Our society today believes that proper education includes understanding your own tongue. What that understanding entails is sometimes debated, as is exactly what makes up “proper English.” Of course, Brigham had his own ideas about what was “proper” for English; while well intentioned the Deseret Alphabet didn’t really work out all that well. But he was also a strong proponent of learning in general, and learning language specifically.
I have some more speculative, more specifically Mormon thoughts that follow up to my post about Michael Austin, useful fictions and anxiety.
Let’s assume, and I realize that not everyone is going to agree with all of the following assumptions, but assuming that the LDS worldview is correct and that God created the world as a mortal probation for his spirit children to become embodied and progress and assuming that evolution as currently understood is the mechanism by which physical creation was accomplished and assuming that most or some of the current thinking on cognitive science as it relates to narrative is correct, what does that tell us about the importance of narrative to the plan of salvation?
Okay now that I lay it all out like that, I’m not entirely sure that I have a tidy answer. But a few things occur to me:
1. Progression is bound up with narrative. Narrative is essentially translation so that we can make sense of things and then because we are human, we try to take that translation and make it operative in our lives so that we are better suited to exist in mortal, time-bound, physical life. I suspect that that act of translation is important not only in how we relate to the physical world and society but also how we relate to the Holy Spirit. In fact, I suspect that the difficulties of translation are both connected to and emblematic of the difficulties of translation between spirit and body (I use between, but it very well may be “among”). The mechanics of evolution both demonstrate and interfere with (hopefully productively interfere with — there must be resistance or there is no growth) that process. The fleshy tables of our hearts must be inscribed and such inscription somehow also inscribes our spirit, changing it (if we are doing it right) for the better. Continue reading “Evolution, useful fictions and eternal progression”
Before you read beyond the first couple paragraphs of this post, write down or answer mentally what you think about yesterday’s news that a newly published edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was altered to remove the word “nigger” and replace it with the word “slave.” The edition also replaces the word “injun” with “indian.”
The LDS Church formally announced yesterday that it is publishing an LDS version of the Bible in Spanish. Formally called the Reina-Valera 2009 edition, this version not only brings the footnotes, chapter headings, cross-references and other material that English-speaking members take for granted, it also provides a “conservative” LDS-oriented update to the well-regarded 1909 version of the Reina-Valera translation of the Bible first published in 1602.
The LDS version will be available in September, 2009, and will also appear on the Church’s website at the same time.
Part II: Joseph as Translator & Writer
In the First Part I mentioned the Book of Mormon’s strong oral rhythm. Thinking about the oral rhythm has influenced several of my conclusions, my overview. I may add other topics, and make digressions and side trips from time to time, but the oral rhythm is not the first thing I plan to write about. Dennis Clark’s suggestion that we think about Joseph Smith as a translator is well taken.
Like any good translator Joseph chose a diction and style, and the changes he made in the 2nd and 3rd editions tell us something about his choices. The most common changes he made in the 2nd and 3rd editions were saith to said, which to who/whom, and hath to has. Though he didn’t convert other -th endings to -s, he did drop instances of “it came to pass.” Continue reading “Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon”
Part I: An Oral Document
In August 2005 when Pres. Hinckley made his invitation (which morphed to a commandment in some minds) to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year we found Rex Campbell’s narration of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price and started listening. Earlier that year (I think) at the Association For Mormon Letters symposium my brother Dennis Clark had suggested after a session on scripture that we might well consider the Book of Mormon as oral literature since Joseph dictated the translation. He also suggested, though maybe at a different time, that we ought to think about Joseph as a translator like any other translator, someone who knew the language he was translating from.
Ironically, while listening to Campbell’s narration I didn’t think a lot about
the Book of Mormon as an oral narrative. I didn’t start thinking about that
until I had started my second reading of Deseret Book’s 1980 1st Edition facsimile. Continue reading “Gadianton the Nobler, Reflecting on Changes in the Book of Mormon”
Last year I purchased a bound volume of the 1949 issues of the missionary magazine of the Argentine and Uruguayan missions, El Mensajero Deseret, which I found in the basement of Sam Weller‘s in Salt Lake City. I had hoped that I might find there some articles originally written in Spanish by local members (not missionaries), and that I might there discover something of their perspective at the time. Unfortunately, my (still) somewhat cursory review, while it found many interesting articles, including one written by my grandfather that my family didn’t know about, failed to find any articles by local members and few originally written in Spanish.
I’m not sure how different things are today. Mission magazines like El Mensajero Deseret, which were meant for all members in the mission (not just the missionaries), have been replaced by the Church’s international magazine (in Spanish, La Liahona), and that magazine is largely a translation from English.
As a result of examples like this, I think its easy to assume that no Mormon cultural works are being produced outside of the English-speaking areas of the Church. In a comment to my post last week about What Should Mormons Know About Mormon Culture?, Anneke wrote:
“I’m uncomfortable with any attempt to define “Mormon Culture” that then limits that culture to “Anglophone Mormon Culture.” I realize that most of the time English is all we’ve got”¦”
I am also uncomfortable about this — but its hard for most of us, English-speaking residents of the US generally, to know much about what is being produced in Mexico or in France or Brazil or Japan. Its not like there are clear paths for getting materials from these places to the Mormon market in the US! I suspect that not a lot is being produced, given the low density of LDS Church members from each other in other countries, the lack of a market or way to distribute cultural works, and the near worship that foreign LDS Church members sometimes have for the Church in the U.S.
So, hoping that those who read this will add the works they know about, here’s a list of some of the works I know or have heard of. I’m sure there are plenty of others:
After my recent look at different Bible translations, I crunched some additional numbers about the possibility of a market for LDS Books in Spanish, and I’m more convinced than ever that we are ready to see the market develop, once the content is available.
It may even be obvious that this market is likely to start here in the U.S.
When the LDS Church published its own edition of the King James version of the Bible in 1980, Church leaders claimed that it was a significant achievement. The edition included extensive and better organized footnotes than those in other editions of the Bible. It also featured a lengthy Bible Dictionary and a Topical Guide (originally published as a standalone volume). At least LDS Church members (and other, non-members, if my memory is correct) hailed its publication as a valuable study tool. [Obviously, its inclusion of citations to other LDS scriptural works and the LDS concepts included in the Bible Dictionary and Topical guide prevented others from adopting this edition or showing much interest.]
At the time, it seemed obvious, at least to me, that similar LDS editions of the Bible in other languages would eventually follow. But more than 25 years later, we still have yet to see an LDS edition of the Bible in any other language.
To the casual observer, an LDS edition of the Bible in Spanish and in Portuguese would seem like a no brainer. The Church uses old, well-known protestant translations simiar to the King James translation used in English. By their age, both should be in the public domain (the Reina Valera translation, used in Spanish, was completed in 1602, while the JoÃ£o Ferreira de Almeida translation, the Portuguese version used in the Church, was complete by 1711, but only published in 1748). Theoretically, the Church could take these translations, add its footnotes and translate the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide.
Its a big project, but less complex than the original LDS edition in English because most of the footnotes and topical selections have been made already in English. And such an edition makes sense when you realize that the current number of LDS Church members in Spanish-speaking countries exceeds the number of English-speaking Church members on the rolls in 1980, when the LDS edition was released, by at least 35%, or more than 1 million members.
So why hasn’t the Church produced its own editions?