By BYU Studies
BYU StudiesOct 05, 2023
In this personal essay, Victoria Webb Rutherford shares her experience of fostering and adopting two boys who had suffered from complex trauma. She reflects on the challenges and joys of parenting children with unique challenges, and how her faith and family history helped her along the way. She also explores the meaning of grafting wild branches into a tame olive tree, as described in the Book of Mormon.
This essay by Victoria Webb Rutherford received first place in the 2023 BYU Studies personal essay contest.
You can read this personal essay for free at https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/wild-fruit/
A Prophet’s Journey: The Journals of Spencer W. Kimball
This article by Brandon J. Metcalf and Jeffery L. Anderson explores the life and legacy of President Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His journals span decades and document his personal growth, his health challenges, his ministry as an Apostle and a prophet, and his role in some of the most significant events in Church history. His journals rank among the very best kept by Church leaders and compare in importance to the Wilford Woodruff journals. The Woodruff journals stand as an essential source for nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint history, just as the Kimball journals do for the twentieth century. Both journal collections compare not only in chronological length but also in detail, insight, and ability to capture the personalities of their authors.
You can read this article for free at https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/a-prophets-journey/
“He Is God and He Is with Them”: Helaman 8:21–23 and Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy as a Thematic Scriptural Concept
How does the Book of Mormon’s Immanuel Prophecy Connect the Nephites, the Mulochites, and Jesus Christ?
The Book of Mormon contains many prophecies about the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. One of these prophecies is the Immanuel prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, which was fulfilled in a miraculous way by Christ’s birth to a virgin. But did you know that this prophecy also had an earlier fulfillment in the eighth century BCE, when Isaiah promised that God would be with the house of David and protect them from their enemies? And did you know that this prophecy had implications for the Nephites and the Mulochites, who were descendants of King David through Zedekiah and his son Muloch? In this article, Matthew L. Bowen explores how the Immanuel prophecy and its meaning of “God with us” became a key theme in the Book of Mormon, especially in the writings of Nephi2 and in the account of Christ’s visit to the Americas. You will learn how the Book of Mormon shows that God was with his people in ancient times, and how he is still with us today through his Spirit and his covenant.
Book Notice: Perspectives on Latter-day Saint Names and Naming: Names, Identity, and Belief
This book notice by BYU Studies editor, Matthew B. Christensen, examines the recent book edited by Dallin D. Oaks, Paul Baltes, and Kent Minson. The book is an exploration of the significance and practices surrounding names within the context of the faith and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Book Notice: Every Needful Thing: Essays on the Life of the Mind and the Heart, edited by Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye and Kate Holbrook
This book notice is about "Every Needful Thing: Essays on the Life of the Mind and the Heart," which was edited by Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye and Kate Holbrook. It is a collection of essays by Latter-day Saint women scholars from various disciplines and countries. The essays explore how writers balance their faith, scholarship, family, and community, and how they learn by both study and faith.
Read Susan Elizabeth Howe's book notice, "Every Needful Thing: Essays on the Life of the Mind and the Heart, edited by Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye and Kate Holbrook" on byustudies.byu.edu by clicking here.
The Book of Mormon Art Catalog: A New Digital Database and Research Tool
The Book of Mormon Art Catalog is a digital database of over 3,000 images inspired by the Book of Mormon. It aims to recover the full history of art based on this book of scripture and inspire new and varied artistic production to further illuminate the scriptures and bring viewers closer to Christ.
Joseph Smith and the Mormons by Noah Van Sciver (book review)
Scott Hales reviews Joseph Smith and the Mormons, a graphic novel by Noah Van Sciver. Of the book, he wrote, "While no reader may be wholly satisfied with Joseph Smith and the Mormons, the book is unquestionably a landmark text in Latter-day Saint literature—it is, perhaps, the best Mormon graphic novel to date—and an important touchstone in artistic representations of Joseph Smith."
"Salad Days," is a poem by Alixa Brobbey. It won second place in the 2022 Clinton F. Larson Poetry Contest, sponsored by BYU Studies.
Charity as an Exegetical Principle in the Book of Mormon
Charity is more than a Christlike virtue we show towards others. It is a virtue we should employ in reading the scriptures as well. In his article "Charity as an Exegetical Principle in The Book of Mormon," Matthew Scott Stenson explains that when we read the scriptures with an open mind, real intent, and the love of God in our hearts, we are reading with charity as we are slow to judge and critique. He teaches us that while we need to be cautious of our own fallacies, we can learn to find more joy and receive unique revelation in the scriptures if we interpret with the Spirit of God.
Recorded in Heaven: The Testimonies of Len and Mary Hope
The testimonies of Len and Mary Hope are among the earliest audio-recorded testimonies of Black Latter-day Saints. In this article, learn more about these faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how they came to be baptized.
That They May Be Light
When covenant women are together, they become each other’s shelter. The storms might be raging around them, but they don’t feel the rain or hear the thunder because they’re so busy laughing and loving each other.
“Show Them unto No Man”: Part 1. Esoteric Teachings and the Problem of Early Latter-day Saint Doctrinal History
In ““Show Them unto No Man: Part 1. Esoteric Teachings and the Problem of Early Latter-day Saint Doctrinal History” Barry R. Bickmore examines how two texts, the Book of Mormon and the book of Moses, demonstrate exotericism (doctrine available to all) and esotericism (doctrine intended for a select group of people). The article also discusses how believing Latter-day Saint historians tend to couch doctrinal modifications over time in terms that suggest natural outgrowth from previously revealed knowledge. Conversely, historians with a more secular outlook tend to depict doctrinal modifications as abrupt reversals driven by environmental influences, even though ignoring the possibility of supernatural intervention does not require such an interpretation. Barry Bickmore argues that doctrinal changes should be viewed from the lens of Joseph Smith's intent to restore primitive Christianity.
Fired from Carpool
In this essay, Cristie Cowles Charles reflects on her journey coming to terms with ADHD as an adult. This essay took first place in the BYU Studies Essay Contest in 2023.
It Takes Two
In this article, Jenet Jacob Erickson explains that fathers and mothers tend to play distinctive roles nurturing children’s development. It reviews social science research that shows how mothers and fathers differ in their psychological orientations, strengths, and styles of interaction with children, but also how they complement each other in influencing children’s social and emotional development. The article uses biblical, doctrinal, and prophetic sources to support its claim that gender is an essential characteristic of individual and eternal identity and purpose, and that both parents are capable of providing the essential nurturing for children. The article concludes that the combination of complementary differences and similarities between mothers and fathers enables them to influence children’s development in a way that is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
It Takes Two: An Interview between Jenet Jacob Erickson and Steven C. Harper
In this interview between Jenet Jacob Erickson and Steven C. Harper, they discuss Professor Erickson's recent article in BYU Studies, "It Takes Two: What We Learn from Social Science about the Divine Pattern of Gender Complementarity in Parenting."
Conclusion: Ask the Right Questions and Keep Looking
The authors of A Guide to the Book of Abraham offer their concluding thoughts.
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Shulem, One of the King's Principle Waiters (Facsimile 3, figure 5)
Figure 5 in Facsimile 3 of the Book of Abraham is identified as “Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters.” We don’t know anything more about the man Shulem beyond this brief description because he does not appear in the text of the Book of Abraham. Presumably, if we had more of the story, we would know more about how he fit in the overall Abrahamic narrative. However, there are some things we can say about Shulem and his title “the king’s principal waiter.”
Isis the Pharaoh (Facsimile 3, figure 2)
Abraham and Osiris (Facsimile 3, figure 1)
Joseph Smith's identification of figure 1 of Facsimile 3 as Abraham has clashed with the interpretation of Egyptologists who see the figure as Osiris. But is there evidence that the ancients associated Abraham with Osiris in some way?
Facsimile 3: Judgment Scene or Presentation Scene?
Facsimile 3 of the Book of Abraham has been identified in the past as a scene of the judgment of the dead. This interpretation has been prevalent among Egyptologists. However, when compared to other judgment scenes or throne scenes, Facsimile 3 contains several anomalous elements that challenge this categorization.
God Sitting upon His Throne (Facsimile 2, figure 7)
Joseph Smith identifies figure 7 in Facsimile 2 as "God sitting upon his throne." The figure appears in other ancient Egyptian hypocephali (round amulets like Facsimile 2), and some Egyptologists interpret the figure as Min, one of the oldest Egyptian gods, associated with protection and fertility.
The Four Sons of Horus (Facsimile 2, figure 6)
The Hathor Cow (Facsimile 2, figure 5)
Figure 5 in Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham, a figure of an upside-down cow, is identified by Joseph Smith with an elaborate explanation. From the viewpoint of current Egyptological knowledge, is Joseph Smith's explanation plausible?
One Day to a Cubit (Facsimile 2, figure 1)
One of the more puzzling comments in the Book of Abraham comes from the explanation given in figure 1 of Facsimile 2, which speaks of “the measurement according to celestial time [of Kolob], which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit.” Latter-day Saint commentators on this passage have largely been at a loss to explain what this might mean. However, scientist Hollis R. Johnson proposes a straightforward scientific explanation that finds precedent in the ancient world.
The Purpose and Function of the Egyptian Hypocephalus
Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham is a type of document called a hypocephalus, an amuletic disc placed beneath the head of the mummies of priests or their relatives. The contents of hypocephali have forerunners in earlier Egyptian texts, and intriguingly, an extrabiblical text about Abraham seem to make allusions to the hypocephalus in Facsimile 2.
The Idolatrous Priest (Facsimile 1, figure 3)
The explanation accompanying figure 3 of Facsimile 1 of the Book of Abraham identifies it as “the idolatrous priest of Elkenah attempting to offer up Abraham as a sacrifice.” In order to gauge the validity of this interpretation from an Egyptological perspective, a number of factors need to be considered.
Facsimile 1 as a Sacrifice Scene
Facsimile 1 of the Book of Abraham visually depicts the narrative contained in Abraham 1:12–19. As interpreted by Joseph Smith, this scene depicts the attempted sacrifice of Abraham. Other Egyptologists have interpreted the scene differently, basing their interpretations on similar illustrations, but recent evidence of ritual violence in Egypt strengthens Joseph Smith's interpretation.
A Semitic View of the Facsimiles
Latter-day Saints have offered a number of different approaches to interpreting the facsimiles and the validity of Joseph Smith’s interpretations. One scholar, Kevin L. Barney, has articulated an insightful theory for interpreting the facsimiles that is worth careful consideration.
Approaching the Facsimiles
The facsimiles in the Book of Abraham attract attention as visual aides in our scriptures. What are some of the most common approaches to interpreting them?
The Ancient Owners of the Joseph Smith Papyri
Thanks to the work of Egyptologists over the past decades, in addition to knowing what texts the extant Egyptian papyri acquired by Joseph Smith in 1835 contain, we also know quite a bit about the ancient owners of the papyri, including a Theban priest named Hor (Horos in Greek).
The Ancient Egyptian View of Abraham
Some might ask how likely it would have been for the ancient Egyptians to have known anything about the biblical figure Abraham. In fact, evidence survives today indicating that stories about Abraham were known to the ancient Egyptians as early as the time of the composition of the Joseph Smith Papyri (ca. 330–30 BC).
Abrahamic Legends and Lore
As a central figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there are many extrabiblical traditions about the life of the patriarch Abraham. Much of the Book of Abraham's content that is absent from the Genesis account parallels the extrabiblical material from these religious traditions.
Jews in Ancient Egypt
A question that readers of the Book of Abraham might have is how a late copy of Abraham's record ended up in the possession of an ancient Egyptian living many centuries later. One plausible scenario is that ancient Israelites recopied the text over time and brought it into Egypt. Is there sufficient evidence to support this scenario?
Egyptianisms in the Book of Abraham
An Egyptianism is a literary or linguistic feature of the Egyptian language. Since Egyptian was not well understood in Joseph Smith's day, it is thought that any knowledge of Egyptian that Joseph Smith may have possessed could only have come by revelation. What Egyptianisms are found in the Book of Abraham?
Chiasmus in the Book of Abraham
By His Own Hand upon Papyrus
Some have wondered how the papyrus acquired by Joseph Smith could have possibly been written by Abraham's "own hand" when it dates to circa 300 BC, many centuries after Abraham's lifetime. This episode investigates what the phrase "written by his own hand" would connote in an ancient Egyptian context and whether or not we know what Joseph Smith and early Latter-day Saints thought about the papyri's age and origins.
Ancient Near Eastern Creation Myths
Creation from Chaos
Traditional Christianity teaches that God created the universe ex nihilo, or "out of nothing." By contrast, Joseph Smith taught that God created the universe ex materia, or by organizing pre-existing materials, and this teaching is present in the Book of Abraham. The ancient cultures of Egypt, Syria-Canaan, and Mesopotamia also seem to envision creation as bringing order to a preexisting chaos.
The Fall of Lucifer
The Bible and ancient extrabiblical texts sometimes make allusions to Lucifer's fall from heaven. Is the mythic archetype of a fallen angel also present in Near Eastern literature from Abraham's day?
The Son of Man
The Book of Abraham's passage about the premortal council identifies Jesus not with his name, but a title: "One answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me" (Abraham 3:27). What is the significance of this title?
The Foreordination of Abraham
The Book of Abraham clearly teaches the idea of a premortal existence and the divine foreordination of rulers. Do these teachings find a plausible context in the ancient Near East?
The Divine Council
The Creation account in the Book of Abraham tells of a plurality of Gods who carry out the Creation. Significantly, these Gods are said to have taken "counsel" among themselves. After Joseph Smith's lifetime, archaeologists uncovering texts from Egypt, Syria-Palestine, and Mesopotamia discovered creation myths involving a group of divine beings collaborating as a heavenly council, or battling for power.
Kolob, the Governing One
One of the more memorable contributions of the Book of Abraham is its depiction of Kolob—which, in recent years, some Latter-day Saint scholars have sought to situate in the ancient world. This episode describes some of the tantalizing points that favor the authenticity of the name and concept of Kolob.
Shinehah, the Sun
One of the astronomical terms defined in the Book of Abraham is Shinehah, which is said to be the sun (Abr. 3:13). What is the sun's significance in ancient Egyptian tradition? Is there evidence that Shinehah is an authentic ancient word?
The Book of Abraham is noteworthy for its description of what is sometimes called “Abrahamic astronomy.” Scholars looking at the astronomical portrait in chapter 3 have described at least three models for its interpretation.
Abraham the Seer
A careful reading of the Book of Abraham reveals a recurring theme of Abraham as a seer, or someone who sees or otherwise has a visual interaction with divine manifestation. This episode reviews some of the overt and subtle ways that the text expands on this theme.
Did Abraham Lie about His Wife, Sarai?
The Book of Abraham portrays God as instructing Abraham to call Sarai his sister when they came to Egypt in order to preserve his life. Was identifying her as his sister an outright falsehood or a misleading ambiguity? Do any other Abrahamic accounts include this detail?
The Abrahamic Covenant
The Abrahamic Covenant, as presented in the Book of Abraham, follows the pattern of other ancient treaties and covenants from Abraham's day. Recognizing the covenant's structure in the Book of Abraham not only helps ground it in the ancient world, but can increase our understanding of its content.
The Plains of Moreh
Scholars believe that the "plain of Moreh" found in the King James Version was a mistranslation by the original King James translators. It would be better rendered as the "oracle oak," an ancient Canaanite cult site. Although the Book of Abraham uses the mistranslated name from the KJV, the correctly translated name fits well into Abraham's account found in the Pearl of Great Price.