Light from the West and the Ancient East

Light from the West and the Ancient East August 17, 2021


BofA Facs. 2
Facsimile 2 from the Book of Abraham  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)




New, from Jonn Claybaugh, on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:


Come, Follow Me — D&C Study and Teaching Helps: Lesson 35, August 23–August 29: D&C 93 — “Receive of His Fulness”




And here are nine (count ’em, nine!) links to articles from a prior number of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:


Daniel C. Peterson, “Light Began Once More to Grow”

Abstract: Readers are surely aware that the birth of the Christ child is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Members of the Church may be less aware, though, of the notable birth of a child, millennia later, of distant secondary importance.


John S. Robertson, “An American Indian Language Family with Middle Eastern Loanwords: Responding to A Recent Critique”

Abstract: In 2015 Brian Stubbs published a landmark book, demonstrating that Uto-Aztecan, an American Indian language family, contains a vast number of Northwest Semitic and Egyptian loanwords spoken in the first millennium bc. Unlike other similar claims — absurd, eccentric, and without substance — Stubbs’s book is a serious, linguistically based study that deserves serious consideration. In the scholarly world, any claim of Old World influence in the New World languages is met with critical, often hostile skepticism. This essay is written in response to one such criticism.


Daniel T. Ellsworth, “Ministering across Fault Lines of Belief and Community”

Review of David B. Ostler, Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2019), 206 pp. $32.95 (hardback), $20.95 (paperback).

Abstract: David Ostler’s book Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question addresses the daunting task of ministering to people who have grown disillusioned with the core doctrines and the community of believers they encounter in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is perhaps the most challenging ministering effort a leader or member of the Church can undertake, and Bridges provides valuable insight into the process of disaffection as well as specific things that Church leaders and members can do to create a healthy environment for members to work through challenges to their faith. This review discusses those strengths of Bridges as a resource and also explores areas where the well-intentioned approaches discussed in the book can backfire, causing more harm than healing in a community of believing Latter-day Saints.


Taylor Halverson, “The Role and Purpose of Synagogues in the Days of Jesus and Paul”

Abstract: This article explores why Jesus so often healed in synagogues. By comparing the uses and purposes of Diaspora and Palestinian synagogues, this article argues that synagogues functioned as a hostel or community center of sorts in ancient Jewish society. That is, those needing healing would seek out such services and resources at the synagogue.


Spencer R. Marsh, “Memory and Millennials: A Review of First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins”

Abstract: The multiple historical accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision have been an area of intense study, debate, and discussion for several decades. The newest addition to the discussion is a specialized monograph engaging the various accounts of the First Vision through the lens of psychology and, particularly, memory studies. This book, authored by Steven C. Harper, proves to be a valuable resource in answering some pressing questions about the integrity of the First Vision accounts, even though that was not the book’s explicitly stated purpose. This review highlights these contributions as interpreted through the lens of a Millennial reviewer — a demographic widely assumed to be facing challenges today in recontextualizing, repurposing, and appreciating the First Vision, with which this new book can help.

Review of Steven C. Harper, First Vision: Memory and Mormon Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). 271 pages with index. $35.


Noel B. Reynolds, “The Brass Plates Version of Genesis”

Abstract: The Book of Mormon peoples repeatedly indicated that they were descendants of Joseph, the son of Jacob who was sold into Egypt by his brothers. The plates of brass that they took with them from Jerusalem c. 600 bce provided them with a version of many Old Testament books and others not included in our Hebrew Bible. Sometime after publishing his translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith undertook an inspired revision of the Bible. The opening chapters of his version of Genesis contain a lot of material not included in the Hebrew Bible. But intriguingly, distinctive phraseology in those chapters, as now published in Joseph Smith’s Book of Moses, also show up in the Book of Mormon text. This paper presents a systematic examination of those repeated phrases and finds strong evidence for the conclusion that the version of Genesis used by the Nephite prophets must have been closely similar to Joseph Smith’s Book of Moses.

[Editor’s Note: This paper appeared first in the 1990 festschrift published to honor Hugh W. Nibley.1 It is reprinted here as a convenience for current scholars who are interested in intertextual issues regarding the Book of Mormon. It should be noted that Interpreter has published another paper that picks up this same insight and develops considerable additional evidence supporting the conclusions of the original paper.  This reprint uses footnotes instead of endnotes, and there are two more footnotes in this reprint than there are endnotes in the original paper.]


Matthew J. Grow and Matthew C. Godfrey, “The Joseph Smith Papers and the Book of Abraham: A Response to Recent Reviews”

Abstract: The Joseph Smith Papers welcomes engagement with its work and gratefully acknowledges the important work of various scholars on the Book of Abraham. Recent reviews in the Interpreter of Revelations and Translations, Volume 4, however, significantly misunderstand the purposes and conventions of the project. This response corrects some of those misconceptions, including the idea that the transcript is riddled with errors and the idea that personal agendas drive the analysis in the volume. The complex history of the Book of Abraham can be understood through multiple faithful perspectives, and the Joseph Smith Papers Project affirms the value of robust, respectful, and professional dialogue about our shared history.

[Editor’s note: We are pleased to present this response to two recent book reviews in the pages of Interpreter. Consistent with practice in many academic journals, we are also publishing rejoinders from the review authors, immediately following this response.]


Jeff Lindsay, “A Welcome Response, but Flaws Remain”

Abstract: After Interpreter published my lengthy paper that discussed apparent bias and flaws in scholarship in the Joseph Smith Papers volume on the Book of Abraham, two members of the JSP Project team have responded with a defense of their volume. Their reply is welcome and points to some of the strengths in the methodology behind much of the volume. However, the specific evidence for bias and flawed scholarship seems to stand and merits further attention.


John Gee, “Taking Stock”

Abstract: In a response to my review of their Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts volume, the series editors of the Joseph Smith Papers provided feedback and commentary on two important items. There are other, unaddressed issues this rejoinder examines.



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