“Did Joseph Smith Hypnotize the Book of Mormon Witnesses?” and Various Other Wonders

“Did Joseph Smith Hypnotize the Book of Mormon Witnesses?” and Various Other Wonders December 11, 2020


Scrovegni Nativity
The birth of Christ, as depicted by Giotto (roughly in 1305) in Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Two new book reviews, one by Jasmin Gimenez Rappleye and one by Stephen O. Smoot, appeared today in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:


“Itty Bitty Books with Big Lessons: Enos, Jarom, Omni”

Review of Sharon J. Harris, Enos, Jarom, Omni: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 144 pages. $9.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Sharon Harris, a professor of English at Brigham Young University, offers an analysis of the theology of the “small books” of Enos, Jarom, and Omni in this next installment of The Book of Mormon: Brief Theological Introductions by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Harris argues that the theology of these small books focuses on the covenant with the Nephites and Lamanites, the importance of genealogy, and the role kenosis plays in several of these Book of Mormon prophets. Harris presents both new and familiar readings of these compact books, providing a fair contribution to their study.


“Jacob — The Prophet of Social Justice”

Review of Deidre Nicole Green, Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 148 pages. $9.99 (paperback).

Abstract: Deidre Nicole Green, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, offers an analysis of the theology of the book of Jacob with her new contribution to the Institute’s brief theological introduction series to the Book of Mormon. Green focuses on the theology of social justice in Jacob’s teachings, centering much of her book on how the Nephite prophet framed issues of atonement and salvation on both personal and societal levels. Her volume offers some intriguing new readings of otherwise familiar Book of Mormon passages.




You might also find this article of interest.  It was, as it happens, written by the other member of the Rappleye power duo:


“Chiasmus Criteria in Review”

This article gives a historical overview of various attempts to provide criteria for determining what constitutes a chiasm, summarizing scholarship about chiasmus from the eighteenth century through the twenty-first century. Tables and comparisons of the major views are offered, especially for publications since 1975. Rappleye provides a suggested list of the preponderant criteria—ones that most scholars would agree with, at least partially—and then recommends suggestions for future research regarding chiastic criteria and the identification of chiasms in general.




And these two items will help you to gain a deeper understanding of the Christmas story:


“Peace on Earth—To Whom?” by Eric D. Huntsman

Although “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” has become one of the best known Christmas wishes, the difference of a single letter in some Greek manuscripts produces different possible meanings of this familiar expression from Luke 2:14.  


“What do we know about the inn at Bethlehem?” by S. Kent Brown




This isn’t, I think, the tone or the approach that we’ll be taking in the Interpreter Foundation’s “snippets” on the Witnesses.  But I like it.  And it manages to cram a fair amount of information into just a few minutes.  It’s an example, I think, of a good way to package important material for a younger audience:


“Did Joseph Smith Hypnotize the Book of Mormon Witnesses?”




Some still resist this, even after all the deaths and even in the face of the many deaths that, it seems, are bound yet to come:


“Masks a sign of ‘Christlike love’ during pandemic, apostle says: Elder Dale G. Renlund said Monday that wearing a face covering need not be politicized or contentious, the latest statement supporting masks made over the past nine months by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”




Yesterday, 10 December, marked the first anniversary of the sudden and unexpected death of my decades-long friend and colleague Bill Hamblin.  His passing shocked me then, and it continues to seem almost unbelievable to me even today.  I miss him very much.


Here’s my first, stunned, blog entry on his death:


“William J. Hamblin (1954-2019)”


A few days later, I posted this additional blog entry:


“Just the kindest person”


Here’s something that I published in tribute to him in the Deseret News column that we had jointly written for a number of years:


“Remembering co-author Bill Hamblin’s pursuit of sharing about the world’s religions”




But now I turn to some of the joyous (and, yes, consoling) music of Christmas, which is among the season’s (and the year’s) greatest glories:


First, I still vividly remember the exquisite thrill that went through me when, many years ago, sitting in the Interlaken Switzerland Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I first heard Es ist ein Ros entsprungen.  The sheer beauty of it entranced me.  It still does.


I love the melody.  But I also love the lyrics, the message.  And, alas, I’ve never seen an English translation that does them justice.   But here, anyway, is a nice version of the piece by a German quintet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA4pBDNZDx0


There was a time when Europe was deeply Christian.  Es ist ein Ros entsprungen is a fossil remnant of that time.


I also call your attention to this partnering of the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss, and the Canadian Natalie MacMaster, on the fiddle, for a performance of the beautiful “Wexford Carol”:


Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss – The Wexford Carol (Video)


Finally, I very much enjoy this music video of Lindsey Sterling performing “Angels We Have Heard on High”:



The music of Christmas really is lovely beyond compare.  How much more wonderful it surely is, though, to those who actually believe its message!


Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.  (3 Nephi 1:13)



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