(I took the header picture of a Common Loon resting on a pond in Utah on its way north in June of 2015. It was in transition from winter to summer plumage.)

Translate - I dare you. Then make a comment on the funny errors the translator made.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Good post over at Faith-Promoting Rumor

Another Mormon blogger has written this essay about historical context in the New Testament and the lack thereof in the Book of Mormon.

I think I have to plead guilty to some of his charges right now. When I was a young missionary I read the entire New Testament and loved it. I enjoyed studying the New Testament in a class dedicated to it at BYU. But since then I haven't read it much. The Book of Mormon has been more important to me than any other scripture for the past few years, especially since I've been combing thru it with politically-tinted glasses.

Some of the comments following the linked essay deal with the attempts by various people to locate Book of Mormon events in various places, predominantly in Mesoamerica. Personally, I've found most of that sort of thing more an entertaining diversion than a real help in understanding what the book might tell us about ourselves here and now, and about human nature thruout time and space. I think I have been more satisfied with investigations of the book's internal contexts in comparison with similar cultures or with the cultures that the Book of Mormon peoples came from.

I find it interesting that Nephi himself seemed almost to deliberately erase the context of Isaiah for his people, preferring instead to invite them to apply the words to their own situation, and giving them a lot of prophetic commentary (1 Ne 19:23-24; 2 Ne 25:1-7). I may be overstating the case here, but I do think that people are similar enough that we can get the most important messages from the Book of Mormon without ever being sure exactly where the events took place. I also think that Mormon and Moroni were in some ways indifferent to what the modern historically-minded reader might think important - and in some cases, deliberately withheld historical information in order to keep the focus of the book sharp, as well as to try the faith of its readers.

On a semi-related tangent: every dramatization or depiction I've seen so far of Book of Mormon events or characters seems to be trying to look authentic or accurate according to what's widely known or believed about the geography and material culture - although the Arnold Friberg paintings have demonstrable inaccuracies, such as commented on here.

I say: if you're going to sacrifice accuracy for aesthetics (such as preferring to paint your prophets clean-shaven) , why hold back and still try to put in wishfully authentic details like furs, headbands, Peruvian hats, Mayan pyramids, etc? Why not go all-out? I would like to see paintings, plays, movies portraying Book of Mormon characters wearing suits and ties, jeans and t-shirts, military uniforms; in office buildings and on sidewalks, maybe even driving cars and carrying guns. I know full well that technology drastically changes a culture and that the events in the book would not have happened the same way if they had had cars or guns, etc. but it would be an interesting challenge to work with these changes in setting. I think it could help people look for the principles beyond the trappings. It could even free more readers to form their own images of the events if we had more variety of depictions. I try not to look too much at the common, semi-official depictions for that very reason.


Anonymous said...

On a side note with regard to technology and culture: Try watching Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet and see if you appreciate the play more or not.

CStanford said...

Thanks for mentioning that film - I was actually thinking of it while I was typing this. I haven't been able to see all of it, but I appreciated the parts I did see, once I got beyond the initial shock.