Category: Scriptures

Nephite Succession Crisis

It was a coup (or divine providence) that Nephi and his brothers Jacob and Joseph were able to assert themselves as religious leaders in this new land, spiritually guiding thousands who were already in the Americas. Emerging as the political leaders of this large, mostly non-Jewish People of Nephi was trickier. Nephi’s inspired leadership, however, was a tour de force.

“All Those Who Would Go with Me”

As the Lehites increasingly mingled with the locals, there eventually arose a division, accelerated upon the death of their patriarch Lehi. Part of Lehi’s family (led by Laman) was attracted to a hunting and gathering lifestyle. Likely, this way of life was common among the Native Americans they were interacting with in the Land of First Inheritance. Laman and his clique possibly saw this as the easier way to make a living and adopted the ways of the locals.

Septuagint

When Jesus and the early Christians talked about the scriptures, they were using a version that is different from the manuscript basis of most English translations, including the King James Version that is so often used in Latter-day Saint circles. In a Hellenistic world, they relied on the Septuagint—a Greek translation of the Tanakh (Old Testament). In a recent post at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Philip Jenkins (professor of history at Baylor University) discussed more about the Septuagint. What follows here is a copost (a shorter post with some commentary).

Lehi’s Thanksgiving

I envision Lehi and his family encountering some curious native villagers near their initial landing beach in the Promised Land. I can imagine that the first Native Americans to see these strangers from the Middle East sailing to their shores in a vessel larger than any canoe may have viewed them as gods. From Christopher Columbus in the West Indies to Hernando Cortés riding into Montezuma’s Mexico, it was natural for the locals to view these otherworldly newcomers as gods. The righteous Nephites would have dissuaded any worship or being treated like gods. Like Ammon later before King Lamoni, they would have denied that they were “the Great Spirit” (Alma 18:18-19). However, it would have been natural for this party of prophets and priests to evangelize to their new friends about the Lord who guided them there.

The Tribes that Greeted the Lehites

As we read the Book of Mormon, we will better appreciate its authenticity if we see its stories in the context of the Nephites and Lamanites continuously bumping up against Native American tribes who were already in the Americas. The Promised Land was not an empty land, as many throughout Church history sometimes imagined. In fact, our testimony of the truths taught within its pages are all the more powerful when we look at this ancient record with eyes wide open to the cultural world it actually took place in.

Atonement in the Book of Mormon

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is central to our faith and also central to the message of the Book of Mormon. What exactly, however, does the Book of Mormon say about the Atonement of Jesus Christ? In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Nick Frederick discussed Atonement in the Book of Mormon. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

National Treasure – Israel Style

We read in the Hebrew Bible that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and “carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house” (2 Kings 24:13). The question of what happened to those treasures afterwards has been a subject of fascination ever since. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Elena Dugan discussed the Jerusalem temple treasure. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Missions and memory

People keep asking me for proof that the irritating tics in Mormon writing I’ve mentioned actually exist. In that respect, Taylor Kerby’s post over at BCC is useful in a couple of ways.

The Testimony of Two Nations: A Review

The Testimony of Two Nations: How the Book of Mormon Reads, and Rereads, the Bible by Michael Austin (University of Illinois Press, 2024) is a delightful and insightful venture into the ways in which the Book of Mormon interacts with the Bible.

“I Am” Statements of Jesus in the Book of Mormon

When Moses was called by YHWH, he asked the Lord, “when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” In response, YHWH said, “I Am That I Am” (Exodus 14:13–14). This type of “I am” statement is significant and has echoes throughout the Bible. A recent interview with Joshua Matson at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk highlighted the types of “I am” statements that are also found in the Book of Mormon. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Latter-day Saints and Biblical Theology

Interpreting the scriptures is a vital part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Joseph Spencer discussed a particular approach to interpreting the Bible—Biblical Theology. In particular, he focused on recent developments in Latter-day Saint Biblical Theology. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Misinterpreting “Large in Stature”

By Mike Winder   When Nephi says he is “large in stature” does that mean he is merely “tall and muscular” or something else? Sometimes in the Bible stature means height, such as “a man of great stature” in 2 Samuel 21:20 speaking of the man born to the giant of Gath.

Notes on Revelation

[As I was going through my files, I found this draft that written four years ago. As it has about 24 hours of relevance left, I’m publishing it now. Happy New Year.] When I teach Revelation 1-11 to my youth Sunday School class, I’ll probably start off by saying something about gasoline.

Come, Follow Me: Book of Mormon Resources

As Jonathan has been pointing out in his posts about Reading the Book of Mormon in wartime and Book of Mormon historical revisionism, we are only a few weeks out from starting the next year of the reading cycle. Come, Follow Me 2024, will focus on the Book of Mormon. We’ve had posts and discussions about what are some good resources in the past, such as the one David Evans put up about this time during the previous reading cycle that are worth looking over in preparation. But there are some good resources that are more recent that are worth discussing as well.

Book of Mormon historical revisionism

As we study the Book of Mormon next year, there will be suggestions to read between the lines, to resist the surface or official or dominant reading, to see through the authoritative narrative to the unvarnished reality behind it – like the standard works, these suggestions too come around every four years. The instinct is understandable, as that’s how scholars are trained to read, and a lot of us have different varieties of scholarly training – but attempts at historical revisionism are misguided.

Reading the Book of Mormon in wartime

Next year, the focus of scripture study in Sunday School and Seminary classes will cycle again to the Book of Mormon. Compared to previous years when the Book of Mormon has been the focus, war will loom larger in the background than it has since at least the 1960s, even including the messy realities of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004.

Premortal Existence, Foreordination, and Abraham

The Book of Abraham, chapter 3 is, in many ways, the most important foundational text for the Latter-day Saint concept of a premortal existence. In it, Abraham is shown his own foreordination to be a leader in God’s work as well as the events of the War in Heaven. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, From the Desk, Stephen Smoot discussed the foreordination of Abraham. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Thomas Wayment on the KJV

Why do Latter-day Saints regard the King James Version as the official English translation of the Bible for the Church? It’s a question that has been asked many times by different people, especially since there are translations in modern English that have a better textual basis in Greek manuscripts. In a recent co-post at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Thomas Wayment discussed why Latter-day Saints use the King James Version (KJV). What follows here is a copost to the full interview.

Pure Language and Egyptian Language Documents

One of the articles to have recently been published in the Journal of Mormon Studies that has generated a lot of buzz is about a Pure Language Project and the Grammar and Alphabet documents produced by Joseph Smith and his associates in Kirtland, Ohio. And while the article by Michael MacKay and Daniel Belnap is, as the authors put it, “limited to the ivory tower of university journal access,” they did do a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Review

Richard Lyman Bushman’s Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Cultural History (Oxford University Press, 2023) is an important contribution to Book of Mormon studies. As a cultural history of the gold plates, the book traces the story of the plates and the translation of the Book of Mormon, reactions to the story and the development of folklore about the gold plates over the subsequent two centuries. It also discusses how the plates have been portrayed in artwork and literature, used in teaching programs in the Church, and some of the debates about the plates.  Even while visiting the story of the plates—as he has before in Rough Stone Rolling and Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism—Bushman provides fresh perspectives on the story. For example, he focuses on the idea that Joseph Smith may not have understood the purpose of the plates as a record that needed to be translated initially, rather than being a treasure. At first, Joseph Smith may have approached the plates with his treasure hunting in mind rather than a religious perspective. After all, the idea of a book-length record on gold plates wasn’t really something that was a common idea. It was only gradually, as he became acquainted with the interpreters and what was on the plates that he realized it needed to be translated. It was a perspective that I’ve not seen emphasized before (at least within my memory). As you read, you can tell…

The ancient owner of the Book of Abraham papyri

Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Abraham was a translation of some of the papyri he purchased along with some mummies in Kirtland. It is difficult to ascertain the full nature of those papyri since a lot of them burned. But we can learn some about the history of those papyri from the fragments which remain. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, Kerry Muhlestein discussed some of what we know about the ancient owner of the Book of Abraham papyri. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Discussion on Scripture with the Community of Christ

The Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are sibling churches, both descending from the early Latter Day Saint movement. Since each group went their own way after the death of Joseph Smith in the 1840s, however, they have spent the last 170+ years growing and developing in different ways. In a recent interview over at the Latter-day Saint blog From the Desk, Kat Goheen (member of the Community of Christ) and Joshua Sears (Latter-day Saint) discussed how the two groups have developed differently in their approach to scriptures. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). First off, what are the differences in canonized scriptures in each community? Both groups accept the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants in their canon. (The Pearl of Great Price was a later addition to the Latter-day Saint canon, so was never a thing in the Reorganization.) The Doctrine and Covenants is different. As Joshua Sears summarized about the differences between the Doctrine and Covenants: “The obvious difference is that we each include new revelations that the other church does not accept.” At the time that the two groups split, the Doctrine and Covenants consisted of most of the sections up through Section 107 in the Latter-day Saint version, along with Section 133 and 134. Most of the sections after 107 were added to…

Jesus’s Female Ancestors

Jesus the Messiah was the son of a righteous and godly woman named Mary, through whom he had many ancestors discussed in the Hebrew Bible. Among those were several remarkable women. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog, Camille Fronk Olson discussed some of the women in the genealogy of Jesus. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview.

Mormonism in Mexico, Part 12: Bautista’s Lamanites

While efforts to gather converts from central Mexico failed and the mission in central Mexico closed, there would still be future successes. Among the earliest converts in the 20th century in Mexico, the Bautista family would go on to have an impact on the Church for years to come, including the development of an indigenous-affirming perspective on Lamanite identity.

Idiosyncratic ranking of the “Let’s Talk About” series from Deseret Book

This is, I think, the best thing to come out of Deseret Book in a long while. I somewhat wish these books had existed when I was much, much younger, but the expertise (and, frankly, spiritual maturity of many members) likely didn’t really exist in the right forms until recently. What follows is my totally idiosyncratic, personal ranking of the series. Every book is excellent (how often can you say that about a book series like this?), so this is not “best to worst” but more “what Ivan enjoyed or found most useful”  This may or may not help you. Also, some volumes have either not been released or I haven’t read them, so they are absent from the list: