see the place for myself and began visiting all areas that were open to visitors, including the fascinating site of Khor Rori. However, it rapidly became obvious to me that the Salalah area in Dhofar failed, in significant ways, to match the description of the Old World Bountiful preserved in 1 Nephi. The basic elements reported by the Hiltons were not found in any single area, as the text seemed to require, but were widely scattered. More significantly, several of them were altogether absent, [Page 256]such as timber trees, natural vegetation, the oft-mentioned “fruit” for which Bountiful was named, and a nearby mountain.

    While still in Oman I began a closer re-examination of Nephi’s text to extract the details about Bountiful. A total of twelve descriptors, both logical and textual requirements, emerged1 and it became obvious that further exploration was needed before conclusions could be drawn.

    The following year, 1988, I returned to Oman, this time pushing my exploring further west of Salalah. Almost immediately, I determined that the Qamar mountain range in the west had pockets of greater fertility than the Qara hills inland of the Salalah bay, demolishing the prevailing belief (among Latter-day Saint and non-Latter-day Saint scholars alike back then) that the Qara hills were the only place where trees grew in all of Arabia. This discovery reinforced the need to continue exploration further west along the Dhofar coast and into Yemen.

    Thus began a four-year series of visits exploring the hundreds of miles of coast of both Oman and Yemen. By the conclusion of the visits in 1992, the entire eastern coast of Arabia from Aden northwards had been explored and documented, on the ground — the only time this has been done.

    It is difficult to overstate the significance of this exploration and the various studies made into the potential location of the Old World Bountiful, described with some tantalizing details in Nephi’s text as a truly special place “prepared of the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:5). Initially, the resources of this special place had to provide water, food, and shelter for the group to enable them to recover from years of overland travel. Then, following the direction of the Lord to build a ship, it needed to provide other resources such as ore and timber, plus a physical setting allowing [Page 257]a ship capable of reaching the New World to be built and launched into the ocean.

    With the coastal exploration completed,

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