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“Interpreting the Book of Mormon through the Eyes of Someone in Hell”

“Interpreting the Book of Mormon through the Eyes of Someone in Hell” July 9, 2021

 

Flores painting of Dante and Virgil in Hell
Rafael Flores (d. 1886), “Dante y Virgilio visitando el Infierno”

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

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Like all movies, the Interpreter Foundation’s Witnesses film will eventually come to the end of its theatrical run.  And that end is much closer now than it was a few weeks back.  If you’ve been meaning to think about perhaps maybe possibly seeing it sometime, your time is running out.  And yet, as Sean Means, the movie critic for the Salt Lake Tribune, pointed out weeks ago, Witnesses is a film that really looks good on a big theater screen.  So don’t procrastinate.  And if there are people in your family or neighborhood or among your friends or in your ward or stake who, in your judgment, ought to see Witnesses, please consider ways to help or to encourage them to do so.  Sooner rather than later.  This weekend, for example, would be a really good time.

 

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Given the title of this blog entry, you will certainly be pardoned if you expected it to be just one more wearisome specimen of my notoriously vicious hatred for any and all who fail to share my religious opinions.  But no.  Surprisingly, it’s not.  I’ve simply taken the subtitle from an article by  that went up just a few minutes ago in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:

 

“Glad Tidings from Cumorah: Interpreting the Book of Mormon through the Eyes of Someone in Hell”

Abstract: This article offers evidence that at least some Book of Mormon authors may have understood the potential for post-mortal preaching of the gospel. Indeed, they may have recognized that the future Book of Mormon would be a tool to spread the gospel not only among the living but also among those in the spirit world. Prophecies about the message of the Book of Mormon and the restored gospel being for all mankind may have broader scope than previously recognized, with application on both sides of the veil.

 

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Over the nearly nine years of its existence, the Interpreter Foundation has published a great many good things.  Here are links to a few of them, from a previous volume of its flagship journal:

 

Brian C. Hales, “The Case of the Missing Commentary”

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.

 

Craig L. Foster, “Much More than a Plural Marriage Revelation”

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.

 

Taylor Halverson, “Isaiah 56, Abraham, and the Temple”

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.

 

Amanda Colleen Brown, “Toward a Deeper Understanding: How Onomastic Wordplay Aids Understanding Scripture”

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.

 

Kevin L. Barney, “What’s in a Name? Playing in the Onomastic Sandbox”

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.

 

A. Keith Thompson, “The Habeas Corpus Protection of Joseph Smith from Missouri Arrest Requisitions”

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.

 

A. Keith Thompson, “Missourian Efforts to Extradite Joseph Smith and the Ethics of Governor Thomas Reynolds of Missouri”

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.

 

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Finally, I really like this note that I just received from my friend Randy Paul, the founder and leader of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy:

 

I thought you would like this. Here is the near perfect verb-loaded 1895 prayer by the Quaker leader John Wilhelm Rowntree of York, England, that opened our FRD American Christian and Iranian Shi’ite friendship/Covid relief meeting this morning:

Thou, O Christ, convince us by Thy Spirit, thrill us with Thy Divine passion, drown our selfishness in Thy invading love, lay on us the burden of the world’s suffering, drive us forth with the apostolic fervour of the early Church! 

[The Faith and Practice of the Quakers, Rufus M. Jones, Methuen, London, 1927, p. 123]

 

 

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