Jaredites, Polygamists, and Political Activists

Jaredites, Polygamists, and Political Activists February 12, 2021


Friberg's Mahonri Moriancumr
“The Brother of Jared Sees the Finger of the Lord,” by Arnold Friberg (Wikimedia Commons)


While we wait to see how long it will be before the long-promised hammer comes down upon Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, here are two new articles that appeared in it just a few minutes ago:


Matthew L. Bowen, “Coming Down and Bringing Down: Pejorative Onomastic Allusions to the Jaredites in Helaman 6:25, 6:38, and Ether 2:11”

Abstract: Mormon uses pejorative wordplay on the name Jaredites based on the meaning of the Hebrew verb yārad. The onomastic rhetoric involving the meaning of yārad first surfaces in Helaman 6 where Mormon also employs wordplay on the name Cain in terms of qānâ or “getting gain.” The first wordplay occurs in the negative purpose clause “lest they should be a means of bringing down [cf. lĕhôrîd] the people unto destruction” (Helaman 6:25) and the second in the prepositional phrase “until they had come down [cf. yārĕdû/yordû] to believe in their works” (Helaman 6:38). Mormon uses these pejorative wordplays as a means of emphasizing the genetic link that he sees between Jareditic secret combinations and the derivative Gadianton robbers. Moroni reflects upon his father’s earlier use of this type of pejorative wordplay on “Jaredites” and yārad when he directly informs latter-day Gentiles regarding the “decrees of God” upon the land of promise “that ye may repent and not continue in your iniquities until the fullness be come, that ye may not bring down [cf. *tôrîdû/hôradtem] the fullness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land hath hitherto done” (Ether 2:11). All three of these onomastic allusions constitute an urgent and timely warning to latter-day Gentiles living upon the land of promise. They warn the Gentiles against “coming down” to believe in and partake of the works and spoils of secret combinations like the Jaredites and the Nephites did, and thus “bringing down” their own people to destruction and “bringing down” the “fullness of the wrath of God” upon themselves, as the Jaredites and the Nephites both did.




Hanna Seariac, “Polygamists and Political Activists: The Unlikely Marriage in Pioneering the Vote

Review of Neylan McBaine, Pioneering the Vote: The Untold Story of Suffragists in Utah and the West (Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 2020). 240 pages. $19.99 (hardback).

Abstract: Pioneering the Vote by Neylan McBaine provides a cogent and concise history of the role of Latter-day Saint women in the suffrage movement. McBaine interweaves a fictionalized narrative centered on Emmeline Wells with primary source excerpts and summaries of particular events. The book brings to life the women described and succeeds in explicating many of the important barriers that Latter-day Saint women faced while trying to participate in the suffrage movement — namely, polygamy. McBaine accurately portrays the aversion to polygamy, but she could have spent more time describing why and how Latter-day Saint women found polygamy empowering. While the book succeeds in recounting history and begins to analyze Latter-day Saint women’s role in this movement, more interaction with Latter-day Saint theology as a way of showing why women would feel passionately about obtaining suffrage while still maintaining polygamous relationships would create a more complete picture. Nevertheless, McBaine’s historic contribution to this field of study acts as a milestone from which we can advance to more nuanced discussions about the way polygamy empowered women.




And here is a sampling of some prior articles that appeared in Interpreter several years ago:


Louis C. Midgley, “A Plea for Narrative Theology: Living In and By Stories”

Abstract: The following are reflections on some of the complicated history, including the abuses, of what is commonly known as theology. The Saints do not “do theology.” Even when we are tempted, we do not reduce the contents or grounds of faith to something conforming to traditional theology. Instead, we tell stories of how and why we came to faith, which are then linked to a network of other stories found in our scriptures, and to a master narrative. We live in and by stories and not by either dogmatic or philosophically grounded systematic theology. Instead, we tend to engage in several strikingly different kinds of endeavors, especially including historical studies, which take the place of (and also clash with) what has traditionally been done under the name theology in its various varieties, confessional or otherwise.


Loren Blake Spendlove, “Limhi’s Discourse: Proximity and Distance in Teaching”

Abstract: The author introduces a syntactic technique known as “enallage”—an intentional substitution of one grammatical form for another. This technique can be used to create distance or proximity between the speaker, the audience, and the message. The author demonstrates how king Limhi skillfully used this technique to teach his people the consequences of sin and the power of deliverance through repentance.


John Gee, “Of Tolerance and Intolerance”

Review of D. A. Carson. The Intolerance of Tolerance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. 186 pp. with indices of names, subjects and scriptures. $24.00 (hardback), $16.00 (paperback).


James Stutz, “Can a Man See God? 1 Timothy 6:16 in Light of Ancient and Modern Revelation”

Abstract: Joseph Smith’s First Vision is a favorite target of critics of the LDS Church. Evangelical critics in particular, such as Matt Slick of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, seek to discredit the First Vision on biblical grounds. This article explores biblical theophanies and argues that Joseph’s vision fits squarely with the experience of ancient prophets, especially those who are given the rare blessing of piercing the veil of light and glory, the Hebrew kabod, that God dwells within.


Roger Nicholson, “The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835”

Abstract: In 1834, Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in installments in the pages of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. The first installment talks of the religious excitement and events that ultimately led to Joseph Smith’s First Vision at age 14. However, in the subsequent installment published two months later, Oliver claims that he made a mistake, correcting Joseph’s age from 14 to 17 and failing to make any direct mention of the First Vision. Oliver instead tells the story of Moroni’s visit, thus making it appear that the religious excitement led to Moroni’s visit.

This curious account has been misunderstood by some to be evidence that the “first” vision that Joseph claimed was actually that of the angel Moroni and that Joseph invented the story of the First Vision of the Father and Son at a later time. However, Joseph wrote an account of his First Vision in 1832 in which he stated that he saw the Lord, and there is substantial evidence that Oliver had this document in his possession at the time that he wrote his history of the Church. This essay demonstrates the correlations between Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision account, Oliver’s 1834/1835 account, and Joseph’s 1835 journal entry on the same subject. It is clear that not only did Oliver have Joseph’s history in his possession but that he used Joseph’s 1832 account as a basis for his own account. This essay also shows that Oliver knew of the First Vision and attempted to obliquely refer to the event several times in his second installment before continuing with his narrative of Moroni’s visit.


Louis C. Midgley, “Māori Latter-day Saint Faith: Some Preliminary Remarks”

Review of Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012), xv + 328 pp. (including a glossary of Māori words, three appendices, bibliography, two maps, twenty-nine illustrations and a photography register, and index). $29.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Marjorie Newton’s widely acclaimed Tiki and Temple ((Marjorie Newton has received several awards for her book, and it has also been reviewed favorably.)) is a history of the first century of Latter-day Saint missionary endeavors in Aotearoa/New Zealand. She tells the remarkable story of what, beginning in 1881, rapidly became essentially a Māori version of the faith of Latter-day Saints. Her fine work sets the stage for a much closer look at the deeper reasons some Māori became faithful Latter-day Saints. It turns out that Māori seers (and hence their own prophetic tradition) was, for them, commensurate with the divine special revelations brought to them by LDS missionaries. Among other things, the arcane lore taught in special schools to an elite group among the Māori is now receiving close attention by Latter-day Saint scholars.


Hugh Nibley, “The Christmas Quest”

Introduction: The following article from Hugh Nibley, written more than half a century ago, is a timely reminder of the contrast between empty holiday exuberance and the prospect of authentic Christmas cheer that can be provided only by the good news of “a real Savior who has really spoken with men.”

This article originally appeared in Millennial Star 112/1 (January 1950), 4-5. It was reprinted in Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple, edited by Stephen D. Ricks. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 17 (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2008), 121-124. Footnotes below have been added by Interpreter.


John S. Lewis, “The Scale of Creation in Space and Time”

Abstract: The accounts of creation in Genesis, Moses, and Abraham as well as in higher endowments of knowledge given to the faithful are based on visions in which the seer lacked the vocabulary to describe and the knowledge to interpret what he saw and hence was obliged to record his experiences in the imprecise language available to him. Modern attempts to explain accounts of these visions frequently make use of concepts and terminology that are completely at odds with the understanding of ancient peoples: they project anachronistic concepts that the original seer would not have recognized. This article reviews several aspects of the creation stories in scripture for the purpose of distinguishing anachronistic modern reinterpretations from the content of the original vision.

This essay derives from a presentation made at the 2013 Interpreter Symposium on Science and Religion: Cosmos, Earth, and Man on November 9, 2013. Details on the event, including links to videos, are available at journal.interpreterfoundation.org. An expanded version of the symposium proceedings will be published in hardcopy and digital formats.


Bryan S. Buchanan, “Enoch and Noah on Steroids”

Review of Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen, In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014), 590 pp. (full color interior includes footnotes; endnotes; three excursus sections; annotated bibliography on Enoch and the Flood; comprehensive reference list; thumbnail index of one hundred and eleven illustrations and photographs; and indexes of scriptures referenced, modern prophets quoted, and topics discussed). $49.99 (hardcover).

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Association for Mormon Letters.



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